Thursday, September 29, 2011


Religion causes violence. At least extremism in religion causes violence. So says an author to a letter to the editor in a recently. It was in response to the decision not to have any type of overtly religious overtones to the 9/11 remembrance. You may recall the brouhaha over the metal “cross” also. He reminded us that the atrocities in Nazi Germany during World War II were largely committed by baptized men.

I take umbrage.

He makes a direct correlation between the faith a person says he has and what he ends up doing. (I drank milk today, it must be a direct cause of my being baptized.) In some cases this correlation may be correct. It is not always the case however. When I am short with someone on the phone, it is not because I am a baptized practicing Christian; it is because at the moment I have fallen short of being a Christian.

While it may be true that extremism in certain faiths may lead to deadly deeds, one has only to look at Christ to see what extreme Christianity really looks like. It is a laying down of one’s life, it is absolute non-violence, it is the radical choosing of the good of the other. When a person uses the name of Christ and outlines God’s mission as one that causes death or fear or pain, it is exactly in those moments that people are NOT practicing radical Christianity. There may be the fa├žade of such but it is only a veneer.

It is true that Christianity is a powerful tool and can be manipulated by strong leaders to make uncritical people act in direct contrast to what Christianity is supposed to stand for. But more importantly it is a powerful tool for combating that very thing also. It may also be true that some faiths and distorted faiths may lead to evil deeds in the extreme. But not having a faith is definitely no guarantee that there will be no evil either. In fact, I would argue, it is far riskier.

1 comment:

Pat said...

Fr. Mitch Pacwa, when he visited northeast Ohio in 2000, quoted a study from Baylor University that details the number of lives lost in "religious" vs. non-religious wars.

Baylor estimated that 4.75 to 5 million people were killed in religiously motivated wars since the beginning of the Christian era.

Secular powers:

20 million (WWI nationalism)

62 million (Marxism/Bolshevik Revolution 1917 to 1989)

70 million--China under Mao

1 million--Cambodia under Pol Pot

50 million--Nazi "neo-paganism" and Japanese "emperor worship"

Thus, in the 20th century alone, over 180 million people died due to Marxism, atheism and neopagan government systems.