Islam is violent but Christianity isn’t?

Here is an interesting article discussing the perceived increase in atheism, mainly in the western world.

Letter From America: Atheists throw down the gauntlet

On the whole, it’s not too bad. It’s a reasonably balanced piece but here is one glaring error. Here is the text, comparing Islam to Christianity, that I believe to be woefully incorrect.

The two movements are almost entirely dissimilar, of course, with Christian fundamentalism engaging in no violence or threats. Still, both movements arise from the deep conviction that a return to a kind of pure religious practice, rather than secular Enlightenment thought, is the answer to humanity’s problems. Murderous Hindu nationalists in India and Orthodox Jewish settlers on the West Bank who believe they are following God’s commands in seizing Palestinian land are other illustrations of faith-based extremism.

It is terribly wrong to say that Christian fundamentalists do not engage in violence or threats. It is true that militant Islam tends to make the front page more often, after all, exploding people and beheading is rather eye-catching.

The Phelps family, led by Fred Phelps seems to be the most obvious choice to start with. His family (mostly lawyers, go figure) run the Westboro Baptist Church. The church seems to have taken an extreme line on gays and god, they run for example. Members of their church have taken to picketing the funerals of gays and curiously enough, US servicemen killed in combat. Both of these examples seem violent and threatening to me, even though no-one is being blown to pieces.

Abortion clinics in the US have been attacked by fundamentalists and doctors harassed for performing abortions. People have actually been murdered by fundamentalists who claimed to be ‘pro-life’.

Fundamentalists have been linked to many murders and violent attacks. As well as attacks on others, some of these fundamentalists attack their own, through suicide.

The common answer will be “But these people aren’t really Christians” but this answer seems strangely familiar to the “These terrorists aren’t real Muslims” excuse trotted out after each attrocity. These people are indeed Christians and Muslims and they can provide scripture to back their actions. Some would argue that the extremists are the ones being true to scripture.

The Bible is a mess of contradictory rules. It makes sense that a true Christian who takes the Bible as being the word of God will be equally contradictory and confused.


6 Responses to “Islam is violent but Christianity isn’t?”

  1. Charles Says:

    It makes sense that a true Christian who takes the Bible as being the word of God will be equally contradictory and confused.

    This would be in the same way that atheist claim there are such universal concepts as good and evil, and then say that there is nothing more than matter?

  2. Sean Kehoe Says:

    There is no contradiction there.

    It’s perfectly acceptable to say that there is nothing but matter while maintaining that good and evil exist. Good and evil are man-made concepts (and relative ones at that).

    This is similar to the argument that atheists cannot have morals or express true love. Just because we are comprised of matter, there’s no reason why we can’t create and express concepts. A snowflake has a remarkably intricate pattern yet ultimately it’s just water. Nothing mystical or magical, it’s just the way it was made.

  3. Charles Says:

    The point I was making is that in an atheistic worldview, good and evil are purely relative concepts (not universal), and they are relative at the individual level. Which you say you readily agree with. In other words, an atheist cannot say, Hitler was evil, or that molesting children is evil, they can just say, I don’t like what Hitler did. And you can’t give a justification for enforcing your view of good/evil on me.

    But it gets better. You also cannot say that my argument is wrong. To do so, would be to claim that there are universal absolutes that determine right and wrong. Or to state it another way, do you believe that the laws of logic are universal laws or do you believe that logic is a set of man made conventions?

  4. Sean Kehoe Says:

    (apologies for the slightly rambling response. it’s a bit late here but wanted to get a reply to you)

    Evil is based on morals. Morals, at least from a typical atheistic point of view are based on ethics. It’s perfectly reasonable to refer to a child molester as being evil. I cannot truthfully say that what they represent is some concept of universal evil though – just my definition of evil. While I condemn the molester, some would consider their actions to be normal (a small minority thoug I suspect).

    In clear-cut cases, simple human rights would decide who is right. If a man claims the right to kill his neighbours for entertainment, he is taking away their right to life. If he wants to kill his neighbours because he knows that they will kill him tomorrow then it becomes more murky. This is relative. The universe doesn’t care that we’re here, nor did it give us right and wrong rules. We’re making them up as we go along based on our selfish needs.

    I can justify enforcing my view of good/evil on you if my ethics allow it. In some cases, my ethics will require me to strongly condemn or support you.

    I don’t have to invoke universal absolutes to declare your argument wrong. An argument can be right or wrong based on my ethics, also it can be logically flawed. Logic is a human invention, at least our ways of using it. We didn’t invent the temperature 25 Celsius but we did invent the unit of measurement. I believe logic is universal but the data used are not.

    “I must recapture the holy land or I will be damned by God”

    This statement is logical if we assume that there is a God. If there is no God, it becomes very illogical. From the point of view of the person saying this, it will appear to be a logical statement, to me it’s the inane rant of a lunatic.

    I see it as being like a mathematical formula. The operators remain the same but the operands are subject to change and so the results vary.

    From an atheistic point of view, it is quite possible to describe something as good or evil. The words are unfortunately clumsy and conjure up images of Starwars or the Bible, they still do the job. The different between an atheist and a person taking their morals from the Bible is that the atheist is free to make rational choices.

    A religious person can feel anger towards a person for blaspheming because their holy book says that they must. An atheist can ask themselves “Hey, how does this harm anyone?” and ignore it. In 2000 years time, Christians are still going to be struggling with the question of whether God loves or hates gays. An atheist is free to form a rational opinion based on their surroundings and what they feel is right or wrong. Some will chose to be nice, some nasty but it’s a rational argument that can be swayed by discussion.

  5. Charles Says:

    I still say that you are arguing against yourself at every turn. You say that good and evil and the laws of logic are completely relative, but then you use words such as good and evil and nice and nasty about groups of people and concepts, as if those words are not relative, as if they should mean anything to anyone besides you. Even the word rational must be discarded based on what you have said, because rationality is tied to each person as well.
    My contention would be that in the end, you know that there is absolute truth, and we can see this in the fact that you post on your blog about such things as the foolishness and obvious ridiculousness of religions. You believe that religion is absolutely wrong in its claim to being absolutely right. You don’ t believe that there is some corner of the world where two plus two equals five or even more bizarrely, orange.
    Anyway, that’s my spiel for the day. I appreciate the dialogue.

  6. Sean Kehoe Says:

    Yeah, glad you stopped by, it’s an interesting discussion.

    I still don’t see where I’m arguing against myself. I accept that good and evil are relative concepts and so when I use these words, they are based on my ethics. I accept that some will disagree when I describe something as evil. If I were to call the actions of the Phelps family evil, there are many who would agree but some who would not.

    Christianity is prone to absolutes. God is absolutely good – this is impossible. No-one or no-thing can be absolutely good or evil to everyone. There is no universal good or evil in the universe, just opinions.

    The important thing is that we use rational reasoning when deciding what is good or evil. Deciding that murder is evil because it takes away the life of an innocent personal is rational. Deciding that murder is evil because it’s the will of the gods is not. The first argument is sustainable because it does have a kind of universal appeal. Few people want to be murdered. The religious argument though is not since it relies on an irrational belief in a god. It leads down a dangerous road since the ‘rules’ are not created rationally and so lead to inhuman practices. For example, executing someone for adultery,

    Rationality is based on individual thought but it is thought that can be shared with others without requiring an irrational belief. Rational though depends on evidence being considered and offered. If someone tells me that I shouldn’t eat pork because it is high in fat, I can consider the evidence and make a rational decision. If someone tells me that I shouldn’t eat pork because a god considers it to be unclean, I will only agree to stop eating pork if I take the irrational step of accepting the existence of gods.

    You had a nice post on your site regarding the faith of children. I had a response written but unfortunately my browser crashed, I think that post is relevant here though.

    You can get a child to stay away from fire by using any of the methods below.

    1) Tell the child that fire is hot and they will get hurt if they touch it.

    2) Tell the child that the fire has demons in it and they will be cursed.

    Now, a child may respond better to the second method since they are more prone to fantasy. This kind of childlike reasoning though is hardly admirable since the child may avoid fire altogether and not be able to cook food. They are fearing the fire for the wrong reasons.

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