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While political violence and personal violence fill our newspapers, violence also permeates many religious beliefs with images of sacrifice and histories of divine propitiation. Children in many traditions learn sacred stories of divine action and human response that include acts of violence. Both inside our houses of worship and outside of them, we hear of bloodshed.

Violence is a thread that runs through many sacred texts and traditions around the world, from animal sacrifice to the mass slaughter of unbelievers to Jesus' suffering and death on the cross. How should modern believers interpret texts that seem to condone or defend violence? Is violence ever justified on religious grounds? Can violent acts be redemptive?

The Patheos Public Square is produced in partnership with Christianity Today and the Progressive Christian Initiative.

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Featured Panelists

Covenantal Substitutionary Atonement

Covenantal Substitutionary Atonement

Richard Beck, Professor and blogger, "Experimental Theology"

You know the basic idea: Because of your sin you stand under God's judgment and wrath. You stand under a death sentence.

An Insatiable Appetite for Violence

An Insatiable Appetite for Violence

Deborah W. Dykes, Progressive Christian, The Dykes Foundation

Make no mistake; we are a violent people with violent taste and appetites. We feed on violence through news and entertainment as if it were manna from heaven.

Is God Out to Get You? or Forgive You?

Is God Out to Get You? or Forgive You?

Peter Enns, Evangelical blogger, "Rethinking Biblical Christianity"

The question that is as old as the Christian faith is this: "How does all this Old Testament violence square with how Jesus speaks of God?"

A Pathological Mythology

A Pathological Mythology

David R. Dykes, Progressive Christian, The Dykes Foundation

Can the creator of the universe be a homicidal maniac one instant and a self-sacrificing, "emptying" deity the next?

Shedding Blood in God's Name

Shedding Blood in God's Name

Christian Piatt, Progressive Christian blogger, "Father, Son, and Holy Heretic"

Violence never redeems. It's love that redeems, and love requires no blood to be spilled in order to exist, or else it's not really love.

Self-Denial as Violence

Self-Denial as Violence

Nimue Brown, Pagan blogger, "Pagan Leadership"

Compassionate questions, and an open mind about the answers, might help reduce the motivation for violence in people whose self-hatred has become tangled up in their religion.

The Myth of Redemptive Violence

The Myth of Redemptive Violence

Shane Claiborne, Progressive Christian author and activist

Perhaps it's time for a united, nonviolent assault on the myth of redemptive violence. Perhaps it's time for us to declare that there is always a third way.

On Retconning Biblical Violence

On Retconning Biblical Violence

Adam Lee, Atheist blogger, "Daylight Atheism"

It's good that decent people now recognize the evil of genocide, Jewish and gentile alike. But you'd never have gotten that idea if you were going solely by the Bible.

Biblical Violence Matters to Peace

Biblical Violence Matters to Peace

Suzanne Ross, Progressive Christian blogger, "The Raven Foundation"

The Cross represents what humans have always done: habitually scapegoated innocent victims in order to keep and maintain the peace in our communities.

Pope Benedict: The Essential Message of Religion Is Against Violence

Pope Benedict: The Essential Message of Religion Is Against Violence

Rebecca Hamilton, Catholic blogger, "Public Catholic"

In this interview, the pope insists that dialogue, reconciliation, and peace are the meaning of religion.

Religion and Terrorism Are Opposites

Religion and Terrorism Are Opposites

Hesham Hassaballa, Muslim columnist, "An American Islam"

The whole concept of increased Islamic religious devotion leading to violent extremism simply does not make any sense.

A Kinder, Gentler Easter

A Kinder, Gentler Easter

Roger Wolsey, United Methodist pastor and blogger, "The Holy Kiss"

We've allowed the ways of the world to infuse our beliefs and we end up fighting fire with fire.

Islam, Excuses, and the Sacred

Islam, Excuses, and the Sacred

Robert Hunt, Progressive Christian professor and blogger, "Interfaith Encounters"

Only human life is sacred, and the whole of religion and every individual religion in all its parts forfeits its claim to sanctity when it justifies violence against even a single individual child of the Divine.

Mimetic Theory and the Nonviolent God

Mimetic Theory and the Nonviolent God

Adam Ericksen, Progressive Christian blogger, "The Raven Foundation"

The Judeo-Christian tradition is in a process of transforming our hermeneutic of sacrificial violence into a hermeneutic of mercy, forgiveness, and love.

Done with Substitutionary Atonement

Done with Substitutionary Atonement

Sam Alexander, Presbyterian pastor

I'm done with the magical notion that human beings need to sacrifice in order to appease an angry God.

Commentary From Our Blogging Community

Christian Violence: 3 Annoyingly Common Myths People Still Believe (Part 1)

Christian Violence: 3 Annoyingly Common Myths People Still Believe (Part 1)

T. E. Hanna

The digital information age is both a blessing and a curse. Never before in human history have we had such unparalleled access to almost limitless data. At the same time, never before in human history have we had such a wanton lack of accountability for what is presented as fact. The way that information travels [Read More...]

Aletheia and Redemptive Violence

Aletheia and Redemptive Violence

Aine Llewellyn

Violence certainly holds redemption, but that violence can just as easily become nothing more than revenge.

Mimetic Monday: N.T. Wright and a Genuine Penal Substitutionary Atonement Theory

Mimetic Monday: N.T. Wright and a Genuine Penal Substitutionary Atonement Theory

Adam Ericksen

What is God like? What are humans like? When it comes to the Atonement, those two questions guide all of our other questions. They are the two implicit questions behind N.T. Wright’s comments about the Atonement in the video below. For example, Wright says: “Tragically, some Christians have said that on the cross God embraced [Read More...]

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