Double Standard on Religious Violence

Double Standard on Religious Violence January 9, 2015


The above image indicates the double standard that most Americans have when it comes to people who engage in acts of violence in connection with their purported religious identity. The data comes from a 2011 PRRI study.


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  • Andrew Dowling

    Of course they’ll be double standards when people are ignorant of another people/religion (hell, America Christians are pretty damn ignorant about Christianity)

    However, let’s not play the false equivalency game. While one can find justifications for violence in both religions (and of course the Bible and Quran are full of internal contradictions), you frankly find more in Islam/the Quran (and Islam, unlike Christianity, revolves around the holy book . . it is central to everything. Christianity by contrast enabled tradition and ecclesiastical authority to mold/evolve biblical ideas . . Protestant fundementalism, which treats the Bible as the Quran, is a relatively recent phenom). So the opinions aren’t out of nowhere

    • Reality check.

      Given this violent legacy, religion historian Philip Jenkins decided to compare the brutality quotient of the Quran and the Bible.

      “Much to my surprise, the Islamic scriptures in the Quran were actually far
      less bloody and less violent than those in the Bible,” Jenkins says.

      Is The Bible More Violent Than The Quran?

      Number of Cruel or Violent Passages
      Bible 842
      Quran 333

      • Andrew Dowling

        The Bible is full of much more narrative than the Quran, so it’s not surprising it has more instances of violence/brutality. My point still stands. Christianity’s central pinnacle is a man named Jesus who willfully dies on a cross and who preaches for people to not take any retribution whatsoever against an aggressor. Even if many interpreters failed to use that lens through which to filter Bible passages for centuries (while citing the various OT passages used to justify violence) . . .the ability to do so was always present. And from the very beginning Jesus was seen to abrogate various OT laws ie keeping kosher. Not even in the European Dark Ages did you see Christians attempting to follow Levitical rules about young virgins . . it was believed that God’s purpose/rules could change (and did change)

        Take the example in the second link; it’s comparing Numbers 31:14 to the Quran 5:34. But the Numbers passage is describing God’s command to Moses at a certain juncture in the history of the Israelites; it’s a story-telling narrative, not a 11th commandment or something out of the mouth of Jesus. Whereas the Quran passage is God’s rule and wisdom . .for all time.

        THAT is the big difference between the two religions . . when you make the pinnacle of your religion a rule book . . that is it; it’s set in stone. That came from God. End of story. And besides the various cultural/historical differences in trajectory (and those shouldn’t be discounted), that is a major reason why Islam has had a much more hostile interaction with the secular Enlightenment than Christianity throughout history.

        I will critique various aspects of Christianity and the Christian tradition until the cows come home, but if a completely secular philosopher were to look at both Islam and Christianity and get asked “which provides the more moral, ethical framework” I’m sorry Christianity wins and fairly easily. And I’m not an apologist; I can admit there may be branches of Jainism or Zorastrarianism which could beat Christianity in that same comparison.

        • You’ve got valid points, especially about Christianity after it was de-fanged by the Enlightenment (or Age of Reason); I just don’t let the Bible itself off the hook. It’s a horrible book morally. And it takes some rose-colored glasses to call the Jesus story non-violent; John Adams referred to the cross as “an engine of grief” that produced “calamities” in society.

          Positive Atheism’s Big List of John Adams Quotations

          • Andrew Dowling

            I think you’re being overly simplistic about the Bible by calling it a “horrible book morally”, which is chock full of wide varying narratives and exhortations told/written over centuries. Some is bad morally, some is very good. Ditto with the Quran; it does have some good moral philosophy, but the Bible has more variety because it covers such a wider time span and numerous authors.

            I’m not sure anyone would call the Jesus story non-violent. It’s whether the example of Jesus is one of non-violence, which is pretty hard to argue with. When Jesus comes back he says “go make disciples” not “go avenge me!!” a la the DeJesus Unchained SNL skit. Whereas Mohammad was not just a wandering preacher; he was a soldier who killed people.

          • The problem is, Islam is likely a window into what early Syrianic Christianity was like.

            “…the Quran derives from a Syriac Christian lectionary.”
            The Christian Origins of Islam | Peter J. Leithart | First Things

            And since Jesus is mentioned almost 3x more in the Quran than Muhammad (97 times vs. 25 times, I believe) one would think a Jesus as pacific as you purport him to be would have a more peaceful influence.

            But Jesus is not consistently non-violent, not even in the Bible. He preached “hate,” “fear,” “slay my enemies,” and all sorts of violent teachings. The “non-violent” Jesus is a selective reading.

            I’m not totally disagreeing with your position, but I think the difference between Islam and pre-Enlightenment Christianity is more slight than you argue.

            I do agree that Post-Enlightenment Christianity has re-invented its own Jesus, one that isn’t too shabby if one avoids too accurate of a reading of the Bible, and is as widely divergent from primitive Islam as you argue.

          • Andrew Dowling

            We have tons and tons of writings and commentaries by early Church theologians and leaders, and they do not posit a “war-like” Jesus at all. You are arguing for a radical split between pre and post-Enlightenment Christianity that is not supported by the evidence.

          • I’m addressing social behavior in the “Christianized” Western world (increase of reason, science, freedom, education; decrease of superstition, ecclesiastical authority, traditionalism,) not writings.