Religious Violence-Who Is Its Irrational Mother?
We need to have a rational look at the scriptures, the human products.
Books are products of our culture as inexhaustible and perennial sources of human knowledge and wisdom. They are revered as gifts of knowledge ‘goddess’. We believe that they always do good to us and can never do harm to us, their readers. This is, however, not true of the scriptures.
The holy scriptures, the Bible, the Koran, and, to a very small extent in recent times, the Hindu scriptures have caused incalculable harm to mankind through their literalist or fundamentalist adherents’ actions.
The fundamentalists have defiled and desecrated the sacred books. They have abused the words of the scriptures as the literal voice or word of God and, to protect the ‘sanctity’ of the books, killed unbelievers and other innocent citizens with the use of suicide bombs, weapons, torture, and other barbarities.
Sam Harris, the American philosopher, neuroscientist, and humanist has, in his famous book, The End of Faith, listed the abuses of the religious scriptures and their gruesome effects on the world. I quote from his book extensively:
“Our past is not sacred for being past and there is much that is behind us and to which, it is hoped, we could never return with a clear conscience: the divine right of kings, feudalism, the caste system, slavery, political executions, forced castration, vivisection, bearbaiting, honorable duels, chastity belts, trial by ordeal, child labor, human and animal sacrifice, the stoning of heretics, cannibalism, sodomy laws, taboos against contraception, human radiation experiments-the list is nearly endless.”
“Indeed, religion is as much a living spring of violence today as it was at any time in the past. Recent conflicts in Palestine (Jews v.Muslims), the Balkans(Orthodox Serbians v.Catholic Croatians; Orthodox Serbians v. Bosnian and Albanian Muslims), Northern Ireland(Protestants v.Catholics), Kashmir(Muslims v.Hindus), Sudan(Muslims v.Christians and animists), Nigeria(Muslims v.Christians), Ethiopia and Eritrea(Muslims v.Christians), Sri Lanka(Sinhalese Buddhists v.Tamil Hindus), Indonesia(Muslims v.Timorese Christians) and the Caucasus(Orthodox Russians v. Chechen Muslims; Muslim Azerbaijanis v. Catholic and Orthodox Armenians) are merely a few cases in point. In these places, religion has been the explicit cause of literally millions of deaths in the last ten years.”
“Over one million people died in the orgy of religious killing that attended the partitioning of India and Pakistan.”
In “the violence that erupted between Hindus and Muslims in India in the winter of 2002”, “Over one thousand people died in this month-long series of riots-nearly half as many as have died in the Israeli-Palestinian conflict in more than a decade.”
Sam Harris has a striking insight into the mindset of the religious terrorist and the real source of inspiration for his mindset. The suicide bomber is relentlessly indoctrinated, has a deep interest in carrying out the literal mandate of the scripture, kills unbelievers and innocent people of his and other religions by bombing, and then feels assured of his place in the paradise in his afterlife, mistaking paradise to be a fact. Is heaven or paradise a fact?
Sam Harris has quoted the pertinent extracts from the scriptures:
“If your brother, son of your father or of your mother, or your son or daughter, or the spouse whom you embrace, or your most intimate friend, tries to secretly seduce you, saying, ‘ Let us go and serve other gods,’ unknown to you or your ancestors before you, gods of the peoples surrounding you, whether near you or far away, anywhere throughout the world, you must not consent, you must not listen to him; you must show him no pity, you must not spare him or conceal his guilt. No, you must kill him, your hand must strike the first blow in putting him to death and the hands of the rest of the people following. You must stone him to death, since he has tried to divert you from Yahweh your God………(Deuteronomy 13:7–11)”
“ Prophet, make war on the unbelievers and the hypocrites and deal rigorously with them. Hell shall be their home: an evil fate. ( Koran9.73)”
“Believers, make war on the infidels who dwell around you. Deal firmly with them. Know that God is with the righteous. ( Koran 9:123)”
“ Jihad is your duty under any ruler, be he godly or wicked. ………………………………………………………………………………………………………………………….. Nobody who dies and finds good from Allah (in the Hereafter) would wish to come back to this world even if he were given the whole world and whatever is in it, except the martyr who, on seeing the superiority of martyrdom, would like to come back to the world and get killed again(in Allah’s Cause). He who dies without having taken part in a campaign dies in a kind of unbelief.
Paradise is in the shadow of swords.
Many hadiths of this sort can be found, and Islamists regularly invoke them as a justification for attacks against infidels and apostates.”
A sizable section of the Muslim community worldwide defends the suicide bombers’ homicidal crime in the interest of and at the command of the Islamic scriptures. We may see ‘the pew study( not all percentages sum to 100)’ reproduced by Sam Harris in proof of this fact:
‘SUICIDE BOMBING IN DEFENCE OF ISLAM
Lebanon. Yes- 73, No-21, Do not know/Refused-6.
Ivory Coast.Yes-56, No-44, DK/Refused-0.
Nigeria.Yes- 47, No- 45, DK/Refused- 8.
Bangladesh.Yes- 44, No- 37, DK/Refused- 19.
Jordan.Yes- 43, No- 48, DK/Refused- 8.
Pakistan.Yes- 33, No- 43, DK/Refused- 23.
Mali.Yes- 32, No- 57, DK/Refused- 11.
Ghana.Yes- 30 No- 57 DK/Refused-12.
Uganda.Yes- 29 No- 63 DK/Refused- 8.
Senegal. Yes- 28, No- 69, DK/Refused- 3.
Indonesia.Yes- 27, No- 70, DK/Refused- 3.
Turkey.Yes- 13, No- 73, DK/Refused- 14.
(The relevant statistics in respect of Afghanistan, Egypt, Iran, Iraq, Sudan, Yemen, and other religious violence-infected countries are not available.)
Books are meant to be our intellectual companions. They upgrade us and do not degrade us. Human beings adore books and worship them as vehicles of knowledge, education, and inspiration. They are not weapons of homicide and fratricide.
We have to cry an immediate halt to the religious literalist madmen’s homicidal misadventures. Human blood should not spill on to the books.
We have to read religious books with critical and rationalist eyes.
We have the right to rationally study, and embrace them in the right way. After all, the scriptures are human, and not divine, products that should not be put to torridly profane use.