Religion Violence

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Religion Violence

Religion Violence


Throughout their histories, religions have shared a common process, enduring long periods of persecution, seeing the coming of heroic religious martyrs and missionary leaders, fighting long wars of expansion and conquest, surviving times of internal factional struggles for doctrinal purity or supremacy, resisting the temptation to blend in with other religions and philosophies of neighbors, and adjusting to times of dramatic growth and increasing popular acceptance. Between the major religions lie wide gulfs of mutual distrust and antagonism, historical disagreements, territorial encroachments, wars, and feuds (Armstrong, 2000). These struggles highlight the violent nature of the conflict that continues to the present between radically differing worldviews, clashing cultural values, and rival political ideologies that date back to the beginnings of their common recorded history.

Religion Violence: A Discussion

The history of religious violence in the West is as long as the historical record of its three major religions, Judaism, Christianity, and other, with their involved mutual antagonisms and struggles to adapt and survive the secular forces that threaten their continued existence. With belief systems developed over thousands of years, religions attract adherents of every possible political persuasion. The rise of religious fundamentalism has helped define how followers relate to their world, how they see their place in the world, and the moral structures that will help them live in harmony with their religious teachings (Armstrong, 2000).

The historical record is replete with the histories of religious conflicts, wars caused by religious expansion, the clash of religious cultures, and factional infighting. Religions that define themselves as peaceloving communities and transmitters of a body of religious truths still tend to demonize and denigrate the religions of their opponents. They proclaim to the world that their mission to mankind is to establish peace and harmony, yet they maintain the purity of their cause by oppressing members of their own religions and those of others. They believe that peace will arrive after a hostile world accepts and embraces their message. What the historical record shows is a near constant state of violent conflict between and within these philosophical systems.

Violence of all kinds, religious, ethnic, or political, is accepted as a fact of life (Sterling, 2001). The major religions of the West do share a common monotheism; they honor many of the same historical religious figures and share some overlapping areas of doctrinal beliefs. For thousands of years, a broad variety of religious philosophies of all kinds have entered the long struggle for survival and dominance in the culture wars of Western history (Sterling, 2001). In the 20th century, all three major religions witnessed a rebirth of fundamentalist religious movements, with radical groups appearing at their fringes that accept violence and terrorism as the means of bringing about their vision of a new order. They see acts of violence and terrorism as sacramental acts performed as divine imperatives.

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