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Rabbi Bulka's Weekly Question

Are monotheistic religions more prone to violence?

From the impression conveyed by the ever-increasing religion based violence in our own times, never mind past history, this would certainly seem to be the case, that monotheistic religions are indeed the major sinners when it comes to violence. If that is true, we need to know why. What is it within monotheistic faith that generates violence? Or is it merely a coincidence?

Let's begin with the obvious. Those who resort to violence in the name of their faith distort in a massive way. They may not distort the dictates of their own faith, but they certainly distort what faith is all about. Faith is about respect, faith is about seeing the Godly in everyone else and therefore affirming the infinite value of life, and of every human being.

Where did we go off the rails? First, we need to acknowledge that there are too many faith-related verses in the sacred texts of some of the monotheistic faiths regarding the killing of members of other faiths. No matter what spin is put on these verses, the facts on the ground are that too many faith leaders, in our time and throughout time, have used these verses to justify mass killing, and have even promoted, encouraged, facilitated, and insisted upon it. So, we have a problem, all denials to the contrary.

Now to your question. I have nothing but an inner sense that might possibly explain why monotheistic religions are more prone to violence. Monotheism is a beautiful concept; the idea of a One and Only God, which translates here on earth as an elegant expression of the oneness of all human kind. We all have the same One God, and are therefore all united through this, or at least should be.

But there is a dark side to this concept. We can all agree on the Oneness of God, but fierce disagreement erupts when different people have divergent claims on Who that God is, and what precisely has that God ordained for us. When the disagreement reaches the point that the powerful faith leaders insist on doing away with their faith adversaries, we have disaster in the name of religion. Once we realize this, and are willing to honestly confront it and see how absurd it is, we may be on the way to getting on the right course of mutual respect and harmony.

Originally published in the Ottawa Citizen on August 18, 2012

Fri, August 18 2017 26 Av 5777