Work Title: Christianity, Judaism, Islam: The History of Violence
Work Author(s): Henry L. Carrigan
Byline: Henry L. Carrigan
"Terror is nothing other than justice, prompt, severe, inflexible; it is therefore an emanation of virtue..." Robespierre
September 11, 2001, brought a new dimension to the conversations about religion in the world. Pundits and religious thinkers debated about how to respond politically and conscientiously to a culture where politics and religion were inextricably bound. Moreover, how could leaders in the United States reply to violent religious foreign extremism when they had ignored the homegrown extremism (Christian fundamentalism) of their own country? And, how could religious leaders explain such violence without condemning other faiths outright?
Religious violence is hardly a new phenomenon in the history of the world. As far the first-century Roman Empire was concerned, the streets were full of religious terrorists aiming to overthrow the government by violent means. Knife-wielding assassins, sicarii (named for the style of knife they carried in their cloaks), made their living by mugging petty Roman officials. The Zealots, who were burned out of the Masada fortress in modern Israel around 73 CE, also advocated the violent overthrow of the empire. The most famous deeds of Christian violence are of course the Crusades, which sometimes (the Fourth Crusade) pitted one Christian against another. Christian violence can be traced even further back, though, to the fourth century when Constantine declared Christianity the "official" religion of the Roman Empire and so began attacking neighboring states in the name of Jesus Christ. On American soil, Christians used their scriptures as cudgels against Native Americans. Until just this year, Protestant and Catholic Christians terrorized each other on the streets of Northern Ireland. Muslims terrorized Byzantium in the seventh and eight centuries, eventually winning the territory and incorporating it into their lands. Muslim minorities and fundamentalist Hindus continue to clash murderously in various Indian states, while Hindus and Sikhs tear each other apart in Amritsar. The use of violent acts by members of religious movements to achieve their goals has always been part of the fabric of almost every religion.
In the six years since September 11, 2001, the number of books about religion and terrorism, or religion and violence, has diminished. Today's...