What is implied in the conventional wisdom that religion is prone to violence is that Christianity, Islam, and other faiths are more inclined toward violence than ideologies and institutions that are identified as “secular.” It is this story that I will challenge here. I will do so in two steps. First, I will show that the division of ideologies and institutions into the categories “religious” and “secular” is an arbitrary and incoherent division. When we examine academic arguments that religion causes violence, we find that what does or does not count as religion is based on subjective and indefensible assumptions. As a result certain kinds of violence are condemned, and others are ignored. Second, I ask, “If the idea that there is something called ‘religion’ that is more violent than so-called ‘secular’ phenomena is so incoherent, why is the idea so pervasive?” The answer, I think, is that we in the West find it comforting and ideologically useful.
The myth of religious violence helps create a blind spot about the violence of the putatively secular nation-state. We like to believe that the liberal state arose to make peace between warring religious factions. Today, the Western liberal state is charged with the burden of creating peace in the face of the cruel religious fanaticism of the Muslim world. The myth of religious violence promotes a dichotomy between us in the secular West who are rational and peacemaking, and them, the hordes of violent religious fanatics in the Muslim world. Their violence is religious, and therefore irrational and divisive. Our violence, on the other hand, is rational, peacemaking, and necessary. Regrettably, we find ourselves forced to bomb them into the higher rationality.
Does Religion Cause Violence? | Harvard Divinity School. If I could make America’s journalists and pundits read just one book, it would be William Cavanaugh’s The Myth of Religious Violence. (via ayjay)
Yes, read The Myth of Religious Violence. If you want to read the rest of Cavanaugh’s writing, I liked Migrations of the Holy the best.
God intends to be Lord on earth and regards all our exuberant zeal on God’s behalf as a real disservice. Herein lies our Christian secularism, that, in our very desire to see that God gets everything that is due God in the world, we actually evade God and so love the earth for its own sake, for the sake of this struggle.
“The greatest danger to Christianity is, I contend, not heresies, not heterodoxies, not atheists, not profane secularism - no, but the kind of orthodoxy which is cordial drivel, mediocrity served up sweet. There is nothing that so insidiously displaces the majestic as cordiality.”
-Soren Kierkegaard (orthodoxbrit)