Religious Terrorism and the Future of the World


How’s that for a title?

Lots of talk these days about Israel/Palestine and anti-abortion violence.  And Islamic terrorism, of course.  All these things share a common root: religion.*  Not just religion, but the three monotheistic, Abrahamic religions.

Israel is balking at American pressure to stop allowing their illegal settlements on Palestinian territory to grow.  If there’s ever to be peace between Israel and the Palestinians, those settlements will not only have to stop growing, they’ll have to be abandoned.  Many of the people who live in those settlements, however, are ultra-Orthodox fundamentalists who believe it is their Yahweh-given right and duty to reclaim all of Palestine for the chosen people.  They will fight, kill, and die to stay in their illegal settlements, and if it leads to an all-out war in the Middle East, so much the better.  If somehow an Israeli government rounded them all up and relocated them back inside Israel, my sense is that they would launch a campaign of domestic violence against that government.  (Much of the funding for it would come from Americans, of course, just as much of the funding for the IRA terrorists in Northern Ireland came from Americans; if the Brits had adopted what would become Bush’s for-us-or-against-us stance on terrorism, they would have sent special ops forces into Boston and New York.)

Right-wing fundamentalist Christians in this country also have a history of God-inspired domestic violence.  The 1990s saw a lot of it.  We’ve just seen a relapse that may or may not turn into a renewal; it’s too soon to tell.  Many of the same people also share the ultra-Orthodox Israeli Jews’ belief that God wants all of Palestine in the hands of the chosen people, and are zealous to throw the violence of the American military behind their Jewish counterparts.

Meanwhile, it goes without saying that Allah-inspired violence by ultra-fundamentalist Muslims is a widespread problem.  We’re now facing the real possibility (though, as I understand it, it’s still unlikely) that they’ll overthrow Pakistan — a relatively wealthy, relatively well-organized state that possesses nuclear weapons.

One of the patterns of history is that in times of rapid change, you see a concomitant rise in religiosity and, frequently, religious violence.

It’s starting to feel to me like we’re headed for a repeat of the 16th century.**  And that would be bad, mmmkay?

Update (6/2/09, 5:30 pm): Matt Yglesias posts a chart that shows how demographics are making the Israeli problem worse: Arabs and the aforementioned ultra-Orthodox Jews (haredim) are rapidly becoming the two largest segments of Israel’s population.  Not exactly a recipe for peace and harmony, that.

[* The exception is the Palestinians.  Their violence against Israel has little to do with religion, as far as I can tell, and much to do with land and state.]

[** This is my second post about the future in 2 days.  Maybe Newt Gingrich will start quoting me.]

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6 Responses to “Religious Terrorism and the Future of the World”

  1. jazzbumpa Says:

    This Doonesbury cartoon, with a totally different point to make, illustrates that the God of the OT was basically a psychopath. Your point about these religions being Abrahamic is profound. Look what God did to him – in a time of famine, God put him in a situation where the Pharaoh could co-opt his wife, Sarai. Later, she suggests that old Abe take her servant, Hagar, to wife, since she cannot conceive. Hubba, hubba – right? Still later, Sarai grows jealous, and to appease her, Abe casts out Hagar (it’s horrible) and her son. Stout fellow, that Abe. Still even more later (this dude lived a looooong time) Sarai finally bears him a son (practice, practice, practice!) Then God demands the life of the son, Isaac, as a sacrifice.

    The Big Guy stays Abe’s hand at the last minute. Damn, that is one happy ending. Test of faith, and he passed. This is freaking amazing.

    The life of Abraham is a lesson in faith. He was human and made mistakes, but was able to profit by them and overcome. He was humble and willing to learn. Faith along with works made him perfect. “Was not Abraham our father justified by works, when he had offered Isaac his son upon the altar? Seest thou how faith wrought with his works, and by works was faith made perfect? And the scripture was fulfilled which saith, Abraham believed God, and it was imputed unto him for righteousness: and he was called the Friend of God. Ye see then how that by works a man is justified, and not by faith only” (Jas 2:21-24). This is why Abraham can be regarded as a great man of the Old Testament.

    Fundamentalists dote on the faith that demands the faithful to be willing to kill in the name of God. ‘Nuff said? Sorry for the over-long post.

  2. urbino Says:

    Hubba, hubba – right?

    Right. I believe those were my exact words the first time I heard that story in Sunday School.

    Never apologize for long comments around here, jb. (Least of all to me.) Say as much as you need to make your point. Our comment threads aren’t exactly overwhelmed.

  3. urbino Says:

    More seriously, yeah, there’s no doubt the Yahweh of the HB is genocidal. It strikes me as of a piece with the whole fixation on pollution — particularly blood pollution — of the entire Torah.

    In fairness, this is, as I understand it, a common theme in just about all Near Eastern religions of that period. So while Yahweh was telling the Hebrews to utterly wipe out the Jebusites or the Amalekites or the Stalactites — man, woman, and child — the Jebusites’ god was probably telling them to do the same thing to those uppity Hebrews who just moved into the neighborhood. It’s just that nobody reads Jebusite scriptures, anymore.

  4. alsturgeon Says:

    I thought he said to wipe out the Stalagmites. Weren’t they north to south? I always get those confused.

  5. urbino Says:

    Let me check the original Latin and get back to you.

  6. jazzbumpa Says:

    Having a tribal god, back in the day, made some sort of sense, probably. My god can lick your god, capiche? But the idea the the one true GOD who created heaven, earth, and Jessica Alba can have a chosen people is beyond loathsome.

    Sorry for the undershort post.

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