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Part 2: Examples of religiously-motivated hatred,
conflict & violence by followers of Abrahamic religions

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This topic is continued from the previous essay

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Verbal expressions of intolerance in Christianity:

While religiously motivated terrorist actions by Christians are relatively rare in the West, verbal expressions of intolerance are far more widespread. Consider the following pronouncements by American and Northern Irish church leaders, politicians, and para-church organizations:

bullet In 1980, Bailey Smith, then president of the largest Protestant denomination in the U.S., the Southern Baptist Convention, made national news by announcing that "God does not hear the prayers of a Jew."
bullet At the 2002 Annual Meeting of the Southern Baptist Convention, Jerry Vines (pastor of a 25,000 member church in Jacksonville, Florida) denounced Muhammad as a "demon-possessed pedophile." He also condemned religious diversity as a major problem in America.
bulletEven stronger statements have been made by the Reverend Dr. Ian Richard Kyle Paisley, founder and moderator of the Free Presbyterian Church of Ulster, leader of the Ulster Democratic Unionist party, and Member of the British and European parliaments. Paisley has viewed Christianity as being under siege by demonic forces embodied in Irish Catholics and apostate Protestants. Using the anti-Catholic writings of such Protestant figures as John Calvin, George Whitefield, and John Wesley, 1 Paisley has branded Catholics as bearers of "satanic deception." He has been quoted as denying that Roman Catholics were Christians, and stating that they were subhuman. In addition to being a virulent anti-Catholic, Paisley also campaigns against homosexuals. Among the quotes attributed to him, are:
bullet "I denounce you, Anti-Christ. I refuse you as Christ’s enemy and Antichrist with all your false doctrines." This was addressed to Pope John Paul II.

bullet In 1958, Paisley denounced Princess Margaret and the Queen Mother for "committing spiritual fornication and adultery with the Antichrist." This followed their visit to Pope John XXIII.

bullet Paisley called the Popes "black-coated bachelors from Hell."

bullet Paisley, referring to Pope John XXIII  in 1963 after the pope's death, said: "This Romish man of sin is now in Hell."

bullet Addressing Fr. Murphy in his magazine Revivalist, Paisley said: "We know your [Catholic] church to be the mother of harlots and the abomination on earth." Paisley has called the Catholic Church the ‘Harlot of Babylon’.
bullet In 1999, Representative Bob Barr attacked the religious freedom of Wiccans on American army bases. Wicca is a nature-based Neopagan religion.

Also in 1999, a group of Fundamentalist Christian para-church groups organized a boycott of army recruitment. Their goal was to force the Army to terminate the religious rights of Wiccan soldiers. It quickly fizzled out.

bulletA longing by a Fundamentalist TV teleminister to return to olden times when we stoned religious minorities to death. The statement was followed with prolonged applause by his congregation.
bulletA call by a Baptist minister in Texas for the U.S. army to exterminate all Wiccans with napalm.

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Violent attacks by Christians:

Although most expressions of intolerance by Christians have been verbal, there have been some instances of violence, including:

bullet The 1995 bombing of the Murrah Federal Building in Oklahoma City, OK, by Timothy McVeigh killed 168, including 19 children.

bullet One lynching, one attempted mass murder by stoning, and numerous fire bombings, shootings, and assaults victimized Wiccans and other Neopagans in the U.S. during the late 20th century. To our knowledge, all were perpetrated by Fundamentalist Christians. Because of the increasing public awareness of, and knowledge about, Wicca, the frequency of these attacks has been reduced to near zero over the past 25 years.

bullet Fundamentalist Christians have attacked Jewish centers, attempted to poison municipal water supplies, bombed abortion clinics, and assassinated abortion provided in the U.S.

bullet During 2011. Anders Behring Breivik, 32 -- a.k.a. Andrew Berwick -- conducted two related terrorist attacks in Norway that together resulted in 77 deaths, mostly of teenagers at a campgrounds. Although described as a fundamentalist Christian by many commentators, he regarded himself as a generic Christian who hated Muslims, The motivation for the mass murders was retaliation against the governments of Norway and of other European countries that he felt were encouraging multiculturalism and the immigration of Muslims. More details

The members of the Christian organizations perpetrating these crimes seem to be convinced that the forces of truth wage a perennial, cosmic battle with the forces of falsehood, and that they face the challenge of protecting Christian truth by any methods available. That they are allowing Jesus’ cross to become Mithra's sword does not occur to them. There are far fewer attacks by Christian hate groups than by Muslim terrorists apparently because the former organizations are less numerous, their individual agendas differ, there is a lack of cooperation and coordination of their activities, etc.

North American Christian groups engaged in violent action often adopt the theology of at least two major fundamentalist organizations: The Reconstructionist  2 and the Christian Identity movements.

bullet The Recontructionist movement asserts that the coming reign of Jesus will abolish democracy, the separation of church and state, abortion, religious freedom, federal welfare programs, tolerance of homosexuality, and many other features of modern society.

bulletChristian Identity is based on racial supremacy and biblical law. It has provided the ideological support for many extremist American movements, and for some America’s militias. Its ideas were most likely part of the thinking of Timothy McVeigh. 3 The most distinctive doctrine associated with Christian Identity is the belief in the Satanic origin of the Jews. They interpret the serpent in the Garden of Eden story in Genesis as the devil himself or one of his underlings. They believe that he had intercourse with Eve. This generated a line of descent from the devil, through Cain, the Edomites, and the Khazars, to contemporary Jews. Identity has fused belief in a world-wide Jewish conspiracy with that of a cosmic satanic conspiracy. 2 Jews are viewed as sub-human demonic creatures who carry the devil’s capacity to work evil. 1

Christian Identity has been derived from a wayward nineteenth-century form of biblical exegesis known as
British Israelism. In the last decades of the twentieth century the ideology of Christian Identity groups such as The Covenant, Sword, Arm of the Lord, The Church of Israel, Aryan Nations, Children of Yahweh, The Christian Defense League, and The Kingdom Identity Ministries, blended into their distinctive amalgam of biblical, apocalyptic, historical, anti-Semitic, racist, and conspiratorial theories. The ingredients of these theories were taken from survivalist movements, the Patriots' movement, and neo-Nazi variants of white supremacism. 5 Two examples should be enough to provide a taste of such thinking:

bullet A brochure published by Aryan Nations included this statement in their creed of faith: "We BELIEVE there is a battle being fought this day between the children of darkness (today known as Jews) and the children of Light (God), the Aryan race, the true Israel of the Bible." 1

bullet One of the United States most notorious right wing terrorist groups of the post-war era, the Order (otherwise known as the Silent Brotherhood, or Holy Order of Aryan Warriors) brought together militant racists from Christian Identity, a racist faction of the Odinists, and people of conventional neo-Nazi backgrounds. 5

Author Vladimir Tomek has written:

"A special chapter could be written about terrorism in Ulster: Between 1968 and 1998, the Irish Republican Army (IRA) killed an estimated 728 civilians (most of them Protestants – not counted are military personnel and police)), compared with estimated 864 civilians (mostly Catholics) killed by loyalist paramilitaries. However, the conflict between the IRA, which wants to unify Ulster with the Republic of Ireland, and the three main Protestant paramilitaries that want to stay loyal to the British Crown [the Ulster Defence Association (UDA); the Ulster Volunteer Force (UVF); and the Ulster Freedom Fighters (UFF)], appears to be inspired more by political ideology than by religious beliefs. Many Catholics feel like second-class citizens in Ulster, and there is violence, harassment, intimidation, and abuse (not to mention revenge killings), but, with the possible exception of Rev. Paisley, there seem to be little religion in all of it. Nowadays, the terror groups are involved in moneymaking activities."

The IRA has since abandoned its terrorist activities.

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Additional notes:

bullet There are many additional examples of terrorism committed by religious people all over the world. For example:
bullet The assassination of Sri Lanka’s prime minister, S.W.R.D. Bandranaike by a Buddhist monk.

bullet The bomb destroying an Air India Boeing 747 over the Atlantic, killing all 329 people abroad, for which both Sikh and Kashmiri terrorists were blamed.

These attacks were probably motivated by political reasons and not by religion.


Bruce Hoffman, writing in a 1993 RAND paper, said:

"There are striking parallels between the white supremacists and the religiously motivated Islamic Shi’a fanatics in the Middle East. Both groups transform abstract political ideologies and objectives into a religious imperative. Violence is not only sanctioned, it is divinely decreed. Hence, the killing of persons described as 'infidels' by the Shi’a or as 'children of Satan' by white supremacists becomes a sacramental act." 6

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References used:

  1. Mark Juergensmeyer, "Terror in the Mind of God," University of California Press, (2003).
  2. Anson Shupe, "The Reconstructionist Movement on the New Christian Right," Christian Century, 1989-OCT-04. Online at:
  3. Karen Armstrong, "The Battle for God," HarperCollins, (2001).
  4. Michael Barkun, "Religion and the Racist Right," University of North Carolina Press, (1997).
  5. Brenda E. Brasher, Ed., "Encyclopedia of Fundamentalism," Routledge, (2001).
  6. Bruce Hoffman, "Holy Terror: The Implications of Terrorism Motivated by a Religious Imperative," RAND Paper P-7834, (1993).

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Copyright © 2006 by Vladimir Tomek
Original publishing date: 2006-SEP-21
Latest update on: 2012-JAN-27
Author. Vladimir Tomek & B.A. Robinson

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