Biblical Archaeology Review 42:2, March/April 2016

Biblical Views: The Bible and Religious Violence

By Ronald S. Hendel

Religious violence is a problem in the world today. We have seen too many cases where fundamentalist terrorists kill innocent people in the name of God. Recently in Paris and San Bernardino, radical Islamic terrorists murdered innocent people in the name of Allah. But radical Islam is not alone. We have also seen fundamentalist terrorist attacks in the name of the Christian and Jewish God: Recently a Christian terrorist murdered innocent people at an abortion clinic in Colorado Springs, and Jewish terrorists murdered a Palestinian family in Duma in a revenge attack. The name of God differs—Allah, Christ, Ha-Shem—but the religious motivation for violence is palpable. Is there something wrong with religion that it gives rise to the murder of innocents? This is a problem that we cannot escape.

These recent examples of religious violence stem from fundamentalist versions of Islam, Christianity and Judaism. These are the three major monotheisms, all Biblically based or derived. Is there something wrong with Biblically derived monotheism that gives rise to religious terrorism—to murder in the name of God? Some people have argued that the answer is yes. This calls for careful reflection.

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