A popular topic ever since 9/11 is whether or not Islam is a religion of peace. Personally, I think that the answer to this one is pretty easy. No, it isn't. Mohammed was a warrior. The religion was spread by the sword. There are plenty of passages in the Koran that can easily be used by modern believers to justify their hatred and violence. You can make the argument more complex - but why? That's all I need to know. If it was a religion of peace, it wouldn't have all that stuff and it wouldn't have such a violent history (and present, even).
Luckily for us, most Muslims engage in a type of doublethink where they don't really pay a whole lot of attention to all that, as they're more interested in living their lives and raising their families - pretty much the same as everybody else. So, while Islam itself is not a religion of peace, there certainly a lot of Muslims who are peaceful and only seek to follow the more pacifistic aspects of it.
Can you see the "But" coming? Whenever I discuss this issue, I like to bring up the fact that Christianity isn't a religion of peace either. Of course, most Christians don't really want to hear that. One argument that I've heard is that Jesus brought a message of peace. Fair enough. Trouble is, that only covers four books of the New Testament. I suppose if that Christians only went by that, then we'd have something to work with (maybe - I can even argue this point though. If God demands a blood sacrifice to forgive our sins, that doesn't exactly sound very "peaceful" to me. Sounds pretty sadistic, actually). There's a whole bunch of the Bible left over, and if you look through the Old Testament especially, it's bloodier than the first half hour of Saving Private Ryan. Still, even when I pointed that out once, the response from a Christian was, "Yeah, but if you simply go by what Jesus said, it's a message of peace." Ummm...okay. Seems like a bit of a dodge to me - especially considering the fact that Jesus said that all the rest counts (see my last post for the quote).
The other argument is that it's unarguable that in the times we live in, Islam is more responsible for terrorism and acts of cruelty than Christianity is. I understand that, but it's a myopic way of looking at things. If you're going to ask the question as to whether either one of these religions is a religion of peace, then you have to look at the entire history of BOTH of them. I mean, the question is if they are religions of peace. It's not are they religions of peace at this moment in time. You don't get to pretend like these are two brand new religions that just sprang up out of nowhere to compete with one another. They both have long, complex histories with highs and lows.
I realize that Christians are tired of getting the Crusades pushed in their face whenever this comes up, but that's a big part of Christian history. Shoot, ever notice that it's a plural noun? There was more than one of them! Other favorites include the Inquisition and the Salem Witch Trials. Pretty standard stuff, but did you know that one of the reasons why the early Christians were persecuted by the Romans was that they would light fires in order to bring about the end of the world? Ever met an Arian? (No, I'm not misspelling "aryan".) Of course not - that's because that brand of Christianity has been wiped out, and it's not because they were asked nicely to knock it off. If you're of Euopean descent, ever wonder why you didn't grow up believing in Odin, Zeus, Morrigan, or Svarog? It might have something to do with the fact that your ancestors converted - no doubt some of them at the point of a sword.
What about the Reformation - the fight to make sure that people were believing in the right brand of Christianity? Let's not forget Northern Ireland. There's also the Christian slaveholders and Christian White Supremacist groups (like the KKK). Don't give me the whole thing about how Christians helped bring about the end of slavery - they also perpetuated it. After all, there are a few Christians in the South, right?
The point is, Christianity has a bloody history. I've heard it asserted that if you add up the body count, Christianity actually takes the prize over Islam. (And the Muslim terrorists have the benefit of modern technology! I'm sure that there would be Christian martyrs lining up if they had airplanes and skyscrapers during The Crusades.) Personally, that sort of thing doesn't matter to me. The only point is that Christianity has a bloody history - no doubt about it. Not only that, but these violent Christians were able to use their holy book to justify their atrocities (especially slavery!) just like the Muslim terrorists use the Koran.
Luckily for us, the Christian world has advanced (with some hiccups here and there) over the centuries. I'm honestly not concerned about Christian terrorists, and if we're talking about comparing the two faiths and capacities for violence in the present day, there is no comparison. As an atheist though, I cast a weary eye towards those Christians who are so quick to condemn the Muslims for having a religion that's doesn't espouse peaceful values.
I know my history. I know what belief in Christianity is capable of becoming. I'm not worried about it, but that doesn't mean that I'm going to pretend like it all didn't happen.
Man - that's a lot of posts on religion lately, isn't it? I'll write about something trivial soon, I promise. Did you know that you're neighbor could be a Skrull? It's true!