By Al Stefanelli
A recent article I wrote called for the eradication of dangerous and disingenuous doctrines that the radical extremist fundamentalists use to justify acts of terrorism. True to form, and largely due to a lack of basic reading comprehension, my words were turned and twisted and headlines appeared in thousands of newspapers and blogs stating that I was calling for the murder of Christians. Of course, those who know me understand how utterly ridiculous this is, as I would have to start with my own wife and children. As well, I have a very long history of condemning all forms of violence and any activism that is done outside the bounds of the law. One of the biggest complaints I received was that I had no business “lumping” Christians in with Muslims. Outside of the sheer bigotry in that statement alone, let’s examine why fundamentalist Christians should be included in those who would and do commit acts of terrorism.
First, we should examine the difference between a fundamental Christian and a Christian fundamentalist. Yes, there is a difference. A fundamental Christian usually believes the bible to be the inerrant and literal word of their god. However, most of them hold to the belief that their savior, the character portrayed as Jesus Christ in their bible, had come to give a new covenant to the faithful that centers around peace, love, charity and a lifestyle that does not include a variety of practices that they feel is not productive for their lives. Most of them wouldn’t even think of committing an act of violence, let alone terrorism. While strong in their beliefs, they are basically peaceful people and that the advent of Christ means that the laws, commands and examples that are part and parcel of their bible’s Old Testament are no longer needed. These individuals represent the majority of the faith, to one degree or another.
A Christian fundamentalist is a whole other animal. These people seem to ignore the teachings of Christ that have been put forth in Beatitudes, and somehow cannot comprehend 1 Corinthians 13:4-8 which states,
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Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres. Love never fails.
It is the Christian fundamentalists that bring shame to the faith, and it is the responsibility of mainstream Christianity to get on their proverbial mountaintops and shout out that these fundamentalists are not representative of their beliefs. These particular individuals present a problem for the rest of society because they look upon the worst and vilest of Scriptures for the basis of their doctrines, and it is these doctrines that society must work toward eradicating. It has been done before, and the fact that you don’t see mainstream Christianity calling for the murder of adulterers, homosexuals, witches and the like are proof positive that dangerous doctrines have been eradicated in the past.
The Christian fundamentalist operates on the fringes and would bring the world to an end just so there would be no infidels left. These people would do so not just to bring about their eschatological beliefs, but because they actually believe this is what their god commands them to do. They are not calling for the eradication of ideas, but of actual living, breathing people. They choose violence as their venue and easily find justification for it through the Bible. Sometimes all it takes is a perceived insult to their god, the audacity of an attempt to convert someone to a different religion, or worse yet – to cause someone to lose their faith entirely. Even family members are not immune to the demands that death be the only punishment.
There is huge problem with believing that the Old Testament laws and commands in the Bible are to be obeyed in these modern times. In the Old Testament, Yahweh commands that entire nations be slaughtered for blasphemy, unbelief or worshiping “false gods,” and that as long as these people are obeying every jot and tittle, their god will fight right beside them. If you think that the concept of “jihad” is only a Muslim thing, then read the Old Testament, particularly the Pentateuch, and imagine what it would be like if all Christians participated.
One of the examples drawn from the Old Testament is the sawing of people in two, chopping them into pieces with an axe, decapitating them and then mounting the heads in a public square as a warning. Men are not the only victims portrayed, either. Women and children alike are buried alive and infants are not even spared. In some cases, fetuses are literally ripped from the wombs of living women. Nobody is safe, not the sick, the dying, the blind or the lame, pregnant mothers, nursing mothers, infants, toddlers or babies.
The Old Testament commands that allow these fundamentalists to vie for world domination are also very clear. It is rife with mandates from Yahweh that if there exists a city that is not under their control, then they are commanded to attack and either convert, subjugate or, if necessary, annihilate every resident, every animal and to utterly destroy the city. There are provisions in the Old Testament for leaving some of the infidels alive, such as women who are considered “spoils of war” and are to be kept for sexual purposes.
The Old Testament clarifies that all adulterers, witches, homosexuals, blasphemers and other “undesirables” are to be slaughtered, even if they profess to believe. The punishment is the same for many other transgressions, including most of the beloved Ten Commandments, as well as for having premarital sex, incest, seduction, being raped (yes, you read that correctly), ignoring a decision of a holy man, eating the wrong food on a religious holiday, reading unapproved material, being rebellious to your parents, being an outspoken women, being an improperly covered woman, marrying the wrong person and the list goes on and on. I, for one, am glad that the vast, vast majority of Christians no longer hold the beliefs that the fundamentalists do. Most of us, believer and atheist alike, would be forced to live underground and our world would be a very different place.
One of the problems that are inherent with the faith as whole is that instead of condemning acts of terrorism that are committed by professed Christians, such as the murder of physicians who provide abortion services, the destruction of property and the violence against certain individuals, mainstream believers often state that these mentally disturbed individuals are not “True Christians.” This is, of course, incorrect. Although these people operate on the fringes of reality, they still profess belief in the core doctrines of Christianity. They believe in Christ as the risen savior, born of a virgin and use the very same Bible as even the most liberal Christian. They claim to be Christian, and by virtue of the some forty thousand different denominations that exist in the world, reality demands it be a hard-pressed defense to say they are not “True Christians.” If I were still a Christian, I’d be mad as hell and spend a good amount of my time telling everyone I come in contact with that these are not “false Christians,” but deeply disturbed, psychotic sociopaths.
I have maintained throughout my career as an activist that the concept of faith can, and often does, have a positive effect on an individual. Religion, however, remains the problem because much of it is ambiguous, enigmatic and left too widely open for interpretations that adversely and detrimentally affect the lives of nearly everyone on the planet. Faith my offer comfort, be a moral compass of sorts that direct a person toward acts of kindness and offer an individual a means of understanding that there does exist something larger than themselves. Even an Atheist cannot deny that there is something larger than ourselves; except for us it is not in the form of gods, but the whole of humanity. It is not faith that is the problem, but the poisonous concept of fundamentalist radical extremism. Poisons are harmless when left on the top shelf, out of the reach of those who are not aware of its inherent dangers when used according to the instructions. Religion is no different, and left in the wrong hands, unfettered and literally interpreted, it invariably ends up costing human lives.
Thus, I make no apologies for my words. In the words of Dr. Richard Dawkins,
The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction: jealous and proud of it; a petty, unjust, unforgiving control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully.
Of course, I am fully expecting the same group who misquoted my last article to do so here. Watch, you’ll be seeing headlines like, “Atheists Says All Christians Are Psychopathic Sociopaths.” They can’t help it…
“Organised religion is violent, irrational, intolerant, allied to racism, tribalism, and bigotry, invested in ignorance and hostile to free inquiry, contemptuous of women and coercive toward children.” ― Christopher Hitchens