just last week.
However as comforting as it is for Christians to believe that THEIR religion is a religion of peace and that the Islamic religion is one of hate and aggression, the facts do not bear that out.
This from the Boston Globe back in 2009:
Unconsciously, perhaps, many Christians consider Islam to be a kind of dark shadow of their own faith, with the ugly words of the Koran standing in absolute contrast to the scriptures they themselves cherish. In the minds of ordinary Christians - and Jews - the Koran teaches savagery and warfare, while the Bible offers a message of love, forgiveness, and charity. For the prophet Micah, God's commands to his people are summarized in the words "act justly, and love mercy, and walk humbly with your God" (Micah 6:8). Christians recall the words of the dying Jesus: "Father, forgive them: they know not what they do."
But in terms of ordering violence and bloodshed, any simplistic claim about the superiority of the Bible to the Koran would be wildly wrong. In fact, the Bible overflows with "texts of terror," to borrow a phrase coined by the American theologian Phyllis Trible. The Bible contains far more verses praising or urging bloodshed than does the Koran, and biblical violence is often far more extreme, and marked by more indiscriminate savagery. The Koran often urges believers to fight, yet it also commands that enemies be shown mercy when they surrender. Some frightful portions of the Bible, by contrast, go much further in ordering the total extermination of enemies, of whole families and races - of men, women, and children, and even their livestock, with no quarter granted. One cherished psalm (137) begins with the lovely line, "By the rivers of Babylon we sat and wept"; it ends by blessing anyone who would seize Babylon's infants and smash their skulls against the rocks.
To say that terrorists can find religious texts to justify their acts does not mean that their violence actually grows from those scriptural roots. Indeed, such an assumption itself is based on the crude fundamentalist formulation that everything in a given religion must somehow be authorized in scripture. The difference between the Bible and the Koran is not that one book teaches love while the other proclaims warfare and terrorism, rather it is a matter of how the works are read. Yes, the Koran has been ransacked to supply texts authorizing murder, but so has the Bible.
If Christians or Jews want to point to violent parts of the Koran and suggest that those elements taint the whole religion, they open themselves to the obvious question: what about their own faiths? If the founding text shapes the whole religion, then Judaism and Christianity deserve the utmost condemnation as religions of savagery. Of course, they are no such thing; nor is Islam.
But the implications run still deeper. All faiths contain within them some elements that are considered disturbing or unacceptable to modern eyes; all must confront the problem of absorbing and reconciling those troubling texts or doctrines. In some cases, religions evolve to the point where the ugly texts so fade into obscurity that ordinary believers scarcely acknowledge their existence, or at least deny them the slightest authority in the modern world. In other cases, the troubling words remain dormant, but can return to life in conditions of extreme stress and conflict. Texts, like people, can live or die. This whole process of forgetting and remembering, of growing beyond the harsh words found in a text, is one of the critical questions that all religions must learn to address.
I have to admit that though I own a Quran I have only read a few pages into it. (I have been told that reading the Koran in English is tantamount to trying to eat an ice cream cone through a chain link fence. The brutish language makes the beauty within its pages virtually unattainable.)
However I HAVE read the Bible about one and a half times, and found the experience to be quite a challenge and the primary reason for my atheism. How anybody can read that book and NOT be an Atheist is one of the great mysteries of mankind.
And yes the brutality contained within its pages would give Stephen King himself nightmares. (And in fact it has been suggested that many of his most frightening tales have been inspired by his reading of the Bible.)
I believe that it is factually accurate to suggest, and our blood drenched history bears this out, that IF America were actually to derive its laws, undiluted, from the Bible, we would be the most savage and brutal country on the planet.
It is ONLY because our views are tempered with reason, and our laws are written in a largely secular manner, that we have any justice in this nation whatsoever.
So when Christians look down on Muslims for their violence toward women, or nonbelievers, or Westerners, they really are peering at them from the most fragile of glass houses.