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Religion should not be used as an excuse to harm others

By: Lacy Hilliard
Tomahawk Writer/Photographer

he most popular world religions are Christianity, Islam and Hinduism. With each religion, comes a set of principles for which devout followers are expected to sculpt their lives upon. All three are similar in their teachings of love, honor and morality. In the Christian bible, John 3:16 reads “For God so loved the world, that he gave his only begotten Son, that whosoever believeth in him should not perish, but have everlasting life”, while the Islamic Quran reads, “If ye do love Allah, Follow me: Allah will love you and forgive you your sins: For Allah is Oft-Forgiving, Most Merciful.” In Hinduism, the Bhagavad Gita is often referred to as the most central text. Within its passages, it teaches Bhakti, a feeling of love and elation shared with God during worship. Though controversy is present in every religious text, at the root, they all teach followers to practice a higher level of morality. With messages of peace and love in mind, why is it that so often those that claim to be the most devout followers of religious teachings choose to instead utilize their faith as a platform of hate, judgment and violence?

On September 11, 2001 Muslim radicals launched the worst terror attack in United States history. The mastermind of the attacks, Osama Bin Laden, published ‘A Letter to Americans’ explaining his reasons for his hatred for the American people. In the second paragraph of his letter, he quotes the Quran writing, “Those who believe, fight in the Cause of Allah, and those who disbelieve, fight in the cause of Taghut (anything worshipped other than Allah). So fight you against the friends of Satan; ever feeble is indeed the plot of Satan.” If this passage seems like a radical call to violence, consider Deuteronomy 17:2-5 which reads, “If there be found among you, within any of thy gates which the Lord thy God giveth thee, man or woman, that hath wrought wickedness in the sight of the Lord thy God, in transgressing his covenant, And hath gone and served other gods, and worshipped them, either the sun, or moon, or any of the host of heaven, which I have not commanded; And it be told thee, and thou hast heard of it, and enquired diligently, and, behold, it be true, and the thing certain, that such abomination is wrought in Israel: Then shalt thou bring forth that man or that woman, which have committed that wicked thing, unto thy gates, even that man or that woman, and shalt stone them with stones, till they die.” Regardless of the text, I don’t know a single modern-day Christian that regularly stones non-believers.
Anyone can take a religious text and mold the meaning to fit their particular agenda. Westboro Baptist Church is perhaps one of the largest offenders of this practice. Under the guise of Christianity, they push messages of hate and have even gone as far as to protest funerals of service men and women killed in the line of duty. Recently, Westboro Baptist even released a statement saying “God sent the shooter to Sandy Hook Elementary.” What’s their reasoning? God punishes sinners.

The 9/11 terrorists and Westboro Baptist Church may be outlandish examples of radical faith, but the use of religious judgment occurs on a much smaller scale as well. Once upon a time I recall reading a letter in which the author condemned the church she was a member of for throwing a baby shower for an unwed mother. In the same letter, she also condemned abortion. It led me to wonder how this line of thought could possibly be beneficial to anyone. Most abortions are the product of women that feel they have no support system. It seems that actively lobbying to remove the support system of an unwed mother is completely counterproductive to an anti-abortion agenda.
The old idiom, ‘you catch more flies with honey than with vinegar’ seems applicable here. If one’s true goal is to witness to non-believers and lead them to the path of righteousness, perhaps one should take a moment to consider how to go about it. Perhaps it would be wise to ask the question, “Is this what God would think is best or is this what I think is best.” Scare tactics, threats, violence and hated may temporarily prove a point but living a life of love, peace and humanity certainly goes much further for those that claim to serve a loving God. Perhaps rather than spending time arguing about which version of the bible or other religious text is more correct, believers could instead devote that time to visiting a nursing home or holding the hand of a dying hospice patient. It seems that the basis of every religion is to live a life of righteousness, so go forth and truly be righteous.