The following is an excerpt from the Jewish Standard's April 20th article “Even Buddhists do it” by Larry Yudelson:

Dr. Selengut, writer of “Sacred Fury”, tries to understand religious violence through the lenses of sociology, psychology, and theology. His thesis is that violence carried out in the name of religion cannot be separated from the religion itself.

“Some is pure religion, some is the interplay of religion and and politics, but it's incorrect to say that religion has nothing to do with violence. All religions have elements that encourage violence against those who disagree with them or challenge their theology.

If the religion is threatened and the motivation of the violent religious people is not just out of anger, but is for the religion, that's not called violence. The violence is reinterpreted as nonviolence.

In Hinduism, if someone undertakes violence to protect the Hindu gods or institutions from a pure motivation, not from personal anger or rage, that killing is considered sacred killing. That put it into an entirely other realm.

It's a kind of dichotomy in the religion. People in the West often don't know about it. You can have people so anti-killing that they're vegetarians, yet the same adherents of the religion can be very violent against those who challenge their beliefs.

Or the extremist Christians who kill abortion doctors. In extreme anti-abortion groups this is considered legitimate theology. The Christian advocates against abortion doctors call it the Phineas Option. You'll know it from Pinchas killed Zimri – acting zealously for God’s sake without a specific Divine command – they use this as the ultimate religious justification.”

So why is this upsurge in religious violence happening now?

“One reason is the movement of globalization. As long as religions stayed in their own enclaves, there was no need for any interaction between different religions. Often religion renews itself. It goes in cycles. Religions become more moderate. Over time the essentials reassert themselves. We see that in contemporary Judaism as well. After a modernization of American Judaism, the internal life of Judaism moved back to the fundamentals.

And religious fundamentalism leads to religious violence.

Because it's beliefs are so strong, fundamentalism doesn't permit pluralism or diversity. There's only one truth and we must protect that truth. That feeling of us against them, that we are right and everybody else is wrong, permits the elements of a religion that do encourage violence to come forth. There are notions of violence in all religions but often they are dormant. With fundamentalism these elements are rediscovered. That encourages the violent outbursts.

We see that even in Judaism. In Meah Shearim recently, they beat up a soldier with peyos, because he was charedi but joined the army. Fundamentalism gives such power.”

What can be done to stop religious violence?

“It has to be two-pronged. A lot of it is up to the religious leaders themselves. The people who know the texts, who are part of the tradition, have to stand up and say that violence is a misreading of the tradition, an exaggeration.

All the statements against religious violence in the New York Times don't mean anything. When in iman who has standing as a very religious and learned and sacred figure takes on religious violence, that would have power.

I think it's the same thing in Judaism and Christianity. Religions can only be transformed internally. It can't be transformed by outsiders who are not privy to the theological thinking of a religion.

There is enough in each religion so that a student students of the religion can probably legitimate any kind of violence. In Judaism, the terrible, heartbreaking example would Yigal Amir, who assassinated Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin. There were those who said there was a group of rabbis who legitimated what he did.

It's the same thing in other religions. The vast, vast majority of Christians are against killing abortion doctors, but there is a subset that would define that is legitimate.”

Dr. Selengut said the roots of religious violence lie in the nature of religion.

“Religion is different than any other kind of commitment, because religion has to do with what is the ultimate truth. I take it on faith. I don't have to logically or rationally defend what I'm doing. What I do religiously partakes of another calculus, another reality, the truth beyond rational or ordinary life. I don't have to consider other elements.

For example, in politics, considering whether to bomb Syria or not – I have to think what are the consequences, politically, economically, internationally. It's a rational calculation. In religion, I'm not bound by these calculations. I know that it's true, I do it, and God told me to do it. I don't have to worry about logical objections and rational considerations.”

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