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I have changed my opinion on Islam

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I have started to ignore Robert Spencer and other people who are fond of saying "Islam is violence." While the Koran has some pretty scary passages, the vast majority are only scary if you totally drop the context. The ones that are scary, even in context, aren't much worse than what's in the Bible. I have come to the opinion that Islam, like Christianity, cannot be characterized as either violent or peaceful. Rather, it is an ambiguous belief system that can be made to mean whatever one wants it to. If you want to wage jihad, pay attention to certain parts of the Koran, but ignore others. If you want to justify the execution of homosexuals (a la Westboro Baptist Church), pay attention to certain parts of the Bible, but ignore others.

Our real problem is not Islam. It is the non-rights-respecting society that has been erected in the name of a puritanical interpretation of Islam. The world would be a better place if Islam, in all its varieties, ceased to exist, but that is because it is a religion and, like Christianity, irrational by its very nature. We would also be better off if Buddhism ceased to exist, but I doubt anyone will argue that Buddhism is violent. As for terrorism, we needn't assume that Islam itself is violent in order to combat the violent brands that are currently the bane of the Western world.

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I would consider both Christianity and Islam to be religions of violence--and I consider them fundamental problems for peaceful society. I take Buddhism not to be a religion of violence. In fact, I am ambivalent about its status as a religion. More clearly, I take Judaism to be a religion of relatively little violence, and not a fundamental or significant obstacle for peaceful society, even if it were as wide-spread as Christianity.

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If you consider Christianity violent, then Judaism is most certainly violent. The most violent parts of the Bible are all in the Old Testament, which is the only part shared by Judaism. The New Testament is very pacificistic. The confusion is in whether or not we are supposed to disregard the entire OT, or if we are supposed to follow both.

If you're going to claim that Christianity and Islam are violent, you should really provide some sort of reason. Acts done in their names is not sufficient...you need to show scripture, in context, that supports violence. I have no doubt that you can do this. But I can also point to scripture that sounds pacifistic.

The religions are not violent or pacifistic. They are empty. They can be molded into whatever you want them to be. In my opinion, this is a worse insult than calling them violent.

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That's also because Islam is much younger than Christianity. Islam is about as old now as Christianity was during the Dark Ages, so I see no reason to think that Christianity is any better or inherently more intellectual. All ambiguous philosophies lend themselves to violence, if that's how someone wants to interpret it.

Both of you have said that Islam is violent, but you haven't given me any reason to think that the violent interpretation is more correct than the pacifistic one. I am not defending either religion. They have both caused innumerable problems to mankind. But I firmly believe that "empty" and "ambiguous" are more appropriate terms, when discussing the stance of these religions on violence.

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While the stories in the Torah are more violent, the moral code it calls for is much less so. Note, when I speak of the religion, I am not just talking about the text but also the ideas and attitudes of the adherents. Since religion isn't just philosophy, but has a social element in the meaning of the word, I think the actions of followers are relevant. But if you consider the property of volatility inapplicable to religions, then it would be difficult even with scripture to argue that Christianity is violent.

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When talking about the ideas and attitudes of the adherents, then Christianity is just as violent as Islam, so long as you consider the whole history of the religion, rather than just the present. I do consider the property of volatility to be applicable to religions...just not the 2 under discussion, because their respective scriptures offer self-contradictory views on the subject.

Judaism, on the other hand, I consider to be overtly violent. Judaism doesn't have an explicit code of violence, but it is clear that Judaic law is subject to the whims of a despotic cosmic dictator who often wills his subjects to commit genocide, filicide, infanticide, rape, slavery, incest, etc. There is little in the OT that can be referred to as "peaceful." Even the parts that are peaceful are best explained by the fact that YHWY wasn't pissed off at the time.

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Need we be reminded of the direct correlation between faith and force?

When speaking about religion, the context that makes the word violent meaningful includes its practitioners use of force at a given time. Neglecting that context confuses the issue. If we look at any religion during its lifespan, they are all apocalyptically violent. There are periods where faith recedes from most practitioners, and they practice their religions less consistently. During these short time periods it is somewhat meaningful to say that the religion is not violent. It is clear that faith is in a recession for both Judaism and Christianity. The state cannot be maintained, and one of two things will happen; either the religions will disappear, or there will be a resurgence of faith and violence.

If today's Islamic theocrats received the treatment they deserved, Islam, in a conflagration, would cease being a serious issue.

As far as Buddhism is concerned, a huge amount of its practitioners were extremely violent as late as WWII. I have heard it described as an atheistic philosophy. This doesn't mean that its practitioners are opposed to faith. They believe that transmigration of the soul happens. If one beleives that the soul will be sent through space and time to another body, the devaluing of life isn't a big stretch.

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Our real problem is not Islam. It is the non-rights-respecting society that has been erected in the name of a puritanical interpretation of Islam.
I don't understand the distinction you're trying to draw. Our real problem isn't communism / Nazism / whateverism, it's a non-rights-respecting interpretation of X that has been erected in the name of X.

The Qur'an does not forbid the use of violence against people, in fact it requires it.

61:4 "Truly God loves those who fight in His cause in battle array, as if they were a solid cemented structure."; 9:29 "Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Apostle have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection."; 9:5 "So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful." The Immunity is particularly full of good stuff.

Of course, this is no real problem as long as nobody actually does what they are supposed to. With words, it's always a matter of interpretation.

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Moose,

You should read Ali Sina's debates on FaithFreedom.com(ex-Muslims site).

He debates with some prominent Muslim scholars including Grand Ayatollah Montazerri

What he says about intepretation of Quran.

"Is it good to be able to interpret a book of guidance that claims to be from God in different ways? What is the purpose of a book of guidance? Isn’t it to guide us definitely and without equivocations? Divine books are supposed to be roadmaps for humanity. They have to show you the way and be consistent. What if a map shows that your destination is to the right, and to the left, to the north and to the south and to all directions? Such a map is of no use at all. It is misguiding and pointless. The reason we consult a map is to get the clear idea which route to take. If we had to interpret it according to our own understanding, the map has failed to do what it purports.

It is true that Quran is written in a way that each person can interpret it according to his own understanding, whims, inclinations and caprices. A tolerant Muslim may be attracted to the earlier verses of Quran when Muhammad had no power and spoke good words like: "Speak good to men..." (2: 83) "To you be your religion, and to me my religion" (109: 6) and "There is no compulsion in religion"(2:256). But a bigot who has a sadistic predisposition will give emphasis to the violent verses of Quran that were revealed when the Prophet became powerful and need no more “speak good to men” or ask them to be tolerant to him letting him practice his religion. So his tone changed and he revealed violent verses like these: “Fight them on until there is no more tumult and religion becomes that of Allah” (2: 193), "Whoso desires another religion than Islam, it shall not be accepted of him; in the next world he shall be among the losers."(3: 85)

Quran is full of these contradictions and discrepancies. Each person can pick and choose what he wishes. A pious person will lead a pious life and will see the good things in Quran, while a terrorist can also find justification of his killings in that holy book.

During the 23 years of his prophetic life, the Prophet was catapulted from rags to riches. This dramatic change affected his mood and teachings. Once a forbearing preacher and a lonesome warner, turned into an intolerant despot. He was no more sermonizing or "speaking good to men" or being “patient with what they say, and part from them courteously" (73: 10), but was howling for killing and screaming for blood. He called his followers to “Murder those of the disbelievers and let them find harshness in” them (9: 123).

Therefore it is true that each person can find in Quran something that would validate his own proclivity. This is not a “miracle” of Quran but its biggest flaw."

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I don't understand the distinction you're trying to draw. Our real problem isn't communism / Nazism / whateverism, it's a non-rights-respecting interpretation of X that has been erected in the name of X.

I'm talking about the violence associated with Islam. I don't know enough about Communist political theory to know whether or not it requires violence. Nazism, I think it's safe to say, explicitly condones it, so I don't thinks that's a very good analogy.

The Qur'an does not forbid the use of violence against people, in fact it requires it.

61:4 "Truly God loves those who fight in His cause in battle array, as if they were a solid cemented structure."; 9:29 "Fight those who do not believe in Allah, nor in the latter day, nor do they prohibit what Allah and His Apostle have prohibited, nor follow the religion of truth, out of those who have been given the Book, until they pay the tax in acknowledgment of superiority and they are in a state of subjection."; 9:5 "So when the sacred months have passed away, then slay the idolaters wherever you find them, and take them captives and besiege them and lie in wait for them in every ambush, then if they repent and keep up prayer and pay the poor-rate, leave their way free to them; surely Allah is Forgiving, Merciful." The Immunity is particularly full of good stuff.

Of course, this is no real problem as long as nobody actually does what they are supposed to. With words, it's always a matter of interpretation.

This is exactly what I'm talking about. There are dozens of other quotes that say the opposite. For instance: "There is no compulsion in religion." The difference between violent and nonviolent passages is where Mohammad was when they were "revealed." Suras that he wrote while in Mecca are typically peaceful. Later, in Medina, Islam was more popular, and he realized that he could use Islam as a tool for gaining political power. It is at this point that the Suras begin to condone violence. There are many of each type, and they are self-contradictory. My point is that it cannot rightly be described as either, since both sides (violent and peaceful) can find justification for their views.

The Koran is not arranged in chronological order, so you can't pick out the Medinan Suras by reading the later chapters. I suggest looking through a copy of "What the Koran Really Says" by Ibn Warraq. He explains this controversy quite well. According to him, it is more or less accepted by scholars that the violent passages were written in Medina and the peaceful ones in Mecca. Of course, trying to date such things is a very tricky undertaking. There is no way to say, with certainty, which Suras were written in which city, but this is the best estimate we currently have.

Moose,

You should read Ali Sina's debates on FaithFreedom.com(ex-Muslims site).

He debates with some prominent Muslim scholars including Grand Ayatollah Montazerri

What he says about intepretation of Quran.

"Is it good to be able to interpret a book of guidance that claims to be from God in different ways? What is the purpose of a book of guidance? Isn’t it to guide us definitely and without equivocations? Divine books are supposed to be roadmaps for humanity. They have to show you the way and be consistent. What if a map shows that your destination is to the right, and to the left, to the north and to the south and to all directions? Such a map is of no use at all. It is misguiding and pointless. The reason we consult a map is to get the clear idea which route to take. If we had to interpret it according to our own understanding, the map has failed to do what it purports.

It is true that Quran is written in a way that each person can interpret it according to his own understanding, whims, inclinations and caprices. A tolerant Muslim may be attracted to the earlier verses of Quran when Muhammad had no power and spoke good words like: "Speak good to men..." (2: 83) "To you be your religion, and to me my religion" (109: 6) and "There is no compulsion in religion"(2:256). But a bigot who has a sadistic predisposition will give emphasis to the violent verses of Quran that were revealed when the Prophet became powerful and need no more “speak good to men” or ask them to be tolerant to him letting him practice his religion. So his tone changed and he revealed violent verses like these: “Fight them on until there is no more tumult and religion becomes that of Allah” (2: 193), "Whoso desires another religion than Islam, it shall not be accepted of him; in the next world he shall be among the losers."(3: 85)

Quran is full of these contradictions and discrepancies. Each person can pick and choose what he wishes. A pious person will lead a pious life and will see the good things in Quran, while a terrorist can also find justification of his killings in that holy book.

During the 23 years of his prophetic life, the Prophet was catapulted from rags to riches. This dramatic change affected his mood and teachings. Once a forbearing preacher and a lonesome warner, turned into an intolerant despot. He was no more sermonizing or "speaking good to men" or being “patient with what they say, and part from them courteously" (73: 10), but was howling for killing and screaming for blood. He called his followers to “Murder those of the disbelievers and let them find harshness in” them (9: 123).

Therefore it is true that each person can find in Quran something that would validate his own proclivity. This is not a “miracle” of Quran but its biggest flaw."

Amusing that you made this post at the same time I was writing mine. You even make the exact same point as I did, about the violent Suras coming after Mohammad had gained more political power. At any rate, this post has good verses that would suggest that a peaceful interpretation is just as legitimate as a violent one.

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Nazism, I think it's safe to say, explicitly condones it, so I don't thinks that's a very good analogy.
Based on what do you conclude that this is safe to say? You can't use the actions of the followers, because you're apparently saying that the interpretation of the belief is unrelated to the "true nature" of the belief. What is it that makes Islam itself any different from Nazism itself?

I don't understand why you hold that the chronology of the Qur'an matters.

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Based on what do you conclude that this is safe to say? You can't use the actions of the followers, because you're apparently saying that the interpretation of the belief is unrelated to the "true nature" of the belief. What is it that makes Islam itself any different from Nazism itself?

I make that conclusion based on the fact that everything the Nazis did is pretty much explicitly outlined in Mein Kampf.

I don't understand why you hold that the chronology of the Qur'an matters.

Read the post again. It matters a great deal, considering that Mohammad's writings didn't become violent until he was in Medina. When he was in Mecca, his writings could easily be characterized as pacifistic.

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Robert Tracisnki calls christianity "the tamed beast." That's as accurate a description of religion as modified by the enlightment as I've seen. Earthly success and happiness are possible for Christians to the extent that they are inconsistent in the way they practice their beliefs. The same is true of Islam, of course, and any other religion. In fact, Islam was tamed for a while. While Europe suffered through the Dark Ages, Islam thrived in certain places, amidst flourishing secular scholarship, trade and a measure of liberty.

Islam is tame no longer. That's the problem we face today. To say that Christianity can be just as bad, is to endlessly refight the last war while ignoring the current war.

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I make that conclusion based on the fact that everything the Nazis did is pretty much explicitly outlined in Mein Kampf.
So in other words, you're considering Mein Kampf as a whole.
It matters a great deal, considering that Mohammad's writings didn't become violent until he was in Medina. When he was in Mecca, his writings could easily be characterized as pacifistic.
So in other words, you're not considering the Qur'an as a whole.
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So in other words, you're considering Mein Kampf as a whole.So in other words, you're not considering the Qur'an as a whole.

Yes, I most certainly am considering the Koran as a whole. If you consider it as a whole, you cannot hold the belief that Islam is either violent or peaceful. You would come away with the view that it gives contradictory commandments on the matter, and that it is wide open to interpretation. By saying "Islam is violent" or "Islam is peaceful," you are only considering certain parts of the Koran while disregarding others. It is logically impossible to follow every word in the Koran, because doing so would require contradictory actions. To consider the Koran as a whole is to accept that it is neither inherently violent nor inherently peaceful.

To my knowledge, Hitler does not write about achieving his goals through civil disobedience. It's all about eliminating the European Jewry and enslaving the Slavs to acquire lebensraum for Germans. Nothing in Mein Kampf contradicts this view, by providing visions of peace.

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Robert Tracisnki calls christianity "the tamed beast." That's as accurate a description of religion as modified by the enlightment as I've seen. Earthly success and happiness are possible for Christians to the extent that they are inconsistent in the way they practice their beliefs. The same is true of Islam, of course, and any other religion. In fact, Islam was tamed for a while. While Europe suffered through the Dark Ages, Islam thrived in certain places, amidst flourishing secular scholarship, trade and a measure of liberty.

Islam is tame no longer. That's the problem we face today. To say that Christianity can be just as bad, is to endlessly refight the last war while ignoring the current war.

Why do you ignore the violence in Islam by recognizing the violence in Christianity? And why does this constitute a fight any more than it is a right against subjectivism to claim the objectivity of logic?

I consider the progress in religions to be rather linear. Judaism largely recognizes good life and happiness to be the aim of man, and while Jewish politics for the nation of Israel is or can be downright despotic and barbarian, it has little to say about land outside of Israel. It is irrational for modern thinkers to be Jewish, but not altogether harmful. Christianity, on the other hand, sets the individual against himself. His mind must doubt itself; his ideas of goodness and happiness are bad and unfulfilling. Islam is an ugly play on a theme. It adds a strong note of subordination to one's neighbors as well as god. Both Christianity and Islam, then, hold the necessary destruction of man's intellect and life to pave the way for absolutism--Islam more than Christianity. It is to the extent that one disregards either religion that he can avoid self-destruction.

Also, for whoever asked, I suspect Buddhism should be considered a philosophy rather than a religion because there is no god in Buddhism. I'm not certain that religion requires a claim about god, but I find it hard to distinguish religion and mysticism otherwise.

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Judaism largely recognizes good life and happiness to be the aim of man, and while Jewish politics for the nation of Israel is or can be downright despotic and barbarian, it has little to say about land outside of Israel.

Happening to be one (I identify as one way more culturally than religiously, as I haven't been to Synogauge since my Rabbi asked me to vote for Gore - but lighting the Menorah is fun, since I'm a pyro - and latkes are tasty), It always did seem the most rational of the irrational. Probably because of it's close proximity to Greek ideals during the Hellenistic ages. Most of the last 3 books of the pentateuch are old tribal law - it made sense for pork to be unkosher, since they didn't know what trichina worms were - they just knew that it wasn't clean, and sometimes people ate it and died. Shellfish like wise, as shellfish allergies are common and scientific knowledge of allergies wasn't when those laws were put down.

My beef with Islam comes with the idea of it being a collectivist school of thought devoted to oppressive, irrational rules (sharia law). And the fact that some of them want to wipe Israel off the map and conquer the world. I don't think that's all muslims - especially those that have come to the America or Europe to get away from sharia - but look at the demographics of Europe's birth rates with the middle east. There's a lot of ground for the seeds of resentment towards the rest fo the world to grow in.

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  • 2 weeks later...
When talking about the ideas and attitudes of the adherents, then Christianity is just as violent as Islam, so long as you consider the whole history of the religion, rather than just the present. I do consider the property of volatility to be applicable to religions...just not the 2 under discussion, because their respective scriptures offer self-contradictory views on the subject.
What exactly are you talking about? Please show how Christianity has been just as violent as Islam. That is nonsense, IMO. I've just finished reading Spencer's book about Islam and the Crusades.
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I have started to ignore Robert Spencer and other people who are fond of saying "Islam is violence." While the Koran has some pretty scary passages, the vast majority are only scary if you totally drop the context. The ones that are scary, even in context, aren't much worse than what's in the Bible. I have come to the opinion that Islam, like Christianity, cannot be characterized as either violent or peaceful. Rather, it is an ambiguous belief system that can be made to mean whatever one wants it to. If you want to wage jihad, pay attention to certain parts of the Koran, but ignore others. If you want to justify the execution of homosexuals (a la Westboro Baptist Church), pay attention to certain parts of the Bible, but ignore others.

Our real problem is not Islam. It is the non-rights-respecting society that has been erected in the name of a puritanical interpretation of Islam. The world would be a better place if Islam, in all its varieties, ceased to exist, but that is because it is a religion and, like Christianity, irrational by its very nature. We would also be better off if Buddhism ceased to exist, but I doubt anyone will argue that Buddhism is violent. As for terrorism, we needn't assume that Islam itself is violent in order to combat the violent brands that are currently the bane of the Western world.

What makes the Koran scarier than the Bible---and I am not defending the Bible here---is the context in which the book itself was written: While the Bilbe is thought to be written by numerous different authors at different times each under the inspiration of God but still including elements of his own mindset and personal opionions, the Koran is (in the mind of Muslims) the infallible word of God. This is a crucial difference. A Christian or Jew can give more weight to one part of the Bible than another, seeing the whole as an historical process of revelation from more barbarous revelations to more sophisticated ones. Of course, what was happening here was that the culture itself was becoming more sophisticated, but the fact that the Bible is considered a work of human beings who can and obviously contradict each other mitigates the Bible's deadly intent. Indeed, more sophisticated historicist theories of Biblical interpretation (theories orthodox Islam will not allow to be applied to the Koran itself since it would show Muhammed's authorship) marked the Enlightenment. A very notable early proponent of modern hermenuetics was Spinoza.

The Bible is seen partly as the work of men, the Koran solely the work of God. This makes a huge difference in how those violent passages are going to be interpreted.

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What exactly are you talking about? Please show how Christianity has been just as violent as Islam. That is nonsense, IMO. I've just finished reading Spencer's book about Islam and the Crusades.

Christianity has roots in the Old Testament, which is almost non-stop violence in the name of religion. In addition to the plethora of verses of religion-fueled massacres in the books of Numbers, Joshua and Judges here are some specific references:

Genesis 22:1-14 - The infamous story of God instructing Abraham to sacrifice his son Isaac. Abraham unquestionably complies in the name of religious deference, which exceeds his love for his son.

Deuteronomy 13:6-8 - This describes how it is appropriate to stone your whole family if they encourage you to worship another god.

Leviticus 2:13 - This instructs that practicing homosexuals should be put to death.

Deuteronomy 13:15-16 - This instructs that the inhabitants of others towns who worship other gods should be put to death (specifically it says put to the sword).

Here are some other examples of reckless slaughter in the name of Christianity (in addition to the terror waged during the Crusades):

  • The Spanish Inquisition.
  • The Salem Witch Trials.
  • Abortion Clinic Bombings.
  • Massacre of the Knights Templar.

There are significantly less examples of violence in history orchestrated by Christians than from Muslims. I think this is largely due to the higher level of education in the Western World for the past several hundred years. Most practicing Christians are conflicted or inconsistent about interpreting the Bible literally. The New Testament is not nearly as brutal as the Old Testament.

Edited by DarkWaters
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What exactly are you talking about? Please show how Christianity has been just as violent as Islam. That is nonsense, IMO. I've just finished reading Spencer's book about Islam and the Crusades.

Read Revelation. Or the Old Testament. The Old Testament is filled with stories of God commanding his children to rape and pillage other tribes, not to mention his prophet summoning bears to eat children.

I know, I know, the Old Testament was discarded with the coming of Christ...but that doesn't stop Christians from demanding that the 10 commandments be placed in every classroom. It doesn't stop them from condemning homosexuality, despite the fact that the biblical condemnation of it is found exclusively in the OT. The point is that you can glean from these religions whatever you want to glean, be it peaceful or violent.

What makes the Koran scarier than the Bible---and I am not defending the Bible here---is the context in which the book itself was written: While the Bilbe is thought to be written by numerous different authors at different times each under the inspiration of God but still including elements of his own mindset and personal opionions, the Koran is (in the mind of Muslims) the infallible word of God. This is a crucial difference. A Christian or Jew can give more weight to one part of the Bible than another, seeing the whole as an historical process of revelation from more barbarous revelations to more sophisticated ones. Of course, what was happening here was that the culture itself was becoming more sophisticated, but the fact that the Bible is considered a work of human beings who can and obviously contradict each other mitigates the Bible's deadly intent. Indeed, more sophisticated historicist theories of Biblical interpretation (theories orthodox Islam will not allow to be applied to the Koran itself since it would show Muhammed's authorship) marked the Enlightenment. A very notable early proponent of modern hermenuetics was Spinoza.

The Bible is seen partly as the work of men, the Koran solely the work of God. This makes a huge difference in how those violent passages are going to be interpreted.

I don't know how many Christians you've met, but 99% of the ones I know believe that the Bible is the inerrant word of God.

Here are some other examples of reckless slaughter in the name of Christianity (in addition to the terror waged during the Crusades):
  • The Spanish Inquisition.
  • The Salem Witch Trials.
  • Abortion Clinic Bombings.
  • Massacre of the Knights Templar.

There are significantly less examples of violence in history orchestrated by Christians than from Muslims. I think this is largely due to the higher level of education in the Western World for the past several hundred years. Most practicing Christians are conflicted or inconsistent about interpreting the Bible literally. The New Testament is not nearly as brutal as the Old Testament.

Since I'm trying to be unbiased with regards to Islam, I'm gonna do the same here. With the exception of the witch trials, none of these actions are expressly condoned by the Bible. Rather, they are examples of people using farfetched interpretations as a political tool. This is what Islamic terrorists do. But actions such as these are not presribed in the holy text anymore than "love your neighbor" and "there is no compulsion in religion" are prescribed.

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With the exception of the witch trials, none of these actions are expressly condoned by the Bible.

The book of Deuteronomy in the Old Testament explicitly instructs the slaughter of others who encourage worship of other Gods. A reasonable interpretation of this book essentially condones the atrocities of The Spanish Inquisition and arguably the massacring of groups like the Knights Templar. Of course, the Spanish Inquisition was more about forceful conversions, which to my knowledge are not explicitly advised in the bible.

not to mention his prophet summoning bears to eat children.
Where is this in the bible!? This sounds awesome, like it came out of World of Warcraft. Edited by DarkWaters
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