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Religion and violence


ReligionJournal abstract

Religion kills. Throughout human history, people have killed in the name of their gods. Emile Durkheim rightly stressed that religion serves to strengthen the bonds of solidarity among those who worship the same god, in the same way. But the flip side of this solidarity is enmity towards those who worship other gods or worship the same god differently. Religious boundaries separate the pure and virtuous ‘us' from the impure and evil ‘them’. We who worship our god our way are truly human. The Other, who worships other gods, or the same god differently, is less than human and thus killable. Yet while the hostility towards the Other found in most sacred scriptures has often had lethal consequences, one cannot assume that these texts dictate the actual behaviour of believers for all time. Scriptures are constantly being reinterpreted as historical circumstances change. And some conflicts in which sacred texts get invoked may infact have secular causes.

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