FIGHTING WORDS: THE ORIGINS OF RELIGIOUS VIOLENCE BY PROFESSOR HECTOR AVALOS - A REVIEW 

To say that bad Messiahs, bad holy books and bad religions provide insight and deserve spiritual reverence and to be central in your religious and social and spiritual life is to indoctrinate yourself with their character flaws. Even if you adore Jesus and don't wreck temples or shout at religious leaders in the street like him you are still as much character flawed as if you do! In what way? It is that you would do it but don't have the guts or the opportunity. Agreement with what he did is the character flaw we should really worry about. Doing what he does is like a symptom while that is the illness.

Maybe if Hector Avalos had to condense his book, Fighting Words, The Origins of Religious Violence, in a few lines that is what he would write!

QUOTE IN RESPONSE TO THE NOTION THAT A RELIGION'S DOCTRINE CONSISTS OF WHATEVER IT'S MAJORITY THINKS TODAY :   It is likewise fatuous to argue that "consensus" determines what is essential in a religion. By this standard, a bin Laden may indeed not represent the true Islam. However, were we to apply this standard consistently, then anyone could be classified as "deviant" at the inception of any new religion. This would mean, for example, that Jesus' teachings would be deemed illegitimate since at the time these were introduced, they did not represent the consensus of Judaism.

Why can we not claim that a near majority of Saudis support a violent form of Islam, or at least a violent rhetoric? If what the majority of Muslims believe or practice is what counts as "essential" or "predominant," then certainly such empirical findings contradict an "essentially" peaceful Islam in Saudi Arabia.

COMMENT: Good!  Anyway to say Islam is good for Muslims today are mostly believers in peace is to say religion is just about opinion.  If it is then it is okay for it to opine that violence is good!  The opinion to open the door for it by saying that some seeing it as morally or religiously neutral is another fearsome outcome.

Christians, Muslims and Mormons have violent scriptures.  Other groups too.

Each one is his own interpreter of the scripture.  That happens in two ways.

By default – even if you are commanded or expected to accept an interpretation you interpret that you should so self-interpreting has to happen before you can interpret as somebody else wants. Jehovah's Witnesses cannot accept their sects peculiar interpretation of the Bible without some personal interpreting going on first.  They make the sects interpretation their own.

By command of the scripture. For example, Islam and Christianity compel no particular interpretation of the Bible. Catholicism says it interprets the Bible but this amounts to a handful of texts!

Thus a text that even superfically looks violent is dangerous and the religion is to blame if somebody acts on what they think they read.

QUOTE: Another group of researchers sees religion as a major factor in Nazi policies. Here we can identify at least two positions. One position sees Nazi religion as pagan rather than as a form of Christianity. As such, this link to paganism has served to shift responsibility away from Christianity and toward non-Christian origins. In this regard, the work of Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke has been seminal. In at least two tomes, he has tried to uncover the pagan roots of Nazi ideology in the works of Guido von List and Jorg Lanz von Liebenfels, and in organizations such as the Order of the New Templars and the "Thule Society." Yet even he concedes, "The Nazi crusade was indeed essentially religious in its adoption of apocalyptic beliefs and fantasies including a New Jerusalem." A second position lays responsibility much more squarely in the lap of Christianity.

COMMENT: It is clear that religion is to blame even if it is pagan.  One religion being bad raises the question if other religions are good and they must be willing to prove their goodness.  If they do not and cannot then they are not to be assumed to be good.  Religions borrow from each other so if paganism is bad then the pagan ingredient of Christianity turns it into something with an infection that is going to erupt or grow.

QUOTE: Mein Kampf provides clear evidence that Hitler was not an atheist. For example, Hitler says: "Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance dance with the will of the Almighty Creator; by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord."

Hitler also states that he sees Protestantism as a great ally of German nationalism: "Protestantism as such is a better defender of the interests of Germanism, insofar as this is grounded in its genesis and later tradition." Hitler claims Martin Luther as one of his heroes.

COMMENT: Nobody has the right to claim that the Nazi activities had nothing to do with Christianity and thus its founder Jesus who bears the ultimate responsibility.

QUOTE: We may argue that Hitler hated Judaism not so much because he perceived Judaism to have a racist ideology, but because he saw it as a racist ideology that was successful. This is most clear in the following passage, in which Hitler comments on the amorphous idea of a Jewish "state": "It is one of the most ingenious tricks that was ever devised, to make this state sail under the flag of `religion,' thus assuring it of the tolerance which the Aryan is always ready to accord a religious creed. For actually, the Mosaic religion is nothing other than a doctrine for the preservation of the Jewish race."

COMMENT: Where did he learn about its racism?  From Christianity!  From the Bible!  Where did he learn how to become a racist himself in response?   From Christianity!  From the Bible!  Christianity by presenting itself as non-racist and universal is being passive aggressive towards Judaism.  The openness of Christianity to the world was tactical and meant to make the Jews look bad and itself as an improvement of Judaism.  Remember the split between both faiths was extremely bitter. 

QUOTE: Many of the anti-Christian statements that have been attributed to him have been disputed by respectable historians. If Hitler was guilty of anything, he was not scientific enough in his view of humanity.

COMMENT: Christianity must know it shares the blame when it has to lie so much to smell of innocence.

QUOTE ON MORAL RELATIVISM: There is "meta-ethical relativism," which mainly focuses on analyzing the meaning of moral statements. For example, what does it mean to say "Murder is wrong"? Once analyzed, one may see that "murder" simply refers to a killing not authorized by a particular group. Thus, capital punishment may not be considered "murder" in some societies, but abortion may be.

COMMENT: If that is really what bans on murder are really worried about then we have to accept that moralists and religionists and politicians are just lying about their love for human life.  They love selectively which is not the same as loving all human life.  They are hiding their fascism in a cloak of sanctimonious bliss.  Is it any wonder that human nature when it gets the chance goes out of its way to kill those considered outside the boundaries of acceptability.  If we hate out-individuals that subliminally then imagine how much we hate out-groups.

QUOTE: As in all versions of Kantian ethics, the initial premise is always relative. Thus, we can ask why we should think it an absolute moral right for purposive agents to have "freedom and well-being."

AND

It is just as relativistic to hold that "rational" principles should be the mark of any morality, even as we hold that empirico-rationalism does and should guide our moral judgments to one extent or another in order to best fulfill our interests.

COMMENT: He assumes there is no answer to the why.  But we cannot deny it is right so we don't need an answer.

QUOTE: Basically, any statement of the type "X is good because God says so" is still a human judgment.

COMMENT: If I judge anyway then by bringing God into it and saying he does the judging is just me trying to be lazy and irresponsible.  Laziness from sensible people helps violence thrive in society and religion.

QUOTE: In reality there are only two choices in a world in which ethics involve a deity. To understand this dilemma, we need to consider a variant of Euthyphro's Dilemma as found in Plato's Euthyphro.  We can briefly summarize the argument here: Things are either good in themselves; or They are good because God says so.

COMMENT: If kindness to a helpless baby is not good in itself then God is bad for saying it is good in itself.  If it is good in itself then we don't need or care about what he has to say.  But he commands us to care.  Is that not parasitic and trying to take advantage of a tragic situation?  He cannot say sincerely that it is good - he can only pretend that it is.

QUOTE: There also degrees of moral relativity. Moral rules based on verifiable premises are less relativistic and arbitrary than moral systems wherein verifiability comes into play to the extent that it can influence value judgments. For example, we can verify that we cannot verify that demons possess people we would otherwise consider mentally ill. Therefore, we do not consider demons when making any value judgments about mentally ill people. Having a god in a moral system does not inherently change it, except to add another scarce resource and bureaucratic layer to our moral decision making, rendering morality even more relativistic. The foregoing should not be construed to mean that we do not believe in any system of moral rules. We simply affirm that all moralities must recognize the self-interest involved in their construction.

COMMENT: Good!

QUOTE: 1.What exists is worth more than what does not exist. 2.Life exists. 3.Therefore, life is worth more than what does not exist. Accordingly, we may deem immoral any action that places the value of life as equal to or below the value of nothing. Therefore, it is always immoral to kill for something that has no actual value.

COMMENT: Good.  If God does not exist then he has no actual value.  It is the ideas that some faithful people have about him that they think are valuable and they need challenging.  The more importance they give to a fiction the less you should value their doing that.  Thus hating the concept of God would be a duty if atheism is true.

Avalos here shows why morality as in respect for human life is objectively true.  If it is not then at least it cannot be wrong.

For Avalos killing for a fiction God "is equivalent to killing for no reason or to killing for nothing, even if the person doing the killing believes herself to have a just reason."

QUOTE: We can argue that killing because undetectable Martians just as we should reject all of Mein Kampf because of its racist and genocidal policies, we should reject the Bible for any genocidal policies it ever endorsed. We should reject other scriptures if they also ever advocate any sort of violence. In fact, Mein Kampf does not contain a single explicit command for genocide equivalent to those found in the Hebrew Bible. Yes, Mein Kampf describes the Jews as an evil to be expelled from Germany, but nowhere in Mein Kampf is there anything as explicit as the policy of killing Canaanites in Deuteronomy 7 and 20 or 1 Samuel 15. Thus, if all of Mein Kampf is to be rejected simply for its implied genocidal policies, we should certainly reject all of the Bible for some of its explicit and blatant genocidal policies.

COMMENT: People endorsing the Bible is appalling.  They are simply making sure there is an obstacle to some becoming non-violent.

QUOTE: We have shown that some portions of the Bible advocate genocidal policies. Whether they were carried out historically or not is not as important as the fact that they are endorsed as a good thing.

COMMENT: It means it is luck not the rules that kept obedience to them at bay.  People were spared in spite of the rules and that alone makes them bad and degrading.

QUOTE: Christianity, for example, has been alive for two thousand years or so, and religious hierarchies and privileges have not brought us any closer to peace, which is usually defined as a set of conditions for the privileged group in the first place. If any hierarchy is undesirable, then hierarchies based on unverifiable premises have to be worse.

COMMENT: Should we assume the Christian faith has made it worse?  Yes for it claims to offer salvation and this is beyond what any other faith or system teaches.  If you offer a quack cure and you are asking people to believe the cure is real when it clearly is not you are making things worse.  They can say, "Poor Henry VIII would have probably killed nobody had it not been for his Christian faith."  That shows you are dismissing the murders he did commit to show how righteous you are in your faith!  Loving Henry and hating his murdering is not what is happening here at all.  You are loving Henry and whitewashing his evil.

 

QUOTE: We would not continue to espouse the Santa Claus myth for the sake of enhancing the child's behavior. It is unethical because we are asking the child to give us a tangible service in return for a nonexistent reward (Santa Claus's existence and his benefits). In other words, the child is working on the basis of false premises. Second, when the child learns that Santa Claus does not exist, it may have a deleterious effect on why she behaves well, which would not serve our self-interest. Compelling or encouraging good behavior should be based on appreciation of the value of verifiable causes and consequences to behavior.

COMMENT: Same is true if there is no God or if there is a God who has not really founded Christianity.  Its version of him is a fiction even if he is really there.

QUOTE: We hold that the potential acts of good caused by religion can never exceed those that cause violence. This is particularly the case if one assumes that religion encourages altruistic behavior (as Michael Shermer does, for example). In fact, there is no such thing as altruistic behavior in some absolute sense, because all actions are performed for some perceived benefit to the agent. This is the case even if the effect is, by our judgment, counterproductive to the agent. For example, those slamming into the World Trade lost the opportunity to further propagate their genes if they were childless. This might seem to be altruistic from the perspective of someone that shared their religious beliefs.

COMMENT: Religion is often assumed to be about the meaning of life.  What if in fact it is about the meaning of death?  If you have the meaning of life and the meaning of death to worry about which will come first?  The meaning of death.  A valued life will be a torment if you have to face death and see it as useless degrading extinction.

Religionists are not altruistic for if they help the stranger then it is for what they WANT to think of God not God.  So it is self-serving and its a clever way to pass for being selfless without being selfless.

QUOTE: If Machiavelli had any insight at all perhaps it is best paraphrased by this question: It is better to be feared than loved if it deters our destruction, or are sacred spaces more valuable than human lives? This is the type of new question that emerges from the rethinking of the value of sacred space in foreign policy.

COMMENT: Religionists think Jerusalem is worth any innocent blood spilt over it for it is the Holy City.  Catholicism will not water down or change its beliefs if it leads to attacks and murders on its most vulnerable Catholics.  There is more to this meaning of death thing than ISIS suicide bombers. That is the sacred space stuff at work.

And human nature as a whole does think that terrorising people is better than letting them destroy themselves so don't let the religious or their churches lie to you that they don't reason like that.

FINALLY: Too many ignore their religion's violent past to enjoy religious privilege at the expense of innocent victims.  Too many affirm and go along with the religious lies that lead to hate and fighting.