A recent poll by CBS has shown that a large majority of democrats, 66%, believe that Christianity is just as violent as Islam. Among Independants 53% believed Christianity was just as violent and 25% of Republicans.
So one must ask, what makes so many Americans, 50% of them in total, believe that Islam and Christianity promote or contain the same level of violence? Here are a few of the reasons I believe that most people have come to that conclusion, and the reasons I believe that they are wrong to think so.
When people think of violence and religion, I think there is one thing that immediately pops into our minds, the crusades. No doubt both Muslims and Christians performed some horrible atrocities during this time, there is a reason modern history calls it the Dark Ages. But there is a few things that we should keep in mind in light of this horrible time in history.
First, who started it? Often times I think we are told in our history classes that Christians were the instigators of the Crusades. Muslims were living peacefully for years and then Christians decided to take what was never theirs to begin with. That’s not how it happened. Let’s remember that Christianity started in Jerusalem after Jesus death in 33A.D., Christianity rather literally and nonviolently took over the Roman Empire long before Muhammad appears on the scene in 594A.D. Muhammads predecessor Abu Bakr then attacked Jerusalem in 636A.D. So who started the Crusades? The Muslims.
Along that note, we can see Christians can view the crusades as trying to gain back land that was taken from them.
Second, it can easily be understood that it was the Christians who stopped the crusades, because in our modern era it was Islam who had control of Jerusalem when we gave Israel its sovereignty after WWII. If the Christians hadn’t stopped the crusades would never have stopped.
Furthermore, we no longer have Christians declaring Holy Wars and using their religion as justification. Within Islam we still have a small minority of Muslims declaring Jihad using Islam as their justification. I agree these Muslims do represent a minority of Muslims but that minority still consists of millions of people.
I must concede that perhaps these millions have twisted the words of the Quran to support what they believe. Religions are often used to justify the very things they were designed to be against. In that case it seems to make sense to look at the founders of Christianity and of Islam when talking of whether one is more violent than the other. Muhammad, was a clearly a military leader. He lead and participated in violent raids of merchants and after founding Islam went to war against the armies of Mecca on several occasions and approved of the slaughtering of Jews whom he believed deceived him in one of those battles. Jesus on the other hand told his followers to love and pray for their enemies. And died by the violence he never instigated.
The same can be said of their followers. The immediate leaders of Islam after Muhammad were violent warring leaders, case in point, Abu Bakr who attacked Jerusalem. The immediate followers of Jesus promoted peace and died as martyrs.
So is Christianity as violent as Islam? Lets look at the topics thus far:
- Islam started the crusades
- Christianity ended the crusades
- A large number (though a minority) of Muslims still believe in violent Holy Wars or Jihad
- Muhammad as founder of Islam was violent, while Jesus as the founder of Christianity promoted peace.
- The followers of Muhammad promoted Islam thru violence, the followers of Jesus promoted Christianity by dying for their convictions.
So are both religions equally violent? You decide.