People, Not Religions, Are Dangerous

I always thought religion was meant to help people.

At least one man would say I’m wrong. Well, at least in regard to one religion.

“Islam is a barbaric, savage cult,” Usama Dakdok has said at his events.

Dakdok speaks on the “dangers of Islam,” saying it is a threat to the U.S. He told listeners during a Tuesday event in Grand Forks that the religion itself is problematic, not the followers. He is certainly free to think and even say that. After all, he has the right to free speech as long as it is not deemed hate speech.

But I do have a question for Dakdok: Aren’t all religions dangerous?

Case in point: There was a man who used religion to fight for the equality of African Americans and help the poor. He formed a church that didn’t allow segregation because of the color of one’s skin and promoted God’s work. Everyone was happy and was willing to do anything to please their leader, who wanted to change the world for the better.

By Nov. 18, 1978, more than 900 of the church’s members, including children, lie dead in Guyana. The massacre of the Peoples Temple has been called the largest mass suicide in modern history. The leader, Jim Jones, had been so twisted by drugs and power he brainwashed his followers into thinking he was God. And because his people were so devoted to him, they killed themselves in his name.

Fast forward to Sept. 11, 2001, where Islamist extremists hijacked four planes and killed thousands of people, all in the name of Allah.

And now, ISIS is beheading people in a war against the nonbelievers. Two Christians have been charged with beating two brothers — one to death — in hopes they would confess their sins. Buddhist monks in Myanmar have slaughtered Muslim women and children.

I may be wrong, but maybe it’s not the religion that’s at fault. Maybe it’s the person that twists religion to justify his or her cause. That’s what Dakdok, and others who believe certain religions are evil, forget.

Religion is based on beliefs and a commitment to a certain faith, usually to a god. That is accompanied by guidelines to live a good life, such as the Bible or Quran. Both have passages that can be interpreted loosely, and some may seem very violent.

But the fact is no religion promotes violence. Religious people who are violent promote violence. If a person learned they should kill a nonbeliever, then it’s because the teacher interpreted scripture and told his or her followers to do so. If salvation lies in giving money to televangelists, who some would call con artists, people are going to give away their money. If a leader says the only way to be with God is to commit revolutionary suicide, the followers are going to drink the cyanide-laced flavor aid.

I know a lot of wonderful people who have looked to religion as a way to help others. Religion can be a fantastic guide to treating others with dignity and kindness, but it can also be used to destroy lives. Wars have been fought in the name of religion. People have died in the name of God. And others have been treated as subhumans because scripture proclaims it is right, or at least that’s how some interpret it.

People sometimes use religion to twist it to justify their beliefs and actions. Even when they have been rationally disputed, they will refer to scripture and say they are right.

But it goes both ways. People naturally pick extreme examples to paint a particular group of people with a broad brush. Just like religion, a belief can be used to justify anything. That’s how ignorance spreads, which leads to people getting hurt.

In the end, it’s not a religion that is dangerous. Religious people who twist their beliefs and refuse to understand others are dangerous.

I’ve never been a fan of religion, but I have no respect for those who use religion as an excuse to hurt others or place blame. It should be used to help people and treat others with kindness, or at least that’s what I was taught. Maybe we can use religion to understand people instead of using it to justify hatred and the destruction of others.

Maybe someone should tell Dakdok that.

5 Responses

  1. Caro

    “But the fact is no religion promotes violence.”

    That statement is debatable. Flemming Rose, the culture editor of the Danish newspaper, Jyllands-Posten, who commissioned the Muhammed cartoons that created a worldwide newspaper crisis, earlier published a piece by a Danish scholar. A research project carried out by Dr. Tina Magaard in Denmark, compared concepts of the enemy and images of violence in the central texts of 10 religions. The article summed up her research results:
    “…the texts of Islam depart significantly from those of the other religions; to a
    much greater degree they encourage violence and aggression. This is an issue
    that has long been taboo in scholarship about Islam. Some imams have
    claimed that the Koran forbids the killing of innocent civilians, but this is not
    the case. There are a number of passages in the Islamic texts in which it is
    quite apparent that the killing civilian infidels is permitted.”

    You may want to read Dakdok’s translation of the Koran. If you compare it to a Koran from any Grand Forks bookstore, you may wonder why they differ. There is an Islamic practice called Taqiyya. Taqiyya allows Muslims to lie to non-believers to advance Islam.

    1. April Baumgarten

      Good point. The Quran does mention “violence,” such as “fight for Allah.” Many scriptures for religions do. Christians are told in the Bible to stone nonbelievers, Moses and his people prayed to God to slaughter their enemies and Buddhists text says it is a kindness to kill nonbelievers.

      Keep in mind these are all scripts written by people, used by people and interpreted by people. If you are taught violence by another person and you are violent, your religion will likely be used as an excuse for violence.

  2. Caro

    Religions developed to explain how we came to be, not necessarily to help us. ‘All religions are this,’ can also be said of all political systems, or all rich people or all poor people. Twentieth century communists slaughtered 100 million people under the Soviet and Chinese regimes. A more accurate statement might be all ideologically based belief systems become religious, and therefore dangerous.

    A more enjoyable study might be what human system works best? Why? What is the criteria? What are the goals? What successes can one cite for pursuing those goals?

    It is a credit to you that these issues concern you, and that you open them up to the public square. That’s rare today, especially in someone so young. Bravo!

  3. Caro

    As a Christian, I agree all scripture was written by humans, but I believe some of books are God breathed. One should have a history book close at hand when analyzing any culture, not just a holy book.

    Stoning was a penalty in the Old Testament. Most modern day Jews (less than 3% of the US population) are secularists, so OT laws are a non-issue. Israeli law is a complicated blend common law, constitutional jurisprudence, and religious courts.

    In the book of John, chapter 8 of the New Testament, Jesus teaches a new way. ‘If any among you have not sinned, let him be the first to throw a stone at her,’ Jesus asks a group of men judging a woman caught in adultery, Everyone but Jesus walked away. He counseled the woman to leave your life of sin.

    The Koran is the opposite, progressing from earliest passages of compassion to violent conquest. It’s foundational legal system, Sharia, incorporates stoning for adultery and homosexuality, as well as beheading and amputations for many perceived crimes against Islam. It is practiced in at least 8 Islamic countries as we speak. Even milder practices of Sharia, men may have multiple wives and women cannot, and a women’s testimony is worth half of a man’s.

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