"Battle on the Ice" by Messir / CC BY-SA 4.0

Why People Kill in the Name of God

Jun 15, 2020

By David Ludden Ph.D.

All of the world’s major religions share a basic tenet, namely some form of the Golden Rule, which tells us to do unto others as we would have them do unto us. Many religious believers find peace of mind in the teachings of their faith, which gives them solace in times of distress and guides them through life’s difficult passes. Yet many others are fomented by their religious zeal to support or commit heinous acts against humanity.

Every major religion has a bloody history. Islam was spread by the sword across Africa and Asia in the eighth century, and in modern times plenty of young Muslims have been incited to kill “infidels,” often at the cost of their own life as well. Likewise, the past and present of Christianity has been just as violent. Catholics and Protestants have been murdering each other since Martin Luther challenged the authority of the Pope in 1517, and the killing has continued into recent history in places such as Northern Ireland.

Christianity in the United States often takes on a particularly militant tone. There are fundamentalist Christians who sanction violent acts against “sinners,” such as bombing Planned Parenthood clinics or assassinating doctors who perform abortions. Other times, the militaristic attitude is more symbolic, as for example when Christians call themselves “soldiers of Christ.”

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