“I find it interesting that people will, with some regularity, kill in honor of their religion, but never, to my knowledge, has a group of people decided to kill in honor of their favorite artist or movement.”
It has occurred to me that, given the current fog of war and the most recent version of “Code Phrases for Bigots: A Compendium,” this statement could be misconstrued as some sort of slander against Islam in particular and all people of a religious bent in general. That was not my intent.
First, let us consider Islam. I make no claims to expertise when it comes to Islam. Ignorance of Islam is more my claim to fame, and it is an ignorance I hope to one day remedy. However, that day will come when I have a proper amount of time on my hands to delve into it. I’ve read some about the various (or should I say “numerous”) interpretations of the text in the Quran concerning the number of virgins that a martyr is supposed to come into possession of in Paradise, most of which dispense with the entire notion of virgins, and have come to realize that this is not a pursuit to be undertaken lightly.
Of course, that could apply to any sacred text. None are what they seem. I’m sorry, my fundamentalist friends, but I think it is a mistake to read any sacred text in the same way that one would read a profane one, such as Time Magazine or a newspaper. Since they are intended to get at ideas that are beyond ordinary comprehension, they must be written in a way that is poetic. And it is my belief that if God can make the heavens and the earth, then he can also make a metaphor. Or five.
Second, the correlation between religious belief and violence is an ancient one and is hardly limited to any particular sect or group. I keep thinking of a line from “The Simpsons” in which Roger Meyers, Jr., the producer of the “Itchy and Scratchy” cartoons defends cartoon violence. He says (and I’m paraphrasing here), “I’ve been doing some research and it turns out that there’s always been violence. Take the Crusades, for example. Darn thing went on for 20 years. Extremely violent. Many people dead.” I think that one man’s jihad is another man’s crusade, just as one man’s terrorist is another man’s freedom fighter. What doesn’t change is the killing.
Of course, the jihadists and the crusaders are always members of a fringe and should not be taken as representatives of the main body of believers. And yet, we do, attaching labels and stereotypes to Christians, Muslims, Jews, and anybody else we can in an attempt to make this ever more complicated world somehow understandable.
As for me, I was raised Catholic but ascribe to no particular religion. I tried the Catholic thing again a few years ago and had to spend a great deal of time deconstructing the teachings and reinterpreting every utterance in the light of mythology. It was a great deal of work to go through in order to be surrounded mostly by hypocrites and sleepwalkers. And so I have come back toward my father’s main religious tenet, which went thusly: “If God is everywhere, then he’s on this couch.”
Whatever anybody else wants to do, however, is their business, and I wish them well.