With Donald Trump whipping up hysteria among the bigoted and racist Republican Party base, a much needed column in the New York Times raises the issue of the ignorance of most Americans on issues of religion, especially the violence and misogyny advocated in the Bible. The "good book" can be downright ugly and, as noted in the column, the Bible is twice as violent as the Koran. And, I would add that, if we are going to label some Muslims as extremists and terrorists, then the same standard needs to be applied to Christofascist extremists and Christians who commit murder and mayhem. Here are some column highlights and I would urge readers to take the test set out in the column. The Bible and the Koran can both be used to justify evil and Republicans busy prostituting themselves to the Christofascists need to look at the ugliness that Christianity more often than not has brought to the world and the evil the Bible would justify:
Donald Trump's proposal to bar Muslims from America may be a gift to ISIS recruitment and a grotesque echo of the sentiment behind the Chinese Exclusion Act and the internment of Japanese-Americans. But, like those earlier spasms of exclusion, the Trump proposal has plenty of supporters.
In one recent poll, more than three-quarters of Republicans said that Islam was incompatible with life in the United States. There’s a widespread perception in America that Islam is rooted in misogyny and violence, incorrigible because it is rooted in a holy text that is fundamentally different from others.
So here’s my quiz on religion. Some questions have more than one correct answer.
Q. Which holy book limits polygamy? ANSWER: The Quran limits a man to four wives; neither the Hebrew Bible nor the New Testament explicitly prohibits polygamy, although Paul says that church officials should have but one wife.
Q. Which religious leader massacred an entire city, including “men and women, young and old, cattle, sheep and donkeys,” saving only one prostitute and her family? ANSWER: Bible, Joshua 6:21
Q. Who is said to have ordered a massacre of heretics and innocents alike with the explanation: “Kill them all. God will know his own”? ANSWER: A Christian abbot in the Albigensian Crusade.In fact, religion is invariably a tangle of contradictory teachings — in the Bible, the difference between the harshness of Deuteronomy and the warmth of Isaiah or Luke is striking — and it’s always easy to perceive something threatening in another tradition. Yet analysts who have tallied the number of violent or cruel passages in the Quran and the Bible count more than twice as many in the Bible.
There’s a profound human tendency, rooted in evolutionary biology, to “otherize” people who don’t belong to our race, our ethnic group, our religion. That’s particularly true when we’re scared. It’s difficult to conceive now that a 1944 poll found that 13 percent of Americans favored “killing all Japanese,” and that the head of a United States government commission in 1945 urged “the extermination of the Japanese in toto.”
It’s true that terrorism in the 21st century is disproportionately rooted in the Islamic world. And it’s legitimate to criticize the violence, mistreatment of women or oppression of religious minorities that some Muslims justify by citing passages in the Quran. But let’s not stereotype 1.6 billion Muslims because of their faith. What counts most is not the content of holy books, but the content of our hearts.
When I hear Americans stereotype Muslims, when they don’t actually know any Muslims, it seems to me an odd echo of anti-Semitic comments I sometimes hear in Muslim societies.
Trump’s bluster reinforces the Islamic State narrative of a clash of civilizations, and undercuts moderates. In my travels in Muslim countries, I’m sometimes asked about Islamophobia. In the past, I’ve been able to say something like: Well, the Rev. Terry Jones may be planning to burn Qurans, but he’s a fringe figure. Alas, Trump can’t be explained away as a fringe figure.
In international relations, extremists on one side empower extremists on the other side. ISIS empowers Trump, who inadvertently empowers ISIS. He’s not confronting a national security threat; he’s creating one.
More than 1,000 American rabbis have signed a joint letter welcoming refugees and noting a parallel to the late 1930s, when the United States barred most Jewish refugees. The letter noted that refugees are fleeing persecution, not committing it.
“In 1939, our country could not tell the difference between an actual enemy and the victims of an enemy,” the rabbis wrote. “In 2015, let us not make the same mistake.”
It may be human nature to fear what we don’t understand, to allow apprehension to override compassion. But this is a time that tests our fundamental values, and let’s not surrender to base impulses.