National Catholic Reporter

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Religion

Religion is often a presence in violence, but it's not the cause

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We hear it everywhere today, implicitly or explicitly: Religion is inherently violent, and it causes wars. It is religion (in this case, Islam) that is leading the Islamic State militant group to champion and use violence -- even promote beheadings -- to achieve its ends. When we hear news about the Middle East, it is largely the story of sectarian struggles between Sunni Muslims and Shiite Muslims, or Israeli Jews vs. Palestinian Muslims, or a story about Christians being persecuted. Religion comes across as the culprit.

The Islamic State, the Inquisition, and the Wars of Religion

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Ever since the Islamic State burst onto the world stage with its violent seizure of territory in Iraq and Syria, the imposition of a harsh and medieval form of Islam, and, most recently, the beheading of James Foley, we have been watching the modern version of extreme religious intolerance.

But this is not new in world history. And Christians have no reason to be righteous when we condemn the violence and intolerance. In fact, we might cite our own history in Europe as an example of what not to do. 

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