Ralph Tanner cites the definition of violence in the Oxford English Dictionary as "far beyond (the infliction of) pain and the shedding of blood." He argues that, although violence clearly encompasses injury to persons or property, it also includes "the forcible interference with personal freedom, violent or passionate conduct or language (and) finally passion or fury." Similarly, Abhijit Nayak writes:
The word "violence" can be defined to extend far beyond pain and shedding blood. It carries the meaning of physical force, violent language, fury, and, more importantly, forcible interference.
Terence Fretheim writes:
For many people, ... only physical violence truly qualifies as violence. But, certainly, violence is more than killing people, unless one includes all those words and actions that kill people slowly. The effect of limitation to a “killing fields” perspective is the widespread neglect of many other forms of violence. We must insist that violence also refers to that which is psychologically destructive, that which demeans, damages, or depersonalizes others. In view of these considerations, violence may be defined as follows: any action, verbal or nonverbal, oral or written, physical or psychical, active or passive, public or private, individual or institutional/societal, human or divine, in whatever degree of intensity, that abuses, violates, injures, or kills. Some of the most pervasive and most dangerous forms of violence are those that are often hidden from view (against women and children, especially); just beneath the surface in many of our homes, churches, and communities is abuse enough to freeze the blood. Moreover, many forms of systemic violence often slip past our attention because they are so much a part of the infrastructure of life (e.g., racism, sexism, ageism).
Charles Selengut characterizes the phrase "religion and violence" as "jarring," asserting that "religion is thought to be opposed to violence and a force for peace and reconciliation. He acknowledges, however, that "the history and scriptures of the world's religions tell stories of violence and war even as they speak of peace and love."
According to Matthew Rowley, three hundred contributing causes of religious violence have been discussed by some scholars, however he notes that "violence in the name of God is a complex phenomenon and oversimplification further jeopardizes peace because it obscures many of the causal factors." In another piece, Matthew Rowley notes 15 ways to address the complexity of violence, both secular and religious, and notes that secular narratives of religious violence tend to be erroneous or exaggerated due to over simplification of religious people, their beliefs, thinking in false dichotomies, and ignoring complex secular causes of supposed "religious violence". He also notes that when discussing religious violence, one should also note that the overwhelming majority of religious people do not get inspired to engage in violence.
Ralph Tanner similarly describes the combination of religion and violence as "uncomfortable", asserting that religious thinkers generally avoid the conjunction of the two and argue that religious violence is "only valid in certain circumstances which are invariably one-sided".
While religion can be used as a means of rallying support for violence, religious leaders regularly denounce such manipulations as contrary to the teachings of their belief.
Hector Avalos argues that religions create violence over four scarce resources: access to divine will, knowledge, primarily through scripture; sacred space; group privileging; and salvation. Not all religions have or use theses four resources. He believes that religious violence is particularly untenable as these resources are never verifiable and, unlike claims to scare resources such a water or land, cannot be adjudicated objectively.
Critics of religion Christopher Hitchens and Richard Dawkins go further and argue that religions do tremendous harm to society by using violence to promote their goals, in ways that are endorsed and exploited by their leaders.
Regina Schwartz argues that all monotheistic religions are inherently violent because of an exclusivism that inevitably fosters violence against those that are considered outsiders. Lawrence Wechsler asserts that Schwartz isn't just arguing that Abrahamic religions have a violent legacy, but that the legacy is actually genocidal in nature.
Nonetheless, others like Dinesh D'Souza have responded that totalitarian regimes under Stalin and Mao have used widespread imprisonment and mass murder in the twentieth century:
And who can deny that Stalin and Mao, not to mention Pol Pot and a host of others, all committed atrocities in the name of a Communist ideology that was explicitly atheistic? Who can dispute that they did their bloody deeds by claiming to be establishing a 'new man' and a religion-free utopia? These were mass murders performed with atheism as a central part of their ideological inspiration, they were not mass murders done by people who simply happened to be atheist.
In response to such a line of argument, however, author Sam Harris writes:
The problem with fascism and communism, however, is not that they are too critical of religion; the problem is that they are too much like religions. Such regimes are dogmatic to the core and generally give rise to personality cults that are indistinguishable from cults of religious hero worship. Auschwitz, the gulag and the killing fields were not examples of what happens when human beings reject religious dogma; they are examples of political, racial and nationalistic dogma run amok. There is no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable.
Richard Dawkins has stated that Stalin's atrocities were influenced not by atheism but by dogmatic Marxism, and concludes that while Stalin and Mao happened to be atheists, they did not do their deeds in the name of atheism. On other occasions, Dawkins has replied to the argument that Adolf Hitler and Josef Stalin were antireligious with the response that Hitler and Stalin also grew moustaches, in an effort to show the argument as fallacious. Instead, Dawkins argues in The God Delusion that "What matters is not whether Hitler and Stalin were atheists, but whether atheism systematically influences people to do bad things. There is not the smallest evidence that it does." Dawkins adds that Hitler in fact, repeatedly affirmed a strong belief in Christianity, but that his atrocities were no more attributable to his theism than Stalin's or Mao's were to their atheism. In all three cases, he argues, the perpetrators' level of religiosity was incidental. D'Souza responds that an individual need not explicitly invoke atheism in committing atrocities if it is already implied in his worldview, as is the case in Marxism.
Byron Bland asserts that one of the most prominent reasons for the "rise of the secular in Western thought" was the reaction against the religious violence of the 16th and 17th centuries. He asserts that "(t)he secular was a way of living with the religious differences that had produced so much horror. Under secularity, political entities have a warrant to make decisions independent from the need to enforce particular versions of religious orthodoxy. Indeed, they may run counter to certain strongly held beliefs if made in the interest of common welfare. Thus, one of the important goals of the secular is to limit violence." William T. Cavanaugh writes that what he calls "the myth of religious violence" as a reason for the rise of secular states may be traced to earlier philosophers, such as Spinoza, Hobbes, Locke, Rousseau, and Voltaire. Cavanaugh delivers a detailed critique of this idea in his 2009 book The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict.
One idea that many fail to consider when reading holy texts is the concept of translation. The Bible itself has been translated from Hebrew and Greek and retranslated into hundreds of languages. Certain words have changed meaning and others do not directly translate, so there is a large amount of estimation. The original text may have been clear and easy to understand, but that original language will never be able to be actually heard. Plus, the Bible was written down after going through centuries of oral tradition, so there could be a substantial amount of story lost or gained along the way. The Quran is a newer text and is generally read in Arabic. Those stories too were belayed through Mohammad to scribes, so it is possible that there were mix-ups and different additions. Even with the translation discrepancies, it seems that all religions boil down to analysis. Interpretation of holy texts is highly important to consider when reading about religious violence. Depending on one’s point of view, aspects of any religion can appear to be violent or peaceful. For both the Bible and the Quran, there are accounts of peace and conflict. It is up to the person reading the passages to judge what they see. The world is a changing entity. To keep these texts relevant and away from the extremities, interpretation must flow along with society.
Others such as William Cavanaugh have argued that it is unreasonable to attempt to differentiate "religious violence" and "secular violence" as separate categories. Cavanaugh asserts that "the idea that religion has a tendency to promote violence is part of the conventional wisdom of Western societies and it underlies many of our institutions and policies, from limits on the public role of churches to efforts to promote liberal democracy in the Middle East." Cavanaugh challenges this conventional wisdom, arguing that there is a "myth of religious violence", basing his argument on the assertion that "attempts to separate religious and secular violence are incoherent". Cavanaugh asserts:Religion is not a universal and transhistorical phenomenon. What counts as "religious" or "secular" in any context is a function of configurations of power both in the West and lands colonized by the West. The distinctions of "Religious/Secular" and "Religious/Political" are modern Western inventions.
The invention of the concept of "religious violence" helps the West reinforce superiority of Western social orders to "nonsecular" social orders, namely Muslims at the time of publication.
The concept of "religious violence" can be and is used to legitimate violence against non-Western "Others".
Peace depends on a balanced view of violence and recognition that so-called secular ideologies and institutions can be just as prone to absolutism, divisiveness, and irrationality.
Anthropologist Jack David Eller asserts that religion is not inherently violent, arguing "religion and violence are clearly compatible, but they are not identical." He asserts that "violence is neither essential to nor exclusive to religion" and that " virtually every form of religious violence has its nonreligious corollary." Moreover, he argues that religion "may be more a marker of the [conflicting] groups than an actual point of contention between them". John Teehan takes a position that integrates the two opposing sides of this debate. He describes the traditional response in defense of religion as "draw(ing) a distinction between the religion and what is done in the name of that religion or its faithful." Teehan argues, "this approach to religious violence may be understandable but it is ultimately untenable and prevents us from gaining any useful insight into either religion or religious violence." He takes the position that "violence done in the name of religion is not a perversion of religious belief... but flows naturally from the moral logic inherent in many religious systems, particularly monotheistic religions...." However, Teehan acknowledges that "religions are also powerful sources of morality." He asserts, "religious morality and religious violence both spring from the same source, and this is the evolutionary psychology underlying religious ethics."
Tanner notes that secular regimes and leaders have used violence to promote their own agendas. Violence committed by secular governments and people, including the anti-religious, have been documented including violence or persecutions focused on religious believers and those who believe in the supernatural. For example, in the 20th century, over 25 million believers perished from the antireligious violence which occurred in many atheist states. Non-religious ideological fervour is commonly and regularly exploited to support war and other aggressive acts. People who wish to wage war and terror will find diverse ways to gather support. Secular ideologies have and will likely continue to use violence, oppression, and manipulation to further their own objectives, with or without the availability of religion as a tool. Wars that are secular in nature need no specifically religious endorsement and regularly operate with and without the support of non-religious ideologies. In addition, there exist few examples of wars waged for specifically religious reasons. Examples of violence and conflict that have been secular include World War I, World War II, many civil wars (American, El Salvador, Russia, Sri Lanka, China etc.), revolutionary wars (American, French, Russian, etc.), Vietnam War, Korean War, War on Terrorism, and common conflicts such as gang and drug wars (e.g. Mexican Drug War). In the 'Encyclopedia of Wars' by Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod, there were 1763 wars listed overall, of which some have identified only 123 (7%) as having been primarily religiously motivated. Talal Asad, an anthropologist, notes that equating institutional religion with violence and fanaticism is incorrect and that devastating cruelties and atrocities done by non-religious institutions in the 20th century should not be overlooked. He also notes that nationalism has been argued as being a secularized religion.
Historians such as Jonathan Kirsch have made links between the European inquisitions, for example, and Stalin's persecutions in the Soviet Union, Nazi Germany, McCarthy blacklists, and other secular events as being the same type of phenomenon as the inquisitions.
Others, such as Robert Pape, a political scientist who specializes in suicide terrorism, have made a case for secular motivations and reasons as being foundations of most suicide attacks that are oftentimes labeled as "religious". Pape compiled the first complete database of every documented suicide bombing during 1980–2003. He argues that the news reports about suicide attacks are profoundly misleading — "There is little connection between suicide terrorism and Islamic fundamentalism, or any one of the world's religions". After studying 315 suicide attacks carried out over the last two decades, he concludes that suicide bombers' actions stem fundamentally from political conflict, not religion.
Some critics of religion such as Jack Nelson-Pallmeyer argue that all monotheistic religions are inherently violent. For example, Nelson-Pallmeyer writes that "Judaism, Christianity and Islam will continue to contribute to the destruction of the world until and unless each challenges violence in "sacred texts" and until each affirms nonviolent power of God."
Hector Avalos argues that, because religions claim divine favor for themselves, over and against other groups, this sense of righteousness leads to violence because conflicting claims to superiority, based on unverifiable appeals to God, cannot be adjudicated objectively.
Similarly, Eric Hickey writes, "the history of religious violence in the West is as long as the historical record of its three major religions, Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, with their involved mutual antagonisms and struggles to adapt and survive the secular forces that threaten their continued existence."
Regina Schwartz argues that all monotheistic religions, including Christianity, are inherently violent because of an exclusivism that inevitably fosters violence against those that are considered outsiders. Lawrence Wechsler asserts that Schwartz isn't just arguing that Abrahamic religions have a violent legacy, but that the legacy is actually genocidal in nature.
Bruce Feiler writes that "Jews and Christians who smugly console themselves that Islam is the only violent religion are willfully ignoring their past. Nowhere is the struggle between faith and violence described more vividly, and with more stomach-turning details of ruthlessness, than in the Hebrew Bible".
However Tom O'Golo declares that religious fundamentalists who use violence to further their cause contravene the root truth of all faiths:
A genuine fundamentalist is also a radical, someone who tries to get the root of the matter. A major weakness with many or perhaps most radicals is not that they don't dig, but that they don't dig deep enough. Consequently many fundamentalists end up defending or acting upon beliefs which are not really at the heart of their doctrine. For example any religious fundamentalist who harms others in the pursuit of his or her radicalism is strictly out of order as no true religion ever encounters anything but love, tolerance and understanding. 'Thou shalt not kill' is at the heart of all genuine faiths, certainly the three based upon Abraham and God. That trio comprehensively condemns intentional harm to others (and to the self as well) for what ever reason. Dying to protect one's faith is acceptable; killing to promote it isn't. Arguably, it is blasphemous to say that God needs an earthly army to fight Its battles, or perform Its revenge. God is quite capable of fighting Its own battles.
In its history, Christians had not developed a doctrine whereby fighting itself might be considered a penitential and spiritually meritorious act before the 11th century. In early Christianity, St. Augustine's justification for legitimacy of war under certain specified conditions was widely accepted, however, warfare was not regarded in any way as virtuous. Expression for concern for the salvation of those who killed enemies in battle, regardless of the cause for which they fought, was common. During the 9th and 10th centuries, multiple invasions occurred in some regions in Europe which lead some regions to make their own armies to defend themselves and this slowly lead to the emergence of the Crusades, the concept of "holy war", and terminology such as "enemies of God" in the 11th century.
The relationship today between Christianity and violence is the subject of controversy because one view is that Christianity advocates peace, love and compassion while it is also viewed as a violent religion. Peace, compassion and forgiveness of wrongs done by others are key elements of Christian teaching. However, Christians have struggled since the days of the Church fathers with the question of when the use of force is justified (e.g. the Just war theory of Saint Augustine). Such debates have led to concepts such as just war theory. Throughout history, certain teachings from the Old Testament, the New Testament and Christian theology have been used to justify the use of force against heretics, sinners and external enemies. Heitman and Hagan identify the Inquisitions, Crusades, wars of religion, and antisemitism as being "among the most notorious examples of Christian violence". To this list, Mennonite theologian J. Denny Weaver adds "warrior popes, support for capital punishment, corporal punishment under the guise of 'spare the rod and spoil the child,' justifications of slavery, world-wide colonialism in the name of conversion to Christianity, the systemic violence of women subjected to men". Weaver employs a broader definition of violence that extends the meaning of the word to cover "harm or damage", not just physical violence per se. Thus, under his definition, Christian violence includes "forms of systemic violence such as poverty, racism, and sexism".
Another Christian thought is of opposition to the use of force and violence. Sects that have emphasized pacificism as a central tenet of faith have resulted from the latter thought. However, Christians have also engaged in violence against those that they classify as heretics and non-believers specifically to enforce orthodoxy of their faith.
Christian theologians point to a strong doctrinal and historical imperative within Christianity against violence, particularly Jesus' Sermon on the Mount, which taught nonviolence and "love of enemies". For example, Weaver asserts that Jesus' pacifism was "preserved in the justifiable war doctrine that declares all war as sin even when declaring it occasionally a necessary evil, and in the prohibition of fighting by monastics and clergy as well as in a persistent tradition of Christian pacifism".
Many authors highlight the ironical contradiction between Christianity's claims to be centered on "love and peace" while, at the same time, harboring a "violent side". For example, Mark Juergensmeyer argues: "that despite its central tenets of love and peace, Christianity—like most traditions—has always had a violent side. The bloody history of the tradition has provided images as disturbing as those provided by Islam or Sikhism, and violent conflict is vividly portrayed in the Bible. This history and these biblical images have provided the raw material for theologically justifying the violence of contemporary Christian groups. For example, attacks on abortion clinics have been viewed not only as assaults on a practice that Christians regard as immoral, but also as skirmishes in a grand confrontation between forces of evil and good that has social and political implications.", sometimes referred to as Spiritual warfare. The statement attributed to Jesus "I come not to bring peace, but to bring a sword" has been interpreted by some as a call to arms to Christians.
Maurice Bloch also argues that Christian faith fosters violence because Christian faith is a religion, and religions are by their very nature violent; moreover, he argues that religion and politics are two sides of the same coin—power. Others have argued that religion and the exercise of force are deeply intertwined, but that religion may pacify, as well as channel and heighten violent impulses
In response to criticism that Christianity and violence are intertwined, Christian apologists such as Miroslav Volf and J. Denny Weaver reject charges that Christianity is a violent religion, arguing that certain aspects of Christianity might be misused to support violence but that a genuine interpretation of its core elements would not sanction human violence but would instead resist it. Among the examples that are commonly used to argue that Christianity is a violent religion, J. Denny Weaver lists "(the) crusades, the multiple blessings of wars, warrior popes, support for capital punishment, corporal punishment under the guise of 'spare the rod and spoil the child,' justifications of slavery, world-wide colonialism in the name of conversion to Christianity, the systemic violence of women subjected to men". Weaver characterizes the counter-argument as focusing on "Jesus, the beginning point of Christian faith,... whose Sermon on the Mount taught nonviolence and love of enemies,; who faced his accusers nonviolent death;whose nonviolent teaching inspired the first centuries of pacifist Christian history and was subsequently preserved in the justifiable war doctrine that declares all war as sin even when declaring it occasionally a necessary evil, and in the prohibition of fighting by monastics and clergy as well as in a persistent tradition of Christian pacifism."
Miroslav Volf acknowledges that "many contemporaries see religion as a pernicious social ill that needs aggressive treatment rather than a medicine from which cure is expected." However, Volf contests this claim that "(the) Christian faith, as one of the major world religions, predominantly fosters violence." Instead of this negative assessment, Volf argues that Christianity "should be seen as a contributor to more peaceful social environments". Volf examines the question of whether Christianity fosters violence, and has identified four main arguments that it does: that religion by its nature is violent, which occurs when people try to act as "soldiers of God"; that monotheism entails violence, because a claim of universal truth divides people into "us versus them"; that creation, as in the Book of Genesis, is an act of violence; and that the intervention of a "new creation", as in the Second Coming, generates violence. Writing about the latter, Volf says: "Beginning at least with Constantine's conversion, the followers of the Crucified have perpetrated gruesome acts of violence under the sign of the cross. Over the centuries, the seasons of Lent and Holy Week were, for the Jews, times of fear and trepidation; Christians have perpetrated some of the worst pogroms as they remembered the crucifixion of Christ, for which they blamed the Jews. Muslims also associate the cross with violence; crusaders' rampages were undertaken under the sign of the cross." In each case, Volf concluded that the Christian faith was misused in justifying violence. Volf argues that "thin" readings of Christianity might be used mischievously to support the use of violence. He counters, however, by asserting that "thick" readings of Christianity's core elements will not sanction human violence and would, in fact, resist it.
Volf asserts that Christian churches suffer from a "confusion of loyalties". He asserts that "rather than the character of the Christian faith itself, a better explanation of why Christian churches are either impotent in the face of violent conflicts or actively participate in them derives from the proclivities of its adherents which are at odds with the character of the Christian faith." Volf observes that "(although) explicitly giving ultimate allegiance to the Gospel of Jesus Christ, many Christians in fact seem to have an overriding commitment to their respective cultures and ethnic groups."
Mormonism had an early history of violence. This began with religious persecution on the Mormons by well respected citizens, law enforcement, and government officials. Ultimately such persecution lead to several historically well-known acts of violence. These range from attacks on early Mormons, such as the Haun's Mill massacre following the Mormon Extermination Order to one of the most controversial and well-known cases of retaliation violence, the Mountain Meadows massacre. This was the result of an unprovoked response to religious persecution whereby an innocent party traveling through Mormon occupied territory was attacked on September 11, 1857.
Islam has been associated with violence in a variety of contexts, including Jihads (holy wars), violent acts by Muslims against perceived enemies of Islam, violence against women ostensibly supported by Islam's tenets, references to violence in the Qur'an, and acts of terrorism motivated and/or justified by Islam. Muslims, including clerics and leaders have used Islamic ideas, concepts, texts, and themes to justify violence, especially against non-Muslims.
Jihad is a religious duty of Muslims. In Arabic, the word jihād translates into English as "struggle". Jihad appears in the Qur'an and frequently in the idiomatic expression "striving in the way of Allah (al-jihad fi sabil Allah)". A person engaged in jihad is called a mujahid; the plural is mujahideen. Jihad is an important religious duty for Muslims. A minority among the Sunni scholars sometimes refer to this duty as the sixth pillar of Islam, though it occupies no such official status. In Twelver Shi'a Islam, however, Jihad is one of the ten Practices of the Religion. Islamic extremists have used jihad to condone acts of terror, claiming the support of their religion’s followers and Allah himself. Jihad has also been used by non-Muslims to explain the so-called “insanity” of the Islamic faith. For some the Quran seem to endorse unequivocally to violence. (see Quran and violence) On the other hand, some scholars argue that such verses of the Quran are interpreted out of context,
Muslims use the word in a religious context to refer to three types of struggles: an internal struggle to maintain faith, the struggle to improve the Muslim society, or the struggle in a holy war. The prominent British orientalist Bernard Lewis argues that in the Qur'an and the ahadith jihad implies warfare in the large majority of cases. In a commentary of the hadith Sahih Muslim, entitled al-Minhaj, the medieval Islamic scholar Yahya ibn Sharaf al-Nawawi stated that "one of the collective duties of the community as a whole (fard kifaya) is to lodge a valid protest, to solve problems of religion, to have knowledge of Divine Law, to command what is right and forbid wrong conduct".
In western societies the term jihad is often translated as "holy war". Scholars of Islamic studies often stress that these words are not synonymous. Muslim authors, in particular, tend to reject such an approach, stressing non-militant connotations of the word.
Terrorism refers to terrorism by Muslim or individuals and motivated by either politics, religion or both. Terrorist acts have included airline hijacking, kidnapping, assassination, suicide bombing, and mass murder.
The tension reached a climax on September 11th, 2001 when Islamic terrorists flew hijacked commercial airplanes into the World Trade Center in New York City. The “War on Terror” has caused anti-Muslim sentiments throughout Christianity and the rest of the world. Al-Qaeda is one of the most well known Islamic extremist groups, created by Osama bin Mohammed bin Awad bin Laden. The goal of al-Qaeda was to spread the “purest” form of Islam and Islamic law. For bin Laden, in order to do “good” by the Quran, he had to inflict terror upon millions. Following the terror attacks on September 11, bin Laden praised the suicide bombers in his statement: “the great action you did which was first and foremost by the grace of Allah. This is the guidance of Allah and the blessed fruit of jihad”. In contrast, reflecting the overwhelming majority interpretation of these events, President Bush said on September 11, "Freedom itself was attacked this morning by a faceless coward... And freedom will be defended. Make no mistake, the United States will hunt down and punish those responsible for these cowardly acts." Despite the few severe sects, Islam is not a fundamentally violent religion. Certain groups hold that the Quran should be interpreted literally, while others believe that with the changing course of history, interpretation should change too.
There are controversies surrounding the subject include whether the terrorist act is self-defense or aggression, national self-determination or Islamic supremacy; whether Islam can ever condone the targeting of non-combatants; whether some attacks described as Islamic terrorism are merely terrorist acts committed by Muslims or motivated by nationalism; whether Zionism and the Arab-Israeli Conflict is the root of Islamic terrorism, or simply one cause; how much support there is in the Muslim world for Islamic terrorism and whether support for terror is a temporary phenomenon, a "bubble", now fading away.
Burggraeve and Vervenne describe the Old Testament as full of violence and as evidence of both a violent society and a violent god. They write that, "(i)n numerous Old Testament texts the power and glory of Israel's God is described in the language of violence." They assert that more than one thousand passages refer to YHWH as acting violently or supporting the violence of humans and that more than one hundred passages involve divine commands to kill humans.
On the basis of these passages in the Old Testament, some Christian churches and theologians argue that Judaism is a violent religion and that the god of Israel is a violent god. Reuven Firestone asserts that these assertions are usually made in the context of claims that Christianity is a religion of peace and that the god of Christianity is one that expresses only love.
Some scholars such as Deborah Weissman readily acknowledge that "normative Judaism is not pacifist" and that "violence is condoned in the service of self-defense." J. Patout Burns asserts that, although Judaism condones the use of violence in certain cases, Jewish tradition clearly posits the principle of minimization of violence. This principle can be stated as "(wherever) Jewish law allows violence to keep an evil from occurring, it mandates that the minimal amount of violence be used to accomplish one's goal."
The love of peace and the pursuit of peace, as well as laws requiring the eradication of evil, sometimes using violent means, co-exist in the Jewish tradition.
The Hebrew Bible contains instances of religiously mandated wars which often contain explicit instructions from God to the Israelites to exterminate other tribes, as in Deut 7:1–2 orDeut 20:16-18. Examples include the story of Amalekites (Deut 25:17–19, 1 Sam 15:1-6), the story of the Midianites (Numbers 31:1–18), and the battle of Jericho (Joshua 6:1–27).
These wars of extermination have been characterized as "genocide" by several authorities, because the Torah states that the Israelites annihilated entire ethnic groups or tribes: the Israelites killed all Amalekites, including men, women, and children (1 Samuel 15:1–20 ); the Israelites killed all men, women, and children in the battle of Jericho(Joshua 6:15–21), and the Israelites killed all men, women and children of several Canaanite tribes (Joshua 10:28–42). However, some scholars believe that these accounts in the Torah are exaggerated or metaphorical.
Zionist leaders sometimes used religious references as justification for the violent treatment of Arabs in Palestine. Palestinians have been several times associated with a Biblical antagonists, Amalekites. For example, rabbi Israel Hess has recommended to kill Palestinians, basing on biblical verses such as 1 Samuel 15. Shulamit Aloni, a member of the Israeli Knesset indicated in 2003 that Jewish children in Israel were being taught in religious schools that Palestinians were Amalek, and therefore an act of total genocide was a religious obligation.
It has been noted that "religious" conflicts are not based on religious beliefs exclusively and instead should be seen as clashes of communities, identities, and interests that are secular-religious or at least very much secular.
Some have asserted that attacks are carried out by those with very strong religious convictions such as terrorists in the context of global religious war. Robert Pape, a political scientist who specializes in suicide terroism argues that much of the modern Muslim suicide terrorism is secular based. Although the causes of terrorism are complex, it may be that terrorists are partially reassured by their religious views that God is on their side and will reward them in heaven for punishing unbelievers.
These conflicts are among the most difficult to resolve, particularly where both sides believe that God is on their side and has endorsed the moral righteousness of their claims. One of the most infamous quotes associated with religious fanaticism was made in 1209 during the siege of Béziers, a Crusader asked the Papal Legate Arnaud Amalric how to tell Catholics from Cathars when the city was taken, to which Amalric replied: "Caedite eos. Novit enim Dominus qui sunt eius," or "Kill them all; God will recognize his."
Ritual violence may be directed against victims (e.g., human and nonhuman animal sacrifice and ritual slaughter) or self-inflicted (religious self-flagellation).
According to the hunting hypothesis, created by Walter Burkert in Homo Necans, carnivorous behavior is considered a form of violence. Burkett suggests that the anthropological phenomenon of religion itself grew out of rituals connected with hunting and the feelings of guilt associated with the violence involved.