When Religion Becomes Evil

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On March 1993, Michael Griffin shot and killed Dr David Gunn outside an abortion clinic in Pensacola, Florida. Five days later, the Reverend Paul Hill appeared on television, seeking to justify Griffin’s act.

Hill subsequently became a leading figure among extremists in the anti-abortion movement. He wrote and spoke out frequently in support of violence against people who perform abortions.

Fourteen months after Dr Gunn’s murder, Paul Hill decided he, too, must act: he killed Dr John Britton and his traveling companion, James Barrett, as they arrived at the same clinic in Pensacola on the morning of July 29, 1994.

Hill and many others are part of a national organization of Christians called the Army of God. The absolute truth claims uniting members of this loose-knit organization are unambiguous: abortion is legalized murder; abortion is an abomination to God; true Christians must engage in direct action to stop what they see as a slaughter of innocents. Their literature are replete with verses from the Bible strung together in an effort to suggest that their truth claims are synonymous with God’s view:
They sacrifice their sons and daughters to the demons. (Psalm 106:37)

Am I now seeking human approval, or God’s approval? Or am I trying to please people? If I were still pleasing people, I would not be a servant of Christ. (Galatians 1: 10)

In your struggle against sin, you have not yet resisted to the point of shedding your blood. (Hebrew 12:4)
There is no doubt about the depth of commitment and certainty by Michael Griffin, Paul Hill, and others who justify their actions. But these passages have nothing to do with abortion. In fact, the Bible says nothing specific about this highly controversial issue.

One might argue that the sixth of the Ten Commandments – “You shall not murder” (Exodus 20:13) – is a basis for opposing abortion. But murder what? Or who? And why? The vigorous debates about  what constitutes human life immediately arise.

It is sadly ironic that soldiers in the Army of God intentionally break the commandment not to murder in order to stop people they consider guilty of murder.

- an edited excerpt from When Religion Becomes Evil 
by Charles Kimball

When there are absolute truth claims, a religious faction becomes corrupted, thereby sowing the seeds for destructive acts. This is true for religions all over the world and across human history. Horrors have been perpetuated in the name of maintaining religious ideals.

Religious leaders can be very influential figures. They are focal points for the transmission of theological beliefs, with their entire lives dedicated to the study of holy scriptures. Most people have to depend on these leaders for they simply do not have the resources to interpret the sacred texts themselves.

But religious leaders are only human beings. They, like us, are only too prone to errors. It is necessary to doubt what they say for their words may be biased by their all-too-human tendencies. Take, for example, Reverend Paul Hill. With his authority, he managed to galvanise people into doing something that violated the 6th Commandment.

The Biblical quotes, in Reverend Paul Hill's hands, have become corrupted. This goes to show that sacred texts can be a powerful guide, as well as a glinting weapon. Holy verses can be de-contextualised, then re-contextualised to suit any agenda.

It's advisable to be suspicious of what you've read and been taught. To question your beliefs and understand where they have come from. After all, there is a possibility that you may be suffering from the same illusion of certainty that your predecessors have suffered from. 

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