The Way It Happened

Revelation 1:1, Revelation’s Purpose

The Revelation of Jesus Christ, which God gave unto him, to shew unto his servants things which must shortly come to pass.

//My recent review of The Complete Infidel’s Guide to the Koran sparked a discussion of whether there are similar “hate texts” in the New Testament. I couldn’t provide any examples except the obvious: the vengeance promised in the book of Revelation. Nothing in the Koran compares to the level of gruesome bloodshed in Revelation, yet more Muslims are incited into a holy war than Christians. How is it that the Koran’s hate texts are so much more effective than the Bible’s?

Could it be that Revelation’s dreams are just too bloody and extraordinary for modern Christians to relate, and the book is largely ignored? Revelation was probably written shortly after the war of 70 A.D., meant as encouragement to Christians under Roman oppression. Judean Christians would have been especially demoralized at the time, having suffered both the loss of family members and dislocation from their homeland and Temple.

Don’t worry, says Revelation, Jesus hasn’t forgotten you, he is coming back pronto to help you slaughter all the unbelievers and to restore your beloved Jerusalem to even greater grandeur. The irony is that Revelation was never needed; you might even say it failed miserably. Christianity quickly grew into a peaceful religion as Christians instead came to terms with their lot in life.

Yet, even without violent scripture (other than the misunderstood Revelation), Christians have embarked on multiple holy crusades through the centuries. Today, they seem to have outgrown the phase. Islam, too, appears to be slowly outgrowing its current violent phase. This begs the question:  Can a religion’s holy book influence its believers toward bloodshed, or is violence a matter of environment rather than religion? I’ll be the first to admit that religious extremism is a complex problem, and I don’t have answers. What do you think?


  1. Kibbles

    I have three thoughts on the subject.

    Thought #1: I think you meant “raises the question”, not “begs the question”. 😉

    Thought #2: I think there’s another “hate text” you’re overlooking. Luke 19:27- “But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them – bring them here and kill them in front of me”. Granted, it’s part of a parable, but parable or not that’s some pretty striking hate speech. Doubly so, considering the fact that it’s genuine Red Text. Even if you ignore Revelation (or relegate it to an appendix, a la Martin Luther), that line is really all the justification a zealous proof-texter would have needed to support the crusades, the inquisition, or any other church-sponsored atrocities.

    Thought #3: As for why religions seem to go through violent phases… I’m reminded of the recent rapture Harold Camping so recently warned us about. The entire event really reminded me how little the average religious believer knows about their own holy texts. The Bible flat out says that no man knows the date or the time of the second coming, and yet thousands of people still follow these self-styled prophets because they aren’t forming their opinions on the texts they claim to adhere to, but on the teachings of their leaders. Many of the people I know have no interest in the intellectually difficult and frequently unsatisfying chore of actually educating themselves and reaching their own conclusions; they just want someone to tell them what to believe and offer some thin, plausible-sounding reasoning behind it. The reasoning only has to stand up to cursory examination, because it will never be subjected to critical scrutiny. Christianity has been lucky in that many of its recent leaders have been altruistic (such as Billy Graham) or misguided-but-relatively-harmless (such as Camping). If there were a few more Fred Phelpses (pastor of the hate-mongering Westboro Baptist Church), then perhaps we’d be lamenting the rise in Christian violence right now, too.

  2. Kibbles

    Ugh… I’m reminded of the recent rapture that recently reminded me? I suppose this butchery of the English language is what happens when I post at 3 in the morning.

  3. lol…thanks for contributing, Kibbles, and I stand corrected about the additional hate text!

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