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The relationship of religion and violence

30 January 2015


From the Revd Professor David Martin

Sir, - Reading the article by the Revd Dr Richard Sudworth (Comment, 16 January), I am surprised that anyone can suppose that there is one religion with many manifestations.

I think that this is where I may differ seriously from Karen Armstrong. If one follows Max Weber, one can reduce religions to a limited set differentiated by their acceptance or rejection of "the world" with regard to violence, sexuality, power, and wealth.

Of course, given the ubiquity of violence, from state relations to domestic relations, all religions will code the struggle between Us and Them for scarce resources of power, wealth, honour, and women. But, in terms of validating this struggle, New Testament Christianity and Buddhism entertain profound reservations, whereas for Islam "the world" is OK.

The Abrahamic religions, so-called, may apparently worship one God, but in the scope they allow for Blake's "Old Nobodaddy", with his hanging and warring, they worship very different Gods.

174 St John's Road, Woking
Surrey GU21 7PQ


From the Revd Tony Graham

Sir, - Peter Kosminsky is making entertaining fiction out of the story of Henry VIII's Reformation (News, 23 January), but he is quite wrong if he thinks that religions start with violence and learn gradually to be peaceful.

The Way of Jesus started in peace until after nearly 300 years it was hijacked by the Roman Empire. The Jewish theologian Marc Ellis says that this is a process that all religions tend to go through, and he talks about Constantinian Judaism as well as Constantinian Islam, etc.

To see how the peaceful Way of Jesus was turned into intolerant and deadly Christendom, read James Carroll's Constantine's Sword. To help us in the urgent task of prayerfully recovering what Jesus had in mind, read Ched Myers's Binding the Strong Man.

48 Springfield Road, Crawley
West Sussex RH11 8AH

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