Faith and violence

23 03 2010

I listened to a recent NPR story about whether the Bible is more violent than the Koran. I am not going to throw my hat in the ring regarding that question. But this did make me wonder why, particularly among contemporary people in the developed world, violence and religion are seen as no longer going together, as if violence is no longer a part of people’s daily lives.

It also strikes me as odd that certain folks are surprised that many criminals are still religious, even the really bad ones. I was reading a recent USA Today story about the cult to Jesus Malverde in Mexico, and he seems to get dubbed the “patron saint of the narcos” on both sides of the border, as if all the drug smugglers only venerate him since they feel that they have “crossed over to the dark side” and can’t ask any other heavenly intercessor for a favor. I would speculate that these people do not “theologize” along such Manichean lines, and they are just as likely to have a medal of St. Jude around their neck as they are one of Jesus Malverde or Santa Muerte. Such dichotomies between official religion and what people actually do seem only to comfort a certain sector of the self-proclaimed literati. I never take them seriously.



10 responses

6 04 2010

this blog of yours is truly awesome, my friend. i could not agree with this observation more. i like the santiago de matamoros, image.

25 03 2010

Hey, aren’t those gangster dudes Pedro’s cousins from Napoleon Dynamite?

25 03 2010

Now I think I understand what you’re saying.

The problem is for someone like me, who was born in 1969 and raised in a tepid household, is that God is either like an all tolerant resident of Sesame Street (acceptable yet absurd) or a genocidal maniac who hates diversity (unacceptable and also absurd). And what, you mean the saints aren’t all lucky rabbit’s feet…they can cross you if you cross them?

Religion…the act of being bound to (yoked)…might be dead in the postmodern industrial world. I might be wrong, but it took me a foray into Hinduism to comprehend devotion and supplication.

24 03 2010

I have similar memories about Good Friday (Great Friday as we call it in Romanian): nobody ate that day, from the previous evening (Thursday) until at least 3 PM, without anybody being ever sermonized into it or talked about its “meaning”. Just a thing that everybody did.

24 03 2010

Arturo, I thought you might find the following video interesting. Both Jesus Malverde and Santa Muerte have appeared in the AMC drama “Breaking Bad” –

24 03 2010
Arturo Vasquez

The point of this post was not to reaffirm NPR’s secularist prejudices, but rather to own a part of our religiosity that we tend to neglect, to our own detriment. There will be more on this later, but I will preview those thoughts by saying that a religiosity that cannot look at the “ugly” side of life besides all of those things that give us “warm, fuzzy” feelings inside will be rightly cast aside by sensible people. This is because, unlike the “childish” faith that many accuse “simple” people of having, this metaphysical white-washing reduces religion to philosophical absurdity. God becomes akin to the Tooth Fairy or Santa Claus: modern myths that decent people feign to believe in spite of the fact that they secretly find them absurd.

As an example of this, a childhood memory that I have is that of strict observance of Good Friday. My family may not have been that “devout” according to some hyper-traditionalist American standards, but woe to the child who watched T.V. or ate something between noon and three p.m. on Good Friday! Upon observing an ambulance in front of the church one year on Good Friday, my grandmother said that the person was dying since he or she had failed to fast on that day. What is this other than what we see in the Acts of the Apostles, where St. Peter proclaims the death of Anais and Saphira for lying to the Holy Ghost? Or perhaps the fear and trembling that a devotee will have before the “sweet Virgin” if he does not complete his “manda” to her in return for a miracle granted? Stories abound in the Catholic world of even apparently sweet Madonnas who took people out for even less than that.

Again, if we have white-washed these things through our own obsessions with making the divine bourgeois and decent, our Faith deserves to die. I am not going to disagree that NPR’s report may have had a polemical flavor to it, but we have to learn to own those things that we find distasteful, since they are still very much the reality of the vast majority of human beings who don’t have white collar jobs, a functional police force, and a PC.

23 03 2010

It’s an old Enlightenment lie: monotheistic religion causes most wars. The facts notwithstanding:

23 03 2010

Ah…so NPR is playing the game of which Abrahamic religion is more violent. How novel.

Sarcasm aside, would they consider to ask which was more violent…the Bible or contemporary America…especially if abortion was included in that statistic on violence?

23 03 2010
tony c

It’s part of the neo-gnosticism. Remember Marcion and all those early gnostics preaching The God of the Old Testament (big ol’ bad Jehovah) is not the true God because he’s mean and nasty etc.

23 03 2010
The Shepherd

People in the developed world do associate religion with violence all the time. Especially the horrid results religious violence typically has.

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