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It is perhaps one of the greatest ironies of history that many of the world's religions, institutions that stress love and peace, inspire many followers towards religious violence. The term religious violence refers to any act where religion is either the subject or the object of violent action. This can include violence against any of the following:
- Violence against an institution
- Violence against a person
- Violence towards an object of a religion
- Violence motivated by religious belief
Religious Violence in the Three Major Religions
There are critics that argue that the three major Abrahamic religions-Judaism, Christianity, and Islam-are inherently violent, that are histories of violence written into their sacred texts. One of the perceived problems is that each religion believes that it is the sole holder of righteousness and truth, and therefore justified in promoting religious violence as a means of establishing superiority.
Christianity, for example, has long history of religious violence, dating at least to the Church Fathers and St. Augustine with his theory of Just War. During the Middle Ages, the Inquisition and the Crusades were two notorious examples of religious violence. Many commentators note the irony of two thousand years of violence by a religion founded by an individual who encouraged followers to turn the other cheek.
Modern terrorism is often portrayed as an example of religious violence by Islam. One of the tenets of Islam is jihad, which some followers believe is holy war. Cycles of religious violence appear endemic in human society.