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Meditation 34
Of Violence, Zealotry and Heresy

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A few days ago, while posting (with permission) a UCTAA flyer on the community bulletin board at her local grocery store, the head of our Church in Mississippi was physically assaulted by another woman, with no warning other than "you're going to hell." Perhaps in the heat of the moment, the attacker imagined herself to be a warrior for Christ, but do you think she really understood the basic teachings of her religion?

It's a fairly minor incident in the history of crimes committed in the name of religion but it contains all the basic elements; violence, zealotry and heresy.

To the best of my knowledge, every major religion of today has a credo of peace and love and brotherhood. Yet, not one of them lacks adherents ready to kill others so as to spread the faith. It would seem these zealots give priority to the label their religion gives them rather than actually understanding the core beliefs. And there is no respect for the beliefs and the humanity of others.

It would be too easy to point to September 11 as an example, where thousands were killed, representing all faiths including fellow Muslims. The terrorists were seemingly motivated by the attitude "Kill them all, let God sort them out."

But it is instructive to look at the less well-known origin of that particular injunction.

In the 13th century under the authority of Pope Innocent III, it was ordered that France be cleansed of the Cathar heresy by a crusade. The town of Beziers was besieged, but the citizens of the town, 99% Catholic, refused to surrender the few Cathars amongst them. When the town fell, the leader of the crusader army asked advice from Arnaud-Armaury, the Abbot of Citeaux as to how to identify the heretics. He answered "Kill them all. God will know his own." All 20,000 residents of the town were slaughtered, including perhaps 200 Cathars.

Unbelievable violence - by a zealot - acting contrary to the dictates of his own religion.

In the history of mankind there are thousands, if not millions of atrocities in the name of religion. If there is a lesson to be drawn, it is the more zealous a group is in promoting their religion, the more likely it is they don't understand its teachings.[1] And don't turn your back on them.


  1. Except of course for militant agnostics. At least we know that we don't know.