Thursday, 29 March 2012

Is the Bible more Bloodthirsty than the Qur'an?

In a word, no.  This is the answer even before we take the respective theologies behind understanding the two books into consideration.

Amount of Violence

From Steve Wells, the guy behind the the Skeptic's Annotated Quran & Bible:

Number of Cruel or Violent Passages
Bible 1214
Quran 527

So the Bible has more than twice as many cruel or violent passages as does the Quran. But the Bible is a much bigger book. How do they compare when size is taken into account?
 Violence and Cruelty Total verses Percent
Bible      1214              31173         3.89
Quran    527                6236           8.45
When expressed as a percentage of cruel or violent verses (at least as marked in the SAB/Q), the Quran has more than twice that of the Bible. (8.45 vs. 3.89%)

Nature of Violence

To summarize; the violence in the Bible is descriptive, i.e. it is applied to a certain group at a certain time, against groups which no longer exist (e.g. Canaanites). Whilst the violence in the Qur'an is prescriptive, i.e. it contains open ended commands to slay pagans, Christians, Jews and other unbelievers (e.g. Qur'an 9:5 ). This is not apologetics, it's common sense. Open up a Bible and Qur'an and read the passages for yourself.

Muslims will respond, "But every ayah has a context!" Of course, this is true. But this context can rarely be gleaned from the Qur'an itself, which is an extremely vague text. In addition to this, when one does the legwork and reads the supplementary hadith and tafsir literature, you will find they tend to support the assertions of critics.

Raymond Ibrahim deals with this in more detail:

When the Qur'an's violent verses are juxtaposed with their Old Testament counterparts, they are especially distinct for using language that transcends time and space, inciting believers to attack and slay nonbelievers today no less than yesterday. God commanded the Hebrews to kill Hittites, Amorites, Canaanites, Perizzites, Hivites, and Jebusites—all specific peoples rooted to a specific time and place. At no time did God give an open-ended command for the Hebrews, and by extension their Jewish descendants, to fight and kill gentiles. On the other hand, though Islam's original enemies were, like Judaism's, historical (e.g., Christian Byzantines and Zoroastrian Persians), the Qur'an rarely singles them out by their proper names. Instead, Muslims were (and are) commanded to fight the people of the book—"until they pay the tribute out of hand and have been humbled" and to "slay the idolaters wherever you find them."
The two Arabic conjunctions "until" (hata) and "wherever" (haythu) demonstrate the perpetual and ubiquitous nature of these commandments: There are still "people of the book" who have yet to be "utterly humbled" (especially in the Americas, Europe, and Israel) and "idolaters" to be slain "wherever" one looks (especially Asia and sub-Saharan Africa). In fact, the salient feature of almost all of the violent commandments in Islamic scriptures is their open-ended and generic nature: "Fight them [non-Muslims] until there is no persecution and the religion is God's entirely. [Emphasis added.]" Also, in a well-attested tradition that appears in the hadith collections, Muhammad proclaims:
I have been commanded to wage war against mankind until they testify that there is no god but God and that Muhammad is the Messenger of God; and that they establish prostration prayer, and pay the alms-tax [i.e., convert to Islam]. If they do so, their blood and property are protected. [Emphasis added.]
This linguistic aspect is crucial to understanding scriptural exegeses regarding violence. Again, it bears repeating that neither Jewish nor Christian scriptures—the Old and New Testaments, respectively—employ such perpetual, open-ended commandments.

Chronological Shift in Violence

This is one of the most important factors to take into consideration. If you are going to criticize a holy book for what you believe it advocates to its followers, then you must read the text like a believer would. If a book contains a large amount of violence in it but finishes by telling its readers in the second half of the book to be pacifists and behave like cute little bunny rabbits, does it advocate violence or pacifism? Of course, the answer is that it advocates pacifism. Likewise if a book begins by describing pacifism but finishes by telling its readers to "slay the unbelievers wherever you find them", that book logically advocates violence.

All of the "positive" violence committed in the Bible is found in the Old Testament. The New Testament contains absolutely no exhortations to violence. Quite the opposite, Jesus advocates extreme pacifism. Christians believe they are a part of the "New Covenant" described in the New Testament , not the Old Covenant described in the Old Testament. 

Muslims do not have an "old" or "new" covenant to filter their text through. However, what they do have is something very similar, it is the doctrine of Abrogation, where later Qur'anic verse naturally supersede earlier ones. This would be fine if like the Bible all the violence was confined to the beginning, but this is not the case. Don't take my word for it. Read the Qur'an in chronological order and the shift from pacifism to violence is unmissable. This results in rendering almost all of the peaceful verses abrogated and useless.

Violence in Other Holy Text

Unlike the Bible for Christianity, the Qur'an is not Islam's sole religious holy text. In fact it only constitutes a very small percentage of it. Mainstream Islam (Sunni Islam, followed by up to 90 percent of all Muslims), also adheres to the Sira and Hadith which collectively form Muhammad's Sunnah.

Apologists like to downplay their importance, but, if you haven't guessed it already, they're even named after it. If the Five Pillars of Islam could never be hand-waved away as irrelevant in a discussion on Islam, then nor can the Sira and Hadith. This is because the Five Pillars are not simply "Muslim" doctrines, they are in fact a set of Sunni doctrines. And these important doctrines are not found in the Qur'an, they are found in Muhammad's Sunnah. If a Muslim or apologist wants to discount the Sunnah (which is also followed by the Shi'ites), they'd also have to discount the Five Pillars. In essence you'd be discussing a form of Islam that does not exist, or is followed by such few numbers that it is insignificant.

When the additional texts are taken into consideration, there is ten times as much violent material contained within Islamic scriptures than there is in Christian ones.

From Bill Warner:

The Koran is the smallest of the three books, also called the Trilogy. It is only 16% of the Trilogy text. This means that the Sunna is 84% of the word content of Islam's sacred texts. This statistic alone has large implications. Most of the Islamic doctrine is about Mohammed, not Allah. The Koran says 91 different times that Mohammed's is the perfect pattern of life. It is much more important to know Mohammed than the Koran. This is very good news. It is easy to understand a biography about a man. To know Islam, know Mohammed.
It turns out that jihad occurs in large proportion in all three texts. Here is a chart about the results:
It is very significant that the Sira devotes 67% of its text to jihad. Mohammed averaged an event of violence every six weeks for the last nine years of his life. Jihad was what made Mohammed successful. Here is a chart of the growth of Islam.
Basically, when Mohammed was a preacher of religion, Islam grew at the rate of ten new Muslims per year. But when he turned to jihad, Islam grew at an average rate of ten thousand per year. All the details of how to wage jihad are recorded in great detail. The Koran gives the great vision of jihad -- world conquest by the political process. The Sira is a strategic manual, and the Hadith is a tactical manual, of jihad.
Now let's go to the Hebrew Bible. When we count all the political violence, we find that 5.6% of the text is devoted to it. There is no admonition towards political violence in the New Testament.

When we count the magnitude of words devoted to political violence, we have 327,547 words in the Trilogy and 34,039 words in the Hebrew Bible. The Trilogy has 9.6 times as much wordage devoted to political violence as the Hebrew Bible.

Further Reading

My response is only a very brief one, so, in addition to the inline links provided, I would like to direct you to other articles that deal with the same issue and more. 

Christianity and Islam: A Side by Side Comparison, from the excellent resource, 

Each year, thousands of Christian homes and churches are torched or bombed by Muslim mobs, and hundreds of Christians, including dozens of priests, pastors, nuns and other church workers are murdered at the hands of Islamic extremists. The so-called justification varies, from charges of apostasy or evangelism, to purported "blasphemy" or "insulting" Islam. Innocent people have even been hacked to death by devout Muslims over cartoons.
Yet, there is little if any violent retaliation from religious Christians to the discrimination, kidnapping, rape, torture, mutilation and murder that is routinely reported from nations with Muslim majorities. Neither is there is any significant deadly terrorism in the name of Jesus, as there is in the stated cause of Allah each and every day. Muslim clerics in the West do not fear for their safety as do their Christian counterparts.
The "Christian world" and the Islamic world contrast sharply in other ways as well, from the disparate condition of human rights and civil liberties to economic status. An astonishing 70% of the world's refugees are Muslims - usually seeking to live in Christian-based countries.
While Western societies take seriously "scandals" such as Abu Ghraib and Guantanamo (where no one has actually been killed), Muslims routinely turn a blind eye to their own horrible atrocities, even those committed explicitly in the name of Allah. The Muslim world has yet to offer a single apology for the tens of millions of lives consumed by centuries of relentless Jihad and slavery.
These sharp differences are almost certainly rooted in the underlying religions, which begin with the disparate teachings of Jesus and Muhammad... 
Keep reading....  

Flying Hijacked Planes into Glass Houses, again from

In an article entitled, “Throwing Stones at the Quran from a Glass House”, The American Muslim claims that the verses of violence and war in the Bible can be misread in “exactly the same way as some verses in the Qur’an” (emphasis ours). In other words, the on-line magazine alleges that, like the Quran, there are Biblical verses with open-ended commands to violence that are not bound by historical context within the passage itself.
Our first clue that this probably isn’t true is the scarcity of Christian terrorist groups. Not too many people are losing their heads to fanatics screaming praises to Jesus (or Moses, Buddha or the many Hindu gods either) as they are to shouts of “Allah Akbar!” That there are so many Islamic terrorist groups composed of fundamentalists (or purists) of the Muslim faith is enough to impress any reasonable person that there is something far more dangerous about Islam.
Nevertheless, to support their claim, The American Muslim quotes sixteen of the worst passages that the Bible has to offer in the way of violence. Others are alluded to as well, but delving into these particular verses should be a large enough sample to expose whatever sophistry might be at play.
Keep reading....