Many of these people have told me that I need to start reading books so I can stop being so wrong when I suggest that the religion of more than 1.2 billion people in the world has truth and beauty and the potential to influence its adherents for either good or bad — just like every other religion, philosophy, or professional life coach.
As a sign of this expertise people have offered (as people often offer in such situations) bunches and bunches of quotes straight from the Koran — all of them pithy, on-point proof texts that are completely devoid of context. I have my own proof-texts, of course, but they never seem to be as persuasive to people who would rather believe otherwise. That’s how proof-texts work.
But I thought it would be worthwhile to try an experiment. Using my notes from teaching and reading all three texts over the last 20 years, I have compiled ten quotations on war and peace from three of the world’s great sacred texts: the Bible, the Koran, and the Bhagavad Gita. The answers are on the bottom. It’s the honor system, so please don’t cheat.
These are all proof-texts, of course. They are devoid of context or explanation and exist as free-floating units of meaning that can be incorporated into any narrative one wishes to use. If you find this unfair or incoherent, well, that’s kind of the point.
So, without further ado, here are the ten passages from THE BIBLE, THE KORAN, or the BHAGAVAD GITA. Giveaway names of God (the LORD, Allah, or Krishna) have been replaced by a generic [God]. How many can you get right?
- “[God] enjoins justice, kindness and charity to one’s kindred, and forbids lewdness, reprehensible conduct and oppression. He admonishes you so that you may take heed.”
- “Anyone who would not seek [God] would be executed, whether they were young or old, male or female.”
- “There is no greater good for a warrior than to fight in a righteous war. There is a war that opens the doors of heaven. . . . Happy the warriors whose fate is to fight such a war. But to forego this fight for righteousness is to forego thy duty and honor: is to fall into transgression. Men will tell of thy dishonor both now and in times to come. And to a man who is in honor, dishonor is more than death.”
- “When [God] brings you to the land that you are going to occupy and forces out many nations before you . . . you must utterly annihilate them. Make no treaty with them and show them no mercy!”
- For I accept every sacrifice, and I am [God] supreme. But they know not my pure Being, and because of this they fall.”
- “If you do not go to war, [God] will punish you sternly, and will replace you by other men. You will in no way harm Him: for [God] has power over all things.”
- “Turn away from evil and do what is right! Strive for peace and promote it!”
- “In death thy glory in heaven, in victory thy glory on earth. Arise, therefore . . . with thy soul ready to fight.”
- “[God] does not forbid you to be kind and equitable to those who have neither made war on your religion nor driven you from your homes. God loves the equitable.”
- “For thus says [God]: “Behold, I will extend peace to her like a river, and the glory of the nations like an overflowing stream; and you shall nurse, you shall be carried upon her hip, and bounced upon her knees.””
Answers (no cheating)
1. Koran (16:90); 2. Bible (2 Chron. 15:13); 3. Bhagavad Gita (2:31-34); 4. Bible (Deut 7:2); 5. Bhagavad Gita (9:23-24); 6. Koran (9.39); 7. Bible (Pslams 34.15); 8. Bhagavad Gita (2:37); 9. Koran (6:8); 10. Bible (Isaiah 66:12)