Children are the victims of wars all over the world. At this time, America is involved in two wars overseas. Our military men and women do not intentionally try to kill or maim children, but children still die or their parents and family members are killed, making them orphans. Our soldiers are killed and then their children are left orphaned without a mother or father.. Other nations are involved in many other conflicts. Good military personnel grieve and are haunted by memories of killing children. The deaths of children often are the causes for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder and other mental after-effects in the killers themselves.
Yet there are some in the world who are callous regarding the killing of children, so long as the dead are not their children. The North Vietnamese Army recruited children and women to carry explosives into U.S. camps. The Russians, in their war with Afghanistan, dropped explosive devices attractive to the eyes of little children in hopes they would pick them up and be killed. In Africa and in some Central and South American nations, children have been recruited as soldiers to kill and be killed. In the Middle East wars, children regularly are used as fodder for war, and those not intentionally recruited for suicide missions commonly are killed by other children. And of course, children always are the victims of bullets and bombs in every war.
Americans were outraged that the attacks on the World Trade Center targeted noncombatants, including children. I know for a fact that many Americans are completely insensitive now to the deaths of Muslim children. This is due at least to the vengeance motive in some, as if a child is not a child just because he or she is a Muslim, which means "enemy." And there are some Americans who would be more concerned if our State Department allowed, or if your television networks were inclined, to show the bloodied little bodies of children killed by our bombs and bullets.
Now no sane person kills children; however, military personnel are taught that children are often the necessary casualties of war. The deaths and dismemberment, the resultant emotional damage and mental illnesses of children, are just another factor in the battles between adults. Personnel are taught to ignore the dead children killed as "collateral damage" as best they can, though soldiers who have killed children often return home haunted by the memories of what they have done.
If we look at the role of Jews, Christians, and Muslims, in all the wars past and present, in the killing of children, there have been some rabbis, preachers, and imams--the extreme right in their religions--who have comforted and aided those who kill children. There have been American clergy who, in our past, actively encouraged federal soldiers to kill the savage Native Americans, or later, the godless Communists, and among all these were children. There have been Israeli rabbis who, because of the deaths of Jewish children killed by terrorist bombers, have hardened their hearts against the deaths and suffering of Palestinian children. There are, as we know, now certain Islamic sects whose imams embrace suicide bombings--some to be done by children--in which innocent children are blown to bits by those who believe they honor and serve Allah.
We know that children are killed by other religions and their wars. However, because of the intertwined hatreds and fighting between the peoples of the Book Religions, and the warring of the nations in which they live, I want to focus on the religious element of any of these religious people being involved in the killing of children, intentional and accidental. If the current wars in the world expand eventually into broader fields of conflict, or if nuclear arms ever begin to be used, then not only their children but all the children of the world, or most of them, will become at risk as victims for death and destruction.
As I look at history, I know what has happened to children through the ages. Christian armies have killed children. Muslim armies have killed children. The Israeli army now kills Palestinian children now that the State of Israel has its authority to protect its homeland in this way. For any of these Christians, Muslims, and Jews who have faith in God, all rely on their religious teachers for comfort, if not active support, as they do this butchery against children. So it seems relevant to consider, if religious people are to be engaged in this horror, whether or not God really is pleased by the things they do.
Killing Children as a Religious Duty:
The Texts of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam
In the Hebrew Bible, God told Abraham to kill Isaac, but provided a ram as a substitute. God killed the first-born children of Egypt. The Death Angel would have killed the first-born Hebrew children either make them eager for the blood of innocent children, or enable them to be faithful to their duty despite their antipathies, because whose doorposts were not smeared with the blood of the sacrificial lamb. God commanded Joshua and his army to exterminate every indigenous living person and animal in the Land of Canaan, including children. The deed was done, in several locations, according to the Bible. According to the Torah, God commanded the killing, by stoning, of unruly children. There are other capital offenses given in the Law and, if children were guilty of these, we may presume that children were killed when proven guilty, such as sexual crimes.
Jesus presented a child to his disciples and said of such was the Kingdom of Heaven. Regarding killing, Jesus told his disciples to turn the other cheek, settle with their opponents on the way to court, and even to love their enemies. There is nothing in his teachings or example to suggest killing children or, for that matter, killing anyone is permissible. The same is true in the rest of the Christian Bible, for there is no killing of children or others permitted. Nevertheless, Jesus was a Jew who surely believed the Torah, so he must have approved of the previously commanded killings of children.
Muhammad did not command the killing of children and, in fact, taught mercy to children, women, strangers, and non-combatants, as a general rule. He did command that any who fought against Islam could be killed, so this would include any children who took up arms. He also commanded that, when the land was corrupted (Sura 5:32), people could be killed. Therefore, if Muslims concluded that children corrupted the land, they also could be killed. Muhammad, who held Moses and Jesus to be in the line of prophets, though their followers had corrupted the divine revelations given to Jews and Christians, also surely believed previous commands of God to kill children.
Based on the holy books of these three world religions, Judaism clearly has revelations from God commanding the death of children. Christianity does not, though we fairly may presume Jesus approved previous killings by divine command. Islam does not, though again, we may presume Muhammad also concurred with anything previously revealed by God, including the killing of children.
These Religions' Subsequent Histories
Regarding Judaism, I do not have either records, or interest in finding records, proving Jewish parents obeyed the clear commands given to Moses in the Torah regarding the killing of children. It would be an insult to the integrity of faithful and obedient Jewish parents to assert they failed to obey any point in the Law when grounds for conviction were present. Jewish parents surely joined the community in killing their children, or the children of others, who were guilty of capital offenses. Jewish parents today, depending on their Jewish sect, will hear various interpretations of their rabbis on applications of the Torah concerning the killing of children or other capital offenses. Nevertheless, the commands were given by God to Moses and the religious community, and God has not revoked those duties, whatever current leaders may say.
In the State of Israel, there are Jews who kill the children of Palestinians under the authority of national security. Some also kill under another Mosaic principle, the Law of Retaliation ("eye for eye, tooth for tooth"), since some Palestinian adults have killed Israeli children. To the extent that Israelis kill Palestinian children to preserve a homeland they believe ordained by God, this is variation and extension of the command given to Joshua.
Regarding Christianity, we have many records of Christians through the ages killing children. There are instances where Christian parents, following Moses' command regarding unruly children, killed offspring they believed guilty of the capital offense. The most common examples of Christian soldiers killing children are in times of war, the children of parents who were enemies of the state. Where Christian children have been killed by adults in other nations (including by Christian military in those nations), the Mosaic Law of Retaliation often has been applied, as per above.
There are too many of examples of Christians engaged in all kinds of violence--psychological, physical, political, economic, legal--to cite over the past two thousand years of world history. Christians often have risen to positions of power they could use as they would, and did. Were I as some are in my faith, I would attempt to draw a line between the "nominal" or "true" believers, with the violent in the former group and the non-violent in the latter. But long ago, I decided this cheapened the blood of the innocent who suffered and died at the hands of people who did have Jesus' words and deeds to read, who confessed him as "Lord and Savior," yet who did what they did. And none of the clergy in their churches at these times, nor any later, disputed that the horrors done were done by true believers. The best most can say today is not repentance but, "Yes, what they did was unfortunate they they were children of their times." Inexcusable, I say, is such an attempt to avoid 'historical criticism based in anachronism,' since they had and read and confessed themselves bound to what Jesus commanded and did.
In the United States, Christian soldiers killed the children of Native Americans and African slaves. Christian and Jewish U.S. soldiers (perhaps some American Muslims) have killed children in every American war, from the Revolution, the Civil War, and all others after. Children were killed indiscriminately in Allied fire bombings in World War II, as well as the two nuclear detonations over Hiroshima and Nagasaki. German Christian soldiers killed the children of Jews, gypsies, and all other classes included for Nazi extermination, as well as children in every territory they crossed. Russian Christian soldiers killed children in the Russian Revolution, and how many millions died in Stalin's purges to follow? These are a few notable examples. In all these cases, Christian soldiers have killed children under some nation's need for "national security" or, as stated before, under the principle of national retaliation, if Christian (and other religious or non-religious) children were killed by enemies.
Regarding Islam, I will say less, for one reason alone. Since I have been brutally honest with my own religion, I will allow them an opportunity to be equally honest as to what the Qur'an teaches and what their own people have done to each other, to Jews, Christians, Hindus, and all others. I have yet to hear the Muslims so eager for Jewish and Christian blood be as honest about Islam's own sordid history. And I am ashamed of the other Muslims who know the facts but who apparently fear for their lives, and their family's lives, rather than the judgment of Allah for those who allow lies in Allah's name. So I say this about Islam.
There are many records of Muslims killing their children when guilty of capital crimes forbidden in the Qur'an. This remains true today of certain Muslim sects. Throughout the ages where Muslims have warred against the enemies of Islam, there are many records of children killed. In some cases, the killing of enemy children was retaliation for Muslim children killed by aggressors. The children of Jews and Christians sometimes were killed, along with their parents, based on certain Suras where Muhammad commanded death to them as those who scorned and corrupted divine revelations.
In recent times, notably after the theological interpretations of Sayyid Qutb, which are influential for leaders of Al-Qaeda, children have been killed freely by Muslims following this Islamic sect (or others). From the killing of children in the World Trade Center on September 11, 2001; to the killing of Israeli children in marketplaces with car or personnel bombs; to the killing of Muslim children of different sects considered "not true Muslims" using various methods, children now are killed with impunity as a religious duty. In fact, some of these Muslim sects actually recruit children to kill other children--Muslim, Jewish, Christian, "Western"--however they do this using the Qur'an as their resource.
Is God Pleased With the Death of Children?
Within each of these three religions, there has been and is a great diversity among believers as to whether or not the nature of God includes human emotions, such as "being pleased or displeased." If we stay strictly within the holy books of Judaism, Christianity, and (to a negligible degree) Islam, then God has emotions, divine ones, but apparently comparable with human love and pleasure, hate and displeasure. In all three religions, obedience to the divine commands is required, regardless of the emotional effects on God (which makes divine responses contingent on human behaviors).
Regarding the killing of children, whoever wrote Psalm 137, verse 9, that writer prays to God, for the Jew who avenges Babylon's harms to God's people: "a blessing on him who seizes your babies and dashes them against the rocks!" (JPS Hebrew-English TANAKH, 2nd ed., Jewish Publications Society, 1999, p. 1584). Since this statement comes from the intention of the Psalmist, not divine command, the only thing one might deduce is the writer believed his statement was not against his religion or his God, if not compatible with divine sensibilities. One thing we do know, however, is the Psalmist held his God was fully capable of killing children--as with the destruction of the world by flood--or of ordering the deaths of children, as in the Torah.
We know that there have been and are Jews and Muslims who believe their inspired writings: that killing children--when this is in obedience to direct divine command--is a duty to God, whatever effects on divine emotions. And since there are holy texts indicating that God is pleased by the death of the wicked, or the things of the wicked, believers can deduce the deaths of the children of the wicked also incite divine pleasure, if somehow babies and little ones have some share in their parents' sins.
In the case of Muslims, the Qur'an emphasizes more obedience and blessing, or disobedience and cursing, than divine emotions concerning human behavioral responses. Allah in fact is not like the God of the Hebrews, or of that of Christians at all, as stated in Sura 114:1-4, "Say, 'He is Allah, the One and Only, Allah, the Eternal and Absolute. He does not beget, nor is He begotten.'" So whether or not the divine command concerns killing children or any other persons, Muslims have no taste for anthropomorphism. Allah is, Allah commands, and Allah responds justly with blessing or cursing, depending on the response of the believer.
Christians, unlike either Jews or Muslims, have neither a prophet or divine commands from him that children must be killed. To the contrary, Jesus seems to have had a tender spot for the children he healed and for their trusting and honest natures, which he used for positive illustration of the Kingdom of God. When he commanded, "Render to Caesar [the state] what is Caesar's, and to God what is God's" (Book of Mark 12:17), there is nothing known about Jesus to suggest disciples were to kill children, if the state demanded. There is nothing in the Pauline writings, or in any others in the New Testament, supporting the killing of children.
Short Explanation of Christian Recourse to Killing
How did Christians develop the idea they could kill at all? The Book of Acts (15:22-31) records what often is called the Council of Jerusalem. It was at that meeting that Jewish believers in Jesus as messiah ruled that Gentile converts were bound by only a few rules in the Mosaic Law: "to abstain from food sacrificed to idols, from blood, from things strangled, and from sexual immorality."
In the third century, Christian theologians defined which books and writings they held as inspired by God. There was too much theological diversity based on too many traditions. The majority adopted the books today known as the New Testament, plus the Jewish Bible. Why? Christian theologians remembered Jesus' statement (The Book of Matthew 5:17-19) he did not come to supplant but fulfill the Mosaic Law. In addition, many were educated in Greek and Roman philosophy and sought to maintain what we would call a "principle of non-contradiction"; that is, that God was consistent in revelations to the prophets. Therefore, whatever revelations had prepared for Jesus' appearance, they still had divine truths within them for later use by Christian believers, just as Jesus had read and used only the Hebrew Bible.
Some early Christians rejected this approach, which they considered both a patchwork and denigrating to Jesus' superior and final revelations to the world. Some believed the Jewish Bible was to be excluded from the list of books Christians should study for faith and practice. Marcion of Sinope (died around 160 AD) was the first known Christian who held this view. He was overruled by the theological majority, branded a heretic, and "Marcionism" died with him, though a few in later centuries would resurrect this idea.
The earliest Christians, however, followed Jesus' teachings and example and were pacifistic. Like Jews, they also would not worship the idols in the Roman pantheon, or worship Caesar as God, the Emperor-cult. Persecutions against Christians began, and Christian clergy began to seek ways for Christians to participate in the life of the Roman regime, including military service. It was under these pressures that Christian theologians began to draw upon the Jewish Bible for "previous revelations" Christians could--indeed ought to--use for the purpose of religious killing, or killing with some divine sanctions.
God had commanded wars and exterminations before, and since such Jewish heroes as King David had been great warriors and still been God's favorites, and because Jesus commanded his people to give what Caesar demanded, killing was not only permissible but within the divine economy of ruling the world through secular regimes. This logical sequence led eventually to full Christian participation in the military, not only for Rome but in any nation where they lived.
Regarding Christian killing, therefore, of children as well as anyone else, Christian clergy drew most heavily for their "divine permissions" for killing at large from the "divine commands" read in the Jewish Bible, noted earlier. The Jewish Bible provided, and provides, all of the theological models used by Christians for their killing. It is, of course, completely ironic that the entire history of Christian violence against Jews, or any other peoples for that matter, was and is enabled by theological models provided by the Jewish Bible.
Had Jesus' teachings and model been taken as sole authority, then the kind of Christian religion taught and practiced by Mennonites, Amish, and others in the pacifistic Anabaptist traditions would have replaced what the world has witnessed by the majority of Christians past; what the world witnesses in the present; or, what the world will witness in the future.
Anywhere in the world where there are Jews, Christians, and Muslims, who hold the Jewish Bible, Christian Bible, and Qur'an, as requiring, permitting, or justifying the killing of children--not to speak of any other adult victims who neither intended or did any harm to the religious killers--it is in those parts of the world children will be slain under the banner of religion, or with its approvals. Jews can kill Palestinian children, Christians can kill Muslim children, and Muslims can kill Jewish, Christian, and Muslim children, each and all having holy books and theological models for the tasks.
Now killing children does run against nature. No normal and sane human being can kill a child without running up against the deepest antipathies for harming defenseless, harmless, young boys and girls. After all, the adults who do this butcher's work also have children, if not their own, then in their families or in the families of their religious communities and nations. I already have noted the motive for indiscriminate killing of children based in retaliation. And this is one of the most fundamental motives driving all the parties in the world's conflicts today.
The so-called War Against Terror, in which America and its allies now fight, has killed untold hundreds of thousands of children and created terror for millions of other children. Yet the religious men and women who do this killing suspend judgment against themselves because they have religious resources and teachers who tell them to ignore the repugnance of Nature and affirm the Duty of God and Country.
There are religious Jews in the State of Israel who kill and harm Palestinian children, but like their religious American allies--Jews and Christians--they are convinced their killing may be evil but it achieves a greater good in the will of God. Many rabbis, not all, reinforce and console their Israeli congregants who do what is distasteful, but "what God requires for the homeland." And like some of their religious American allies overseas, who kill Muslim children with their bombs, yet religiously justified, there are Israeli Jews also religiously convinced their killing Palestinian children is an unfortunate means to a larger, divinely blessed end: the preservation of the State of Israel, which many nationalists help to confuse with the biblical Israel.
The religious Muslims who kill Jewish children in the State of Israel, or anywhere else they can, do not believe--based on the video recordings they leave--they do anything else except (1) obey and please Allah and (2) remove from this life some Jewish children, somehow the enemies of Islam, whose deaths will mean their brothers and sisters will not need to kill them. The same is true for the Muslims who kill Christian children, whether in Muslim territories, or in any of the Western nations where indiscriminate killings of children are "successful" and thereby will lead to, what they have been told by their imams, is Allah's blessing and paradisaical reward. Most amazing, however, is that, at least after the innovative teachings of Qutb and others, now, in our era of history, Muslims even kill the children of others who believe they are Muslims, but who are not "true believers" according to those who kill them.
The Muslims who are taught to kill the children of Jews, Christians, and even other Muslims, remind me completely of the most vicious and sectarian Christians in certain periods of history whose theologians and priests and preachers told them to kill Jews, Muslims, other Christians-Not-Orthodox, and all others outside the narrow sectarian circle. I know nothing in the history of Judaism that matches precisely the killing of children as done, first, by some who called themselves "true Christians" and, second, by some who now call themselves "true Muslims." Had not the Jews been so marginalized and persecuted by both Christians and Muslims, it is my opinion their original Hebrew Bible paradigms would have led to the same kinds of killing as in the other two Book Religions.
I am not an atheist. No, I am one of the minority Christians who believe Jesus taught and acted as I should, and as those who dominate the world stage calling on Jesus as their Savior should but never will. Yet I refuse to accept that any religion can be true, let alone good, that kills children for any reason. This includes my religion, the mother of my religion, Judaism, and the religion that came after Moses and Jesus, that of Muhammad, the one who so often calls Allah, "Most Merciful, Most Just."
Yet I stand completely with all the atheists and skeptics of the world who stand against the slaughter of the innocents. I stand completely united with them, arm in arm, in outrage and unbelief against any and all religions whose deities demand the blood of babies, boys, and girls. I find more fellowship with an atheist who loves and fights for the lives of innocent people to live out their natural lives, to die of infirmity and disease and accident, than to die at the hands of people who think they honor their god by stealing away the life given by divine decree.
All three religions discussed here--Judaism, Christianity, and Islam--have holy books. Yet one historical fact is common to them all. Not any of their holy books makes precisely the claims for divine inspiration as have rabbis, preachers, and imams. There are allegations that God spoke and commanded. There are a few statements made about the inspiration of the prophets. Yet not one of these religions has stated within their holy books the kind of claims for verbal inspiration as stated by these three religions' most conservative believers.
And surely, surely, there is no prophet in any of their holy books who stated that all the councils and meetings of theologians in later centuries, as they chose which books to include in their religious collections, would be guided and protected by God in their every decision. Nor was there ever any prophet who predicted that each of these religions' textual critics--who compared variant extant versions of the holy writings, then made personal or committee decisions as to which were or were not authentic--would be guided and protected by God in their every decision.
No, none of these things are contained in the holy books. Yet the blood of millions of children, and millions of their brothers and sisters, and millions more of their parents, aunts and uncles, and grandparents, has been spilled in a flood of gore, terror, torture, anxiety, and grief, all because some Jews, Christians, and Muslims attributed things to their holy books never stated in them, not as they claimed at least.
And for all the specific things stated and alleged that God commanded to Moses, Joshua, David, or scores more of religious people mentioned in those holy books, again, there is not one necessary proof that God said those things--other than through complex doctrines of verbal inspiration; unstated, but still implicitly believed, doctrines of divine inspiration on the actions of councils, sectarian copyists, and textual critics; and, finally, perhaps the worst insult of all to the prophets who originally spoke in all the languages they used, their alleged statements of whatever may have been divine at one time and place, given to one person but recorded by others, to use for the killing of children or innocent people.
The paragraph above is filled with facts, not opinion. Everyone knows, who knows anything about the transmission of any of the holy books in the world, there is an almost endless chain of human decisions involved in copying, collecting, editing, comparing, choosing, and reconstructing the text. Finally, even translating into another language--which involves "transduction" or reduced meaning--any text to be used for killing is additionally ludicrous and presumptuous, unless we add another layer of "divine inspiration" to ensure (1) the translation committees, and they are plural, select just the right words and (2) the future earnest, sincere readers of the translated texts also have the same meanings of the vernacular words which were in the minds of the committee voters, who were guided by direct inspiration.
After all, whatever the prophets may have heard in primary revelations from God, based on the sequences identified here, if God does intend to convey precisely whatever divine meaning is to be transmitted to later generations, in written words, then inspiration will be needed for secondary, tertiary--and on and on and on through the centuries of the process--meanings until the "inspired message" is preserved, read, and understand or received accurately by the earnest seeker after the divine will.
Nevertheless, Jews, Christians, and Muslims have taken all these thousands of decisions made by generations of their ancestors, then made the final version of their holy books as the perfectly inspired repository of faith and practice leading to the killing of children.
Perhaps they are correct. Yet if they are, their truth nowhere is derived from the clear words of any of their prophets. Everything, everything used by the child-killers and person-killers is by inference, reconstruction, deduction, and even the influences of personality, place in time, and intellectual capacity to reason in an unprejudiced fashion.
There are some clear, universal-sounding statements to kill in some of the holy books. But in light of the historical facts of the transmission of the holy books, in light of the heavy uses of deductive and analogical reasoning--which so often fuel most religious applications of killing--there is one broader, more universal fact that I would imagine ought to stop nearly all killing.
All the holy books teach more about God's will to offer, through the inspiration of the prophets, religions aimed for mercy, restoration, healing, cleansing, forgiveness, covenant, compassion, emotions driven by gratitude, thoughts filled with justice and goodness, and morality that loves the self, family, neighbor, stranger, and, for Christianity, even enemy (at least as Jesus taught and lived).
Majoring On Minors:
The Misplaced Emphases of Three Great Faiths
Now religious killing is very ancient. Indeed, Judaism’s story of Cain’s killing of Abel is our first narrative of religious killing, nor are we told of the ages of either the victim or the killer. Abel was not an unbeliever, but a believer. Abel was not a false believer, but a true one. Yet because his brother both in flesh and in faith was jealous and angry, Abel was slain by Cain. God said to Cain that Abel's blood "cried up from the ground" and surely, based on human religious history, God has heard millions of such cries by the blood of innocent dead slain by religious fervor.
Since religious killing is as old as religion, why should be be concerned much with it? Might we just as well say, regarding religious killing, what Jesus said about the poor, that we always will have it with us? What is so different about today, asks the religious (or non-religious) person whose child has not yet been slain by a bullet or bomb, or by intentional starvation or thirst, or by forced expatriation or disease without medication?
The reason why the issue of religious killing and, in the case here, the killing of children based on religious convictions, is so important today is simple. To use a phrase common in the legal profession, also drawn from Mosaic Law, is that everyone’s ox is being gored, or being threatened with goring, and apparently, forever. If in past centuries religious killers were burdened with the task of moving vast armies over vast territories in order to do their bloody work, in today's situation, even one single detonated nuclear weapon could begin an international war with human and ecological consequences beyond the imagination.
The greatest irony of all in today’s global situation is that not one of the Book Religions had its origins in divine revelations mainly aimed at killing. From Moses and the Prophets, to Jesus and the Apostles, to Muhammad, each of the three religions arose—according to their primary and principal messages of their holy books—by God’s concern to speak and save all who would listen. Their common message is not killing, but fellowship, relationship, restoration, covenant, obedience, holiness, forgiveness, mercy, compassion, better individuals, better families, and better nations to the degree any secular regime honors the revealed will of God. New life and divine rewards were promised far more than death and divine punishment, though the latter were revealed too.
When I think of all the children of the world who are being killed, and when I think of the major emphases in the Book Religions, I ask myself, "Why do not the rabbis, preachers, and imams univocally share common outrage, not merely of their own innocent children being killed, but ANY children of ANY persons in the world, regardless of their religions?"
Yes, I remember the divine decrees to Joshua to exterminate every living man, woman, child, and creature. Yes, I know some holy texts read God demanded the obliteration of all indigenous life in the Promised Land, to clean it for the exiles of the Promise. Though these texts came from the Hebrew Bible, it was my ancestors, Christians, who analogically applied them to the subjugation of indigenous peoples all over the world. Muslims, on the other hand, paid more attention to the Qur'an and its dictates than to Moses or Jesus.
Why Some Religious Leaders Incite Killing
Why do the leaders of the Book Religions not stop, or do all they can to stop, the killing of children--be they Jew, Christian, or Muslim, or of any other faith, or none at all? Are not children the least experienced with life, the most open to learning new and unknown things, the most willing to believe what any LOVING adult will tell them? Are not children, the population with the most open minds, the most easily persuaded? Are not children the most natural candidates for the succor and sweetness of the best that Jews, Christians, and Muslims can teach and show them about who God is and the good God wants for human beings, as revealed by the prophets?
One would think that all the religious leaders in the Book Religions would be united in vying on saving all the lives of little children all over the world just so a new generation could do better with the revealed religions than adults have done for centuries. What true Jew, a truly observant follower of the Torah, can rejoice--or be neutral or numb--to the death of a Christian or Muslim child, or any other child? What true Christian, one who reads of Jesus putting a child before adults as an example of who is most suitable for the Kingdom of Heaven, can rejoice--or be neutral or numb--to the death of a Jewish or Muslim child, or any other child? What true Muslim, one who reads the Qur'an and all Muhammad had to say about women and children, can rejoice--or be neutral or numb--to the death of a Jewish or Christian child, or any other?
God gives life to the child. Every Jew, Christian, and Muslim grieve for their own dead children. Why ought they not also grieve, if they honor the God who created all children, when any of God's little ones are shot, blown up, maimed, driven insane, and rendered--by the act of a human hand, however allegedly "religious"--dead or crippled in body or mind?
Why do some rabbis, preachers, and imams actively teach, encourage, mold, and praise those who kill children in the name of God? Where did they so allow their knowledge of the beautiful heart and core of their prophetic revelations to fall into disuse, to be substituted by the small number of teachings about punishments and killings? Then beyond that, how, in the name of the God they allege themselves loyal to, have those same religious leaders so degenerated from everything we know about God to embrace the death of children?
There are many answers. One answer is that such leaders themselves are false, not by any external person's accusation, nor by any nation's judgment, but because their own holy books condemn the way they have replaced the rule of offered divine blessing, for the exception of the divine curse. One answer is that such leaders are drunk with power, not the divine power to give hope, life, and choice--like that of their prophets--but demonic power to create despair, death, and inevitable destruction.
Yet another answer to explain the bizarre disregard or contempt for the deaths of children is one I have learned only in the past seven years. Perhaps the most callous, the most insensate, the most brutal religious leaders among the Jews, Christians, and Muslims are those who themselves have experienced so much chaos, destruction, and grief their minds no longer are healthy. This is the biological, the psychiatric answer.
I have learned that, while we human beings have the greatest capacities to think, imagine, and create than any other living species in the world (and in that we truly are the "crown of creation," as the old theologians used to say), nevertheless, when we are subjected to prolonged and unrelieved anxiety, stress, fear, anger, uncertainty, emotional and physical displacement, grief and chaos, this is the end of our human glory and the beginning of our worst animal behaviors. We know that under such conditions our highest rational and cognitive capacities, our normal emotional capacities to experience joy and happiness, are displaced by our “reptilian brain" and its defensive mechanisms.
So once we have recognized that some Jewish, Christian, and Muslim leaders are sinners guilty of egotism and power-mongering, we also must recognize that some quite frankly are mentally unstable, deranged, delusional, and unfit to lead. This is NOT to say that any rabbi, preacher, or imam who quotes or teaches one of their holy texts pertaining to capital punishment or holy war is mentally ill. This IS to say that any religious leader whose ministry becomes so absorbed, centered, and driven only by one relatively small doctrinal area to the general overriding of main areas MAY be mentally ill. And I am unsure whether or not I want to meet any Jew, Christian, or Muslim, leader or led, who spends much time in emphasizing killing in general, or who ignores or approves the deaths of children.
On the Prophets and Their Redemptive Missions
If all Jews, Christians, and Muslims in today's world were to spend more time tabulating all the teachings given by Moses, Jesus, and Muhammad, then dividing them into "positive" or "negative," all three Book Religions would be forced to see how their precious faiths are loaded down with the former, and lightly burdened with the latter. While every prophet always appears due to needed reform--that is, within a context of corruption judged by God--the message given to the prophet always is the same. And this is a positive message.
God sends the prophet with correction and redirection, with calls for repentance and return. God does not simply destroy the heretic and unbeliever without first sending the prophet. The very nature of a prophet is to offer hope for mercy, change, and restoration. Therefore, any Jew, Christian, or Muslim who becomes obsessed with prosecution, judgment, and execution of heretics or unbelievers de facto abandons the very nature of his or her religion--which began and takes life from hope for mercy, change, and restoration. God gave the prophets and their revelations precisely to set up boundaries within which believers might find blessing and avoid cursing.
So when we consider, in this case, as Americans, any American religious leaders in these faiths who are obsessed with judgment, retribution, and killing, or whose ministries are characterized more by what is ordinarily, ordinarily, reserved for God's Final Judgment, to the principal exclusion of the very origination of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam--as religions aimed at repentance, mercy, restoration, and compassion--in my opinion, such leaders reveal themselves principally as usurpers of God's rule, not as faithful to their religions' core nature and messages.
And when we consider that some religious leaders, here and abroad, either have callous disregard, evidenced by their silence, or openly demonic celebration that "children of the enemy" have been consumed by the fires of war, they are revealed for what they are. Based on the principal and predominate texts of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam, they are heirs of the most false and wicked prophets, not Moses, Jesus, or Muhammad.
God's principal revelations were for the good of humanity--to offer opportunities to hear, believe, obey, and be improved. The threats of divine punishment, in this life or the next, always were reserved for those whose hearts hardened against the extended divine hope for repentance, mercy, and reform. The heart and mind of any truly religious Jew, Christian, and Muslim must be torn asunder in grief and protest by the death of any child slain by the hand of any human being. Based on all we know from the holy books in all three religions, God willed the child to have life. The human being who takes the life of a child for any reason (and I note that some suicide bombers are children, that is, children taking the lives of children, having been taught by adults) seems to me most ungodly and atheistic, regardless of what they imagine.
The present spiraling escalation of killing done in the name of God calls for all the leaders of the Jews, Christians, and Muslims to get down on their knees and put their faces in the dirt in repentance, to seek divine guidance before their followers lead the world into a conflagration of nuclear war into which both the guilty and innocent perish.
Apocalyptic Presumption As Practical Atheism
Most perversely to me, yet true, there are Jews, Christians, and Muslims, who want precisely for the world to end in a nuclear holocaust, and as soon as possible. Why? They are convinced by their religious teachers, or by things they read, including some of their holy books, that they themselves were born to usher in the Age of Destruction and the Great Judgment.
These three religions share revelations, or at least beliefs, that the end of the world will end in a fiery ordeal. If the prophets reported accurately what God revealed, then such an end must come. Nevertheless, there are none of the prophetic revelations that predict, teach, advocate, or otherwise indicate that believers themselves will be the direct or indirect causes of the Apocalypse. There is no holy scripture in any of the Book Religions that commands or insinuates that Jews, Christians, or Muslims are to wage war and kill the innocent along with the guilty as if that somehow does not contradict the nature of God revealed by the prophets.
Is the motive for these religious war-mongers and child-slayers among the Jews, Christians, and Muslims impatience to await the divine plan, whatever it is? Is the motive grandiose delusion by persons so insecure as to their self-identity in God or the world they must wrest and force themselves as historically significant through murder and mayhem in God's name? Is the motive simply sinful arrogance that they can read secret messages conveyed by no literal words of any prophet, and show themselves to have keys of divine knowledge not found in any Hebrew, Greek, or Arabic words given by the prophets?
Once again, here we are, faced with religious leaders and believers who follow their false interpreters of the prophets, men and women, even boys and girls, presuming to know more of their personal missions for God than revealed by the clear bulk of their holy books. For thousands of years, Jews, Christians, and Muslims faced persecutions, unjust wars, and even centuries of human abuse, surrendered to the will of God and in trust that God would one day make right what men had made wrong. There always were episodic revolts by religious people, and some few were grounded in apocalyptic delusions. Yet the majority of believers, however they viewed those movements, remained faithful to their prophetic teachings that finally it would not be by the hand of man, but by the just action of God, that history finally would come to and end and followed by the Great Judgment.
We need not fear what must come by the will of God, but there is plenty to fear by the hand of men and now, even women and children, who believe they know perfectly well what God wills for innocent children. Despite their delusions, there is nothing in the inspired writings of the three religions to suggest that today's terrorists arise from the prophets, let alone from anything any of them wrote.
Today, Jews, Christians, and Muslims engage in wars--secular and religious--where the lives of little children are taken, sometimes intentionally, sometimes accidentally, by people who consider themselves godly and within the divine will. As a man who loves God within his limited understanding of God, and who loves all children all over the world, it is my belief, based on the God I know, that the Creator of the all people, the people of one blood—our one genome we now know—does not give life to babies, boys and girls, just so their lives can be cut off by bullets and bombs.
Yes, I know that, compared to all that we know of the planets, their moons, other solar systems, and such things as black holes, existing as far as our telescopes can reach and beyond, the single life of a single child does not seem to be much. Yes, I understand and do accept that any single human life may not be as important as we, the living, view that life to be, particularly if it be ours, or that of one we love.
But to a child who has his or her arms or legs shredded or blown off, or who has his or her eyes put out in a fiery blast, or who has his or her insides scattered about, for this child, I do not see how he or she can do anything other than to cry out to God—if his or her parents and brothers and sisters and family have been killed—and ask, “Why?”
I love that child, unknown by me, unseen, unnamed, of whatever age and size, of whatever innate capacities or talents, be he or she a Jew, Christian, Muslim, Hindu, Sikh, Buddhist, or any other religion in the world. And I love that child who also is the offspring of parents who say they cannot believe in any god at all, precisely because of the callous disregard for innocent life seen throughout all previous centuries, and now in our own time.
Surely, God loves the children of the world to whom God saw fit to give life for purposes only to be revealed in the natural course of their time on the earth, uninterrupted nor truncated by others. This is always as it has been. The greatest and the least of all the prophets who ever walked the earth began first as babies and children. The holy books show repeatedly some children grew naturally and easily to their divine appointments as prophets. Yet other children went on circuitous paths far away from God, only later to return broken vessels ready for divine healing and filling. And still other children were raised in godly homes by godly parents. They began well and sometimes lived decades for God, yet fell away to become false prophets, apostates, and most infamously wicked people.
The history of children in the world shows us that God gives life to all, and that no person must presume to interfere with or stop God's plan for every person. The child who seems stupid or lazy becomes the greatest of all. It required seventy-five years for Abram to receive his call from God to be given a new name, Abraham. He was no Jew, Christian, or Muslim, but a nomad from Ur. Whatever God saw in Abram at age seventy five had required seven and one-half decades to ripen before that man would become the father of nations.
Those who are so arrogant they can kill children or, for that matter, people as old as Abraham, insult and offend the God who gives all people life and whose plan must unfold only within the divine scheme of things. Yes, there are some divine commands given by the prophets concerning capital punishment, or how religious people may or may nor war--in the flesh or in the Spirit. But I am absolutely certain that many now among us, in all three Book Religions, have presumed too much in nearly all of their killing, regardless of what their rabbis, preachers, or imams told them contrary to the express, general will of God.
These same killers--and they appear in all the nations--often proclaim their great eagerness for the Apocalypse, the end of time, the Great Judgment, their imagined rewards, and the imagined punishments of their enemies they call God's enemies., in the eternal fires of Hell. It is my belief, based on what I read in all the prophets, that these overeager warmongers and self-deluded servants of The End will have to face those whose lives they unjustly and sinfully took.
I imagine, in my mind's eye, the possibility of a great shock when one of the children they killed gives them a sad message. They had been sent to earth to save the killer's children from being led straight into Hell by parents who were false teachers. That is, the killers of children will be judged not for their help, but for their harm, in the divine plan that never unfolded in the truncated lives of the murdered young. These are merely my imaginings, but my underlying belief is true: God will hold accountable those who presumptuously take any human life against the divine will revealed in the prophets. I recall how Jesus said many would come to him on the Day of Judgment, claiming great deeds done in his name, and he would reply, "Depart from me, you who practice lawlessness! I never knew you!"
The nations need to be brought together by the main emphases of these three great religions, not split apart into factions and destruction by the exceptions to their principal callings and purposes. This is not the case now. With the past and present to chasten our hopes, neither does it appear the future bodes much different from what we see now, and potentially much worse.
So I take my stand here now, repudiating the killing of children in the name of God. I stand here now, condemning what some false religious teachers say, not based on my own ideas, but because the prophets themselves provide the basis for condemnation. Because the subject of this essay defends an idea no sane person would want to oppose--that no child ought to be killed by anyone, let alone a religious person--surely I have gained some good will by speaking up for the majority.
One friend has warned the essay will engender hate in someone. I surely hope not. I have sought to gore all oxen equally, that is, those of the religious child-killers. I have sought to reveal the wolves in sheepskins. And I have endeavored, as Jesus commanded Peter, to feed God's sheep and God's lambs, in whatever pasture they graze.