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(Liberty magazine, March-April 1996)
"What mean and cruel things men do for the love of God" -- W. Somerset Maugham
How ironic that millions of religious adherents -- those who preach love, unity and peace -- continue to perpetrate murder, mayhem and violence on a grand scale. All over the world, faiths that teach (in one form or another) "love thy neighbor as thyself" kill their neighbors with sickening regularity.
-- November 1995: A militant Jew who said he was acting "on orders from God" assassinated Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Rabin.
-- November 1995: Muslim terrorists dispatched a suicide zealot to ram an explosives-laden truck into the Egyptian Embassy in Pakistan, killing 17 and wounding 60.
-- Summer 1995: Muslim fanatics from Algeria planted several bombs in France, including one in a Paris subway that killed seven and wounded 90.
-- July 1995: An Islamic suicide bomber aboard a Tel Aviv bus killed six Jews and himself.
-- March 1995: Nerve gas loosed in Tokyo's subway killed 12 commuters and sickened 5,500. Police charged leaders of the secretive Supreme Truth sect, whose adherents kissed their guru's big toe, paid $2,000 each for a sip of his bathwater, and paid $10,000 for a drink of his blood.
-- December 1994: Muslim fanatics who want to turn Algeria into a theocracy hijacked a French airliner, murdered three passengers, and planned to kill 100 more in a firebombing explosion over Paris, but commandos thwarted them. At home in Algeria, fellow fanatics shoot high school girls in the face for the sin of going unveiled, and execute teachers for the sin of allowing boys and girls to sit in the same classrooms.
-- December 1994: A Christian zealot killed two women at abortion clinics in Massachusetts. It was the third fatal clinic attack in America in two years.
-- October 1994: An Islamic suicide bomber blew up a bus full of Jews in Israel, killing at least 22 and wounding multitudes.
-- September 1994: In Switzerland, 48 members of the Solar Temple died in a mass murder-suicide. Many bodies were found in ceremonial robes in a secret underground chapel lined with mirrors. Clusters of dead children were in three ski chalets. In Quebec, four more victims were found at a Solar Temple branch. The Canadian group had been stockpiling guns to prepare for the end of the world.
-- September 1994: Two Louisiana sisters were convicted of gouging out a third sister's eyes to drive Satan from her.
Religious horrors occur in many varieties -- from child molesting by Catholic priests to million-dollar swindles by TV evangelists. The most lethal varieties are terrorism by fundamentalist fanatics and ethnic warfare fueled by "religious tribalism," which stems from religion's power to divide people into rival groups, often turning them against each other.
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