Religion is about belief in a Supreme Being or Beings or in some cases a philosophy in life such as Buddhism and trying to learn more about that Being/Philosophy. It is trying to explain that which we cannot understand and then usually trying to find ways to either adjust to that understanding to make life easier or hoping to find our place in creation. That is the basis for all religions that have existed throughout the world since man first developed cognitive thought. Unfortunately, the pursuit of religion has frequently led to violence. How does this happen? Should it happen?
One way it happens is if the religious practices the destruction of individuals to promote better understanding. This was done in the olden days through the use of sacrifices. The sacrifice started as an animal and then moved on to humans. People then get upset when their loved ones are killed and they have been told killing is acceptable, so they kill. This was done by many European Religions and was very popular in the Mayan and Aztec Empires. Because of this tendency, many of these religions from the past no longer exist.
Violence from religion has arisen through fanaticism
This is when one religion decides it is the only one that should be tolerated and all others forcibly destroyed. The converts become militant and start to physically attack all other persons of a different religious belief. Christianity, Judaism, and Islam share many beliefs and religious places, and every single one thinks they are the only proper custodians of those places or beliefs, all have had fanatics.
This was started even before the Middle Ages and became the reason for the Crusades, it continues in the Middle East today.
There are also cases where misguided individuals, megalomaniacs, have used religion to gain power and control people. This was done in Germany by Hitler with his “racial cleansing” and is still used by some cults or leaders found around the world, but this is not really religion leading to violence, only persons using it as an excuse. Many people, unfortunately, view this as religion is violent.\
How does religion lead to violence?
The real question isn’t “How does religion lead to violence?” but is “should religion lead to violence?” and the answer to that is no. If you truly believe in God and that He is all-powerful, killing or hurting beings He created has to be offensive to Him as they are His children; may be lost, but still, His children and He has a place for them. God can’t convert them if they are dead and they are unlikely to be converted through the use of force or violence. Most parents don’t stop loving their children when they run away or do something wrong, why should God?
Even if you don’t believe in God you can be tolerant of those who do. Genghis Khan felt all should be allowed their individual religions as long as it didn’t hurt others, his empire controlled most of the known world and was one of the most culturally diverse to ever exist! Muslims, Jews, and Christians lived and worshiped in harmony alongside Hindu’s and Buddhist’s. Of course, if one religious person tried attracting another of a different faith, they were put to death, fanaticism wasn’t tolerated, use verbal persuasion!
So, how does religion lead to violence? Through misuse of religion, through fanaticism and not sharing, and though people that use religion for their own purposes. But it doesn’t have to lead to violence!