You hear this phrase all the time. Whether the speaker means that God is all loving, or that love itself is God, it’s a comforting sentiment. The kind of person who would say that is not the kind who would worship a vengeful God, a God who could condemn frail mankind to everlasting damnation- that’s why we hear it said at UU churches so often.
The problem is that the kind of person who would say that frequently cannot understand the type of person who worships the vengeful God. They cannot believe that anyone really, down deep, believes it. They all too often tend to think that a person espousing hatred in the name of God is only using religion for their own ends, that a true religion could not advocate violence. They are wrong. It’s gratifying that so many people cannot believe that sincere, profound religious faith could possibly lead to violence, mass murder, genocide, but they are wrong. This misunderstanding leads to mishandling any situation that involves it.
This misunderstanding caused the tragedy in Waco. The “experts” in the Justice Dept. advised Janet Reno that nobody could really believe that stuff- the gullible Branch Davidian followers, perhaps, but their leader couldn’t possibly actually believe it. They believed that David Koresh was just another religious scam artist, and if they hit them hard he would fold. Big mistake- one that resulted in a holocaust that cost a lot of innocent lives.
I hear the same misunderstanding frequently in any discussion of the troubles in the Middle East. When one points outs that the charter of Hamas calls for the obliteration of Israel, otherwise sensible people say “They don’t really mean that- they’re practical people; give them the right deal and they’ll accept it.” No, they won’t. Or rather, they will accept concessions, then go on killing anyway... because they really do believe it. They really do believe the existence of a Jewish state is an insult to Islam. The reason for the attacks is not the Israeli treatment of Palestinians, or the exact borders of Israel; the problem is the existence of Israel. They do not want a restoration of the 1967 borders, they want the 1947 borders.
There are other Muslims who believe in the World Caliphate. They call the United States “The Great Satan” not because the US supports Israel, or because of economic injustice, or because of environmental concerns; the oppose the U.S. because it is committed to secular government. To someone like Osama Bin Laden, the greatest tragedy in human history was when Turkey stripped the Caliphate of secular power and became a secular state. This is why Al Queida started targeting Iraqis instead of US soldiers after the elections; the concept of a secualar Iraq is anathema to them. They really do believe that there are only three things a Muslim can do when meeting an unbeliever: convert him, subjugate him, or kill him.
Yes, I hear you screaming at me, “Islam is a religion of peace! You’re misinterpreting those passages, it’s a bad translation!”. Fine, I believe you- but I’m not the one you have to convince. I’m not the one slowly sawing a man’s head off, drowning out his screams with shouts of “God is great!”. It’s not gentiles you must convince that Islam is a religion of peace- it’s Muslims who need to be convinced of that. And yes, it’s a minority of Muslims who believe in violence- but it’s a much larger minority than the “God is love” crowd believes it is. To field a soldier- any soldier, be it American, Israeli, or Hezbollah- a huge support staff is required. That soldier must be trained, equipped, fed, clothed, housed, and paid. His weapons must be paid for, maintenanced, stored in good condition. Heavy weapons, such as the Katyusha rockets Hezbollah is firing off at such a prodigious rate, require large crews, equally well trained. And when you have 13,000 such rockets, you also need a huge building and maintenance staff just to store them.
My point? If there are 100,000 terrorists worldwide, (remember that attacks aren’t limited to the ME; it occurs in Africa, India, Malaysia, Russia, the Philippines, other places), then there are millions of Muslims directly supporting them, and there are tens of millions more who know exactly what’s going on but will never tell the authorities. Still a minority of Islam, to be sure- but big enough to ensure that there will never be peace. And no solution can be found until everyone- Muslim, Christian, Jew, Buddhist, Pagan or Atheist understands what the problem is. Until you understand that millions of people really do believe that God calls for innocent (in western eyes) men, women, and children to be killed on a daily basis, you are part of the problem.