"The most heinous and the most cruel crimes of which history has record have been committed under the cover of religion." -- Mahatma Gandhi (1869-1948)
Whether its jihadi terrorists, crusading rapists or holy conquerors, it seems that our history is replete with great religions creating great suffering. As peace talks between the Israelis and Palestinians wage in Washington, the media loves to tell us stories of the "Jewish" state committing heinous crimes against the Palestinians and the "Muslim" terrorists committing murderous atrocities against the Israelis. Apparently, this intends to accentuate the ethnic and religious nature of the territorial conflict. It seems that we are witnessing yet again one religious group of humans fearing, hating and killing another group of humans in the name of the Creator of all humankind. As George Carlin said "Thou shalt try real hard not to kill anyone, unless of course they pray to a different invisible man than you."
This was my inspiration for creating this comic. To remind the world that it is not "Jews" vs "Muslims" but criminals vs criminals. In other words, I believe that it is not the inherent religion that spawns religious warfare but the corrupt leaders who twist their peoples doctrine to serve their own agenda. The true face of religion is the love, peace, and spirituality that is taught through the various individual prisms of her origin, culture, and rituals. The terrorists who decide to use religion as an excuse to bring hell upon this world do not deserve the title of "Muslim," "Jew," or "Christian." Remember that not that many years ago, it was the Muslims who welcomed and saved the Jews from the marauding Crusaders. Yet now we see it is the Christian nations of the world that welcome and support the Jewish state against its Islamic enemies. Obviously, the dogma of the religions didn't change as much as the vision of the religious leaders. When religious leaders with a new vision rise to grace, the distinction is palpable to us although they may follow the same rituals, practices, and scriptures as their predecessors. Recently elected Pope Francis may be a case in point. When we can start envisioning a world where we care for more than just our pack or our flock, then we can truly enter a messianic utopia of peace where "the wolf shall lie with the lamb." (Isaiah 11:6).
You might challenge this sentiment and retort "Stop being so stubbornly naive as to the inherent hate that is preached in religious scripture itself?" Does not the Hadith state "Wherever you find [infidels] kill them; for there will be a reward for their killers on the Day of Resurrection."? Does not the New Testament state "But those enemies of mine who did not want me to be king over them -- bring them here and kill them in front of me." (Luke 19:27)? And doesn't the Torah state "However, in the cities of the nations the Lord your God is giving you as an inheritance, do not leave alive anything that breathes." (Deuteronomy 20: 16-18)?
To this I have one thing to tell you. You are right.
Although just a rabbi, I believe that my Jewish, Christian and Muslim brothers and sisters share a similar view of a Creator who created this amazing world for love. I believe that we, who are "created in the image of the Lord" (Genesis 1:27), have been placed upon this earth to pursue peace and "love they neighbor as thyself" (Leviticus 19:18). I believe in a God who placed a holy soul into my flesh to "Turn from evil and do good; seek peace and pursue it." (Psalms 34:14).
So, when I read these verses, I am presented with two logical options; dismiss it or reinterpret it. Dismiss it as fallacy of a man-made conjuring or reinterpret it to strictly refer to a specific time, person or place.
But there may also be a third option. One that is illogical. One that is irreverent. And one that has been modeled by one of the greatest religious characters of Judaism, Christianity and Islam.
To be like Moses who criticized God for His purposed immorality against the sinners of the Golden Calf (Numbers 14:12). To use our God-given brain to argue morality with God. To understand that it is not blind dogmatic adherence that Moses modeled but an audacious trust in his own intrinsic moral sensitivity that caused the Creator of All There Is to say "I have forgiven them, as you asked." (Numbers 14:20). This passage is one of the most glossed over yet most precious passages of the Bible. The moment where a finite human mind relies on its limited intelligence to successfully persuade the Infinite Intelligence of All Time. As Rabbi Shlomo Rothstein of Vanderbilt Chabad once taught me, "It is not so much the dogma of religion that we desire but the ever evolving relationship with God that is our greatest treasure."
Therefore, I'd like to conclude with a call that the Jews, Muslims, and Christians of the world who believe in a God of Peace unite together to openly denounce all forms of violent extremism that has poisoned the true vision of our religions. That Jews be like Moses who said" Why are you hitting your friend?" (Exodus 2:13). To be like Mohammed who said "Shall I not inform you of a better act than fasting, alms, and prayers? Making peace between one another." (Sayings of the Prophet Muhammed). To be like Jesus who said "Blessed are the peacemakers, for they shall be called sons of God." (Matthew 5:9).
CORRECTION: The following quote was incorrectly attributed to the Quran: "Wherever you find infidels kill them; for whoever kills them shall have reward on the Day of Resurrection." It comes from a Hadith, a report of the sayings or deeds credited to Muhammad.