ISIS is playing God.  It is deciding who should live or die based on a narrow religious belief. If “Allahu akbar” (God is great) means anything, then shouldn’t Allah be the one deciding who should live or die?  If God is so dissatisfied with those who don’t believe as ISIS does, then shouldn’t God be the one sending a great flood to punish all the sinners?  If God destroyed the sinful cities of Sodom and Gomorrah, shouldn’t God be the one destroying the cities of the Yazidis for their “blasphemy” rather than ISIS?

Speaking of blasphemy, aren’t those who charge blasphemy against others being blasphemous themselves?  Is the supposed blasphemy against God or against their interpretation of God and God’s laws?

These truly blasphemous acts have been going on for millennia by people with all kinds of religious beliefs.

Jewish law called for stoning those who blasphemed against Yahweh.  But didn’t Yahweh give the commandment “Thou shalt not kill”?  Yahweh had no qualifiers on that commandment.  Yet within a few years, Joshua destroyed dozens of cities, supposedly on the command of the Lord God.  Was Joshua playing God to assume that he could freely kill the residents of these cities?  He “destroyed all that breathed, as the Lord God of Israel commanded.”  The Book of Joshua is one big compendium of violence and giving the spoils to the victors.

Irenaeus was a bishop in the early Christian church.  He railed against those who didn’t believe as he did.  He was so successful in banning alternative beliefs that books expounding other beliefs never made it into the canon, and those who had these books buried them in the desert.  An example is the Book of Judas.

Tomás de Torquemada was appointed grand inquisitor in Spain.  He had many Jews and Muslims tortured and killed because he deemed that they didn’t fully and sincerely convert to Christianity.  His name has become synonymous with overbearing interrogation.  Ironically, he himself was a descendant of Jews.

Of course, Protestants weren’t innocent either.  Jean Calvin, originally a Catholic, was an active opponent of Michael Servetus’ anti-trinitarianism.  Calvin was instrumental in having Servetus burned at the stake by order of the Geneva city council.

The Church of England, albeit not strictly Protestant, fined people in the 1500s for not attending church. The 1559 Act of Uniformity penalized those who conducted unofficial services.  Some who did conduct unofficial service were executed for sedition.

The Pilgrims escaped England because they did not like the trappings of the Anglican Church and the imposition of religious conformity.  One group fled to North America and landed in Massachusetts.  They in turn demanded conformity.  The Quakers upset this conformity, often with disruptive acts.  The Pilgrims tried throwing them out, but they would return.  They hung some and bored holes in the tongues of others.  Mormons and Jehovah’s Witnesses should be glad they live in our times.  They only get doors slammed in their faces.

Is it any wonder that the writers of the Constitution included ““no religious Test shall ever be required as a Qualification to any Office or public Trust under the United States”?  It is also a wonder that many “strict constructionists” want to have prayer breakfasts and have candidates meet with religious leaders, and call into question the Christianity of the president.

Jack Whitley was asked to resign as chairman of the Big Stone County Republican Party because of his Facebook comments that Muslims are “parasites” and “terrorists.”  What if he had an “Office or public Trust under the United States”?  Would his vile remarks be considered failing a “religious” test?

Unfortunately, these hateful attitudes are not just held by those who call themselves Christian or Muslim.  From the movie “Gandhi” with Ben Kingsley, I remember the hateful remark of a distraught Hindu father: “Muslims killed my baby!  I want to kill Muslims!”  Muslims in Burma have been persecuted by Buddhists many times for over 600 years; it continues even to today.  This doesn’t resonate with one of the Eight Truths of Buddhism: Right Action: Acting in a non-harmful way.

I am always suspicious of anyone who claims to speak for God, whether they go up a mountain or read from some book that is full of contradictory advice.  Especially when they call for the expulsion or murder of people who don’t hold exactly the same views as they do.  These hateful people forget one of the most important words in their holy books: forgiveness.

In addition to the Buddhist Right Action, there are

“Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself” (Leviticus 19:18, Matthew 22:39, and elsewhere)

“...and you should forgive and overlook: Do you not like God to forgive you?” (Qur’an: Surah 24, v. 22)

My favorite, though, is

“What is hateful to yourself, do not to do to your fellow man.  That is the whole Torah; the rest is just commentary.  Go and study it.” (Rabbi Hillel, a contemporary of Jesus, Talmud Shabbat 31a)

You can find more of Mel’s non-conformist musings at