A Hellish Week For Religion?

That’s what CNN says: “Religion’s week from hell.”

Whether you believe that religious violence is fueled by faith or is a symptom of larger factors — political instability, poverty, cultural chaos — one thing seems clear: Last week was hellish for religion. …

The causes of violence are complex, and reducing them to talking points only adds to the problem, scholars say. But if you want to rally troops to your side, few tools are more powerful than religion, said Michael Jerryson, co-editor of “The Oxford Handbook of Religion and Violence.”

“If you can turn a battle into good versus evil, or doing God’s will, you will get so much more devotion,” he told CNN. “It’s a calling that invokes more than the mundane; it raises the stakes.”

So the problem is “religion”? Hmm. Let’s see. These are the incidents that CNN cites; which of these is not like the others?

* Monday: Boko Haram, the Muslim militant group based in Nigeria, attacked several towns in neighboring Cameroon, kidnapping 20 people. The Islamic extremists also detonated a car bomb in Niger….

* Tuesday: Craig Stephen Hicks, an ardent atheist who railed online against religion, was accused of killing three young Muslims in Chapel Hill, North Carolina.

* Wednesday: ISIS, the Muslim militant group that calls itself the “Islamic State,” launched several attacks across Iraq, striking Kurdish forces in the North and Iraqi civilians in Baghdad.

* Thursday: Al Qaeda killed four Yemeni soldiers while seizing a critical military base in the town of Baihan, taking control of its weaponry, according to local security officials.

* Friday: Boko Haram continued its cross-border attacks, killing four civilians and a soldier in neighboring Chad.

* Saturday: A gunman opened fire at a free-speech forum in Copenhagen, Denmark, where a Swedish cartoonist who had depicted the Prophet Mohammed was scheduled to speak. … Hours after the cafe attack, police said, the gunman made his way to a Copenhagen synagogue and once again opened fire.

* Sunday: In a new video released Sunday by ISIS, the militant group claims to have beheaded over a dozen members of Egypt’s Christian minority on a Libyan beach.

What we have here is a series of atrocities carried out by extremist members of one religion, Islam. You could compile a similar list just about any week out of the year. What makes this a story about “religion,” rather than about Islam? The gratuitous inclusion of liberal Democrat Craig Hicks. But Hicks wasn’t motivated by religious extremism; he is an atheist. And there is zero evidence that the fact that his victims were Muslims had anything to do with his crime. If the victims had been Catholics, we never would have heard of Hicks.

Barack Obama is widely ridiculed for sticking his head in the sand with regard to the dangers posed by Islamic extremism, but he isn’t the only one.

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