FIRST INTO HEAVEN: COULD YOU BECOME A JIHADIST?

"Bitter, Miss Shea? Oh, no. My trust is in Allah, and it was his will. The prophet tells us that those who accept hardships go first into heaven." - Malmut Adjani, p. 190

Of religion's many benefits, its most precious may be its ability to soothe life's torments, to soften one's tragedies, and to give hope that no matter how deep the pain, all will be well in the end. For true believers, solace can always be found... But what of the flip side of faith, of its darkest side, of fanatical clergy infusing their young followers with hatred and promises of a fast track to heaven if they would only follow the holy men's path through terror and violence?

We think of atrocities in the name of Islam: of Paris and the Twin Towers, of wholesale murder by Al Qaeda, ISIS, and Boko Haram, of the Armenian massacre, and of Indonesia's attempt to exterminate its Catholic minority. How could God-loving people be manipulalted by men they deem holy to commit such abominable crimes? And why only in the name of Allah? Surely we Christians, Jews, and Hindus could never do the same.

Maybe so, maybe no... But before you mount your high horse and declare all Muslims devils, look to the recent and more distant past. Look to India and south Asia where monks incite gangs of Hindus to rampage through Muslim villages clubbing women and children to death. Look to the innocents who die as "collateral damage" in Israeli invasions. Look to 1990's Bosnia, to the WWII genocide of Muslims, Roma, Jews, and Orthodox by Catholic fascists, and in the same war to the extermination of six million souls for the crime of being a Jew. Look to the French Catholics who murdered thousands of Hugenots in their beds, to the gleeful slaughter of American "savages," to the Mormon massacre, to the wanton killing of non-Christians by the Crusaders, to Joshua as he obeyed god's command to slaughter whole cities. Look back and then look forward.

What of your faith and its tolerance of other denominiations and religions? What does your pastor, rabbi, or monk tell you? Certainly they could never lead you to terror...