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Friday, 28 September, 2001, 15:05 GMT 16:05 UK
Faith was hijacked too - a personal view
The Rt Rev Dr David Jenkins, the former Bishop of Durham, argues that Jews, Christians and Muslims must ask themselves what their faiths have done for the world.

Since the age of 12, I have consciously and simply believed in God - and, believe it or not, I still do.

My way of finding out about God and being in touch with him has been a lifetime of studying the Bible, reflecting on Christian worship and traditions and seeking to share what I was finding out with my neighbours, Christian and others. This has included contacts with both Jews and Muslims.

Now the explosions in New York and Washington seem to have blown everything sky high.

We too often get God wrong and put God in the wrong

Those of us who claim to know and be known by a God who reveals himself have to ask ourselves what our receiving of "revelation" has done for us and for the world.

For what the acts of the Muslim terrorists reveal to us is that we 'Peoples of the Book' - the Jews with their Torah and the Prophets, we Christians with the Bible, and Muslims with the Koran - too often get God wrong and put God in the wrong.

It is clear that anyone claiming to be a Muslim and a faithful worshipper of Allah, the Compassionate and the Merciful, who also claims that the terrorists died in glorious martyrdom for Allah is uttering the clearest blasphemy.

Not alone

But Jews and Christians also seem to have been "getting God wrong". The present condition of Israel surely challenges very disturbingly the religious claim that Jerusalem and Palestine belong to the Jews in their modern role of citizens of the State of Israel because God gave it to them by conquest in the time of Moses and Joshua and has now given it back to them by conquest in modern times.

What we have now is a military state in the midst of conflict with displaced Palestinian Arabs. Can it be that the one, true and only God of all the earth has promised and guaranteed this sort of 'Holy Land'?

We must face the atheism which the terrorist hijacking of the religious faith of Peoples of the Book is clearly encouraging.

But, again, why did the Jews need a modern state and territory of their own? Because of a long history of anti-Semitism in the Christian West. Who put some nationalistic Jews back in Palestine with a chance of statehood which they bravely and vigorously seized? It was the Western "Christian" powers from after the end of World War I in a process which was hardly considerate to the Arabs.


The issue of Muslim countries largely belonging to the most poverty-stricken parts of the world, while the United States is the leader of the flourishing capitalist world clearly plays a focusing part in producing the distress and resentment from which Islamic terrorism emerges and which it claims to represent.

But we who persist in being faithful Jews, Christians or Muslims - believing that our faithfulness is focused in the one true and merciful God - must face the atheism which the terrorist hijacking of the religious faith of "Peoples of the Book" is clearly encouraging.

Religious self-righteousness is as clearly destructive as secular self-centred demands for revenge above all and at all costs. It looks as if - whether we believe in a merciful God or not - that "Except we repent [and think again very hard and searchingly] we shall all likewise perish".

This is one of a series of differing opinions on the War on Terror which we shall be publishing in the coming days. You can send your view about this or other articles by using the form below.

Your views:

God must be cringing at the mess we are all creating. If all the good books agree on who God is, why does the way in which we choose to recognise this entity result in so much bloodshed?.
Stewart, England

The attacks on the United States were acts committed by religious people, firmly convinced of their possession of religious truth. It is hard to imagine an atheist becoming so confused and deranged that they would commit such a heinous crime. That's not because atheists are perfect, but because no human being could bring themselves to perform such an act unless they had been misled into believing some fundamentalist doctrine, and religious doctrines with all their false promises are the only ones powerful enough for this.
Doug B, UK

I like to make the distinction between 'religion' and 'faith'. I use 'faith' to express my belief and trust in the God of the Bible. I use 'religion' to mean the practices and rituals of groups of people, usually nominally associated with a faith.
Stephen Bull, UK

Since David Jenkins made it quite plain, in his disastrous tenure as Bishop of Durham, that he doesn't wish to subscribe to much standard Christian doctrine, might I suggest that his views, in so far as they represent Christianity, be thoroughly discounted ?
James Rodley, UK

The God of Yeshua (Jesus) is a very practical God, and much good, most of it unpublicised, has been done throughout the world by those of His followers who have taken His words seriously.
John Whapshott, UK

Perhaps if religions could agree on priorities for the future, instead of blinkeredly fighting battles of the past, then the rules of global economics might become less secular.
Ian Jenkins (no relation), UK

Humanism (and atheism) recognises at the same time both the one-ness and the inherent diversity of humanity and removes the "justification" for any course of action that religion provides. It represents the absence of extremism of any kind, either "good" or "bad". The attack on the World Trade Centre could not have happened in a world without religion.
Paul Tout, Italy

The worrying thing about religion in general for me is that it at some level removes the responsibility for making moral decisions from people. Instead, they look to religious leaders (whether they be 'official' religious leaders such as vicars, priests, popes, rabbis or people such as Bin Laden who twist religious messages to serve their own ends) to supply them with information about what is right and wrong.
Dan Norcott, UK

Being a Christian, I understand the bishop's message and personally am looking forward to the day that the state and faith in all countries are unrelated. Then the actions of both countries and individuals would not represent a particular faith, or creed - but what they are, Man's.
John B, United Kingdom

I agree with everything said by the Bishop. Contrary to the view that has been perpetuated by some journalists following the attacks, it is not "religion" which is the problem. It is the politicisation of religion - the use of religion as a tool for controlling people's minds and behaviour - which is the real problem.
David Hazel, UK

I definitely agree that all of us on this earth have used God's name to senseless gains. No holy book has taught their people to kill each other.
Sami Mohammed, USA

I have no idea why these ludicrous "multi-faith" Christians are being rolled out to give us the benefit of their simplistic, weak-minded views of the current crisis. Britain is no longer a Christian country in any meaningful sense. The collision we are currently observing is between Islamic fundamentalism and secular liberal humanism, not between Islam and Christianity.
Michael Entill, UK

Dr Jenkins' view that we "must face the atheism..." is horrendously offensive to those of us without any need for fictional deities. If Dr Jenkins had said "we must face the Muslims" or we must "face the Jews", or "we must face the blacks", then there'd be an uproar. Why are atheists considered fair game?
Jon, England

Just a thought on reading Doug B saying an atheist would never commit such deranged acts. Thank goodness Stalin was such a sensitive man as was Hitler both of whom saw no need for God and ended up wiping out more of humanity that most wars put together
Michael Savage, Scotland

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