Al Jazeera interviews Karen Armstrong on religion and violence.

Karen Armstrong is a British author, scholar, and former nun. She is the acclaimed author of the recent book Fields of Blood. Last week she appeared on the Al Jazeera show UpFront, where the host of the show Mehdi Hasan asked her whether religion can be blamed for the violence in the world today.

Armstrong said that religion is not inherently violent; it is implicated in most of the conflicts that are happening in the world today. In fact, religion has always been blamed for the wars and the violence that have happened in the past. However, when countries go to war, there are always multiple reasons involved: military, territorial, and above all economic reasons.

Hasan then asked her about ISIL and Boko Haram, who are waging war specifically in the name of religion, who says that they are waging a holy war for God. Armstrong said that the two terrorist outfits are just using religion as a front. Most of the leaders in the ISIL are members of Saddam Hussein’s disbanded army who were, and are part of the response to the American and British invasion of Iraq. Most of the young people joining the ISIL do not know much about Islam.

Armstrong cited a case where two youths, before joining ISIL, bought a copy of the Koran for Dummies and Islam for Dummies to know about Islam and Koran.

Hasan, during the show, also debated about the new atheism that considers religion as evil or harmful, with two of the top atheists, Lawrence Krauss, American Theoretical Physicist and Cosmologist, and Greg Epstein, the current Humanist Chaplain at Harvard University. Krauss, being very blunt, said that believing in any supernatural deity is “silly.” According to him, religion has a chokehold on morality and the sense that you should never talk about it in a wrong way. Epstein, who did not criticize religion outright during the show, said that it is better for everyone to just get along. He said that the world sees religion as their culture, so, when people who do not belong to any religion or who do not believe in God says something against religion/God, it is considered as disrespectful. He also said during the interview that Craig Stephen Hicks, the person who killed three Muslims in North Carolina last year, was an anti-theist.

According to Mehdi Hasan, based on global statistics, the world’s largest religions are actually on the rise.

This episode of UpFront was taken prior to the terrorist attack perpetrated by ISIL during the Bastille Day celebrations in Nice, France, last week.

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