Usually in the U.S when we think of Buddhists, we conjure up images in our heads of peaceful monks meditating or perhaps Richard Gere. Often we romanticize Eastern religions rather than say demonize as some do with Muslims.
That is unless you might come across a bunch of articles I read a couple of weeks ago. All over many of the sites on the internet where I read my news, they all seem to include articles about Buddhists burning down Muslim homes. I suppose it was because we don’t think of Buddhists in terms of a violent sect and Muslims as the victims of violence by a religious group.
Those classifications is what I find interesting–those kinds of constructions that we make, rather than say the acts of violence themselves (after all, violence is an everyday event somewhere in the world). Are religions inherently violent or peaceful? I suspect those who might think they are also think that there is an inherent essence to all religions. (I’m not the biggest fan of Joseph Campbell)
Bruce Lincoln in his Theses on Religion & Violence said “Religious considerations are never the sole determining factor and there is no necessary relation between religion and violence. In most instances, religious considerations probably help to inhibit violence. But when religious discourse, authority, or communal identity are deployed in such a way as to facilitate the leap from non-violent to violent conflict, they can be enormously effective in accomplishing what Kierkegaard called ‘the religious suspension of the ethical'”.
I will add to Bruce’s statement. When we romanticize or demonize a religious group, we are in fact reinforcing that very religious discourse and communal identity of which he speaks.