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I wanted to title this how to combat religious extremism. But, those who hold to extreme views of God according to their interpretation of the Bible are not typically beheading people. True spiritual leaders don’t advocate blowing up others but sacrifice their own life to influence others. We all want to do our part in making this a better world. God bless the men and women who take the fight to ISIS. Certain evils just require guns than words. I doubt there are any pacifists when their child is being attacked. Terrorists don’t believe in isolationism but seek to kill those in other lands who don’t hold to their same personal beliefs.

We desperately need our brave soldiers to combat their warriors. We can do our best to prevent others from becoming warriors. We must combat radicalization. First, we must inform authorities even on our own family members when we notice beliefs that can lead to killing innocent people. Also, we must examine our own personal beliefs of a loving God to discern if they can negatively influence or be construed as extreme. We must err on the side of debatable interpretations that are less likely to violate the rights of others. A loving God surely respects the freedom of beliefs in this life and after death, encourages men and women to be equally vulnerable to one another, seeks only to convert others from evil actions, and guides through a relationship and not a book written thousands of years ago.

The Law must insist on certain beliefs to avoid the violation of rights of others. We can’t yell fire in a movie theatre if there is no fire because lives can be endangered trying to escape. We can’t murder or steal. But, we have a right to form our own personal beliefs as long as they don’t violate the rights of others. It is so critical to understand the God of the Bible has determined love is the freedom to believe in God or not. God understands controlling decisions doesn’t results in true love. Freedom is necessary for authenticity, the highest good in relationships. Any religion that is based on control than service is not truly religious.

It is important to defend not only does God respect the right to choose your own personal beliefs in this life, but God does not torture people after death for such decisions. God doesn’t control decisions in this lifetime or the life to come. The traditional understanding of Hell, where you will burn forever after death for not believing in God while on earth, is highly debatable and morally indefensible. Jesus used the word Gehenna, wrongly translated as Hell in the New Testament, to illustrate how spiritual death is as horrible as physical death. Gehenna was a real valley near Jerusalem that was used as a dump where fires were kept burning that enemies disposed of those slaughtered. God is a respecter of freedom in this life and the life to come.

Terrorists and other religious extremists always have views that proscribe gender roles more oppressive for women than men. Women do not need male leadership; women need unselfish men who have the heart of a servant. Even loving leadership invites men in impasses to solve conflicts differently than through normal conflict resolution means between two friends. God did not create a male-controlled relationship in the beginning. The God of the Bible does not suggest women are under the authority of men as if half the world needs a mediator with God. This encourages dominance on the man’s part and dependence on the woman’s part. Couples are free to agree on their own roles in marriage, but we must not insist the Bible teaches women are to be submissive to men in a way men are not similarly submissive to women.

The primary goal of terrorists and religious extremists is conversion. I believe Christianity or any religion must differentiate enough by avoiding conversion as its main thrust. It is unavoidable to attempt to convince others of moral beliefs that encourage treating others like you want to be treated, but we must avoid attempts to convert other to a set of beliefs associated with our religion. Jesus had no evangelical spiel and other sought to encourage people to shun evil and do good. Jesus encouraged spirituality for self-interest and the interests of others. Jesus did want us to know God was the kind of Creator or Parent who desired a friendship to encourage such a journey. The desire to convert suggests a hidden or not so hidden agenda that isn’t friendly. We simply must love others as they want to be loved and can share in natural ways we are convinced our Creator has our back. Since Hell doesn’t exist and billions have lived who have never heard of Jesus or the Bible, a loving God would not require certain beliefs for a relationship.

Lastly, we must not insist a Book is more important than one’s personal relationship with God. Interpretations of writings written thousands of years ago are fallible. Discuss opinions gracefully as you embark upon a journey with your God. Jesus when leaving this earth didn’t promise to leave us with a Bible but His Spirit so we might be able to discern evil from good (Jn. 14:16). The Bible was never meant to be used as a rule book. Jesus would advise a woman to turn the other cheek for an abusive husband. Read the Bible as a story about God. Develop a relationship with God and others. As you get to know God, God will guide you on your journey.

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