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Does religion ever condone torture?

In light of the recent Senate CIA torture report, Wichita-based Global Faith in Action decided it would benefit the community to address the issue of torture as connected to religious views. At various times throughout history, religion has been tied to the use of torture, but is torture ever justified by the principles of the religions themselves? Global Faith in Action asked local leaders of five different faith traditions to produce statements representing their religions’ positions on torture.

Islam

“With the name of G-d, the Merciful Benefactor, the Merciful Redeemer. It is a crime against humanity to torture or mistreat any human being. There is no way to qualify or justify that type of treatment to the human family.” – Imam Luzon Muhammad

Judaism

“If we look at Jewish sacred texts and how they have been interpreted by Jewish scholars over the millennia, we find some overarching principles regarding how one should treat another. Chief among them is that all humans are created betzelem Elohim, ‘in the divine image’ (Genesis 1:27). Also, gadol kevod habriot, ‘great is human dignity’ (BT, Berachot 21b, et al). Both of these speak directly against the practice of torture and fly in the face of any attempt at justification.” – Rabbi Michael Davis

Hinduism

“Hindu tradition emphasizes nonviolence (ahimsa) and explicitly limits combat or violence to self-defense only. And because Hindu religion strictly enjoins theistic behavior at all times, even in the case of self-defense, torture is never condoned. For example, Hindu scriptures state: ‘Ahimsa paramo dharma: nonviolence is the supreme duty, superseding all other duties’ (Mahabharata, Book 1, Chapter 11, text 12).” – Rev. David Carter (Hladini Shakti Das)

Sikhism

“In Sikhism, there is no justification to harm another individual. Sri Guru Granth Sahib clearly states: ‘Do not cause any being to suffer, and you shall go to your true home with honor,’ (page 322.16 part 2 of Book of Sikh Holy scriptures and hymns). In this text, ‘home’ means going back to God. It is believed that the purpose of every individual is to know yourself, know Truth (God), and live a life which leads us home.” – Surinder Moore

Christianity

“At the center of Jesus’ teachings is his call to love our enemies, and to do unto others as we would have them do unto us (Matthew 7:12). Torture doesn’t reflect the biblical truth that all humans are created in the image of God (Genesis 1:26, 27). Regardless of the circumstances, torture denies the preciousness of human life and the dignity of every human being. The reluctance of some in our nation to disavow torture under any circumstance lessens trust, reduces people to mere objects, and becomes a barrier to peace.” – Rev. Sam Muyskens

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