Holy Hate: The Far-Right’s Exploitation of Religion for Violence and Extremism

While the clash of civilizations often focuses on radical Islam, right-wing extremism is also a significant threat, exploiting religious beliefs and symbols to justify violence and criminal activity. This article examines the links between violent right-wing extremism and religion, highlighting various groups and ideologies that use faith as a driving force for their actions.

Groups like the “Soldiers of Odin,” “Phineas Priests,” and “Holy Warriors” use Christianity and other religions to justify violence. White supremacists, sovereign citizens, militia extremists, and violent anti-abortionists similarly employ religious concepts and scripture to rationalize their criminal activities.

White supremacist organizations, such as the Ku Klux Klan and the Creativity Movement, incorporate religious teachings, texts, and symbolism into their ideology. The KKK’s handbook, the Kloran, features biblical references and symbolism, while the Creativity Movement emphasizes moral conduct for the white race with its “Sixteen Commandments” and “Five Fundamental Beliefs.”

Racist religious movements, including Christian Identity and racist Nordic mythology, attract followers who share their bigoted beliefs. Phineas Priests, for example, see themselves as “God’s Holy Warriors,” advocating for martyrdom and violence against specific groups. Racial Nordic mysticism appeals to neo-Nazis, racist skinheads, and Aryan prison gang members, with some white supremacists gravitating towards Nordic mythological religions due to their affinity for Greek mythology, Celtic lore, or interest in Nazi Germany.

Militia extremists, who often revere America’s founding fathers and view the U.S. Constitution as divinely inspired, compare themselves to “Patriots” of the American Revolution and aim to return America to its perceived Judeo-Christian roots. Some militia movements are motivated by apocalyptic biblical prophecies, leading them to stockpile food, ammunition, and weapons. These extremists may organize armed protests outside Islamic centers, mosques, and gun stores that have declared themselves “Muslim Free Zones.”

Sovereign citizen extremists believe their doctrine is inspired and sanctioned by God, combining elements from the Magna Carta, the Bible, English common law, and 19th-century state constitutions. They often use biblical passages to justify not paying taxes, citing scriptures on usury and taking money from the poor.

Violent anti-abortion extremists, like the Army of God (AOG), use Christian religious beliefs and biblical scripture to justify their actions, aiming to rid the country of abortion practices. The AOG views its members as soldiers in God’s army and uses religious symbolism in its name and logo.

Religious concepts play a critical role in the recruitment, radicalization, and mobilization of violent right-wing extremists in the U.S. These extremists have used religion and scriptural interpretations in armed confrontations with the U.S. government, viewing government responses as tyrannical and overreaching. In order to address this growing threat, it is essential to understand and counter the far-right’s exploitation of religion for their violent agenda.

Sources: https://www.splcenter.org/fighting-hate/intelligence-report/2018/holy-hate-far-right%E2%80%99s-radicalization-religion

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