According to chapter 4 of Jennifer Wright Knust’s book Unprotected Texts, religions regularly insult one another to justify, or account for, an array of violence, oppression, and exclusion.
Knust begins her chapter with a remark from the controversial religious figure Reverend Jerry Falwell. Two days after the September 11, 2001 attacks in the United States, Falwell publicly declared that America deserved to be attacked on account of the “pagans, abortionists, feminists,” LGBTQ+ persons, and others who were trying to “secularize America.” In Falwell’s formula, America's absence of religion was an insult to God, who made his wrath known with the events of September 11th.
Another religious figure, Reverend Jerry Vines, offered a different yet equally controversial opinion. Vines believed September 11th occurred because Islam was intrinsically corrupt. According to Vines, Islam is centered on a “demon-possessed pedophile” and Allah is not a genuine God.
While Falwell’s and Vines’s comments might be jarring and unsettling to a fair number of people, they’re not, as Knust shows, without historical precedent. Throughout the Bible, religious demagogy functioned as a way to avoid accountability for violence and to assert the dominance of one religion over another.
To separate the Israelites and the Christians from the supposedly inferior Canaanites, Babylonians, and Gentiles, the Bible is replete with religio-sexual insults against the latter. According to Knust, these groups are consistently accused of “sexually disgusting religious practices” and “sacred prostitution.” Again, such sinister charges have a specific function. They’re a way to preemptively rationalize any possible destruction or displacement done by the Hebrew God.