It has been said more people have been killed by their fellow man in the name of God than for any other purpose. A look at history seems to reinforce this notion. Indeed, it is estimated between 3,000 and 5,000 people died in the Spanish Inquisition alone, many tortured to death for committing the crime of refusing to deny their own religion and embrace Catholicism.
The Catholic Church does not deny this; indeed it would be pointless to do so. The Spanish Inquisition is only one inquisition the Church carried out, not to mention various Crusades and other violent endeavors undertaken over the course of centuries.
Such a horrible concept, doing evil in the name of good, seems incomprehensible to most of us. And to kill in the name of God runs contrary to what most people who consider themselves Christians believe.
The Catholic Church, as well as other Christian denominations, has moved beyond force-feeding God down the throats of others. But the history is there.
Indeed, hating in the name of Christianity may no longer be a policy of the Catholic Church, but there are still those who call themselves Christian while exhibiting quite un-Godly behavior. The Westboro Baptist Church and the Ku Klux Klan come to mind.
But no one objects to building a church on the grounds that people were killed under its banner. There are churches in Spain, in Seville and Barcelona where the Inquisition killed hundreds, thousands of people.
Those churches stand because they are not monuments to evil, they are not tributes to those who twist and distort religion, making themselves into martyrs by killing in the name of Christianity.
They are houses worship, as well as fellowship and learning. People who attend these churches do so in order to practice their religion, not to rub salt in the wounds of Jews or Muslims.
So why they outcry about building a house of worship at the site of another crime against humanity carried out in the name of God? Why insist building a mosque at Ground Zero be stopped?
The Muslim world has loudly and strongly explained that extremists, those who use the name of that religion to perpetuate hate, carried out the 9/11 attacks on the World Trade Center. These people do not exemplify or represent the Islamic ideal, in fact, it has been said, quite the opposite.
Much like the Westboro Baptist Church teaches it is proper to hate, just as the Klan denounces the Catholic Church, just as the Catholic Church killed Jews.
The legalities of the issues are complicated. Constitutional law, federal and state rights, city zoning ordinances, lawsuits and groups and movements are tangled up in a web of outcries on both sides. I won't begin to address those.
But we are a nation established, in part, to ensure our right to practice, or not practice, whatever religion we choose. Religious freedom requires religious tolerance. It requires acceptance of others religion, even if that religion has in some way been used to do evil.
A house of worship should not be used as an issue to divide people of different religions or political persuasions. If the world can forgive the Inquisition, can't America forgive as well?