Every religion has lovers and fighters, thinkers and thugs. Perhaps it’s the nature of religion, or perhaps it’s the nature of human being. The jury is still out on why, but I think that has already been settled.

Lovers are those who select the most affable bits of their religion and work to harmonize with others. These are your warm-hearted Imams, your charming boddhavistas, your glad priests, etc. They use their sacred scriptures to orient themselves toward unity, charity, and peace.

Fighters are those who select the most hostile sliver of their religion and seek to dominate and humiliate others. These are your conquerors, your inquisitors, your faith militant. They use their sacred scriptures to justify their colonial, theocratic pursuits.

It’s rare you get someone who walks the balance between lover and fighter. If you meet one, they’re likely a recovering fighter striving to become more loving because of their faith; or, they’re a wounded lover, temporarily lashing out.

But both lovers and fighters can be either thinkers or thugs.

Thinkers are those who use their intellect to draw connections through scripture, tradition, and reason. They scrutinize behaviors and search out logical conclusions to patterns, practices, and policies.

Thugs are those driven by impulse. They act, and then defend those actions before they understand what motivated them in the first place.

You can be a loving thinker, or a loving thug. A loving thinker is a serious student of scripture who highlights and emphasizes virtue, valor, and mercy. A loving thug will leap into the fray without concern for their own wellbeing, eager to protect, to defend, and to rescue.

You can be a fighting thinker, or a fighting thug. A fighting thinker will exhaustively pursue truth in order to eradicate falsehood, whatever the cost and whomever may suffer. A fighting thug is quick with their mouth and faster with their fists, only later assigning blame to their opponent for the initial provocation.

Can you be good as a lover, a fighter, a thinker, or a thug?

Whatever your religion…no. I’m not naive enough to plead that we all just get along. Every religion has more than enough blood on her hands to justify scorn. But there are those within each faith who, nevertheless, work for the common good. We all need to celebrate their commitment to peace as much as we deride their fellows’ propensity for violence.

Religiously motivated violence is the ugliest disease on earth; so, whether with our brains or with our hands, let’s be better lovers than fighters.