Imagine this happening where you live:
X kills her two sons ages 6 and 8, smashing their heads with a rock. She explains that God came to her to say the world was ending and she needed to “get her house in order”.
Y attacks a neighboring village with a group of like-minded men. They round up the women they find and force them to return with them. They tell the women that God wants them to be married and they are kept as sexual slaves by their captors.
Z and a group of his friends go into a neighboring village and steal the harvest of the farmers there. They burn the farm buildings and the neighbor’s child dies in the blaze. Z justifies it all by saying the land belongs to him because God gave it to him and the people who live there have to be driven out.
What is the difference between these examples? In the third, Z could also provide some writings from long ago that in his mind prove what God’s will is. But really, aren’t they the same in the end? How would any of us react to a neighbor announcing that God wanted any of these things? A call to the nearest police station would result, which is precisely what happened to X, a Christian Texas woman who was judged insane. But if she is insane, why not Y and Z as well? As you’ve probably guessed, Y is an Islamist adherent of Boko Haram or IS, and Z is a Jewish settler in the West Bank, all doing God’s work.
Why would an unbiased reader condemn all three of these behaviors? It’s because most of us have a concept of the Good or the Divine Will or Right and Wrong–call it what you like– that rules out killing, stealing, rape. We don’t need to appeal to God for authority or look in a sacred text, we know in our hearts what is wrong. Any outsider would call X, Y and Z delusional, even with the Old Testament as exhibit A. Did God really dictate the boundaries of that real estate deal in the Middle East way back when? How do we know? If the answer is “we know in our hearts” that’s what X said as she murdered her own children. If the answer is “we know because that’s what we’ve been taught” we’re closer to a way to prevent these sorts of tragedies: better curriculum, better teaching. Start with compassion, not real estate. Start with the here and now and real-live human beings.