Text analysis answers: Is the Quran really more violent than the Bible? (Part 2 of 3)
Text analysis answers: Is the Quran really more violent than the Bible? (Part 2 of 3) by Tom H. C. Anderson
Part II: Emotional Analysis Reveals Bible is “Angriest”
In my previous post, I discussed our potentially hazardous plan to perform a comparative analysis using an advanced data mining platform—OdinText—across three of the most important texts in human history: The Old Testament, The New Testament and the Quran.
Author’s note: For more details about the data sources and methodology, please see Part I of this series.
The project was inspired by the ongoing public debate around whether or not terrorism connected with Islamic fundamentalism reflects something inherently and distinctly violent about Islam compared to other major religions.
Before sharing the first set of results with you here today, due to the sensitive nature of this topic, I feel obliged to reiterate that this analysis represents only a cursory, superficial view of just the texts, themselves. It is in no way intended to advance any agenda or to conclusively prove anyone’s point.
Step 1: Sentiment Analysis
We started with a high-level look at Sentiment—positive and negative—and overall results were fairly similar: approx. 30% positive and 20% negative sentiment for each of the three texts. The Old Testament looked to have slightly more negative sentiment than either the New Testament or the Quran, but let’s come back to that later in more detail…
Staying at a high level, I was curious to see what the longitudinal pattern looked like across each of the three texts. Looking for any positive emotion in the texts from beginning to end allows us to get a sense how they progress longitudinally. (See figure 1)
Author’s note: Unlike the Old and New Testaments, in the Quran, verses (suras) are arranged in order of length and not in chronological order.
Any Positive Sentiment
While there is some fluctuation throughout each in terms of positive sentiment, the New Testament appears to be unique in that it peaks on positive sentiment (Corinthians) and ends on a less positive note (Revelations).
It’s also worth noting that positive and negative sentiment are usually highly correlated. In other words when there is more emotion in text, usually, though not always, there is both more positive and negative sentiment.
But let’s look deeper into emotions, beyond simple positive vs. negative sentiment (which is rarely very interesting) and into the eight major human emotion categories: Joy, Anticipation, Anger, Disgust, Sadness, Surprise, Fear/Anxiety and Trust.
Author’s note: These eight major emotion categories were derived from widely-accepted theory in modern psychology.
Step 2: Emotional Analysis
A look at the combined Old and New Testaments—the Bible—compared to the Quran reveals similarities and differences. The Bible and Quran are fairly uniform in ‘Surprise’, ‘Sadness’ and ‘Disgust’. But the Bible registers higher in ‘Anger’ and the Quran rates higher in ‘Joy’ but also in ‘Fear/Anxiety’ and ‘Trust’.
As we mentioned yesterday, we decided to split the Old and New Testaments for analysis for a couple of reasons. Here’s what they look like:
Comparing our three religious texts across the eight major emotions we find that the Old Testament is the ‘Angriest’ (including most mentions of ‘Disgust’); it also contains the least amount of ‘Joy’.
Here’s an example of a passage that registered under ‘Anger’:
But the LORD said to him "Not so; if anyone kills Cain he will suffer vengeance seven times over." Then the LORD put a mark on Cain so that no one who found him would kill him.
In text analytics, ‘Disgust’ rarely appears outside of food categories; however, it appears in Leviticus several times:
…whether among all the swarming things or among all the other living creatures in the water—you are to detest.
And since you are to detest them, you must not eat their meat and you must detest their carcasses.
Anything living in the water that does not have fins and scales is to be detestable to you.
'These are the birds you are to detest and not eat because they are detestable: the eagle the vulture the black vulture
Leviticus 11:10-13 The Quran, on the other hand, contains the most ‘Fear/Anxiety’ and ‘Trust/Belief’ issues. In this case ‘Fear/Anxiety’ is highly linked to ‘Trust’. Terms such as “doubt” and “disbelief” appear repeatedly in the Quran and are relevant to and affect both of these two primary emotions.
Or like abundant rain from the cloud in which is darkness, and thunder and lightning; they put their fingers into their ears because of the thunder-peal, for fear of death. And Allah encompasses the disbelievers.
Quaran Sūrat al-Baqarah 2:19 As noted in figure 2 above, the New Testament has relatively more ‘Anticipation’ and ‘Surprise’:
But if we hope for what we do not yet have we wait for it patiently.
Everyone was amazed and gave praise to God. They were filled with awe and said, ‘We have seen remarkable things today.”
Tomorrow in Part 3, we’ll take a deeper dive to understand some of the underlying reasons for these differences in greater detail and we’ll look into which, if any, of these texts is significantly more violent. Stay tuned!
Up Next: Part III – Violence, Mercy and Non-Believers