WASHINGTON -- The people I worry about the most are those who commit acts of violence in the name of God. The zealots maintain that people can do anything they want as long as they claim that it's God's will.
The next question that must be asked is, ''Which God?'' It turns out that when a religious cause is involved, there are different Gods for different people.
I discussed this with a militant biblical scholar who worships a much more vindictive God than I do. I said, ''You believe in one God, and I believe in another. That doesn't necessarily mean that you can go around killing people you disagree with.''
''It depends,'' he replied. ''Read the Bible, and you will discover that my God is the true God. He's a tough deity, and nobody is going to push him around.''
I said, ''I have read the Bible, and in it God says, 'Thou shalt not kill.' I certainly didn't find any mention about God wanting to assassinate political leaders.''
''The Bible is very clear on this. It states that you have a right to kill someone if that person tries to give away your land in Palestine.''
''You made that up. My God is the God of peace and your God is the God of vengeance.''
The scholar continued, ''My God will never let anyone take our settlements away even if it means starting a Holy War. Your God would sell our people out for a dinner with President Clinton.''
''Tell me the truth. Was your God in on the killing of the Israeli prime minister?'' I asked.
''Let's just say he answered our prayers. A religious person would never do it on his own. Rabin was negotiating with the Arabs. What choice did our God have?''
''I don't believe that your God is for real,'' I told him. ''I believe that he is a figment of your fanaticism.''
He said, ''With God's permission I could kill you for saying that.''
''That doesn't surprise me," I replied.
Art Buchwald writes a humor column.