Religion: cause of wars?

November 11, 2006 at 5:46 pm (Christianity, History, Islam, Judaism, Military, Religion, Religions, The Rest, The West, Theology, War)

A common claim made is that religion has been the cause of the world’s worst atrocities, and that religion has had no greater negative impact than today (or in recent and/or modern history).

(I have heard many Muslims, for example, use this as part of their arguments against Christianity, saying that ever since The Crusades, Christians have been doing nothing but killing each other and killing Muslims. Or they will say so explicitly: not that religion has perpetuated such horrors against humanity but Christianity has. Nothing is said about Islam, however. By definition, anyway, Islam can commit no atrocities. Everything Islam does is justified and just and good and deserved.)

However, as far as recent and/or modern history is concerned, religion has, in fact, not been the main driving force behind violence and wars. In many cases, the driving force was greed for land. (In the era of the Conquistadores, converting to Christianity (specifically Roman Catholicism) had more to do with allegiance to and accepting the yoke of the Spanish/Portuguese crown than necessarily saving the infidels.)

Where ideology or thought played a role, more often than not it was not a religious ideology but a secular one. No greater atrocities were perpetuated against humanity than in the name of pure race and the Fatherland (German nationalist socialism), the working class and class warfare (Soviet Communism, Chinese Communism, Khmer Communism, Nepalese Communism), or ethnic sovereignty (Tamils in Sri Lanka, Sikhs in Punjab, Kashmiris in Kashmir, Protestant Catholics in Northern Ireland, and so on). Thus, looking at things objectively, the claim that religion has been the primary cause of bloodshed is quite false.

Related to this is mischaracterizing martial campaigns. European colonialism was not done to spread Christianity; it was done out of mercantilism. Neither of the World Wars began out of a religious conflict. The Balkan turmoil was an issue of ethnic nation-states – but it just so happened that each ethnicity had also a different religious orientation. The War on Terrorism is not a war between Christianity (must less Evangelical Christianity as is commonly asserted) and Islam but between Western states threatened by Islamic and Islamist militant regimes (whether states or worldwide networks) against said regimes. Some people are all too willing to mischaracterize these conflicts are motivated by or initiated to serve one’s religion, but this is false (insofar as actions by The West are concerned; see next paragraph for an important clarification).

However, having said that, there is one area where religion has been a primary motivator for violence and bloodshed, but this is mainly by the adherents of a certain Middle Eastern religion (and it isn’t Judaism), which makes one to question: if practically every religion has ceased perpetuating or even assenting to violence in its name or for its sake, why does this religion continue to do so? what does this say about this religion’s suitability in the modern world? what does this say about this religion’s values and standards and beliefs and practices vis-a-vis those of other religions? Of course, all of these questions are merely academic. Whatever answer may come about will not change the fact that this one religion has violent tendencies even in the modern world and that it seems these tendencies are intrinsic to it and, thus, cannot be stanched.



  1. Christopher Taylor said,

    If you do a study on deaths caused by different ideologies, you’ll find that humanism (in the form of hitler, pol pot, mousollini, stalin, etc) is responsible for far, far more – by an eclipsing margin – than all religions combined in history.

    • Nick Kalinock said,

      Humanism? None of the people you mentioned were humanists nor did they commit any of their numerous atrocities in the name of humanism. Where did you get that piece of fiction?

  2. Michael said,

    Congrats. You are in the Top Ten WordPress Hot Blogs Today list.

  3. geoff said,

    Nice post, Muslihoon, and a point that needed to be made.

  4. Chris said,

    …for me, religions are an outdated concept. Everyone is responsible for ones own actions. Why rely on a higher force? Great excuse though… 🙂

  5. Wickedpinto said,

    Chris, Humanism takes Humans into account.

    You are talking about autocratic mesianism.

  6. Wickedpinto said,

    Post persian humanism in the form of various zoroastrian sects is prolly the most pascific, only because they were subsects.

  7. BU2 Seabee said,

    Actually, and I know I’m going to catch flack for this, the indicated religion was much more refined during its “Golden Age”. That cannot be forgotten, Islam USED TO be one of the most academically fostering religions existant. However, notice the emphasis on the words USED TO. It is not anymore. Any humiliation and frustration muslims feel about their lost greatness should be directed at themselves because at one time they had one of the greatest cultures in the world and they allowed zealots to destroy it. Do your research and look it up. During the Middle Ages from about 800 C.E. to 1200 C.E. they had a very free, prosperous, creative, and educated society. Then, along came a Dynasty that announced, very similarly to the Church at the time, that the only book one needed and the only book one should read is the Koran. That was the beginning of what extremism is today. One culture got over that phase, the other is going through it presently, and hopefully it is a phase that they will get over also.

  8. dicentra said,

    War is always about “who’s in charge” of a particular piece of land, its resources, and its inhabitants. Religion (read: ideology), race, ethnicity, language, etc. are how the sides identify themselves, not what causes the war in the first place.

    Two peoples who see themselves as different from the other won’t war with one another as long as they’re content to live and let live. It’s when one side or the other gets ambitious and decides to obtain power over the other side. This can arise from a dispute about resources or land or whatever, but it’s almost never merely because they don’t like the cut of their enemy’s jib (bigotry) or philosophical differences.

    The Islamists aren’t inspired to make war because they object to the concept of a triune god, they are inspired to make war so that they can be in charge. Islam is the unifying identity, but as we have seen throughout the history of the world, any unifying identity will do, whether it’s “us Aryans” or “us Communists” or “us Christians” or whatever.

    It’s the will to power that causes war: nothing more and nothing less. Religion, race, and other differentiating factors are just window decoration.

  9. Attiq ur-Rehman said,

    Good taught about religion. However the last paragraphs doesn’t speak truth. A religion is not what the followers of that religion are doing. A religion is what it written in its holy books. Keeping this fact in mind, we can say that the modern War on terror is not based on a religion.

    The same way, the point you wanted to make about a specific Middle-Eastern religion and wanted to prove it far behind modern age is nothing but wrong at all. Islam never preaches violences. If a Muslim is doing this, this is his personal action.

    Islam is the most modern religion of the world. I don’t want to remind you the history of church rule on Europe when a common man was not allowed to take a bath on his will. You take the history of Islam and study with a clear mind and you will see this is all about humanity. But this is all for an intellectual person, if someone just want to criticize, he is free to do so. the fact is ISLAM is the fastest growing religion of the world and the criticism will further prevail it.

  10. PD said,

    I think it will be more appropriate to say that in the modern World, religion has been used as a tool. Irresponsible leaders have promoted secterian violence to acquire power. These leaders want to create independent nations such as Kashmir, Khalistan, Tamil, Palestine etc. and be their rulers.
    It seems like the hunger for power and wealth has motivated them to promote hatred and violence among mankind.

  11. faatih said,

    Religion is far from being the cause of war and it is other factors. Human beings fight each other in the playground, argue at work, divorce each other and on a larger scale fight each other on a collective level. None of these are about belief in a creator. No one ever divorced their partner because they believed in God, rather the relationship did not work out.

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