Does Religion Cause War?
Both religion and war were part of human societies since civilization as such was formed. The debate about the influence of religion on armed conflicts and wars is no shorter. The focus of thinkers and researchers in that respect differs – while many discuss and analyze the views and ideas presented in various religions concerning the war and its eventual justifications (Perry), others concentrate on the role and influence of religion as such or certain religions in specific armed conflicts.
From the Crusades (Cline), through the American Civil War (Goen) to current conflicts in the Middle East (Morrissey).But the key question, whether there would be war if there were no religion remains open to debate. All thinkers and researchers stress the importance of factors like politics, relations between societies and quest for power and acquisition of material goods, along with religion as reasons and causes of wars. But in analyzing all these approaches, there is no full agreement on what part and the level of influence religion has on initializing and carrying on armed conflict.
It seems though that as in her seminal work, Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence, Karen Armstrong is on the right track at defining the role of religion in armed conflicts. In presenting her work to the public in the “The Guardian,” Armstrong points out the existence of two phases of the influence of religion on wars. She ties the first one to pre-secular times when religion was an integral part of all social interactions in a society, and in that respect, the influence of religion could not be separated for other factors like politics. The other phase started in early modern times, with the formation of secular states and the separation of religion and religious institutions from other interactions in the society particularly the politics.
In accepting Armstrong’s thesis, it could be said that, particularly in a modern society, religion can be, but certainly not a sole cause of wars.
- Perry, David Dr., Ethics and War in Comparative Religious Perspective, 2000, Santa Clara University, accessed March 26, 2018.
- Cline, Austin, Looking Back on the Crusades Today – Perspectives and Religion in the Crusades,2017, thoughtco.com, accessed March 26, 2018.
- Goen, C.C., Broken Churches, Broken Nation Macon, GA: Mercer University, 1985
- Morrissey, Christopher A., Peace or War? Religion in the Debate Before the Iraq War, Ph.D. thesis, Notre Dame University, 2011, abstract accessed March 26, 2018.
- Armstrong, Karen, Fields of Blood: Religion and the History of Violence, Alfred A. Knopf, New York, Toronto, 2014.
- Armstrong, Karen, The myth of religious violence, The Guardian online, Sept. 25, 2014, accessed March 26, 2018.
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