Does Religion Cause War?
Is it really the source of all war and violence?
Does religion cause war? There is a popular misconception being spread today by people (intentionally and ignorantly) that religion is the cause of all violence and war. Many angry pop-atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens vomit these kinds of claims baselessly. Despite their lack of historical knowledge and their overbearing prejudices, these religion haters have been successful in convincing many people (even religious people), that religion has been the scourge of history, and the source of all wars. They claim that religion is immoral, worse than child abuse, and that the world would be better off if everyone was atheist.
Even popular novels like Angels and Demons spread this misinformation around. On page 38-39 it states, “They feared that if religion continued to promote pious myth as absolute fact, scientific progress would halt, and mankind would be doomed to an ignorant future of senseless holy wars. Much like we see today. Holy wars were still making headlines. My god is better than your god. It seems there was always close correlation between true believers and high body counts.”
Really, is that so? Always a high correlation between true believers and hide body counts? Give me a break.
Does Religion Cause War?
Is the world really better without religion? Admittedly, there have been some religious conquests and wars that were not good – and bad things have been carried out in the name of God. That’s true, and no one can deny it. After all, people are sinful, and there have always been and always will be people who fail to, or choose not to live up to the moral ideal.
With that being said, can one swing the pendulum to the other side and claim that all religion is bad, evil, corrupt, and that no good can come from it? Can someone say the world is better without religion? The answer is no, and in fact, history demonstrates that the opposite is true. Religion has been the source of healing, help, love and peace, more than anything else in the world.
It is a fact that the Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization in the world and does more good than any religious, secular, or atheist organization. Over the last 2,000 years, the Catholic Church started hospitals, orphanages, health clinics, run away shelters, groups to combat human trafficking, and other organizations for every need of life. This is good, right?
Moreover, Catholicism civilized the Vikings and various barbarian tribes who had ravaged and destroyed the Roman Empire and others empires for centuries. It was Catholic Christianity who helped civilize cannibals and other violent peoples and nations. Many were martyred for it. It was the Catholic Church who started schools, preserved literacy and culture, advanced science, created the university system, economics, law, and created some of the most beautiful art, music, and architecture that the world has ever known. Religion has done a lot of good, and if anyone thinks on it for any time at all, they will have to admit that religion has made civilization infinitely better.
So how do people like Christopher Hitchens and other like him still hold to the myth that religion is a poison to society, the Catholic Church is evil, and that Mother Theresa is the biggest fraud of them all? The mind grasps for credible answers.
Does Religion Cause War?
Some will say, “But, what about the Crusades and religious wars that have happened!?” This assertion too is greatly exaggerated and painfully misunderstood. One might be surprised to find that the majority of all religious wars and atrocities come primarily from the religion of Islam and not all religions.
The facts are these: Since their founding, Islam has often lived by the sword. Where as Jesus preached his message in love and with non-violence, Mohammed preached his message with war and the sword. Nearly their entire history has been one of warfare. Certainly, there are peaceful Muslims today. No one disagrees with that. But, that does not take away from the historical reality that Islamic wars lasted 1,200 years until they were fully and finally defeated.
People don’t realize that what Christianity had spent centuries building through peace, love, and sacrifice, Islam came and wiped out almost over night. So, as much as this gives a bad rap to the religion of Islam, it does not give a bad rap to all religions, and it unfair to throw all religions into this category.
The Crusades themselves were first and foremost a war of self-defense against the invading armies of Islam. After Mohammed’s death, from 756 A.D. – 856 A.D. Muslims conquered everything from Afghanistan to North Africa and then pushed into Europe where they were finally stopped. When they then laid siege to the Byzantine Empire, destroying most of it, the Emperor himself, Alexius I, begged the pope for help against these invading armies. Thus, Catholics and non-Catholics alike fought against extinction from Muslims. That’s the historical reality. The Crusades were a war of self-defense. And, though abuses certainly happened, it is a gross misunderstanding to claim that they were about merely conquering others who disagree with them or going to war just to get rich, as some assert.
Even considering the extensive conquest of Islam and those of the “Old Testament” that some people like to bring up, these wars are next to nothing compared to the atrocities and “high body counts” found among atheists and those with no religion.
Let’s look at some of the historical facts on violence from non-religious and atheist regimes.
HITLER – An atheist who is responsible for the murder of about 10 million people, (including 6 million Jews and 1 million Catholics). It is of significance that the number of Catholics killed by Hitler alone was 5 times higher than the Crusades and the Inquisitions put together, and, we haven’t even mentioned other big names like the ones to follow.
STALIN – Responsible for about 20 million deaths, twice as many as Hitler.
MAO – Atheist who was responsible for up to 70 million deaths in China. Like Hitler and Stalin, Mao also targeted Christians and killed them. Moreover, Dinesh D’Souza notes; “Stalin’s and Mao’s killings – unlike those of, say, the Crusades or the Thirty Years War – were done in peacetime and were performed on their own fellow countrymen” (What’s So Great about Christianity? Pg. 214). These unthinkably high numbers don’t even take into account the large amounts of senseless violence by lesser atheist tyrants like Pol Pot or Fidel Castro, or others around the world.
POL POT – Killed nearly 2 million of his own people, about 1/5 of his own country’s population. He killed a larger percentage of his own countrymen than Stalin and Mao and 10 times the amount of the Crusades and the Inquisition combined.
Here’s the bottom line:
Atheists like Stalin, Hitler, and Mao and Pol Pot were people without religion and cannot even contest with the outstanding things Christians, saints, and missionaries have done down through the centuries. In contrast, they murdered more than 100 million people in less than a century. The Crusades and the Inquisitions together killed not even a quarter of a million people over 500 years. Thus the violence, wars, and atrocities of people who don’t have religion far outweigh those who do. It’s really not even debatable. The senseless killings and violence that occur in the absence of religion, or of some moral code, is shockingly higher than when religion is present. In fact, the deaths caused by Christian rulers over this 500 year period amounts to only 1% of the total deaths caused by Stalin, Hitler, and Mao in merely a few decades, not to mention all of the other atheist regimes.
Does religion cause war? It can. It has. Have bad things happened in the name of religion? Absolutely. However, the moral code of Christianity and of most religions have inspired most of their people most of the time to change the world and to make it a better place – to help people and not hurt them.
Dinesh D’Souza concludes and summarizes this perfectly:
“Whatever the cause for why theist regimes do what they do, the indisputable fact is that all the religions of the world put together have in three thousand years not managed to kill anywhere near the number of people killed in the name of atheism in the past few decades. It’s time to abandon the mindlessly repeated mantra that religious belief has been the main source of human conflict and violence. Atheism, not religion, is responsible for the worst mass murders in history” (What’s so Great About Christianity, Pg. 221).
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