Religion and War (Is Religion the Cause of War and Violence?)

religion and warReligion and War! Is religion the cause of all war? Does religion by nature cause violence? Are not most of the world wars attributed to religions arguing over who is right, about whose holy book is correct? Perhaps if they did not just condemn things that differ from their worldview, there could be peace. Contrast this with science which operates in the realm of fact. Here it is acceptable to challenge people’s point of view in order to journey toward the truth. So, perhaps we should all become atheist, put our petty religions aside, and just work seek truth, peace and harmony. So speaks this atheist claim.

However, this claim of the “New Atheists” such as Richard Dawkins could not be further from the truth. Do not be deceived by myths that are repeated endlessly based on absolutely nothing. For anyone who has studied actual history and not just a bumper sticker adaptation of it, history itself paints us an entirely different picture of religion than you will often hear. It’s unmistakable as we will see below. We will also see that barbaric atrocities from atheists far outweigh those of all religions combined. So, learn this information, and the next time you hear this pitiful argument, you can respond with kindness, knowledge, logic.

The Religious GOOD that Atheism Ignores:

To be fair, there have been some religious wars and conquests through history carried out in “God’s name.” Whether they were or were not, religion can own up to the fact that there have been mistakes and atrocities in God’s name. With that being said, there is a whole world of good that nobody can deny, far more good than atheists could ever imagine or duplicate.

Just speaking of the Catholic Church alone. The Catholic Church is the largest charitable organization in the world and does more good than any religious, secular, or atheistic organization. In other words, it feeds more people, clothes more people, and educates more people than anyone else. Over the last 2,000 years, the Catholic Church has started hospitals, orphanages, health clinics, and run away shelters; they run groups that combat human trafficking along with countless other organizations for every need of life. The Catholic missionaries can be found in the poorest countries side by side with the poor and serving them. Even in New York, the Franciscan Friars of the Renewal serve the poor on a daily basis not to mention the Sisters of Charity and countless others.

religion and war

Remember the dreaded Dark Ages? These times were a period of instability and war because of the incessant conquests from the Vikings, Huns, Danes, Visigoths, and all the other Barbarians that ransacked the Roman Empire for hundreds of years. Yet, during this time the Catholic Church helped keep literacy alive and eventually civilized the Vikings and various barbarian tribes with the Gospel of peace and love. It was Christianity too who helped civilize the cannibals and other violent nations. Countless Catholics were martyred in the process.

Atheist rightly value education and school, yet they forget that it was the Catholic Church who who invented the University system, started countless schools, and widened the circle for who could learn at school, not to mention that the Church advanced science, created the invented economics, law, and some of the most beautiful art, music, and architecture that the world has ever known. Religion has done a lot of good, and that cannot be denied.  Based on just these things mentioned, religion has made civilization infinitely better and more prosperous. (If you would like to buy my book and see a real conversation I had with an atheist on this topic, check it out here or at the end. For other good book recommendations on this topic, see links at the end).

Myth: Religion Causes War!

Some will retort, “Well, what about the Crusades and all the religious wars that have happened?” (For the real truth about the Crusades, click here). The assertion regarding religious wars is also greatly exaggerated and full of myths. One might be surprised to find that the majority of all religious wars and atrocities come primarily from the religion of Islam, not all world religions.

The facts are these:  Since their founding, Islam has lived by the sword. Whereas Jesus preached his message in love and with non-violence, Muhammad led with the sword and war.  Nearly the entire history of Islam is one of committed warfare. Certainly, there are peaceful Muslims today. No one disagrees with that. However, this does not take away from the historical reality that Islamic wars lasted 1,200 years until they were finally defeated. What Christianity spent centuries building through peace, love, and sacrifice, Islam wiped out almost over night.  So, as much as this gives a bad rap to the religion of Islam, (and atheists love to harp on Islam), it does not give a bad rap to all religion. Atheists lamely lump all religions into the same category uncritically. Would people say Buddhism is violent, for example? Could they be put side by side with Islam? The truth is that most religions are not violent.

What about the Crusades?

The Crusades themselves were first and foremost a war of self-defense against the invading armies of Islam. Muhammad led armies onto the battlefield until his death, and after, Islam expanded even more. 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 laid siege to the Byzantine Empire laying waste most of it, the Emperor Alexius I begged the pope for help against these invading armies. The pope agree to come to their aid, and thus, the Crusades were started. And only after much prayer and consideration. The Crusades therefore began as wars of self-defense.  And, though abuses (which you can read in my other blog here), it is a gross misunderstanding to claim that they were merely conquering others who disagree with them, going to war just to get rich, or to conquer pagans which are all myths.

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.

Atheist Wars

Something that is always overlooked by atheists is the fact that most atrocities were actually committed by atheists. Let’s look at some of these:

STALIN was responsible for murdering 20 million of his own people through forced starvations and other deaths. That is twice as many as Hitler ever killed who himself was unreligious for most of his life.

MAO was an atheist in China who was responsible for killing 70 million people.  Like Hitler and Stalin, Mao also targeted Christians and murdered them.

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. Atheist Pol Pot, for example, wiped out nearly 2 million of his own people, 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. Stalin too killed more people than all religious wars combined! That’s something atheists never talk about when pointing fingers.

religion and war

The Take Away:

The Crusades and the Inquisitions together killed not even a quarter of a million people over 500 years. Yet, the atheist violence above was all in a short span of time. Thus the violence, wars, and atrocities of people who don’t have religion far outweigh those who do. 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 and Mao in merely a few decades, not to mention all of the other atheist regimes.

Does religion cause war?  It can. Sure. Have bad things happened in the name of religion?  Absolutely.  However, the moral code of Christianity and of most religions have inspired people to become better and make the world a better place as we discussed above.

The take away can be summed up perfectly by Dinesh D’Souza in his book, “What’s So Great About Christianity?” He says:

“Whatever the cause for why religious 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” (Pg. 221).

Book Recommendations:

1. “Why Do You Believe In God?,” by Bryan  Mercier (The themes above are discussed in this book along with more information on God, science, religion, and more.

2. What is so great about Christianity, by Dinesh D’sousa (Mentioned and quoted above)

3. How the Catholic Church Built Western Civilization, by Thomas E. Woods (This book does a fantastic job of showing all the good that the Catholic Church did in the world and how so much of what we have we received from the Catholic Church. – A must read for all Catholics)

4. Answering the New Atheism, by Scott Hahn (Another book answering many of the claims of atheism, especially those of Richard Dawkins. It touches on what we discussed above in a different way)

About Bryan Mercier

Bryan Mercier is a professional Catholic speaker, retreat leader, author, YouTuber, and Catholic apologist. He has spoken to adults and teens for 20 years the last fifteen years on a wide variety of topics; ranging from catechetics and faith formation, to morality, spirituality, and apologetics. He has spoken at youth and adult retreats, workshops, seminars, Catholic schools, parish missions, local, regional and national conferences. He has spoken in front of crowds ranging from thirty to three-thousand and has and has been aired on TV and radio in different states, including Relevant Radio, Ave Maria Radio, EWTN, and more.
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