2Some wars in history have are claimed to have happened for religious reasons. Probably one of the best known of these are The Crusades. These were a series of brutal military campaigns from the 11th to the 13th centuries. They were fought by supposed Christians from Europe who wanted to take control of Jerusalem and other ‘holy’ places from Muslim occupation. These battles were supposedly fought for the cause of Christianity . . . but this reason isn’t what it might seem.
The Crusades are one example showing that religion has seemed to play a part in some warfare in human history. However, does this prove the point that religion itself is the cause of war? The answer is yes and no. Yes in the sense that religion has been the given reason for much conflict. However, the answer is no in the sense that religion is often simply an excuse for people to wage war—not the actual reason.
The 20th century was one of the bloodiest centuries in human history. There were two major world wars, which had nothing at all to do with religion, the Jewish Holocaust, Korea, Vietnam, the Falklands conflict, the Iran-Iraq war, the first Gulf war, the Rwandan genocide and the Communist Revolutions in Russia, China, Southeast Asia and Cuba. Together these have accounted for anywhere between 50-70 million deaths (some estimate upwards to 100 million). Yet none of these conflicts and genocides were caused by religion. Instead they were caused by people’s ideology, desire for power/control/territory, greed, or sometimes even country leaders’ warped morals and ideals. So we could easily make the case that way more people have died throughout human history due to poor ideals, rather than religion.
Religions and ideals are, however, simply ‘surface’ reasons for war. The Bible tells us the real reason for war is the sin and selfishness that every person suffers from: “What is causing the quarrels and fights among you? Don’t they come from the evil desires at war within you? You want what you don’t have, so you scheme and kill to get it. You are jealous of what others have, but you can’t get it, so you fight and wage war to take it away from them. Yet you don’t have what you want because you don’t ask God for it” (James 4:1-2).
What is the real cause of war? It’s our selfishness. Religion, morals, alliances—these things are all excuses for countries, regimes and extremists to wage war and take what they want and grow in power. Some argue that if we got rid of religion, we would get rid of war. The truth of history is that if we remove religion, something else will take its place as an excuse to fight, steal and kill.
There is never a day without some conflict somewhere in the world. But religion itself doesn’t cause war; and on its own it can’t stop war. The only cure for war is the Prince of Peace, Jesus Christ! When he returns as he has promised, he will bring those who trust him into a kingdom of peace forever: “The Lord will [judge] between nations and will settle international disputes. They will hammer their swords into ploughshares and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation will no longer fight against nation, nor train for war anymore” (Isaiah 2:4).
— Chris, an Our Daily Bread reader