War and Religion

The following are some thoughts on that old line "religion is the cause of all war" we've been hearing so often these days. Originally posted at Mere Comments.

United From Above
by Anthony Esolen

I have long claimed that people who castigate religion for being divisive either do not know what they are talking about, or secretly fear the power of religion not to divide but to unite—and, specifically, to unite against them and their own unacknowledged interests. First, while it is true that Islam has had bloody borders, it is not otherwise true that most wars have been fought over religion. A cursory look at history shows that wars are fought over territory, or goods, or either of those masquerading as an offended national pride. Rome fought wars almost constantly, from the time the Romans wriggled out from under their Etruscan overlords, to the time the last emperor was send packing to a monastery by Odoacer, and none of those wars were wars of religion. The Greek city states were ever quarreling, although they shared pretty much the same religion; and indeed, religion was one of the few things that could suffice to unite them in celebrating the games, or driving out the Persian invaders. Nationalist wars were fought under the guise of religion for a relatively brief time during the early modern period, but a glance at what France was doing under Francis I, or under Richelieu, should dispel the notion that religion, rather than what was perceived as the national interest, was the main motivation for French foreign policy. I say this, knowing full well that people hardly need an excuse to pick a fight—and that religion will sometimes serve the purpose.

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And of course this is something that's been discussed in Salvo before too. See this article by Les Sillars, originally published in Salvo 7—Atheism: New and Unimproved.

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