It is normally considered to be an atheistic statement to say that with less religions there would be less wars but it is also very superficial to affirm this because we would have to analyse all the wars that broke out throughout the history and tell whether they had been caused by economic/political reasons or religious conflicts. I was driven to talk about this topic after the terrorist attack in Paris where 3 armed men, muslims, who had been fighting in Syria with the Islamic State, assaulted the house of the French satirical magazine, Charlie Hebdo: it would not be probably wrong to say that this atrocious act could have been avoided if Islam did not exist but it would also be a very reductionist approach to reality. The aim of this post is to discuss whether or not religions have endangered the world, especially in these last decades where extreme religious groups have been doing terrible terrorist attacks.
When it comes to this kind of debates, we have to consider both the pros and cons, in favour or against the statement.
If we think of the bloodiest wars in human history, we could come up with WWII, where Hitler tried to commit a true genocide of jewish people or the Crusades in which the Christian deliberately killed a huge number of Muslims in those lands under Islam’s influence. These two examples are obviously some extraordinary ones because if we think of the attack to Charlie Hebdo, those 3 men were not Muslism, they were 3 crazy terrorists who went over the borders of religion. Also, there are people who think that religion is the main cause of wars as George Carlin, an American comedian and author, has once said:
“More people have been killed in the name of God than for any other reason”
On the other hand, after analysing the causes of many wars such as the Seven Years War, The Crimean War, The Napoleonic Wars and all the different Revolutions, we cannot say the religion is the main cause of war because generally two or more nations start a conflict because of political and economic reasons. These ideas must obviously be supported by datas and numbers so, for those who still do not believe me, here are some important statistics: during the Crusades one to three million people were killed while, only in WWI, nearly 35 million people lost their life. History itself is against this idea: even the wars of the ancient world were rarely based on religion but they were more about expanding and controlling wider territories. Again in the Middle Ages and Renaissance, there was generally no religious component at all and we can take the Mongolian expansion as an example in support of this idea ( when nearly 30 million people were killed).
The genocides themselves that were committed throughout the history were not based on religion, apart from the jewish one: in 20th century it is believed that 150 million people were killed because of genocides and 100 millions of these were killed by the Communist States of USSR and China.
Therefore, we must be very careful to say that without religion there would be no war. With this, I do not want to say that it is not a cause of conflicts but it is not and has not been the main cause of wars and we have to do no matter what in order to achieve international peace, at least in the religious field.
- Alan Lurie (4.10.2012). Is Religion the Cause of Most Wars?. Retrieved 12 January, 2014 from http://www.huffingtonpost.com/rabbi-alan-lurie/is-religion-the-cause-of-_b_1400766.html
- Justin Ferriman (1.08.2008). Mythbusters: Without Religion there would be no War. Retrieved 14 January, 2014 from http://de-conversion.com/2008/08/01/mythbusters-without-religion-there-would-be-no-war/