flagellant www

The Crusades are the obvious religious wars but there are many others that spring to mind: the Thirty Years War (1616-1648), the English Civil War (three outbreaks between 1642 and 1651) and, of course, the French Wars of Religion (1562-1598), for example. And Europe had others.

In England, Charles I believed that he ruled with ‘royal, God-given rights’, a tradition found in many other countries. The struggles in England had much to do with this arrogation of power. Such God-given rights imbued rulers with the prerogative to start wars. Interestingly, to this day, the British Royal Family has the motto Dieu Et Mon Droit (God and my [birth] Right – i.e. I rule with God’s blessing).

Wars with religious causes are not limited to times long past: the assumption of divinity by sovereign rulers led to many wars that are not explicitly identified as religious. If you worshipped your divine ruler, as was required of you, then you had to go to war if he decreed it. The divinity of Emperor Hirohito had a lot to do with the entry of Japan into WWII. It was not until 1945, that Hirohito was forced to renounce his own divinity. There is, however, controversy over whether or not that was properly done.

Few divine sovereigns have gone willingly. Both Russia and France did away with their royal families in struggles against oppressive religion, where the sovereign ruled by ‘God’s good grace’.

And now, we have the ‘War on Terror’. Is it likely that this could have started without a major religious ingredient, on one side at least?

One can only speculate how many wars would have been avoided were we not burdened with religion. In researching this, it looked clear to me that many more, besides the Crusades, would have been avoided.

Posted: July 30th 2007

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brian thomson www

Different wars have different complex origins, but you’ve chosen a particularly bad example: the Crusades. The religious origins of those wars are not an “atheist claim” – they were explicitly, unashamedly Christian campaigns to wrest the “Holy Land” from the clutches of the Muslims. This is not seriously disputed, in Academia or Wikipedia.

The very name means “marked by the Cross,” in reference to the flags and other emblems worn by Crusaders. It still has a negative “holy war” connotation today among non-Christians, much like “jihad.” George W. Bush’s used the word in speeches in September 2001 and early 2002. The “war on terror” has even been labeled, half in jest, as the Tenth Crusade.

Posted: July 5th 2007

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John Sargeant www

For me it is not an issue whether religion causes wars. I think it is never that simple.

However the mindset that allows violence to be done to another human is one that sees that person is different from you.

The irony is that while religion may have at its base us all having one origin, in practice religion is used as a way of dividing people and to motivate people to have different attitudes to others.

Would there be less wars without religion? Not sure at all, but anything that reduces barriers between people and allows communication is something to aim for. Religion has got in the way of communicating the common ancestry of all of us.

Instead of us trying to find our common humanity, we try to escape it by being one with a god, a god that usually has something rather nasty in store for the unbelievers.

We need a new spirituality to escape from the chaos and murderous self-righteous rage that religion inspires in people. One that tries to redeem people in the here and now, one that is based on reason and not appeals to an external authority that claims divine certainty.

For the sake of the planet, I hope we can all take part in this discourse and travel to the undiscovered country together.

Posted: July 2nd 2007

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