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 â€˜royal, God-given rightsâ€™, 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 â€˜Godâ€™s good graceâ€™.
And now, we have the â€˜War on Terrorâ€™. 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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