Religion and Wars Term Paper

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relationship exists between difference of religion and the occurrence of civil wars within societies. The relationship between religious groups to society can be defined against the backdrop of war. Powerful emotions surround both conflict and military conflict (Yinger, 1946). A direct relationship has been recognized for several year regarding religion and violence. Students of organized religion "have frequently pointed out the ease with which most church leaders shift, at the outbreak of war, from an explicit antiwar position to a vigorous pro-war policy" (Yinger, p. 176). However, despite the seemingly strong tie between religion and war, it is critical to also acknowledge that while religion seems a backdrop for many wars, many other factors have contributed as well. Political aspirations and agendas have had as much to do with war as religion. The complex intermingling of these many different factors will be explored in greater detail below.

Recent research suggests that consistent with the teaching of St. Thomas Aquinas in the "absence of tranquilities ordinis, war may sometimes be a moral duty in order to overturn injustice and protect the innocent" (Neuhaus, 2003). The Pew research center recently conducted a national survey that examined how statements by religious leaders affect views of war. Studies suggest that those statements of religious leaders do incite and impact people's beliefs about the just cause of war. For example, in the times of the Crusades the Pope encouraged the West to defend the states of Europe against the common enemies of God. Religious differences and idealisms in this instance may be considered a contributor or motivator of people to continue war, but perhaps not the cause of wars between nations.

Religion is often associated with violence and civil war. Perhaps the most prevalent example is the case of Islam and the violence of the jihad; Muslims are searching for peace in Islam. Holy wars have been incited in the name of God. One people are fighting to secure their views over another. Islam is an example of a religion that is associated with violence. But is religion necessarily the cause of civil war in this instance? The idea that religious differences are the sole cause of civil war however, may be due to popular imagery rather than fact. Violence in fact has not always been associated directly with religions. Violence should be defined on the basis that it is a social phenomenon. Religious text and scripture have suggested that violence has existed throughout time; however no formal integral link has yet been established necessarily between religion and violence. The link that has been established rather, is that religious problems are often highlighted during civilian conflict in times of war. Religion may be considered a common bond between people, causing them to support one side vs. another.

There is evidence to suggest that religious differences do precipitate war like conditions. The religious cause of nations is often believed to be just. In the case of Iraq for example in modern times, the cause seems just; the just cause of freeing the Iraqi people was "consistently affirmed by the Pope, also in his messages both to Saddam Hussein and President Bush" (Neuhaus, 2003). There are many that would argue that a just cause justifies violence and war. But consider this, Osama Bin Laden led the Al Quada, whose mission is to spread violence and war between Muslim and non-Muslim groups. Certainly Al Quada believe that there cause is just as well. The people under any leader that is charismatic or influential might be led to believe that their cause is just. Whether one cause is more just than another however, is open to interpretation. Certainly Hitler was a charismatic leader who believed his cause, the extermination and genocide of the Jews was just. Common sense dictates that it was not however.

The Pew Research Center found in a national survey that only ten percent of statements made by religious leaders had a determinative effect on the opinions of family, friends, political commentators and elected leaders that are involved in political matters (Neuhas, 2003). Most religious fervent and supporters historically have spoken out against war (Neuhas, 2003). This does not however, suggest that war is not resultant from religious doctrine and differences.

There are many instances that also suggest that religion directly influences the probability of war. This evidence begins in the earliest documentation of history. For example, the French Wars of Religion occurred during the mid to late 1500s. During this time the French Protestants, referred to as Huguenots, were politically important and concentrated in certain areas within France. The wars that ensued were the result in part of direct religious influences.

The current war with Iraq has often been identified as a religious endeavor. The Iraqi war has been identified as a war that was fought more closely because of religious belief than because of political causes. Wars resulting from Islamic expansion generally have been noted from as early as the 7th Century. Thus one might justify that religious differences certainly contribute to war. Osama Bin Laden is an example of an individual who waged his terror war as "religious" duty.

There are many areas of unrest presently that have described their reason for war as religious intolerance; these countries are described in the table below, provided by an organization supporting religious tolerance; many of these conflicts arose from internal and civil strife:

Source of Table: N.A. "Religiously-based civil unrest and warfare." Available:

Country Main religious groups involved Type of conflict


Extreme, radical Fundamentalist Muslim terrorist groups & non-Muslims

Osama bin Laden was responsible heads a terrorist group called Al Quada (The Source) whose headquarters were in Afghanistan. They were protected by, and integrated with, the Taliban dictatorship in the country. Al Quada is generally regarded as having committed many terrorist attacks on U.S. ships, embassies, and buildings. Their goal is to promote a worldwide war between Muslims and non-Muslims. The Northern Alliance of rebel Afghans, Britain and the U.S. attacked the Taliban and Al Quada, establishing a new regime in the country.


Serbian Orthodox Christians, Roman Catholic), Muslims

Fragile peace is holding, due only to the presence of peacekeepers.

Cote d'Ivoire Muslims, Indigenous, Christian Following the elections in late 2000, government security forces "began targeting civilians solely and explicitly on the basis of their religion, ethnic group, or national origin. The overwhelming majority of victims come from the largely Muslim north of the country, or is immigrants or the descendants of immigrants..." military uprising continued the slaughter in 2002.


Christians & Muslims

The island is partitioned, creating enclaves for ethnic Greeks (Christians) and Turks (Muslims). A UN peace keeping force is maintaining stability.

East Timor

Christians & Muslims

Roman Catholic country. About 20% of the population died by murder, starvation or disease after they were forcibly annexed by Indonesia (mainly Muslim). After voting for independence, many Christians were exterminated or exiled by the Indonesian army and army-funded militias in a carefully planned program of genocide and religious cleansing. The situation is now stable.


Animists, Hindus, Muslims & Sikhs

Various conflicts that heat up periodically. In late 2002-FEB, a Muslim-Hindu conflict broke out, killing an average of 100 people a day over the first five days.

Indonesia, province of Ambon

Christians & Muslims

After centuries of relative peace, conflicts between Christians and Muslims started during 1999-JUL in this province of Indonesia. The situation now appears to be stable.

Indonesia, province of Halmahera

Christians & Muslims

30 people killed. 2,000 Christians driven out; homes and churches destroyed.


Hindus & Muslims chronically unstable region of the world, claimed by both Pakistan and India. The availability of nuclear weapons and the eagerness to use them are destabilizing the region further. Thirty to sixty thousand people have died since 1989.


Serbian Orthodox Christians & Muslims

Peace enforced by NATO peacekeepers. There is convincing evidence of past mass murder by Yugoslavian government (mainly Serbian Orthodox Christians) against ethnic Albanians (mostly Muslim)


Christians, Muslims

Assaults on Christians (Protestant, Chaldean Catholic, & Assyrian Orthodox). Bombing campaign underway.


Macedonian Orthodox Christians & Muslims

Muslims (often referred to as ethnic Albanians) engaged in a civil war with the rest of the country who are primarily Macedonian Orthodox Christians. A peace treaty has been signed. Disarmament by NATO is complete.

Middle East Jews, Muslims, & Christians The peace process between Israel and Palestine suffered a complete breakdown. This has resulted in the deaths of over 800 Palestinians, and about 200 Jews." Major strife broke out in 2000-SEP and is continuing.


Christians, Animists, & Muslims

Yourubas and Christians in the south of the country are battling Muslims in the north. Country is struggling towards democracy after decades of Muslim military dictatorships.

Northern Ireland

Protestants, Catholics

After 3,600 killings and assassinations over 30 years, some progress has been made in the form of a ceasefire and an independent status for the country.


Suni & Shi'ite Muslims

Low level mutual attacks.



Sources Used in Document:


Allen, John L. (N.D.) "As Vatican Calls for Peace, diplomat plans defense of 'preventive war.' {Online} Available:

Armstrong, K. (1991). "Peace in Palestine." Holy War. New York: Doubleday. p4.

Clausewitz, Carl Von. (1992). "What is War?" On War (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1976). 75-89; excerpt reprinted in U.S. Army Command and General Staff College, C610 Syllabus/Book of Readings. 205011. Fort Leavenworth: USACGSC, July 1992.

Chandler, D.G. (1996). "The English Civil Wars, 'Islam vs. Christianity'." Atlas of Military Strategy. Boston: Sterline Publishing Company. Pp.30-33., 54-55

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