Sunday, July 03, 2005


I've heard this since I was a kid. Most wars are caused by religion than by anything else. While watching some expert on CNN this week expound upon this topic and our country's poor treatment of Moslems, it occurred to me that the phrase "most wars are caused by religion" is a public relations gimmick. By spinning this issue the onus is no longer on the bad guy, the blame is on religion, particularly Christianity or Judaism.

For instance, the War of Independence. It was not fought in the name of religion. None of the causes outlined in the Declaration of Indepence mentions anything about religion. It lists grievences against the King of England, but nothing about religion.

OK you're right Marc, but what about the Crusades. That was all about demanding that Moslems kowtow to Christianity. You can't argue with that.

Well, to the Christians of Europe, Jerusalem in the Holy Land was a sacred city. The tomb of Christ, the Mount of Olives, Golgotha, and all places associated with the life and death of Christ were believed to have divine powers of healing and of absolving penitent of sin. People from all parts of Europe made pilgrimages to Jerusalem and other holy places.

As long as the Saracens held Jerusalem, there was very little trouble. The Saracens permitted the pilgrims to come and go. In 1071, however, the fierce Seljuk Turks captured Jerusalem from the Saracens. The Turks at once began to persecute the Christians. Pilgrims on their way to the Holy City were robbed and beaten. The sacred places of the Roman Catholic church were profaned or destroyed.

When European Christians heard of the persecution, they were outraged. Alexius Commenus, emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, feared that the Turks might seize Constantinople, his capital. They had already defeated and slain his predecessor. As the terror of the Turks spread, Alexius commence sent a plea for aid to Pope Urban II at Rome.

The Pope called a council at Claremont in France in 1095. Speaking with ringing eloquence, he urged his audience to undertake a crusade to rescue the Holy Land. No speech in history has ever had greater results. Fired with religious zeal, clergy, knights, and common people shouted, "God wills it!"

So the underlying intent of the Crusades was not about the Church forcing Moslems, Jews or non-believers to give up their beliefs and practice Christianity. Nor was about Moslems demanding Christians and Jews give up their religious practice and convert to the fanatic Moslem beliefs of the Seljuk Turks. From a Moslem point of view, it was about land and power and getting rid of the infidels. For the crusaders

it was about allowing Christianity to co-exist in a part of the world that has always been deemed sacred.

What I can't argue is that there were instances when innocents were slaughtered by overzealous Christians that were way off track. Peaceful Moslem and Jews were martyrdom due to the ignorance of the Christian invaders that did not distinguish between them and the Turks. This is where prejudice comes into play on the part of "The Church."
But to be fair and balanced the prejudice went both ways. The subsequent Crusades were for the most part extensions of the first Crusade except for the Childrens Crusade, which was just plain idiotic. The Crusades were not about religion.

What about The Spanish Inquisition? Well you may have me on this one. However, although blatantly evil in nature, The Inquisition was not a war.

The Spanish Inquisition was used for both political and religious reasons. Spain is a nation-state that was born out of religious struggle between numerous different belief systems including Catholicism, Islam, Protestantism and Judaism. Following the Crusades and the Reconquest of Spain by the Christian Spaniards the leaders of Spain needed a way to unify the country into a strong nation. Ferdinand and Isabella chose Catholicism to unite Spain and in 1478 asked permission of the pope to begin the Spanish Inquisition to purify the people of Spain. They began by driving out Jews, Protestants and other non-believers.

In 1483 Tomas de Torquemada became the inquisitor-general for most of Spain. He was responsible for establishing the rules of inquisition's procedure and creating branches of the Inquisition in various cities. He remained the leader of the Spanish Inquisition for fifteen years and is believed to be responsible for the execution of around 2,000 Spaniards. The Catholic Church and the Pope attempted to intervene in the bloody Spanish Inquisition but were unable to wrench the extremely useful political tool from the hands of the Spanish rulers.

The Inquisition was run procedurally by the inquisitor-general who established local tribunals of the Inquisition. Accused heretics were identified by the general population and brought before the tribunal. The were given a chance to confess their heresy against the Catholic Church and were also encouraged to indict other heretics. If they admitted their wrongs and turned in other aggressors against the church they were either released or sentenced to a prison penalty. If they would not admit their heresy or indict others the accused were publicly introduced in a large ceremony before they were publicly killed or sentenced to a life in prison. Around the 1540s the Spanish Inquisition turned its fire on the Protestants in Spain in an attempt to further unify the nation. The Spanish Inquisition's reign of terror was finally suppressed in 1834. It is unfathomable that this was allowed to go on over 350 years. Though religion was a factor, it would seem that a reasonable person could understand that this horrific epic was about power and keeping Spain from any new thoughts or ideals that did not sit well with the status quo.

Of the wars that I am familiar with, most were fought to prevent a state sanctioned religion from being implemented within or without it's boundaries.

What about America's own Civil War? That is a very complex issue.

I was taught in school that the Civil War was fought to free the slaves. Although that was a result, that was not the actual cause of the war. The basis of the war was Southern States made a decision to succeed from the United States of America and set up their own country. The United States objected to this strategy and went to war to prevent those that would dissolve "The Union".

Slavery was a key issue. I haven't studied any other faiths that may have existed within the US during this time period, so we will concentrate only on Christian Church.

The Roman Catholic Church and the Anglican Church, based on what I can find in historical documentation, were either pro-slavery or for preserving the status-quo. Let slavery exist for those that want it and for those that don't, they have the option of not keeping slaves. To justify this the Bible was quoted with emphasis that slavery existed within the Old and New Testaments. Though not much effort seem to be put forth in the teachings with in the Old Testament regarding slavery, the rights of slaves and Jubilee years. These laws are very clear and Bible teachers at the time should have been aware of them.
Evangelical Christians for the most part were anti-slavery. Although this was not always the case. Many Northern Protestant denominations were pro-slavery. Within the past couple of months of 2005 a local church initiated a "forgiveness" service for an event that happened in 1863. That congregation had shunned a church member and his family during the Civil War years for participating in the Underground Railroad. They made this family leave their church home and the community. 142 years later they sought forgiveness from the survey great-great-great grandson of this family.

Although the religious beliefs of those living at the time and those whose lives were touched by that awful war came into play, the Civil War was not about nor caused by religion.

The Second World War was not about religion. It was about freedom to live, freedom from dictatorship and freedom to worship. The Holocaust was a direct result of a mad dictators hatred of Judaism. If you don't believe that, then you can thank someone's father or grandfather that you are not a lampshade or reading this blog in German.

The Korean War was based on political issues and had little to do with religion. After WWll, the Soviets were to occupy Korea, the Japanese had already laid claim to it since the early part of the century and China was eager to seize control. The UN was asked to intervene. A war ensued.

The Viet Nam War was not about religion. President Kennedy was advised by Vice President Johnson and other policy makers that the US needed to exert influence in Southeast Asia or that country would fall into the hands of the North Vietnamese. At the time it was a province of France. The religious of Viet Nam, in this case Buddhists, were martyred by the South Vietnamese government, but this again was a political war.

The first Gulf War was to keep Iraq from invading Kuwait and taking control of it's oil resources.

You can argue that the War in Afghanistan and the current War in Iraq are about religion. But I will argue back at you that it about freedom of religion and freedom of having a state sanctioned religion imposed not only on the inhabitants of Iraq and Afghanistan, but on the rest of the world. Especially the USA. Don't forget 09/11.

What of the ongoing unrest in Israel? This is based on highly political and religious issues. However if you take a historic overview of this region, you will see that Moslems, Jews and Arabs have peacefully coexisted for years and years until some political group imposes it's mandate on a region. For many, many years Israel was under Turkish control. (See the aforementioned section ont the Crusades) The British wrested this control from the Turks during the conclusion of WWl which ended the Ottoman reign.

The Balfour Declaration granted a Jewish Homeland. Tel Aviv was the first all Jewish city. The Arabs fought with the British to gain control of the State of Israel.

At the conclusion of WWll in 1946 the Transjordan Union was established by Britain.

Two years later as a result of the Arab-Jewish War, the Jews seized control over the State of Israel. The West Bank was given to the Palestinian-Transjordan residents.

The Six Day War was initiated as a pre-emptive strike by Israel against Jordanian and Syrian troops. Israel seized control of the Gaza strip and the Sinai peninsula.

Then in 1973 the Yom Kippur War, during the Jewish High Holy Days, Israel was invaded by it's Syrian and Palestinian neighbors. During this war Israel took control of the West Bank.

Politics, the survival of the country and it's citizens was the primary basis for these two wars. The freedom to practice their religion without having the beliefs of others was also a basis for these wars and the ongoing conflict in Israel. Israelis allow Moslems and Christians the freedom to worship within their country. Try that in Iran or in Afghanistan when the Taliban controlled it. Even in modern day "free" Russia, they don't mind having the Orthodox Church, but just mere weeks ago national news headlines told of Russian police harrassing Evangelical Christians.

Nothing changes much throughout history. However it can be said without a shadow of a doubt that most wars are not caused by religion. The basis of war seems to be political power, money or preservation of a peoples homeland and way of life.

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