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April 12, 2017 / Congau

Belief in War

Wars of religion are rare. The Islamic conquests of the seventh century and the crusades of the eleventh probably are examples of mainly religious motivations for war, but it is doubtful if there are many others. A lot of conflicts have had religious components, true, but the main element is almost always political.

The infamous European wars of religion of the seventeenth century, the Thirty Years’ war, were certainly political as petty princes took advantage of the denominational uncertainty to favor their own political ambitions.

In our days also, religious divides sometimes draw the formal lines between conflicting parties, but then they are mostly used as labels for ethnic groups. The civil war in Yugoslavia was between ethnicities that define themselves according to religious affiliations, (there are no linguistic or racial differences between them) yet religion had played a very little role in their secular society.

The current war in Syria is a messy composition of groups based partly on ethnicity, partly on religion, but mostly it is about crude power as always. The IS with its fundamentalist Islamic ideology only entered the scene after the conflict had started. It is also to a large degree based on ethnicity and in any case they are quite busy fighting their co-religionists.

The most important question about any war should be: What are they fighting for? But curiously it seems like the closer you look at a conflict the more the answer eludes you. One would think that if anything was worth fighting for, it would be one’s deep convictions and beliefs. Going to war for your religion would have made sense somehow if that had really been the reason for wars. But it isn’t. The reason mankind can’t get along is not that there are fundamental differences in their convictions. Those differences exist of course, but that is usually not what causes conflict. It would probably have been too rational for an animal like man if that had been the case.

We certainly are ridiculous animals , getting at each other’s throats for no good reason. But at least we shouldn’t be afraid of believing in something since our beliefs are not the real reason why we can’t get along.

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