Our world today is racked by war. Switch on the TV and there seems to be at least one part of the world where war is being waged. The news that is constantly aired into our homes seems to want to convince us that the most violent conflicts, directly or indirectly, are being fought on religious lines, giving rise to the notion that religion is the primary cause of war. But is this allegation true? Or is it another media-created myth?
While there’s no denying that many wars such as the Crusades were fought on religious ideology, it is stretching facts to say that religion has been the main cause of war. The Encyclopedia of Wars states that out of 1,763 wars, about 123, or less than 7% have been fought in the name of religion.
The historical evidence is therefore quite clear: Religion is not the #1 cause of war. If religion cannot be blamed for most wars and violence, then what is the primary cause?
The truth is that greed for land and power, atheistic philosophies and other non-religious motivations bear the responsibility for the overwhelming majority of mankind’s wars. Religion gets the blame but history tells a different story. Much of the conflict and war in the 20th century was the result of atheist ideologies and their followers.
The loss of lives during religious conflict pales in comparison to the loss during the regimes of those who wanted nothing to do with the idea of God, such as Hitler, who was inspired by atheist philosopher Frederick Nietzsche, and Stalin who leaned on Karl Marx for support. These mass murderers had nothing to do with religion; in fact they were out to finish it brutally and mercilessly.
These secular or atheistic beliefs need to be challenged every bit as much as the religious outlook. Rather than being naïve and digesting all that the media would have us believe, we must look to the essential teachings and principles of religion. It is not religion that causes violence, but people. And specifically a certain mindset that seeks to use an ideology or a religious justification to mould people’s thinking and deny the most fundamental freedoms.
When freedom of conscience, belief, women’s rights or other important rights are abused, everyone must reject this as wrong. Sometimes this may mean challenging those who claim the same religious affiliation as we do. Wars are not as much the result of religious beliefs as they are the consequence of an absence of religious belief.