Wednesday, August 02, 2017

Religion Causes Wars

... is just nonsense.

Chaos all over the place for me this morning, so here's a short one.

I'm almost done with The Ottoman Empire and I highly recommend it. It's all war and conquest all the time for hundreds of years. Just like the French / British / Spanish / Germans. And Aztecs. And Apache. And Chinese. And and and.

Religions are collections of ideas, like philosophies. If some religions caused wars, then some religions would prevent them, too. Religions would also cause different kinds of wars, marked by the differences in the idea structures and content. They don't. It's one pack of dudes and dudettes taking on another pack of dudes and dudettes because they think it's easy pickings or they feel threatened.

As I got to the part where Napoleon invaded Egypt*, which at the time was part of the Ottoman Empire, I did a thought experiment. If there was no such thing as religion, if we all lived like ants or wolves or whatever, would there have been peace?

Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha! (Gasp) Hahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahahaha!


Yep, religion causes wars. Keep telling yourself that.

I think this is a picture of one of the popes. Or maybe the Dalai Lama.
* - The French, irreligious at the time following the Revolution, invaded Egypt to mess with the British. No religion involved there, just one side trying to get an advantage over the other.


tim eisele said...


So, you're saying that all this about how Islam is a warlike religion, and the Muslim refugees going into Europe as a "stealth light infantry" to conquer the world in the name of Islam, is just a red herring, because religion doesn't cause wars? And they're really just another bunch of guys, doing what guys do?

Well, that's a relief.

Ohioan@Heart said...

Actually I read his argument to be that while some wars are caused by/fought over religion (the Crusades being perhaps the unarguable example), religion also helps to reduce wars in some cases, and that lots of wars are not about religion, even if the propaganda says otherwise. This really boils down to any simplistic statement like "Religion causes war" is bound to be partially true and partially false.

Now as to "Islam is a warlike religion", that would be a simplified statement as well. However, based on much current experimental evidence with respect to how Islam was spread, and how some adherents are behaving today, it is not, in my opinion, an overly simplified statement.

K T Cat said...

You are both asking the wrong question.

Posit an Earth where humans do not wonder in any way about transcendence in life. Like the oxen, life is eating, mating and dying. The scourge of religion is utterly absent. Is life more peaceful?

When the Germans and Slavs discover that the musket and pike square is superior to the Ottoman Janissaries and horse archers, do they not take advantage of the situation and regain territory lost when the Ottomans had superiority?

In the Crimean War, the Catholic French, the Protestant British and the Islamic Ottomans teamed up against the Orthodox Russians because the Russians were causing problems. Take away the religions and doesn't this happen anyway?

Religion just gives you a different way of grouping bands of humans to fight each other. If we saw ourselves as no more than beasts of the field, we'd still fight.

tim eisele said...

Well, for what it's worth, I agree that religion is not the cause of wars. It frequently is co-opted as an *excuse* for wars, and as you say, used as a tool to decide who is going to be on *which side*, but the wars were going to be fought anyway. The actual cause of war is a combination of (a) leaders who want to get control of other people and their stuff, and (b) the availability of a large quantity of underemployed young men with poor future prospects, who are willing to get recruited into an army and go blow stuff up.

That last point is what I think is the big issue in deciding whether there is going to be a big war or not - the scale of a war is limited by how many soldiers you can get together. I don't remember if I ever told you before about the Population Pyramids of the World site, but I think it is really interesting. If you look at this on a country-by-country basis, you'll see that the countries where there is a lot of actual, serious fighting going on are countries with a massive oversupply of young people (and therefore lots of violent young men in their 20s). The one place that looks like an exception (Russia/Ukraine, where both countries have a relatively small fraction of young people), actually looks like a case where the leaders decided to start a war without sufficient numbers of angry young men. While it was bad for a bit with 10,000 people killed, the whole thing now seems to have more or less petered out. In comparison, the Syrian civil war, with their plentiful supply of violent young men, has killed closer to 470,000 with no sign of stopping, putting them on track for *fifty times more people killed*.

Foxfier said...

But... messing with the Brits *IS* a state religion! The French and Scottish BOTH do it!


Tim's right about "religion" often being an excuse, but that is rather a matter of course for the same reason it's one of the Forbidden Subjects-- sex, religion and politics are things folks care about.