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Does Religion Cause War?

Does Religion Cause War?



If believing in a god or gods is good, then why is so much pain and suffering caused by religion--like the crusades, suicide bombings, etc., etc?


This is a question we hear very often, and there are a number of ways of approaching the issue. I'd like to try a scientific approach.

The position is that religion causes war. Just like, say, alcohol causes inebriation and sunlight makes things grow.

If we wanted to test the alcohol/inebriation or sun/growth hypotheses scientifically, what would we do? Quite simple: Remove the alcohol from whatever drinks we are serving and see if our clients are still inebriated. Same with the sun/growth theory: Remove the sunlight and see if things still grow.

With the religion/war hypothesis, we don't have to actually make a clinical study--it's already been done for us. In the 20th century, we saw the most disastrous wars of history, both in Europe and in the Far East. Tell me, which of these were centered around religious disputes?

As scientists, we are forced to develop an alternative hypothesis: There is another common factor to war, much more common than religion--and that is that they are fought by human beings.

I can't speak on behalf of other religions, but I can tell you that many of the great prophets of Judaism spoke of the value of peace even in a time when war was the accepted state of affairs. Isaiah's words are inscribed on the wall of the United Nations: "And they shall beat their swords into plowshares, and their spears into pruning hooks. Nation shall not lift up sword upon nation, neither shall they learn war any more."

In fact, the rabbis of Roman times taught that Peace (Shalom in Hebrew) is one of the names of G‑d.

For the rest of the world, it wasn't until the cataclysmic disaster of World War I that people began to realize that war isn't so much fun after all. That's how recent it was, less than ninety years ago, that suddenly peace became a value in the minds of human beings. If only they had listened to those prophets and rabbis a few thousand years earlier!

Here's another article on the same subject: Who Needs Religion, If It's the Cause of So Much Violence?

Rabbi Tzvi Freeman, a senior editor at, also heads our Ask The Rabbi team. He is the author of Bringing Heaven Down to Earth. To subscribe to regular updates of Rabbi Freeman's writing, visit Freeman Files subscription.
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Discussion (66)
February 18, 2015
Reglions based on hatred cause wars.
February 1, 2015
For Gordon Smith
My answer is not one of them. What is yours?
Tzvi Freeman
February 1, 2015
Mr. Freeman, you ask "In the 20th century, we saw the most disastrous wars of history, both in Europe and in the Far East. Tell me, which of these were centered around religious disputes?" May I ask for your answer?
Gordon Smith
July 26, 2014
How can we stop religious wars? We live in a time when we can destroy the earth.
Marlene Potter
May 31, 2014
Religion merely provides an unquestioned justification for any and all transgressions.
September 3, 2013
Religion definately causes war, so that's not a good quesiton to ask
WW1 and WW2 were both caused because of the advancement of military technology. That doesn't mean that religion never causes war. We know that religion causes war cause of crusades and other wars so that isn't a good question to ask. The real question we should be asking is are atheists more or less inclined to support war.
July 17, 2013
religion is an illusion, created by God to test our faith and wisdom
God creates human beings, and gives them colours. However, human beings divide themselves politically, economically and socially. Those who kill others because of god are those who do not understand the holy books, while those who continue giving his best to the world is a true fighter.
Mani jack
kuching, sarawak, malaysia
June 14, 2013
Religion does not cause war, it is just the fuel
War is caused by man usually over a selfish or power hungry reason. religion is just the fuel they use to get people to fight for them, as it is easier to get some to fight for something they belief in than getting them to fight on your side.

Leaders know this and use it to there advantage by twisting the media into making it appear as a religious war to get people to fight, when in truth its just all about power and control over world economy. What ever countries currency runs the trade market runs the economy, at this point in time it is america so countries are turning on them power hungry and the leaders are using religion to brainwash the people to fight, same on both sides.

That is just one modern example, the economy theory is just an opinion not fact so please don't start an argument about it cause i don't care.

Throughout history though this has always been the truth though any leader wanting world domination has used religion to brainwash people to fight.
May 20, 2013
Religion itself does not cause war. You don't see the Bible running around with a sword stabbing people. It's those who take their religious teachings and warp themselves into thinking that their religion is the truth. Many Human's have an inability to tolerate one another, be it because of race, color, or religion. Unfortunately, religion is a motive for Humans who cause and fight wars. World War II was not caused by religion. The Allies had little knowledge of Hitler's concentration camps and what he was doing.
April 30, 2013
Not every war is caused by religion, but more were caused by religion then what people think. Granted, World War II did have the highest death count, but it still only counts as one war. Wars are not won by loses, they are won by whoever is stronger. We are not asking what has the higher death death toll, we are asking if religion is a cause of wars. Mathematically, religion is the number one cause of wars because there is so many. World War II cannot be the deciding factor. If you want to use it that way then my next argument would be that Hitler exterminated the Jewish, Gays, Gypsies, and the Mentally Challenged. He hated the Jewish because of their religion, not because they were not the same race because lets not forget that Hitler was Jewish himself, and you may say Hitler wanted there to be a master race, but there were plenty of Aryans that were Jewish and Hitler still killed them. Again, not every war was religious, but math and history don't lie.
Trevorton, PA
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