MythBusters: Without Religion there would be no War
I can’t count the number of times I have heard this ‘argument’ on the internet from amateur atheists. Naturally, the more seasoned of us know that this is simply not true, but it seems to be a staple in atheistland that the newcomers love to recite.
I am not naive to the fact that religion is probably the reason most used to justify conflicts, but I strongly refute the idea that a warless world is only obtainable through the elimination of religion (human nature won’t allow it). I was looking around the internet for different wars that aren’t religiously driven to back my claim and I stumbled upon someones post in a forum. I don’t know who the author is, but it sums out my viewpoints on the matter pretty thoroughly. Enjoy
Much is said, today, on the issue of religious wars. Without question, religion has been (if only superficially) the banner of countless wars throughout history. Lists are often compiled, naming various instances of religious war (as, for example, this list).
One might reasonably ask, however, whether or not there is a corresponding list of non-religious wars. After all, if religion is really good for nothing but “starting wars,” then surely its elimination would do away with, or at least considerably diminish, the perpetuation of warfare across the globe.
Jack Perry has presented one such list of non-religious wars, as follows:
1.) The Seven Years’ War (Britain & France)
2.)The American Revolution
3.)The French Revolution
4.)The Napoleonic Wars (France & Europe)
5.)The Revolutions in the Americas
6.)The Wars to create and preserve the British Empire (Boer War, Irish Revolution, and the Great Game with Russia would all be examples)
7.)The American Civil War
8.)The Crimean War
9.)The Spanish-American War
10.)The Great War, The War to End All Wars, or World War I (whatever you want to call it)
11.)The Italian invasion of Ethiopia
12.)The Spanish Civil War
13.)Stalin’s invasions of Finland, the Baltic states, and Poland
14.)World War II
15.)The Chinese Revolution
16.)The Cold War, including but not limited to the Korean War, the Cuban Missile Crisis, the Vietnam War, the American intervention in Grenada, and the Soviet campaign in Afghanistan
17.)The Cultural Revolution in China (If you don’t want to call this a war I’ll concede it)
18.)Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge Revolution
19.)The Falklands War
20.)The Persian Gulf War between Iran & Iraq
21.)The Persian Gulf War between the United Nations and Iraq
The Breakup of Yugoslavia (beginning with Slovenia).
Naturally, some of Perry’s points are debatable. For instance, there are some who hold that Nazism has certain occult roots (see, for example, Nicholas Goodrick-Clarke’s book on the subject, “The Occult Roots of Nazism: Secret Aryan Cults and Their Influence on Nazi Ideology.” So, in some sense, one might argue that World War II was, in fact, a religious war. The same cannot be said, however, of World War I.
Obviously, the above list could not count very significant the Reign of Terror (French), which followed the French Revolution, as it was not, technically, a war, per se. Still, I think it is a point worth serious consideration.
Of course, there are those who maintain Robespierre (who presided over the Reign of Terror) was actually religious, and an oppressor of atheists. Nevertheless, the fact remains that:
“The French Revolution eradicated the Church root and branch. The Jacobin state was officially atheist, although Robespierre attempted to cover this fact with the fig leaf of ‘the Supreme Being’, which convinced nobody except maybe Robespierre himself. Although the people of France were supposed to be fervent Catholics, religion practically disappeared in France after the Revolution (except in the most backward and reactionary districts like the Vendée).”
I am NOT, of course, suggesting, as some do, that atheism leads, ever and always, to anarchy, bloodshed, etc. I am merely endeavoring to establish that the religious are no more a danger to humankind than the irreligious. Or, to put it in other words, the irreligious are no less prone to senseless violence than the religious.