The Gods of War
Does religion cause war? It is often claimed that religion is responsible for more wars, more global conflicts and more deaths than any other factor. After all, the world has seen its share of crusades, inquisitions and jihads. Enlightened, modern...
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Does religion cause war? It is often claimed that religion is responsible for more wars, more global conflicts and more deaths than any other factor. After all, the world has seen its share of crusades, inquisitions and jihads. Enlightened, modern people assume that if we could only discard primitive religious belief, the world would be a better place. Alas, the picture is not quite so simple. "Indeed," writes Meic Pearse, "there is only one thing that bears a heavier responsibility than religion as a principal cause of war. And that is, of course, irreligion."
In this provocative book, historian Meic Pearse debunks the common misconception that religion causes war. He argues that while religion is often a significant generator of armed conflict both in the past and in the present, the two principal causes of human warfare are in fact culture and greed for territory, resources or power. Since culture and greed often clothe themselves in religion, wars fought for culture often appear to be fought for religion. With keen analysis of global history and current events, Pearse shows how irreligion has produced far bloodier wars than religion, and how global secularism itself does violence to religion and traditional cultures. Ultimately, throughout history warfare has been waged over the shape of society itself. A crisis in meaning leads people to fight for what they fear may be lost. For a world weary of war, Pearse points beyond both cultural and secular metanarratives to an alternative hope.
Meic Pearse (D.Phil., Oxford University) is associate Professor of History at Houghton College, New York, USA. He has lectured in church history at the London School of Theology and in the Balkans and is author of several books and articles, including Why the Rest Hates the West (SPCK), The Age of Reason: from the Wars of Religion to the French Revolution 1570-1789 (Baker/Lion) and The Gods of War: Is Religion the Primary Cause of Violent Conflict? (InterVarsity Press) and The Great Restoration : Religious Radicals of the 16th and 17th Century (Paternoster, 1998, 2003).