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Recently, in speaking with people, and endeavoring to share the gospel, I have noticed quite a few folks have brought up a similar opinion. The general view that they seem to believe can be summarized like this: “Religion causes division among people. In fact all wars are rooted in religion or religious differences. Therefore religion is not a good thing.” What these individuals seemed to really be saying, in essence, was “I’m not interested in religion, and in particular, I’m not interested in Jesus or the gospel.”

Apparently, this thinking is more pervasive than I used to realize. For many people, this can be either a roadblock to hearing the gospel, or an excuse not to believe. So much so, in fact, that it seems important to consider how to address this argument, in order to help people get beyond this apparent obstacle.

While this argument may sound plausible on the surface, religion actually isn’t the cause of most wars. I’m thinking of the 5 most major conflicts our own nation has endured: The Revolutionary War, the Civil War, World Wars I and II, and Vietnam.

The American Revolution had nothing to do with religion. The Civil War involved ideological differences, but this was not a religious war either. Both World Wars were rooted in political aggression and nationalism. Religious motivations were not a key factor in these conflicts. Vietnam was arguably an effort to stem the spread of communism, and it would be a stretch to call this a religious war. Granted, there have been some sorry chapters in history, such as the Crusades, where religious zeal was misdirected. But to say that religion is the cause of all ( or even most) wars does not line up with reality.

The scriptures teach differently. James 4:1-3
“1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures.”

Apparently the issue of wars and fighting is rooted in man’s selfish nature. This is a deeper problem, but, fortunately it is one for which God has a solution: Repentance today, and a future kingdom for all who obey, in which war and strife will cease forever.

What do you think?

  • Any other thoughts on how to address this argument, and turn it around to promote the gospel?

3 Responses to “Is Religion the Cause of War?”

  1. on 21 Aug 2007 at 5:46 pmVictor

    Richard, this is an excellent post. I think, as you noted towards the end of this article that God is not in favor of war and will end it when the He sets all that is wrong with this world right. This is something I think we can emphasize when speaking to people who use this objection.

    Also, I think that often when I have heard this excuse used, it is primarily just that, and excuse. An excuse usually to not allow the conviction of the gospel to happen. Since this is the case, to take the time to have a good answer to those who offer this up, is a worthwhile endeavor.

    One other thing, I think that there are some conflicts/wars that have been faught in the name of a religion and this should not be ignored – however, perhaps we can tell them what the Bible actually says about how a Christian should live – peaceably/peacemakers, gentle, lovers of neighbor and even enemy, etc, etc to illustrate that although there have been these sad situations in history, they don’t have to think that they were waged by followers of the true God and the Messiah who follow their teachings.

  2. on 21 Aug 2007 at 11:12 pmSean

    There is no doubt that this argument is used largely as a smoke screen to divert one’s conscience from being pierced by the gospel, even so, it is also true that most wars (for America or otherwise) do use religious rheteric. The most obvious example are the crusades. But also, I spoke with a Bosnian this morning in Grand Rapids who told me a horrifying story of when the Serbs came to his town when he was six years old (he is now 22). They came and killed people, cut off peoples noses, ears, etc. and inscribed crosses into the Bosnian people’s arms. This was to signify that the Serbs (who according to this man are Eastern Orthodox Christians) were superior to the Muslim Bosnians. This man is now tainted for life and only with the greatest of effort could I even get him to consider Christianity for just a moment.

  3. on 22 Aug 2007 at 11:59 amKim

    Great article… However I agree with Sean. After listening to that Bosnian man talk about his memories with war and Christians, it seems that religious attacks are what people remember the most. Maybe because it’s more personable than the fact that two countries are fighting.. And although religion may not be the core reason for a war in those instances, religion does give some people the feeling of being better/right in comparison to others. I believe that in wars, it is easy to connect the dots between different people’s and their religions, and in doing so, it’s easier to make yourself feel a little better about fighting.


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