God, War, and Logic

I’m not one of those who think belief in the Christian God has frequently caused wars.  So far as I know, the Thirty Years War (1618-1648) was the most recent one to start purely — or almost purely — for religious reasons.  But I do agree with those who point out how typical it is for members of the clergy to support whatever wars their nation’s politicians happen to endorse.  And, while it is also typical for the average citizen to support their politician’s wars, the clergy tends to be more influential.  So, it is easy to see that many members of the clergy facilitate wars, despite the fact some members of the clergy also oppose them.

The issue of whether belief in God causes wars was recently raised on The Stupid Evil Bastard blog.  Actually, it was brought up as a straw man argument: One of the commentators on that blog wanted to ascribe the notion to his opponents — apparently, so he could have an easy knock down.  After putting words in their mouths that they didn’t speak, he went on to state:

I’m using the examples to counter the argument in the post that belief in God is the cause of war by pointing out that those who do not believe in God also cause war. In other words, neither belief or unbelief in God are the cause of war.

So, not only does he commit the straw man fallacy to set the stage for his “devastating blow”, but he then screws up by effectively claiming that, because non-believers have caused some wars, believers have not caused any wars.

I have yet to meet anyone — very much including myself — who is immune to making mistakes in logic and reasoning.  But sometimes the mistakes just keep on coming.  I’ve had days like that.  I can’t prove it, but I would guess most of us have.

9 thoughts on “God, War, and Logic

  1. Virtually all wars were and are fought over access to resources. Religion is often used to rally the faithful or dehumanize the enemy. It is not so much “belief in God” per se but religion (what is believed and how it is believed) that contributes to the sense of entitlement that says I deserve what you have and I will kill you to get it.
    Religion also contributes to atrocities, again for the same reasons. The three greatest murderers of the 20th century were Hitler, Mao and Stalin. I contend that Nazism and Communism are forms of religion. Stalin and Mao get off lightly because they only murdered their own and their countries were tightly closed and controlled.

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    • Excellent comment! I especially agree with you that the most frequent goal of war is to gain access to resources. There seem to be exceptions, but those are quite rare.

      It did not occur to me that wars contribute to a sense of entitlement, but, now that you mention it, I think you are right.

      Our one point of disagreement happens because I myself do not believe Nazism and Communism are forms of religion. I think both adopted some religious trappings. But Nazism and Communism seem to me to be essentially ideologies. And while religions can have ideologies, it is not their ideologies that make them religions.

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  2. It is very important for rulers to gain cooperation from religions in times of war because the people need to be told that, in this case, killing people is morally acceptable. If the people thought they were going to hell for murder, it would be harder to convince the subjects to go out and kill the people that the rulers want killed. If there wasn’t a double-standard in place, war could not happen. In fact, government itself could not happen.

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    • Sad, but true, Alan. The cooperation of the clergy is actively sought by the politicians. And the politicians are certainly not above making their own direct appeal to the religious, too.

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  3. I’m in agreement with you that belief in the Christian God doesn’t cause wars. I dealt with this question on my own blog here. It seems to me that those who want to wage war use God as an authority on their side justifying their doing so. They also need the authority of God to persuade the people and assure them of victory.

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  4. The bottom line is that there has always been war — it’s been around since time immemorial. Blaming any religion is silly — all of the religions of the can share of blame.
    We humans are violent and that’s the bottom line.

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    • I agree, Kay. We evolved as a territorial animal very willing to defend its turf with violence and to violently invade someone else’s turf, too. That’s been our nature and the nature of our ancestors for millions of years.

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