Why religious wars happen.

The incident at Gaza has taught me one thing: when people see ‘one of theirs’ dying at the hands of ‘one of others’, it strikes a herd mentality in the minds of even the brightest and the best, and people will rush to defend their own or demand justice from the ‘others’ that have caused the grievance. As Erdogan and Peres slam each other on the international sphere and Anwar Ibrahim, our de facto national leader for the Opposition Front, cheers Erdogan on in his blog, what becomes evident is that even the brightest of the godly is not exempt from rushing to war at the (perceived) call of God. The difference is only in whether one opts a weapon of missiles or a weapon of words. A jihad, after all, has three levels: the second is a jihad of words (dakwah) and it is only the third and final jihad that is one of weapons.

Although the basis of some of this battling may be found in each religion’s respective Scripture, the reason for this is actually easier, simpler, and thus deadlier than anything that can be found in Scripture. Religions offer an identity that transcends all other forms of identification an individual may associate himself or herself to. It is the identification that is easiest to slip in, and psychologically the hardest to slip out of. Whereas one cannot choose one’s ethnicity and has little choice in choosing one’s nationality, one chooses the beliefs that one holds on to, and if it is a well-institutionalized one such as the Big Three, one is also opting to enter an international, border-crossing sense of identification. It is no coincidence that both Christianity and Islam already identified this border-crossing sense of unity among believers in the language of their respective faiths; in Christianity all believers are part of the ‘body of Christ’ — united despite differences — whereas in Islam all believers are part of the ummah. This (the sense of identification, not the fact that these religions recognize it) means that religious identification is perhaps the most powerful force of identification that can be conceived by the human imagination.

It is within the eschatologies of Judaism, Christianity, and Islam — beliefs that blend and siphon off each other, and sometimes setting each other at odds with one another — that the location of Israel and Palestine will play a major role in the end of the world. You do not need prophets to tell you this sort of thing, of course. The location is the point of identification of three major religions and has been, for centuries, the point of contention for all three. Anything that happens there will lead to a domino effect around the world, as Jews, Christians and Muslims begin to define themselves first and foremost as Jews, Christians and Muslims instead of anything else that they are. And they will fight — not by order of their religion (though some of it exists) — but simply because they see that ‘you, outsider, have hurt someone of my own’.


2 Responses to “Why religious wars happen.”

  1. 1 thomasjmoore
    February 14, 2009 at 12:59 am

    I think that the call to arms cans arise from a righteousness from God; the innate desire to defend a brother or sister (through association of religion) clearly is paralleled with the compassion shown to us through Jesus Christ.

    The desire the defend is righteous but the way it is done in our world, I would argue, is not. I am not suggesting an alternative that I myself find myself righteous enough to practice or recommend to Jerusalem or the Hamas.

    I guess the real question is, what should they be doing with that innate, God driven desire to defend (not that it exists in everyone who chooses to fight). Since this fight is over soil and physical establishments (on top of religious disagreements) I think the answer is meekness as Jesus says in Matthew 5 that it is the Meek who inherit the earth.

    What do you think?

  2. February 14, 2009 at 1:19 am

    Wow. I hadn’t expected a comment, since this post was originally a ‘testing’ post. I’m still tweaking with the layout, even!

    Regarding the conflict of Israel and Palestine, I think there is a significant difference in the way the three different religions involved recommends different answers, and of course even within a single religion there are enough people who disagree about what another fellow believer says.

    If you speak to a Muslim, or a Jew, you would find radically different conclusions from that of your own, because they would come from value systems that stem from their own religious beliefs.

    But even if you end up speaking to someone who is very thoughtful or articulate of either religion, you would find that when push comes to shove, whatever ‘actual’ beliefs espoused in Scripture still falls second to a sense of identification that comes from being part of a religion. The former is thoughtful, the second is instinctive. Meeting and speaking with a Christian in Palestine would probably alter your views dramatically on the issue.

Comments are currently closed.


Kata Karcy is part of an experiment to write consistently in two separate blogs -- one as a public diary, and one as a public soapbox -- for two months. By the end of the two months, if things go well, I will purchase my own webspace and set up my own personal hub, of which the two blogs will be part of. To visit the public diary, check out Life in Progress.


February 2009



%d bloggers like this: