Does Religion Cause War? (short)

by January 1, 2012

Question: Religion causes wars. Wouldn’t the world be much better off without religion?

Answer:  Let’s discuss the answer in four points:

  1. How many of the wars in recent memory were caused by religion? Religion was not an issue in either of the two world wars, nor in most of the other wars like the Vietnam War or the Korean War. Even when religion has been supposedly involved, the amount of religious warfare has been far less than the amount of secular warfare (warfare motivated by secular causes like money, power, politics, prestige etc).
  2. Even when religion is the professed cause, is it the actual cause? Terrorists, mercenaries, suicide bombers and soldiers who engage in violence in the name of religion are promised materialistic rewards: wealth that their family members and relatives will get in this world. But non-religious people also engage in similar violence for material gains. The so-called religious people engaging in violence are motivated not by religion, but by materialism; religion merely serves as their self-righteous rationalization.
  3. Even if religion has been misused, is giving up religion the solution? Scientific technology has also been misused to wreak unspeakable suffering through the weapons of mass destruction. If we were to give up whatever is misused, we would have to give up technology. If there is a cataract in the eye, we need to remove not the eye, but the cataract. Similarly, we need to remove not religion, but the ignorance of true religion that lets vested interest abuse religion. The number of people who are inspired to acts of service and compassion by religion is far, far more than the number of people incited to violence by it. By highlighting the violent acts perpetrated in the name of religion and by downplaying the charitable acts performed due to religious inspiration, our media gives a misleading picture of the contribution of religion to the world.
  4. Real spirituality – which comprises of philosophy and religion – enables us to attain inner happiness, which is the prerequisite for peace. We are all souls, who are the lost children of God, Krishna. Due to not finding inner happiness, we have become filled desires for external enjoyment and are forced to fight with each other for the scarce resources necessary to fulfill our desires. So as long as we seek happiness externally, we cannot end wars. And the best, nay the only, way to find inner happiness is through genuine spirituality comprised of philosophical understanding and religious practice.

Thus, real religion does not cause wars; it ends wars.

(For a detailed answer to this question, please refer to the article “Does Religion Cause War?” in the author’s book “Science and Spirituality”)

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