Religion and War

Big Questions Section

This section includes answers to some big questions. We don’t claim to have the answers (only God has all the answers!) But we hope and pray this helps you and the young people you work with. These are not definitive and you may way disagree or be able to add more, but they hopefully act as an inspiration or starting point.

There are 18 questions answered here. We must credit “When Skeptics Ask” by Norman Geisler and “Cosmic Codes” by Chuck Missler, “It makes sense” by Stephen Gaukroger and the website (Christian Research and Apologetics Ministry). We’ve tried our very best to give easy answers to the questions and then more advanced / detailed answers and even further study.

Why does religion cause so many wars?

Easy Answer

It does seem that religion has caused many wars and sometimes it has. But there are lots of things that cause war. Usually the things that cause war have selfishness as the root cause. So people want power, want money, want land, want success, want more, want to be the winner, or because of great fear or just plain hate for others. But it’s also important to see that sometimes war happens because of doing what’s right or justice. So when Hitler invaded Europe, ultimately Britain stood up against the Nazis because it was the right thing. Or when knights of Europe saw Jerusalem being invaded (as they saw it) by Muslims (after decades of attacks), they took up arms against them, believing they were fighting in the name of God. But when Christians do wrong or even kill, it is contrary to the nature of Jesus and not what he put in our hearts or what he wants or what the Bible says.

It’s easy to look back and judge people, but maybe we would have done the same if we’d lived then in that culture! Today, we see a lot of religious divides causing problems, but it’s fair to say that it is very rarely (if ever) real Christians causing war, terrorism or violence. It’s usually Christians who are being attacked (by extreme people of other faiths and by those with no faith). People often cause violence because they want their way and this isn’t just a religious problem. This happens with all kinds of people – those who are animal rights extremists, drug cartels, street gangs in cities etc. But the Bible tells us that we don’t fight against people (‘flesh and blood’). Instead, the battles the Christian undertakes are in prayer because Christians believe there is an enemy who opposes God’s work and people. Physical violence isn’t part of God’s plan. Instead, Jesus called us to pray, to love, to serve and to do things differently to the way the world does!

Interestingly, two historians researched the causes of over 1700 wars. They found that only around 6.9% were caused by religion – with over half of those caused by Islam and the other just under half caused by all other religions. The findings were that most wars were caused by territory and power disputes.

Advanced Answer

When we look through the Bible and look through history we can look and see that religion seems to have caused lots of wars (for example you may have heard of the Crusades when ‘Christians’ fought against Muslims over the city of Jerusalem in Israel) and for other reasons. We may look around today and see acts of terrorism committed in the name of religion (although to be more specific, most of these atrocities are committed by Islamic nations, some by other groups and almost none by Christians). Never lump real Christians in with other religions. It is not Christians killing others, but each year thousands of Christians are killed simply for their faith. 

Often religion does cause war. But there are lots of reasons that wars happen. Most of the time, war happens because of other motives like greed. People want land, they want oil, they want natural resources that another nation has. It can be because of pure hatred or revenge (all of these reasons were partly why the now dead Iraqi leader, Saddam Hussein invaded a country called Kuwait). It can be simply to dominate another country or region. It is often about power. The people fighting the war may have a religion, they may not, but usually the motive is not always religion. At the root of this is evil – at the root of evil is sin – man choosing to reject God and then reaping the consequences. Other times, religion is blamed but unfairly. For example many Muslims believe that America is Christian and wants to invade the Middle East to kill Muslims. Of course this is completely untrue. But it’s also untrue that America is ‘Christian’. It isn’t. If you are born into a Muslim country you are considered a Muslim. But if you are born in America you aren’t a ‘Christian’. A Christian is only someone who accepts Jesus. 

(By the way this is why Islam claims to be the fastest growing religion but isn’t – because they count every birth as a Muslim. But in actual fact, Christianity is growing faster as Christians measure growth only through people who choose to believe in Jesus, not by births).

For example, three of the modern world’s greatest mass murderers were atheists – men who didn’t believe in God at all. In fact their views of evolution and not believing in God were part of the reasons they killed so many… Hitler killed over 6 million Jewish people alone. World War II killed between 62-78 million people (according to Wikipedia). Germany lost 6,630,000 to 8,680,000 people (according to Wikipedia) because of Hitler’s fascist and other evil beliefs. The other man was called Joseph Stalin. This man killed 21 million of his own people! The last one was Chinese leader, Mao Zedong who unbelievably killed between 40-70 million of his own people in his ‘cultural revolution’. To give some perspective, the 2012 population of England was 53 million. 

In the past, Christians have sadly committed some terrible crimes and killings because they didn’t really understand the Bible or Jesus. Some Christians killed Jewish people, believing they killed Jesus. But while some Jewish religious hardlienrs were vaguely responsible for crucifying Jesus, it wasn’t all of them and it included many Romans (Gentiles) too. But more than this, the Bible tells us that it was our sin that meant that Jesus actually gave himself to pay the price for us to be made right with God again. In recent centuries, you’ll see that Christians have not killed people en masse. Some have said people like George Bush were responsible for killing many people in places like Iraq. But the battle was not Christians vs anyone, the battle was a war between the West and terrorism. President Obama (not a Christian) has continued this fight against terrorism. Most nations are ‘at war’ and ‘against’ some people, despite being secular nations. Some Christians believe that sometimes you have to go to war as a lesser evil… Imagine how bad things would be if Britain had not stood up to Hitler and Nazi Germany. Other Christians would argue war in places like Iraq was wrong.

Those who don’t believe in God will inevitably cause more destruction because they don’t believe they are accountable to any higher authority. We are already seeing the destruction of millions of people through abortion each year because people don’t value life that God has made. The biggest killer in our world is not believing in God. 

Jesus said that Christians should love God and love others; that they should turn the other cheek and not take revenge when others persecute and attack. Instead, they should love their enemies and do kind acts even to those who hate them. The message of Christianity is counter-cultural. It runs completely against the way the world does things. Instead of coming as a mighty warrior and killing all their enemies like the Romans as the Jewish people expected, Jesus was born to a young mum not in her home town, in the public area of a crowded inn among the animals and smells. Jesus didn’t come as a conquering king but as a lamb who was slain (Revelation 5). This is why you don’t see Christian terrorists. Where Islamic terrorists kill others to get their ‘reward’ and seek an Islamic world to dominate and control through sharia law; you’ll find that Christians are asked by Jesus to ‘die to their selfish desires’ and instead live for God and others. It is completely different. 

As a final thought. Jesus is going to return one day and this time he will come to judge each one of us and the nations. And this Jesus is the real risen, heavenly Jesus. He will judge with justice but it won’t be some hippy festival. He returns as the King of kings and the Lord of lords, with eyes burning like fire and a double-edged sword in his mouth. So don’t think of Jesus as some quaint bearded freak in a white robe and sandals. He is a warrior and he when he returns, the skies will split, the trumpet will sound and everyone will bow to him. The best thing is to understand that Jesus is for you and wants the best for you now. So why not ask Jesus to be the boss of your life and to help you live the best life possible.