What we refer to as Modern Times provides enough evidence to support my contention that religion has been mainly to blame for the many wars of attrition that have occurred in the last Millenium. During what is known as The Crusades(1095 to 1290 AD), two faiths, Christianity and Islam, battled for possession of the so-called Holy Land and Pope Urban ll urged all Christians to take up arms to re-capture Jerusalem.
During the period 1562-1598 the French Wars of Religion between Catholics and Protestants, known as Huguenots, accounted for the deaths of 30,000 Frenchmen.
Another instance in comparatively recent times was the Cromwellian conquest of Ireland between 1649 and 1653. Cromwell was a Quaker and hated Catholics with an unimaginable ferocity. It is thought that Cromwell’s genocide of the Catholics was inspired by Joshua’s genocide of the Canaanites after the Battle of Jericho; for details read Joshua 6 with particular emphasis on verse 21 to get the full account of the slaughter.
The branch of Scotland Yard in which I served, Special Branch, was formed in 1883 in response to a major incident in England which in today’s climate would have been called an act of terrorism. The Fenian Brotherhood, the forerunner of the Irish Republican Army rolled a wagon loaded with gunpowder down Pentonville Hill and blew a large hole in the wall surrounding Pentonville Prison in North London, where several of their “colleagues” were being held. All the Fenian prisoners escaped but were soon re-arrested. This conflict, known as The Troubles, between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland continues even as I write.
The Rwandan Genocide is so often characterized as a conflict between two tribes, the Hutu and the Tutsi, and the religious component is either not considered important or overlooked completely. When missionaries first went to Rwanda they subscribed to the Hamitic theory of race origins, named for Ham, a supposed son of Noah, which taught that the Tutsi were a superior race. The churches found more willing converts among the majority Hutu, the more easily convinced of the two tribes, and there is no doubt that the churches played a significant role in fomenting this racial tension.
Several church leaders have been convicted by the International Criminal Tribunal for Rwanda, including Roman Catholic priests and nuns and a Seventh Day Adventist Church pastor.
The most recent incident of faith-based violence occurred in Myanmar/Burma and involved Buddhists and Moslems, the Rohingyas. The attacks occurred in early November 2012 and the attackers were Buddhists – what would the Dalai Lama think?
In spite of their lofty ideals, many religious people have feet of clay. Blaise Pascal, a French mathematician, philosopher and devout Christian wrote in his Pensées: “Men never do evil so completely and so cheerfully as when they do it from religious conviction.”