It’s not religion that causes wars…

Published: November 8, 2013

Richard MitchellOnce again this weekend, as a nation, we remember the dead of two world wars and many desperate international conflicts since.

The feel is a bit different this year, it seems to me, as momentum picks up towards a whole series of commemorations of the First World War over the coming four years. National groups and local communities are planning how we’ll do justice to a harrowing period of our history that we’ve never really come to terms with. We’re still living with the consequences of doomed youth and the waste of modern war, with the challenge to care for those scarred by war and for families torn apart by the death of loved ones who fight on our behalf to defeat the enemies of peace and justice.

This is tough stuff and I think we’ll need to steel ourselves over the coming months to face again and again something that’s not popular in our own success-driven culture; that failure in our interdependence with one another as human beings remains a stark reality for the world of today.

We remember past wars of the 20th century and sometimes think, with hindsight, we can see where mistakes were made that resulted in the deaths of more people across the globe than at any other time before. Then we’re confronted by our own century and, in the last two years alone, by the 100,000 people who’ve been killed in Syria’s civil war and our inability to stop it happening.

I’d say it’s not religion that causes wars, but human weakness and our inability to acknowledge it. Surely our remembrance only honours the past when we use it to change the future for the better?

by the Revd Canon Richard Mitchell, Vicar of Shurdington, Badgeworth and Witcombe with Bentham

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2 thoughts on “It’s not religion that causes wars…

  1. Thank you Richard… as ever I’ll be borrowing some of your ideas tomorrow morning! Arthur

  2. Thank you for this article, you are, of course, correct. I would add, however, that religion is often abused in whipping up support for war, as witness the current conflict in Syria and the Middle East generally. Sadly, it is our human capacity to take something good and use it for the purposes of acquiring power, wealth and influence that often tears communities apart, or sets people against people. Inevitably when it suits, the cynical will invoke ‘religion’ or ‘faith’ to support their cause. Hitler played the ‘religious’ card astutely when it suited, so did Stalin and there are many more examples.

    Today I have marked the contribution of my grandfathers, my father and uncle and my mother in the two major wars of the 20th Century. I survived the mental damage my father lived with – unrecognised and untreated, and so did many more of my generation. Then we were also dragged into conflicts, in my case, a ‘small’ one in which the super powers used proxies to fight the ‘Cold War’. The current terrorism and unsettled conflicts all over the world are a legacy of that ‘proxy war’ between East and West, and I suspect it will continue for a while yet.

    Equally sadly, it all provides fuel to those who seek to drive Faith from our society.

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