Religious Wars – Humanity’s Worst Vice

“Onward, Christian soldiers, marching as to war,
with the cross of Jesus going on before.
Christ, the royal Master, leads against the foe;
forward into battle see his banners go!”

This is the first verse from the well known Christian Hymn written by Sabine Baring-Gould, 1864 and composed by Arthur S. Sullivan, 1871. Although it represents an army of Christians ‘fighting’ against sin and the devil, in today’s society it can represent a religion involved in, as many are, confrontation for whose religion is right. Whose religion is the true religion ‘backed’ by God. Religion is a means by which we bind people together through a general belief in an Almighty Creator. However religion has turned into a ‘touchy’ subject especially when raised between a group of people with different beliefs. This can therefore spark an argument and on a larger scale when you have some fundamentalists in this dispute things really start going wrong. Why would God let this happen? Why would he let these people, all of whom believe in God just in different ways, fight each other in the name of religion? We must first ask ourselves this; are we just using religion as a vice whereby in declaring a religious war we do not only gain support from those whom are close to us and support our cause but those who have now been ‘forced’ to enter the scene on the grounds of religious belief? Have we not thus broadened our ‘army’ without even knowing who our ‘soldiers’ are, other than knowing they follow the Christian, Muslim, Jewish etc. religion? And in doing this are we now no longer following the path of God but rather using God as a leverage in gaining power? Let us now delve deeper into the answers to these questions with reference to a number of ‘religious conflicts’.

Perhaps the most admirable part of the response to the conflict that began on Sept. 11 has been a general reluctance to call it a religious war. Officials and commentators have rightly stressed that this is not a battle between the Muslim world and the West, that the murderers are not representative of Islam. President Bush went to the Islamic Centre in Washington to reinforce the point. At prayer meetings across the United States and throughout the world, Muslim leaders were included alongside Christians, Jews and Buddhists. The only problem with this otherwise laudable effort is that it doesn\'t hold up under inspection. The religious dimension of this conflict is central to its meaning. The words of Osama bin Laden are saturated with religious argument and theological language. Whatever else the Taliban regime is in Afghanistan, it is fanatically religious. Although some Muslim leaders have criticised the terrorists, and even Saudi Arabia\'s rulers have distanced themselves from the militants, other Muslims in the Middle East and elsewhere have not denounced these acts, have been conspicuously silent or have indeed celebrated them. The terrorists\' strain of Islam is clearly not shared by most Muslims and is deeply unrepresentative of Islam\'s glorious, civilised and peaceful past. But it surely represents a part of Islam - a radical, fundamentalist part - that simply cannot be ignored or denied. In that sense, this surely is a religious war - but not of Islam versus Christianity and Judaism. Rather, it is a war of fundamentalism against faiths of all kinds that are at peace with freedom and modernity. These fundamentalists are indeed those individuals whose actions represent their hate towards other religions and thus use religion as a vice whereby they can gain prestige and power.

This war even has far gentler echoes in America\'s own religious conflicts - between newer, more virulent strands of Christian fundamentalism and mainstream Protestantism and Catholicism. These conflicts have ancient roots, but they seem to be gaining new force as modernity spreads and deepens. They are our new wars of religion - and their victims are in all likelihood going to mount with each passing year. Osama bin Laden himself couldn\'t be clearer about the religious underpinnings of his campaign of terror. In 1998, he told his followers, \'\'The call to wage war against America was made because America has spearheaded the crusade against the Islamic nation, sending tens of