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Reply #2: "Throughout history, more people have been slaughtered in the name of religion or its ... [View All]

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Jim__ Donating Member (1000+ posts) Send PM | Profile | Ignore Mon May-09-11 12:47 PM
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2. "Throughout history, more people have been slaughtered in the name of religion or its ...
... ideological derivatives than for any other cause."

That's a somewhat commonly held belief; but I'd like to see some documentation on that. Here's a counter argument based on actual research:

To my knowledge there has only been one attempt to actually quantify religion's role in war-making throughout human history. As part of a special they were airing on the subject, the BBC asked Dr. Greg Austin, a research Fellow in the Department of Peace Studies, University of Bradford, to investigate religion's role in the history of war. Austin, with the help of colleagues Todd Kranock and Thom Oommen, conducted the War Audit, where they evaluated all the major conflicts over the past 3,500 years -- 73 wars in all. The wars were rated on a 0-5 scale for religious motivation, with 5 indicating the highest religious motivation. So for example, The First and Second Punic Wars (264-241 and 218-201 BC respectively) rated a 0, while the Crusades (1097-1291) rated a 5. While conceding that subjectivity always plays some role in these sorts of assessments, Austin and colleagues, nevertheless, maintained that the general trend they observed was "beyond debate" (p. 12).

Brace yourselves, those for whom religion equals war. The majority of all wars (44/73 or 60 percent) had no religious motivation whatsoever -- a zero rating. Only three wars -- the Arab conquests of 632-732, the much ballyhooed Crusades, and the Reformation Wars of the 16th and 17th centuries - earned a 5, and were thus considered to be truly religious wars. Only seven wars earned a rating of 3 or more -- less than 10 percent. Thus, the vast majority of all wars involved either no religious motivation or only a modest one. The authors concluded by noting that "there have been few genuinely religious wars in the last 100 years. The Israel/Arab wars were wars of nationalism and liberation of territory" (p. 16).

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