Religion and Wars [WIP]

‘Uberfacts’ on Twitter quoted a somewhat dubious statistic that only 7% of wars have been religiously motivated throughout history and this has led many religious apologists to start crowing about a (somewhat strawman) of the atheist position that religion causes a lot of conflicts and deaths.

I believe the real point is that religion is a dangerous motivator for war and an extra source of conflict (over something that doesn’t even exist) and that it has led to or made worse some of the bloodiest conflicts in history.

Part of the problem hinges upon what you consider religion, and how much needs to be present for it to be causal. Is nationalism religious? I would consider it so, but I would consider most ideological extremism to share character with religion as well.

To take WWII and Nazi Germany as familiar examples, the belief in the Aryan race and its superiority was a supernaturalist belief and won that drove the nationalist and Germanic unification projects of the Reich as well as informing the Ahnerbe and their strange concepts around history, race and archeology. Anti-Semitism was also key to the Nazi ideology and also key to their blaming of the victors of WWI and the revenge philosophy behind that. Their Christianity alongside their superstitions and nationalism were also absolutely key to their opposition to ‘godless’ communism.

Combine all that and we can see that religion was a key motivation for the Nazis and integral to the war (not to mention the Holocaust), yet it is not commonly thought of as a religious war.

The book referenced apparently uses a 0-5 scale, with 0 being no religious involvement/motivation and 5 being an absolutely religious conflict. I’ve used the same.

I’ve sourced my list of conflicts from the link below.

I have selected the 20th century as it is the century with the least religious conflicts. If we include 21st century conflicts things will skew too heavily to making the atheist point, since so many current conflicts involve Islam. If we go much earlier than the 20th century we’ll also find a lot more religious motivations as well, as the world was a more religious place in that time.

If the least religious century (you could make an argument for the 19th whose conflicts were mostly nationalistic) turns out to have relgious involvement and motivation greater than 7%, then we can fairly safely consider the greater argument about religion not being a major factor in conflict debunked.

Source of Conflict List: http://www.war-memorial.net/wars_all.asp

So far I have processed the first 50 notable conflicts of the 20th century and have the following results:

Conflicts With Significant Religious Involvement (binary): 56%
Total Religious Motivation of All Conflicts: 25.6%

Frankly it seems unlikely that either of these measures could drop beneath 7% and so it may not be worth continuing.

252 total 20th Century Conflicts.
Sample size 50.
Error Margin: 12.43%

1. Sino Russian War
Religious Involvement relating to Boxer Rebellion which had a large component of religiously motivated violence. Scale? 2
2. Boxer Rebelion
Religious involvement in terms of anti-Christian sentiment Scale? 4.
3. Second Boer War
No real religious involvement. Scale? 0.
4. Phillipine Insurrection
No real religious involvement. Scale? 0.
5. War of a Thousand Days
No real religious involvement. Scale? 0.
6. Illinden Uprising
No real religious involvement. Scale? 0.
7. Angolan Uprisings
Religious involvement limited in degree (anti Christian, anti-colonial sentiment). Scale? 1.
8. Second Yemen Rebellion
Zaidi sectarianism key. Scale? 4.
9. Uruguay Civil War
No significant religious involvement. Scale? 0.
10. Southwest African Revolt
Religion involved in that priests were omitted from rebel attacks and that dominionism played a role in the colonial conflict and prejudice. Scale? 1.
11. Russo Japanese War.
No significant religious involvement. Scale? 0.
12. Maji Maji Revolt
Rebels claimed to use magic and set traditional beliefs against religious colonialism. Key motivator/exacerbation. Scale? 3.
13. Russian Revolution
Muslim group involvement and Tsarist strong belief in ‘Divine Right of Kings’ make religion significant if not a key driver. Scale? 2.
14. Third Central American War
No significant religious involvement. Scale? 0.
15. Zulu Rebellion.
No significant religious involvement. Scale? 0.
16. Mahdist Revolt
Religion absolutely key. Scale? 5.
17. Dutch-Achinese War
Jihad by Muslim forces against the Dutch making this explicitly a religious war. Scale? 5.
18. Fourth Central American War
No significant religious involvement. Scale? 0.
19. Romanian Peasant Revolt
Anti-Semitism involved. Scale? 1.
20. Morroco Unrest
Insufficient Information. Assumed non-religious. Scale? 0.
21. Iranian Constitution War
Shariah Law and sectarianism contributed to conflict and issues around the war. Scale? 2.
22. Korean Guerilla War
No significant religious involvement. Scale? 0.
23. Ma’Al’s Insurgency
Islam vs Christianity a key component. Scale? 4.
24. Portuguese War Against Dembos
Insufficient Information. Assumed non-religious. Scale? 0.
25. The Second Rif War
Islam a background motivator and source of confluct. Scale? 2.
26. Conquest of Widai
Islam vs Christianity an important element. Scale? 2.
27. Asir-Yemen Revolt
Sectarianism as background. Scale? 1.
28. Chinese Revolution
No significant religious involvement. Scale? 0.
29. The Negro Rebellion
No significant religious involvement. Scale? 0.
30. Sino-Tibetan War
No significant religious involvement. Scale? 0.
31. Italo-Turish War
Islam vs Christianity as background. Scale? 1.
32. Paraguay Coups
No significant religious involvement. Scale? 0.
33. First Balkan War
Revolt against Islamic (Ottoman) rule a key background component. Scale? 2.
34. Moro Rebellion
Islam a key component. Scale? 3.
35. Second Nationalist War
Conflict between traditionalist and Communist groups played a minor role. Scale? 1.
36. Second Balkan War
Revolt against Islamic (Ottoman) rule a key background component. Scale? 2.
37. Bai-Lang Rebellion
Religio-ethnic background to aspects of the conflict. Scale? 1.
38. Russo-Turkistan War
Insufficient information, presume religion not involved. Scale? 0.
39. World War I
In many ways the ‘last gasp’ of the Divine Right of Kings, key to the old monarchic order. Scale? 2.
40. Southern China Revolt
No significant religious involvement. Scale? 0.
41. Second Sino-Tibetan War
No significant religious involvement. Scale? 0.
42. Finnish Civil War
Christian traditionalist Vs Communism. Scale? 2.
43. Third Anglo-Afghan War
Religious background. Scale? 1.
44. Sparticist Uprising
Socialist/Communist uprising vs Conservative, Christian elements. Scale? 2.
45. Hungarian/Romanian War
Socialist/Communist uprising vs Conservative, Christian elements. Scale? 2.
46. Dervish State Vs Ethiopia
Sectarian Conflict. Scale? 3.
47. Mexican Revolution
No significant religious involvement. Scale? 0.
48. Caco Revolt
No significant religious involvement. Scale? 0.
49. Latvian Liberation
Included Communist vs Conservative/religious elements. Scale? 1.
50. Estonian Liberation War
Included Communist vs Conservative/religious elements. Scale? 1.

Working

1-1-2(5)
2-2-6(10)
3-2-6(15)
4-2-6(20)
5-2-6(25)
6-2-6(30)
7-3-7(35)
8-4-11(40)
9-4-11(45)
10-5-12(50)
11-5-12(55)
12-6-15(60)
13-7-17(65)
14-7-17(70)
15-7-17(75)
16-6-22(80)
17-7-27(85)
18-7-27(90)
19-8-28(95)
20-8-28(100)
21-9-30(105)
22-9-30(110)
23-10-34(115)
24-10-34(120)
25-11-36(125)
26-12-38(130)
27-13-39(135)
28-14-39(140)
29-14-39(145)
30-14-39(150)
31-15-40(155)
32-15-40(160)
33-16-42(165)
34-17-45(170)
35-18-46(175)
36-19-48(180)
37-20-49(185)
38-20-49(190)
39-21-52(195)
40-21-52(200)
41-21-52(205)
42-22-54(210)
43-23-55(215)
44-24-57(220)
45-25-59(225)
46-26-62(230)
47-26-62(235)
48-26-62(240)
49-27-63(245)
50-28-64(250)

Religious Involvement: 56%
Religious Motivation: 25.6%

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