Philosophy Weekend: Is Religious War a Fraud?

I observed a strange reaction among my friends — especially my fellow liberals — when a new insurgent group calling itself “The Islamic State in Iraq and Syria” began capturing towns and small cities in war-torn Iraq.

There’s really nothing new about this insurgent group, which represents the same Sunni coalition that lost power with the fall of Saddam Hussein and has been trying to get it back ever since. But all of a sudden, several of my friends were up in arms about the insurgency. Why? Because they’re fundamentalists.

Indeed, the new insurgency is using Islamic fundamentalism as a way to gain support (and frighten Brits and Americans). It’s a smart strategic move: calls to religion have always been useful recruiting tools in time of war. But what amazes me is that some of my American friends are more offended by the fact that the new insurgents are religious than by the fact that they are rampaging through towns murdering political opponents with their families.

The atrocities are perfectly acceptable, apparently … as long as they don’t start bringing sharia into it.

It’s a sign of our shrill times that some people are actually more offended by religion than by war. This is fed by the common misconception that wars are commonly fought over religion. This widely-accepted belief (a belief that the late Christopher Hitchens shamelessly dined out on for a decade) must be exposed for the fraud it always has been.

A simple review of world history makes it clear: while religion is often used as a surrogate for ethnic or national identity, religion itself has never been the actual cause of any war. The holy war is a fraud.

All wars work the same way, whether religious identity plays a part or not. When religious identity plays a part, it is as identity rather than as religion. The primary engine of war is the grinding against each other of different groups, variously identified by location, history, language, ethnicity, religion or economic class. The causes, outcomes and consequences of the major wars of recent centuries do not show any pattern of being influenced by religious doctrine or popular religious belief. War is war, whether religious or not.

So why are so many of my friends terrified by the concept of jihad? I don’t know, but I know that many of my friends have a natural dislike for religion, which is their right. But I cringe at the idea that political liberalism will ever become identified with atheism. This is a wrong turn, a dead end. Whether you are personally religious or not, it is important to know that religion has not been a harmful influence in the world. Rather, it has been a constant source of healing and comfort and connection. A world without religion is as unthinkable as a world without literature or a world without music.

I’ve recently been urging my readers to read three philosophers whose work I consider highly relevant for the political problems that plague the world today: Ludwig Wittgenstein, William James and Carl Jung. I chose these three names for several different reasons. One is their common attitude towards religion.

Ludwig Wittgenstein demonstrated the futility of logical or scientific arguments against religious belief. William James wrote The Varieties of Religious Experience, an open-minded treatment of the natural human inclination towards spirituality. Carl Jung enthusiastically explored religious symbolism as a key to understanding the human soul. All three of them also appear to have been privately religious (idiosyncratically, of course, in all three cases, as should always be expected when a philosopher embraces religion).

The kind of religious sensibility that can be found in the private writings of Ludwig Wittgenstein or William James or Carl Jung is not often found in the private writings of a military leader or corrupt politician. This is one reason I rarely take a corrupt or militant politician seriously when they claim to be religious. For instance, future USA presidential candidate Paul Ryan was a devout follower of Ayn Rand until he was suddenly tagged as Vice Presidential material. He suddenly disavowed Ayn Rand and pronounced himself a devout Catholic. Am I obligated not to laugh? Similarly, I never believed the hype that Osama bin Laden was a devout Muslim. I read his biography, and I didn’t see a lot of time for private refection in that life story. Osama bin Laden was a clever and egotistical leader driven to political grandiosity by a traumatic Oedipal complex. I don’t suspect that there was much room in that crowded brain for thoughtful spiritual reflection, and the fact that Osama bin Laden strove to portray himself as a religious person doesn’t mean he did so convincingly.

Remember when Saddam Hussein turned up in a full beard, claiming to be a devout Muslim? Well, whether religion is sincere or not, we do know that religion is often convenient to profess, and so we are not obligated to ever believe that a politician or military leader’s religious beliefs are sincere when they are engaging in activities that are harmful to innocent people or to the planet. We can start making better decisions if we stop falling for the ruse.

Have there ever been sincerely religious military leaders? Sure — it’s easy for biographers to discern a politician’s private spiritual character from various evidence. For instance, there’s little doubt that President George W. Bush was sincerely religious — though he wasn’t much of a military leader. President Jimmy Carter was also sincerely religious. He may not have been much of a military leader either.

As for great military leaders who really have been successful, history shows few examples of deeply religious personalities. Making my own quick survey through the history channels of my mind, I can think of Confederate general Stonewall Jackson, who was known to have a deeply spiritual mind. He prayed constantly, and his letters are filled with musings on Biblical lessons.

And I can think of French warrior-saint Joan of Arc, who saw her entire improbable journey of conquest as a direct intervention by God, and who burned at the stake for her devout belief without flinching.

So that’s two examples — but Stonewall Jackson and Joan of Arc are the only two I can think of, and that leaves thousands and thousands of other examples of military and political leaders who used religion as a tool to stir up popular support and ethnic identification, but left behind little evidence that they had any actual profound religious feeling themselves.

I hope we can stop falling for the grand fraud of the holy war. Christopher Hitchens isn’t around to argue with us about this today, but it’s a fact that he had it wrong. It’s amazing how much clarity can be obtained once we take the time to look closely at the real causes of the political mistakes our leaders make. God’s usually got very little to do with it.

29 Responses

  1. … don’t need a war. It’s
    … don’t need a war. It’s over. Religion has been settled. Pick whatever lifestyle you want and enjoy the day and night. Earthly wars are about pride, selfishness, and envy…we are a post religious society. Which is fine really. Religion don’t save, religion don’t protect, religion is a fraud. Faith is all that is required. And it’s not of us. Faith comes from the soul, spoken to by the spirit. The soul is a faith factory. War should be referred to as what it is. The only righteous war is a war of self defense. Then, that war should be very very violent and ruthless. Compromise could never be considered in that rare instance. Only death or white flags. We go to war too lightly and fight war too lightly in my judgement. But I am only an office dweller. I am part of big bad corporate America. The new breadbasket of the world.we have been let down by our leaders. They are calculating and bought. It is the American way, tragically. Peace man, the war is over. Any group proactively fighting an aggressive, bloody war in the name of their religion, is a group doing the devils work. There is now doubt. He can inspire Christians, Muslims, Jews, and Mormons alike. The devil is indiscriminate.

  2. I’ve given long and hard
    I’ve given long and hard thought to your essay, Levi, and I keep coming up with the same questions :

    The Sunni and the Shia have been battling for some 1400 years. Should they read this article to understand what a fraud their religious wars are..? Or how about the wars (‘conflicts’) between the Protestants and Catholics in Ireland that lasted over 400 years?

    It seems to me if religion is invoked and war breaks out, it is a religious war. True, no religious artifacts are used in battle and religious books don’t necessarily invite believers to attack the non-believer, but is not history filled with wars (‘conflicts’) that were initiated by religious differences. Are not the Palestinians in battle against the Jews principally due to the religious differences between the two which is much more than cultural differences?

  3. Mtmynd, I am pretty sure that
    Mtmynd, I am pretty sure that the conflict between Sunni and Shia is an ethnic conflict. There are two ethnically and historically distinct groups with competing claims to the same land. Religion, therefore, becomes a useful way of affixing labels.

    But this ethnic conflict would be exactly the same if the religious circumstances on either side were different. The fact that there is a third ethnic group in Iraq, the Kurds, that has suffered equally in this civil war proves that religion is nothing but a label in this ethnic conflict. And let’s also remember that Sunni, Shiite and Kurdish Iraqis are actually members of the same religion — Islam!

    Likewise, the Irish and British were locked into an ethnic war between the Gaelic and the Anglo-Saxon. Again, religion becomes an easy shorthand for the ethnic division, since religious self-identification always follows strong ethnic lines.

    Israelis and Palestinians, of course, are another example of battling ethnic groups commonly labeled by religion. I really don’t think any of the poor souls stuck in the various war zones around the world sit there thinking about the private spiritual ideals of their enemies. They usually just sit there trying to help their families not get killed.

  4. I understand your views on
    I understand your views on this subject, but I also believe there are thousands of Muslims who truly believe that their own choice of sides, Sunni or Shiite, are religious differences that have been deeply ingrained in the people for hundreds of years of battling. If any of them were questioned I sure they would blame the opposing religious belief as the problem… the Sunni cannot be trusted and vice-versa, each side using the name (the religious name) to defile the other.

    And the same can be said for the Irish religious differences that lasted hundreds of years also.

    Changing the language will hardly change beliefs carved out over so much time within minds conditioned into these patterns that have become a way of life for so many…. Ireland, so far, being an exception.

    In the Mid East, it could be said that there are no geographical boundaries other than religious beliefs that outweigh all else… self-imposed borders set by the British be damned.

    Re: Palestinians and the Israeli Jews… the latest shooting is an example of a killing of someone OTJ (other than Jewish) which we refer to as religious entities and not regular people out for a stroll totally innocent. Would these two teens have been assassinated in public if they were Jewish? It’s apparent two religious factions are at war with each other, each religion being the “comforter” to the fear of the other.

    Idyllically a world without religious superiority *may* drastically reduce war in it’s name, but religion is a powerful instrument that has millions of we hu’mans under it’s control… most being willing subjects to the religion of their choice.

    Can Judaism be anything without Abraham and Moses…Christianity without Jesus… Buddhism anything without Siddhartha… or Mohammad without Islam? Certainly doubtful that religions rely upon their teachings to strengthen their beliefs in that religion. Wars have historically been waged against others due to their religious choices and how these choices reflect their culturalization.

  5. How many of the religions
    How many of the religions “involved” in those pretended “religion wars” teaches peace, understanding, respect, forgiveness? How many really invite the killing of non-believers?

    In my opinion, also for ages-long wars, religion is a pretense and a deception through wich the political leaders can convince the population to whitstand and support the burden of a war. Religion very often mix with cultural and ethnic traits, so it can be a strong catalyst of differences, very helpful as instrument to facilitate the “blood alienation”.

  6. When we equate “religion”
    When we equate “religion” with something larger than a belief system, we put it into the realm of “God” who is all-good, loves all life and would never kill, lie, cheat or deceive. These are the qualities of “God” we, hu’manity, has put upon those “Gods” we believe in. Whoever has told us “God” is required to be these qualities? Religion? or what *we* think our God should be? And is there any difference between religion and our idea of what our Gods should be?

    When we condemn religions we are condemning our very belief systems which do *not* live up to our ideals therefore placing the blame on “Gods” to deflect our ignorance and shortcomings to understand. “God” is far more than our ability to comprehend using mind which is never satisfied.

    Man’s religions are guidelines in keeping our lives as civilized as we are able create based upon various “laws” attributed to (a) “God” who does NOT condone behaviors that bring unrest within the community within that religion.

  7. Mtmynd, I still think you are
    Mtmynd, I still think you are clinging to the conventional wisdom that wars are caused by religion. I understand the points you are making, and I guess they are familiar points. But I am trying to propose that we are stuck with a conventional belief that needs to be examined. I really am pretty sure that the role of religion in the history of modern warfare has been exaggerated. Religion was incidentally involved in many wars, to the extent that people fought the wars and people identify themselves by their religion. But no war in modern history has been fought over an actual issue that involved religion. Let’s be specific: can you think of an example of a war that was really fought over religion, rather than over ethnicity or national identity as reflected by religion?

  8. Re: “…can you think of an
    Re: “…can you think of an example of a war that was really fought over religion, rather than over ethnicity or national identity as reflected by religion?”

    When your ask “Is Religious War a Fraud”? I must say the question is fraudulent without taking the whole into consideration. When war begins it’s an attack on another people’s way of life which *includes* their religious beliefs as well as their ethnicity or even their national identity which is formulated in part by the chosen religion.

  9. I don’t think war is an
    I don’t think war is an attack on other people’s ways of life. I think war is a blunt instrument that seeks only advantage and victory. When we imagine that personal or human characteristics have much to do with military strategy we’re failing to understand the true bureaucratic (and therefore inhuman) nature of war.

  10. I’m reminded of a definition
    I’m reminded of a definition of war that has remained with me – “war is breaking things and killing people”, perhaps overly simplistic but the violent act itself has a singular goal which this quote is. The end result is for the winner to claim victory over the loser. What precipitated war to begin with varies from war to war, battle to battle, fight to fight… and to pin all wars down to taking advantage over the losers is how the victors view their win. How does the defeated view war? Unjust, unnecessary, futile, expensive, life-taking, needless waste of hu’man energy… all the above may be the answer… two sides to war : one side to win, one side to lose … ancient logic that solves “the” problem for the time being, But as this ongoing war between the Sunni and Shiite has been going on for 1400 years, off and on, but always expected. And why? Religious differences that has no end in sight, from an outsiders POV.

    I believe there is always an inner-sense of uneasiness that resides within all of us. We may go years without resorting to any level of violence but there does come a day when something pops! and violence is let out of it’s cage that held it secure for a given period of time. It could be a fight or a battle or even escalate into an all-out war between two factions doing what always has been done – breaking things and killing people. It could have been precipitated by political differences, religious differences or ethnic differences … or combinations of the three. But in the end, the beginning is what goes on between the ears of the unsettled seeking relief from the noise within challenging them to enter war to regain their peace of mind. This is done in the simplest way we know – attack the opposition by destroying their way of life.

  11. Mtmynd, thiese are good
    Mtmynd, thiese are good thoughts, but I don’t think it’s accurate history. The battle between the Sunni and Shiite populations in Iraq is clearly about economic control of oil wealth. Please note that Sunni and Shia (and Christian and Jew and Zoroastrian) all managed to live in relative peace in this region for centuries before the onslaught of global war and oil wealth destroyed the peace.

  12. The Sunni are slaughtering
    The Sunni are slaughtering thousands of Muslims in order to control the oilfields in Iraq may be and indeed very well could be the motive behind the war going on today. What do you attribute to over 1400 yrs of warring between these two factions prior to having any knowledge or even interest in oil?

    In reviewing our recent discussions I had to smile as I again, gave passing thought to Wittgenstein and your comment: “we must learn to accept, embrace and enjoy the ultimate incomprehensibility of language and shared meaning, and thus the ultimate incomprehensibility of existence itself.” Indeed, I find our debates bordering on that language problem, when both spoken and written. I see parts of what you’ve written as being factual and clear while at times you leave me scratching my head in doubt of what you’ve written and I assume you find the same problems within my own thoughts on the subject.

    We, all of us, often write or speak in order to more clearly ‘see’ what we are thinking. I’ve found out over the years of writing that it is much easier to *think* of ideas than to put those ideas into words that turns those thoughts into lucid ideas… “the ultimate incomprehensibility of language and shared meaning, and thus the ultimate incomprehensibility of existence itself.” As you’re well aware of anything and everything we encounter has it’s opposition and that is where our futility lies when others find fault within our weaknesses to put things into words, “and thus the ultimate incomprehensibility of existence itself.”

    On one hand I see religion as a very positive part in our wars and conversely you do not see where religion has anything to do with wars. Is the answer suitable to either of us, to either side of this debate? Absolutely not. Like our current Congress and the abyss between the two parties that look as though both will stubbornly hang on to their own beliefs as being “the truth and nothing but the truth.”

    That being said, today I will choose Wittgenstein’s final conclusion as the fact of this debate and offer you my hand in a handshake in a tie. Now, amigo, get outta town and unwind. (wink)

    btw: “…all managed to live in relative peace in this region for centuries…” What is ‘relative peace’ you speak of… anything short of all-out war?

  13. Thanks for trying to find
    Thanks for trying to find some middle ground, Mtmynd. Well, I see where my message may seem unclear in places, and I’ll try to fix that in the future. Most importantly, please understand that I am expressly attempting to find a new formulation. I feel that we must be stuck in a knot of preconceptions when we (as a society, as a planet) talk about war and peace. So I am attempting to construct better ways to think.

    As for the history of the Middle East, I urge you to read a book about the culture of the Ottoman Empire, of which Iraq was a part. It was a tolerant and multi-cultural society. Indeed, Sunni and Shia and Christian and Jew all lived in peace. Iraq was much more peaceful during the 18th and 19th centuries than Europe was.

  14. Re: “… Iraq was *much more*
    Re: “… Iraq was *much more* peaceful during the 18th and 19th centuries than Europe was.”

    note:*much more*, 2 words that could be stricken from this sentence.

    Other than a much less populated world in the 18th and 19th centuries, the world was also much smaller, taking much more time to travel large distances and it took much longer to spread the news to include some reasons behind a more peaceful world.

    The more rats you have in a cage the more fighting over food and partners occurs with death multiplying accordingly. Our hu’man population continues increasing, the need for those things which we both need and want will have to become more limited after scarcity of our natural resources become more difficult to provide those needs.

    What has this got to do with our debate on war, peace and religions? Can our present day stability last without massive changes that exploded in our last century would seem to be ‘the next frontier’ we must get a grasp of with a serious debate on so much of our social expectations that we relied upon and enjoyed for the most part in the 20th C… politics, agriculture, merchandising, education, transportation and even how religions will grow with these changes… nothing should be left unturned to recreate this massive population this century is about to deal with… as the indicators are all around us today.

    I’m not clear as to the path you are on and where it is taking you even though you have attempted to clarify it through your posts lately. I’d think a whole different philosophy would be needed in the future of our very existence and that has to include a much deeper understanding of religions which are still speaking to it’s followers as if they were 6 years old. We really do need to not only grow old but to continue catching up with the knowledge that is just as explosive as our population.

  15. Wait a minute here, Mtmynd ..
    Wait a minute here, Mtmynd .. I think the relevance of this history is very clear. You said above that Sunni and Shia had been killing each other in Iraq for 1400 years. I pointed out that this isn’t true, that they did not start killing each other till 2003. If this isn’t relevant to the entire point of this whole discussion, what is?

  16. Re: “I pointed out that this
    Re: “I pointed out that this isn’t true, that they did not start killing each other till 2003. If this isn’t relevant to the entire point of this whole discussion, what is?”

    What is is what information are you willing to believe, Levi.

    Some information I’ve recently read includes this –

    1) “Sunnis (about 80 per cent of Muslims) and Shiites (15- 20 per cent) have often waged deadly sectarian war against each other; the latest such battle is developing now in Iraq.”

    note the authors use of “often waged war” here…

    2) “Shiites believe that upon the death of Mohammed in 632, the leadership of the faith he founded passed to his descendants starting with Ali, his son-in-law. This line of leaders, or imams, is divinely chosen, Shiites believe.”

    3) ” Sunnis believe that leadership of the faith passed first to the Prophet’s closest companions, then to a line of non-hereditary caliphs selected by the so-called “rightly guided” elite of the faith.”

    Taking #2 and 3 together read on:

    4) “Each branch views the other as followers of false leaders, making them apostates — betrayers of Islam. Extremists on both sides believe the other must be eradicated in order to cleanse the faith. Since Sunnis form the majority, it has more often been extremists among them who launched such campaigns, and who persecuted the Shiite population.”

    5) “From the beginning of their line, Shia imams were put down by the Sunni leadership, and all of Shia’s first 11 leaders died violently, often by assassination. …Through centuries of persecution, Shiism revolved around tragedies that befell them and their leaders.”

    “In contrast, Sunnis view the Shia practice of visiting shrines and venerating saints as sacrilegious.”

    6) “It is in Iraq that Shiism’s major defeats took place in the seventh, eighth and ninth centuries and, hence, their greatest shrines are here. For that reason they also are the most important declared targets of the Sunni jihadists now making their way across Iraq.”

    So your statement “that they did not start killing each other till 2003,” is questionable to say the least, given this information I provided.

    While Iraq remained basically at peace for so long is primarily due to the area was under Shiite control… that and the reason behind the control was Shiites had so many religious shrines within that area (and still do many of which are under attack by Sunnis).

    War is fraudulent? Again I use the example of this age-old battle between Sunni and Shiite. Am I wrong in doing so? And is this particular article a misleading piece of propaganda of sorts?

    [the full article:—shia-divide-explained/article19337058/%5D

  17. Thanks for doing this
    Thanks for doing this research and sharing these points, Mtmynd. Yes, I do agree that in the early centuries of Islam’s rise and in the immediate aftermath of the Sunni/Shia schism, wars did rage between Sunni and Shia.

    But, Mtmynd, this was the 8th, 9th and 10th centuries. Nowhere remotely near modern times.

    In the 18th and 19th centuries, Iraq was part of the Ottoman empire. (Thus, it was not under Shiite leadership, as you say above. The Ottoman empire was Sunni.) During the centuries of Ottoman rule, Sunni and Shia managed to coexist peacefully in Iraq.

    This peace was destroyed when the Ottoman Empire was destroyed in World War One. Iraq then became a possession of the British Empire, which “improved” Iraq culture by introducing the mentality and technology of European total war. Things have really sucked in Iraq, and in the Middle East in general, ever since Europe moved in.

    If you have to reach back 1400 years to find a major war between Sunni and Shia in Iraq, that really proves my point that Sunni and Shia do NOT have a long history of killing each other in Iraq.

    I urge you to read “A Problem From Hell” by Samantha Power — a great book about genocide around the world in the last 100 years. This book shows how familiar the pattern we are seeing in Iraq is. Here’s how it works: a European or Western nation carries out exploitative and manipulative policies in small and vulnerable nations in Africa or Asia or the Middle East. The European or Western nation usually partners with one ethnic group at the expense of others, often upsetting stable cultural balances, pitting some ethnic groups against each other, creating disruptions that create desperate situations. The European/Western nations then blame the tragic results of their actions on the “deep-rooted tribal hatreds” of the native populations.

    This is what happened in Rwanda, in Bosnia, in Kosovo, in Iraq. In all these areas, the so-called “deep-rooted tribal hatreds” were entirely manageable (and often completely nonexistent) until the exploitative Western/European nation moved in. A terribly sad pattern … and you are totally falling for the propaganda that supports its continuation.

    Do you really believe that normal intelligent human beings who happen to be Sunni or Shia Muslims feel a compulsion to kill each other on sight because they are so offended by each other’s religious beliefs? What a ridiculous caricature!

    I have friends who are Sunni Muslims. I have friends who are Shiite Muslims. I have seen them socialize with each other, collaborate on software projects together, even eat meals together. Somehow they manage to avoid the impulse to kill each other on sight.

  18. You’ve provided a lot of good
    You’ve provided a lot of good information, Levi, that has challenged some of my beliefs. There is also some further questions this latest reply has created –

    Re: “Things have really sucked in Iraq, and in the Middle East in general, ever since Europe moved in.”

    How does Saddam Hussein fit in with this equation you’ve introduced? I lifted this off an article – ” (Saddam) has gained international notoriety for torturing and murdering thousands of his own people. Hussein believes he ruled with an iron fist to keep his country, divided by ethnicity and religion, intact. However, his actions bespeak a tyrannical despot who stopped at nothing to punish those who opposed him.”

    Do you think Saddam was somehow influenced by European warfare and the reason they came into the Mid East? Or was Saddam simply a ruthless madman who was an anomaly in Iraq much like Libya’s Gaddifi’s terror upon his people? Had not the European “invasion” occurred, perhaps these two examples may have toned down their violent behaviors…

    I do see this pattern you wrote within many African and Mid East countries. Idi Amin of Uganda was apparently highly influenced from his serving the British colonial regiment, the King’s African Rifles in 1946. Again, if the Brits had stayed out of Africa perhaps madmen like Amin would not have eliminated some one million people.

    It seems as tho too much blame may be put upon the influence of European intrusion and along with the U.S. the Mid East may have remained at relative peace. But that was not the case and to hold blame will only increase the resentment so many throughout the region have against these “invaders”.

    Re: “Do you really believe that normal intelligent human beings who happen to be Sunni or Shia Muslims feel a compulsion to kill each other on sight …”

    The key words are ” normal intelligent human beings” of which there appears to be not enough to influence the warriors at work in Iraq.

    Re: ” I have friends who are Sunni Muslims. I have friends who are Shiite Muslims. I have seen them socialize with each other, collaborate on software projects together, even eat meals together. Somehow they manage to avoid the impulse to kill each other on sight.”

    Does living in the U.S. and it’s influences have anything to do with this peaceful attitude of your friends? Perhaps if they were living in present day Iraq, the divide between them may be more obvious…

    You’ve opened up some new doors with these talks, Levi. That is a good thing. But you have not answered the reasoning behind the Sunni invasion of Shiite Iraq which seems to be getting more and more out of control to the extent that the President is already upping the amount of troops he has deployed within the past week. It may be strictly oil motivated as you suggested earlier, but this 21st C world of ours demands energy to power our lives which is our future… the future of the majority of peoples worldwide. But that is another conversation.

    Thanks for all the time you’ve put into this topic. I’m not convinced of all the arguments but the fact that we do talk about it may blend our two ideas into something palatable for the both of us.

  19. Thanks a lot, Mtmynd … This
    Thanks a lot, Mtmynd … This has been a rewarding discussion and I’m happy to hash these questions out with you anytime.

    Saddam Hussein is an interesting case. He was not a religious man. His Ba’ath party was a western-style Socialist party, and his heroes were clearly Joseph Stalin, Benito Mussolini, Adolf Hitler. In other words, he was the human face of European modernity in Iraq. He never even bothered pretending to care about religion until after his government fell and he had to plead to his fellow Iraqis to spare his sad life, at which point he hilariously grew a beard and pretended to be a devout Muslim. Nobody fell for it.

    You make a good point that I may seem to be bashing Europeans and idealizing Muslims. If this is the message I’m delivering, that’s my problem to fix, because I don’t blame the great culture of Europe for any of the world’s problems, nor do I think that Muslims are any less warlike than any other people on Earth. Perhaps I am bending over backwards to point out the ways Muslims have been peaceful and Europeans have been warlike because here in the USA there’s so much prejudice and propaganda supporting the falsehood that Europeans and Americans have been peace-loving (HAH!!) and Muslims have not. The problem is not any individual race or religion or culture.

    The problem is the legacy of war itself. War is poison, and it destroys every culture it touches. We are all equally its victims and its enablers. And the good news is this: we can and will smarten up and cure ourselves of the sickness. First step is being truthful about the history of the last 100 years. The big tragedy in Iraq did not begin in 2003 with George Bush. It began in 1914 with the assassination of Franz Ferdinand. But it has been a tragedy, and in this case the introduction of European militarist culture has clearly been the direct cause.

  20. I have no warrior blood
    I have no warrior blood running thru my veins even though I did serve in the U.S. Navy (to avoid being drafted and sent to the front lines of Viet Nam). But I do know there are warriors not only in the U.S. but worldwide. These are the first and willing souls that find war suits their life. The mercenaries are the same and between them both there are possibly millions of warriors around the globe. The problem with warriors is if they have no wars or battles to fight, they become antsy and nervous.

    And of course, we hu’mans are also merchants, artists, educators, philosophers and politicians (and that’s not all), and each of these requires work that suits the temperament of of those who do these tasks. When there is no work, like the warriors they also get antsy and nervous… often turning to destructive behavior as a substitute.

    I mention this because I strongly feel there will always be war somewhere on this little planet of ours… it’s in our genes. War begins between the ears of one who becomes the initial aggressor that begins the war. Sometimes they’re based upon what one feels is a necessary act against an enemy, perceived or otherwise. The reason is not as important as the act which gathers support from that warrior class, which is often enough in the army of the the aggressor or even the defender… but the fight, the battle, gun smoke and blood energizes the true warrior

    So when you write, “we can and will smarten up and cure ourselves of the sickness” called war, I just don’t see that happening in our lifetimes or the lifetimes of future generations. It has been too ingrained in our psyche and we are an unstable species that is a long ways off from stopping our warring ways. We are a peace-loving species as much as we are a warring species that kills for our food, steals from our own, cheats and deceives as much as we love and share our hearts and minds with those who will have those qualities.

    But it certainly doesn’t hurt to encourage peace and not accept war as an answer. If 50% accepted that, we could might feel the peacefulness which that would bring and find ourselves reveling in it.

  21. Mtmynd, once again (as I said
    Mtmynd, once again (as I said about a different point above) I believe what you are stating here is the conventional wisdom. I’m happy to remind you that the conventional wisdom is often wrong.

  22. This conventional wisdom is
    This conventional wisdom is often the “wisdom of the plurality”, which is either right or wrong but seldom is based on truth.

  23. thanks for the discussion,
    thanks for the discussion, everyone. totally agree, levi– religious war is a fraud. I usually take it even farther– war and militarism in general is a fraud (in some ways a “religion” in its own right that has built up over time). not that war hasn’t served various purposes over the millenniums-old human evolutionary course, but I think human consciousness is undergoing a significant “evolutionary shift” of sorts. ultimately, endless war and plunder is not sustainable, and unless the collective organism shifts away from both, it could do itself in.

  24. I would like an help to
    I would like any help to understand the situation in Iraq. Isis is close to commit genocide of Yazid population, but I’m struggling to find in this situation the usual scheme. Looks like a “simple” conquest war.

  25. Exactly. Thank you for your
    Exactly. Thank you for your comments. “Faith” in itself is just plain ridiculous. Religion is the bane of mankind and will be its downfall. The author here doesn’t mention that religion itself is man made. “Treat others as you want to be treated.” That covers just about everything, doesn’t it.

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Litkicks will turn 30 years old in the summer of 2024! We can’t believe it ourselves. We don’t run as many blog posts about books and writers as we used to, but founder Marc Eliot Stein aka Levi Asher is busy running two podcasts. Please check out our latest work!