“So Joshua took the whole land, according to all that the Lord had spoken to Moses, and Joshua gave it for an inheritance to Israel according to their divisions by their tribes. Thus the land had rest from war.” Joshua 11:23
This post is the twenty-second in a series that addresses a list of “40 harmful effects of Christianity” that originated on the American Atheists Facebook page and has since made its way around the internet. In this post, I examine the following “harmful effect” from the list:
Harmful Effect #22: Holy wars – followers of different faiths (or even the same faith) killing each other in the name of their (benevolent, loving and merciful) gods.
Harmful Effect #22 is further evidence that the author(s) of this list didn’t give particular attention to Christianity but rather opined upon what they saw as the harmful of effects of religion in general. If, for example, followers of Islam and polytheistic paganism warred against one another, this would not be a harmful effect of Christianity; nor would it be a harmful effect of Christianity if followers of Sunni and Shia Islam warred against one another. Yet, both of these hypothetical situations (which have also been real situations in history) qualify as “harmful effects of Christianity” according to this list.
From a Christian point of view, God is (as this harmful effect points out) “benevolent, loving, and merciful.” Therefore, any war sanctioned by God would be just given that it would flow from His perfect nature. An example of such warfare would be the expulsion of the Canaanites by the Hebrews from the Promised Land after the iniquity of the Canaanites had become full. Any warfare carried out in the name of God but not sanctioned by God, by Christian standards, is sinful. The very problem with such religious warfare is that it is a rejection of the wishes of God. To be specific, religious wars are not inherently harmful; unjust religious wars are.
Of course to declare the net effect of a war, religious or otherwise, as “harmful” is to engage in subjective judgment. Those who win a given war might not deem its prosecution harmful, on the net, at all. To declare a war objectively unjust requires an objective standard of morality, which atheism can’t provide. I contrast, Christian theism can provide such a standard. The Christian theist can, for example, deem the Crusades unjust. These wars were religious in nature but prosecuted in an unjust way which defied the wishes of God.
Religious wars, it should be considered, are the minority of recorded history’s warfare. Philip and Axelrod’s three-volume Encyclopedia of Wars, chronicles some 1,763 wars that have been waged over the course of human history. Of those wars, the authors categorize 123 as being religious in nature, which is an astonishingly low 6.98% of all wars. However, when one subtracts out those waged in the name of Islam (66), the percentage is cut by more than half to 3.23%. War exists in plentiful supply without religious motivation. Even wars which are overtly motivated by religion, such as the Crusades, are arguably motivated by other factors such as nationalism, greed, or a lust for power (the same factors which underlie “non-religious” wars). The counterfactual, “Religious wars would have been prosecuted for reasons other than religion if religion didn’t exist” can’t be proven, but it’s arguably plausible. History shows that people have a tendency towards violence and religious motivations are hardly needed to beget war.
Harmful Effect #22 falls flat along with an atheist worldview. The Christian worldview provides, at the very least, an explanation for why wars exist and which ones are just. Furthermore, where there is death, war, and carnage, Christians can take comfort in the blessed hope of eternal life promised to them by the Lord Jesus and recorded in the Holy Bible.
In my next post in this series, I’ll address the following:
Harmful Effect #23: The destruction of great works of art considered to be pornographic/blasphemous, and the persecution of the artists.
*Please note that the preceding is my personal opinion. It is not necessarily the opinion of any entity by which I am employed, any church at which I am a member, any church which I attend, or the educational institution at which I am enrolled. Any copyrighted material displayed or referenced is done under the doctrine of fair use.