Many years ago I was a college student far from home, and I needed to find a dentist. As I was sitting in the dental chair of this man I had never met before, I was confronted for the first time with the argument that religion causes wars.
Have you ever noticed that dentists always have an advantage over their patients when it comes to conversations? A dentist can say anything or ask any question while your mouth is numb or full of cotton. You try to respond with something that sounds like it’s coming from a toddler or a drunk person. “Mummammberabalub.” Why can’t I be understood?
Anyway, I made the mistake of telling him (while I could still talk) that I was a student in a Christian college. That sent the dentist on a diatribe about how Christianity has been the cause of almost every war in the last 2000 years. I was not in a position to argue coherently, and besides, he had a drill in his hand.
I have heard the argument that religion causes wars many times since – and not just from dentists. This particular dentist seemed to have a personal grievance against Christianity. A recent study took the war/religion connection in a different direction. The study, published in the scientific journal Nature Behavior, was titled “War Increases Religiosity.” The researchers analyzed over 1700 individuals in three countries that had experienced major internal conflicts. The countries where the subjects lived were Uganda, Sierra Leone, and Tajikistan. The research team felt that these were good countries to study not only because of their recent wars but also because of their diverse cultures and geographical areas.
The researchers found that people who were more affected by war were more likely to participate in religious activities, both Christian and Muslim. Their conclusion stated: “…our results suggest that the experience of war-related violence increases religious engagement and ritual participation.” Also, very important, they said: “The potential existence of these relationships has important theoretical, political and social implications.”
Just what are those implications? A media report of the research put it this way: “If war makes people more religious, and if religion makes people more war-prone, we have the recipe for a devastating feedback loop – which could help to at least partially explain some of the current situations in modern-day war areas.” In other words, war leads to more religion and religion causes wars.
So this supposedly dangerous feedback loop indicates that the key to stamping out wars is to stamp out religion. Hold on a minute! I want to get back to that dentist. As I said, he seemed to have a particular grudge against Christianity. What are Christians? They are Christ followers. What does that mean? They follow the teaching and example of Christ.
What was the example of Christ? When falsely accused, beaten, and crucified, He did not even open His mouth against His accusers. In fact, He prayed for them as He hung on the cross. When enemies came to arrest Him, Jesus told Peter to put away his sword because “all who draw the sword will die by the sword” (Matthew 26:52).
What were His teachings? Read Matthew chapters 5-7. He said when someone slaps you on one cheek, turn the other cheek. Give to those who try to take from you, and go the extra mile for them. He said, “Love your enemies and pray for those who persecute you” (Matthew 5:44, Luke 6:27 & 35). Does that sound like a war-monger?
The dentist said that religion causes wars, but is that true of real Christianity? Of course, some people claim to be Christians but don’t follow Christ’s example or His teaching. But Jesus said, “If you love me, keep my commands” (John 14:15). Obeying the commands and example of Jesus leads to peace, not war.
— Roland Earnst © 2019