This little sketch may be a little over the top, but I don’t think it’s missing by much. I’ve been doing a bit of thinking lately about why we fight each other.
- Land — Pure and simple, this is the main thing we fight over. In almost every war I can think of, two groups each wanted control over a stretch of land. Sometimes the method of control was somewhat underhanded, as in America’s “liberation” of Iraq from a dictator who wasn’t toeing the Team America line, or the capture of General Noriega in Panama. (Hmmm… is there a theme here?) And many wars have been framed in terms of freedom vs. slavery, exemplified by the rhetoric of the “Cold War.” But in the end, it has always boiled down to who controls what stretch of land.
- Resources – The reason we want land is that it contains resources. (Note that there has never been a significant military effort to secure Antarctica.) The battle for Iraq could hardly be framed as anything other than an oil war. The Panama Canal “incident” was a clusterfuck of Soviet, U.S., and Drug Cartel money.
I have noticed that many wars are fought on moralistic grounds. The expulsion of a cruel dictator, the freeing of slaves, and similar noble causes are often touted as the true reason for war. But I’ve observed that proximity to domestic interests seems to be a deciding factor. We were quick to “liberate” Panama from Noriega once he stopped toeing the U.S. line on drug policy. Genocide still continues in Darfur, although if their oil production continues to grow dramatically, I wouldn’t be surprised to see an increased international interest in their liberation.
Religion and War
What part does religion play in war? We know there have been plenty of “religious wars,” but critics of the Religion = War meme correctly point out that religious zealots have seldom wasted their time converting people with neither land nor resources.
I think the influence of religion is more subtle than a straight Religion = War chain of effect. In fact, I think we’re misguided to focus on war — at least in the traditional sense. War, if given a more liberal definition, can extend to bloodless battles involving politics, economic pressure, and social segregation. When we start looking for examples of Religion = Conflict, we start seeing many examples.
America provides an easy example. There is a war being waged between Christians and non-Christians, especially atheists. And in the end, it boils down to a war for who controls the land and the resources. Make no mistake. If Pat Robertson’s army of Christians got complete control of the government, being a Christian would become even more lucrative than it is today. And by the same token, if atheists got complete control of the government, tax exempt status would end for churches. And churches are big, big business. This is a war for land and resources.
So let’s take a step back and ask the burning question: Why are we at war?
I don’t want to over-simplify this, but I’m having a hard time not answering “religion.” What is it that makes atheists and Christians different? We atheists don’t commit more crimes than Christians. We pay our taxes. We buy insurance. We shop at Walmart. Yes, we tend to be more liberal than Christians, but lots of Christians are liberals, too. And they don’t want us in political power either.
What are the main political lines of demarcation between Christians and atheists?
- Abortion/reproductive rights.
- Government support of religious charity.
- Gay marriage.
- Prayer in schools.
- Teaching of evolution in schools.
And that’s about it, right? Yes, atheists tend to support universal healthcare, and tax reform, and election reform. But so do a lot of Christians. When it comes right down to it, the ONLY issues I can think of which divide us almost completely are issues where religious values are legislated.
So I’m left with the question: If it were not for purely religious issues, would there be a war between atheists and Christians in America? I can’t for my life think of why there would be.
So no, religion doesn’t automatically equal war. But it does create social divisions, and those divisions inspire both sides to fight for control over land and resources which could be shared without the religious segregation.