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The Gods of War: Is Religion the Primary Cause of Violent Conflict? [Paperback]

By Meic Pearse (Author)
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Item Specifications...

Pages   231
Est. Packaging Dimensions:   Length: 8.22" Width: 5.8" Height: 0.68"
Weight:   0.62 lbs.
Binding  Softcover
Release Date   Nov 16, 2007
Publisher   IVP-InterVarsity Press
ISBN  0830834907  
EAN  9780830834907  

Availability  0 units.

Item Description...
Does religion cause war? It is often claimed that religion is responsible for more wars, more global conflicts and more deaths than any other factor. After all, the world has seen its share of crusades, inquisitions and jihads. Enlightened, modern people assume that if we could only discard primitive religious belief, the world would be a better place. Alas, the picture is not quite so simple. "Indeed," writes Meic Pearse, "there is only one thing that bears a heavier responsibility than religion as a principal cause of war. And that is, of course, irreligion."

In this provocative book, historian Meic Pearse debunks the common misconception that religion causes war. He argues that while religion is often a significant generator of armed conflict both in the past and in the present, the two principal causes of human warfare are in fact culture and greed for territory, resources or power. Since culture and greed often clothe themselves in religion, wars fought for culture often appear to be fought for religion. With keen analysis of global history and current events, Pearse shows how irreligion has produced far bloodier wars than religion, and how global secularism itself does violence to religion and traditional cultures. Ultimately, throughout history warfare has been waged over the shape of society itself. A crisis in meaning leads people to fight for what they fear may be lost. For a world weary of war, Pearse points beyond both cultural and secular metanarratives to an alternative hope.

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More About Meic Pearse

Register your artisan biography and upload your photo! Meic Pearse is the author of Why the Rest Hates the West, one of the most talked-about books of 2004-2005. Originally from Britain, Pearse earned his master's and doctoral degrees from the University of Oxford. Currently living in the United States and Croatia, Pearse is assistant professor of history at Houghton College, New York. ABOUT THE EDITORS John D. Woodbridge is research professor of church history and the history of Christian thought at Trinity Evangelical Divinity School in Deerfield, Illinois. David F. Wright is professor of patristic and Reformed Christianity at the University of Edinburgh, Scotland. Tim Dowley has written and edited many books, including The Lion Handbook to the History of Christianity. He lives in Covent Garden, London.

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1Books > Subjects > Religion & Spirituality > Christianity > Theology > Apologetics   [1450  similar products]

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Reviews - What do our customers think?
A Sane and Balanced Account  Jun 23, 2009
This a sane and balanced account of the oft-heard complaint that "religion is the cause of all the world's wars." The author of "Why the Rest Hates the West," I had the pleasure of working with Meic Pearse when he was a visiting lecturer at Kingsley College last year. He is honest about religion's implication and involvement in violent conflicts but rejects the idea that wars are normally fought on religious grounds. He has a strong preference for Anabaptist thought without adopting the kind of thorough going pacifism that does not really work in the real world. His experience living in Croatia has given him some important firsthand insights into the roots of multi-generational enmities. A valuable piece of Apologetics and highly recommended.
Debunking a secular myth  Feb 15, 2008
A common charge made by atheists is that religion is the primary cause of war, violence and bloodshed. If we could eliminate religion, we would be well on the road to peace on earth and good will toward men.

Dawkins could seriously write, "to fill a world with religion, or religions of the Abrahamic kind, is like littering the streets with loaded guns". John Lennon of course asked us to "Imagine" a religion-free world, where there is "nothing to kill or die for".

Pearse takes these charges head-on. As a historian with degrees from Oxford, he is well-placed to do it. And his overall thesis is this: while religion certainly has played a role in warfare and violence, the "two principle causes of human warfare are human greed and culture". Greed for territory, political power, or resources, and the cultural, national and social fabric that glue a people together are the major components of why nations go to war.

He certainly does not deny or downplay conflict that has been primarily religious in nature. But in something as complex as war, monocausation is rarely the case. Usually there is a mixture of motives. Thus Pearse looks at a whole range of war and conflict over the past several millennia, and concludes that while some were mainly caused by religious factors, the majority were not.

"The secularist establishment's accusations against religion as the primary cause of war are simplistic and ill-motivated" he says; "they have some important superficial validity but are far from the whole truth." A large part of this book is a historical examination of war and the complex set of reasons for it.

He argues that there were really only two main periods in history where religion was the driving force of war: in the Middle Ages, especially between Christians and Muslims, and in the sixteenth and first half of the seventeenth centuries, with Catholics versus Protestants.

Other conflicts which may seem to be primarily religious-based, turn out, upon closure inspection, to be a real mix, with secular factors as important, if not more so. For example, the Hundred Years War was mainly a contest over possession of feudal property. In the same vein, the numerous wars of the eighteenth century, the Napoleonic Wars, and the American Revolutionary War, were mainly nonreligious in nature.

Pearse also reminds us that the real perpetrators of blood and war in recent times have been the secularists. Last century was the bloodiest century on earth, and this belligerence was due to secularist creeds. Fascism and communism - both secular, atheistic tyrannies - saw war and violence as fully justified if they served the cause. And because both systems saw nothing unique in humanity, they were quite happy to slaughter millions in the interests of their ideologies.

Pearse reminds us that secular revolutions, going back to the French Revolution, were always ready to sacrifice human life, since it possessed no innate value other than to serve the collective. Nationalist and socialist regimes of the past century judged actions to be good or bad only in terms of advancing the political and ideological agenda. "Human lives as such were unimportant; what counted was the grand scheme of things."

But this book is not simply a defence of Christianity and a critique of atheism and secularism. In addition to frankly recounting the many failures of the church over the centuries, Pearse also looks at related issues, such as the question of whether is it ever right for a Christian to fight.

Pearse says both pacifism and just war theory are far from ideal Christian options. Both have major problems and shortcomings: just war is very hard to achieve even under the best of conditions, and pacifism abandons the innocent to aggression and tyranny. Both seem to be morally problematic options at best.

But Pearse reluctantly argues that a believer can legitimately fight, but only for secular causes, not for the Christian faith. Such secular causes would include, "to defend the weak from slaughter; to fend off an imminent attack; and perhaps, in limited circumstances, to right a grotesque wrong."

Again, Pearse is no hawk, and he certainly does not let Christianity off easily in this volume. It has made plenty of mistakes, and has too readily been a cause of, or a contributing factor to, war and bloodshed Yet when this complex and multi-faceted issue is examined in close historical detail, the reckless charges of the secularists quickly unravel. Warfare is a multi-causal phenomenon, and religion is only one component of it at times, and certainly not the most important factor.

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