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Religion And Warfare Essay

1828 words - 8 pages

Religion and Warfare: Yesterday and Today

A religious war is a war justified by religious differences. It can be the acceptable forces of one state that has a well-known religion against those of another state with either a different religion or a different section within the same religion, or, at the level below a state, it can be a faction motivated by religion attempting to spread its faith by violence either within the state or elsewhere. The French Wars of Religion, the Crusades, and the Reconquista are often cited historical examples. While there are certainly wars fought primarily on religious grounds, wars frequently have multiple and complex causes. Saint Augustine is credited ...view middle of the document...

Religion and warfare, during this time period, seemed to mutually coincide.
The Cross of Christ, for example, has been illustrated quite often upon crests of shields, in the plating of armor or even as engravings upon weapons (Backman). This was traditional of the Crusaders from the 10th to the 13th century. The Cross of Christ became a powerful symbol during the Medieval Ages; serving as an emblem of spiritual struggle for peace and righteousness. This sign of true martyrdom in the New Testament signified a refusal to submit to the punishment or the sentence of death (Pryor). This was all carried out in the name of Christ. During the Crusades the soldiers would sacrifice their body by engaging in physical combat. Thus the cross became a holy sign which also portrayed obedience and honor. Those who fought in the name of God were recognized as “Milites Christi”: warriors or knights of Christ (Tyerman). The Christian religion was an icon of military success to the religious followers. They believed that victory was achieved through divine intervention or aid from Almighty God. Fighters took great pride in their beliefs and became the new conceptual class known as the Templar. These blessed warriors pursued both opposing armies and the heretic religions and cults of the time, and therefore were highly admired by the Church and the State (Tyerman). Strategically, these enemies would be one and the same. A good example of this was their foe, the Lombard Legions to the west. They were portrayed as a common enemy of Rome and also a satanic Pagan tribe as well. The ideals and duties of religion were used as tools to legitimize warfare. Christianity essentially gave the armies an excuse for their conquests of “liberation”. However, the Crusaders did not make much progress along the lines of liberating towns and villages. Instead, their holy conquests turned out to be a long, violent series of raids for territorial expansion, trade and world-wide dominance, all in the name of God. Jihad is to strive or struggle in the way of God, and is sometimes referred to as the sixth pillar of Islam, although it has no official status (Esposito 2005) Jihad has a wider meaning in Islamic literature. It can be striving to lead a good Muslim life, praying and fasting regularly, being an attentive and faithful spouse and parent or working hard to spread the message of Islam (Esposito 2003) Jihad is also known, however, to Muslim and Christian alike, in its meaning of violent struggle to bring about a Muslim society throughout the world (Backman). 
While there have been mujtahids (Islamic scholars) who have argued that Jihad is not supposed to include aggressive warfare, they have written their treatises in places such as Syria, Eastern Anatolia, and Mesopotamia, all of which were wrenched violently from the Persian or Byzantine Empires. While much of the Western half of the Roman empire has been returned to Christian rule (with the complete exception of North...

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