Fr. Mark Bentz discusses the common phrase, “religion is the greatest source of war.” It seems logical if you think of all of the battles of the Old Testament, the Crusades, and Islamic Holy Wars. But how common is it really for religion and war to go hand-in-hand?

In reality, it is very rare for religion to be the source of violence and war. Approximately 1763 wars have been recorded in human history. Of those, only 123 are classified as religious wars (about 7% of the total).

In the last 100 years, there haven’t been any wars classified as religious. In fact, countries like Russia and China have accounted for more than 100 million deaths from violence and war; both of these are communist countries built on anti-religion sentiments.

We propose that it is not religion, but actually disordered passions that cause wars. These passions could be greed, a desire for power, and materialism. When left unchecked, these passions justify a need for violence and war. Opposite of these passions is authentic religion, which develops virtue and a desire to serve others, instead of serving ourselves. So, as you can see, religion is not the cause of the problems of violence and war, but the remedy.

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