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The motivation behind wars

Reader comment on item: The Middle East Runs out of Water
in response to reader comment: A Problem with Monotheism, or just one branch of it?

Submitted by Michael S (United States), May 26, 2015 at 16:23

Hi, Ron

Thank you for your sincere message. It seems to be rather meaty, so I'll start commenting on the chunks, as I read them, before reading the whole meal. You began,

"...One has to wonder if a wise God (and I admit my own complete absence of belief) would ever have proclaimed this idea (of one God of all) to mankind since, if truly wise, he would understand what the nature and psychology of his creation would predictably do with the idea of 'one true God'?..."

First, a comment on the whole passage: There is no need to wonder, if one considers the nature of this God: He formed in Adam (by breathing into him His nature) a special sort of creation, whose purpose was to have fellowship with Him -- a fellowship of near-equals, like that of Adam with his wife Eve. Of course, this invited conflicts and competitions, which are inevitable in such relationships: Adam has a God-like nature which includes seeing himself as the center of the Universe -- a nature which, unfortunately, is shared by another imperfect creation, HaSatan, God's nemesis. What makes Adam and his kin different from HaSatan, is his ability to fall into the latter's error, realize his error and repent from it. This is the whole theme of the Bible, "Old Testament' and "New". The Biblical history of the people of Israel, and its extension into the modern State of Israel, is largely an outworking of this man-God relationship. Tevye comments on it in "The Fiddler on the Roof", saying, "Sometimes I wonder, couldn't you have chosen someone else?"

Now, I'd like to comment on your saying, : "I admit my own complete absence of belief". Nobody has an "absence of belief", yourself included. You simply believe in a world without an intelligent designer called "God". My own belief system, as a retired Chemist, dismisses this as illogical, seeing that the world around us shouts of intelligent design, order and purpose; with the laws of chemistry being an example of this intelligence. I personally never had difficulty dealing with the existence of God. What I had difficulty with, for a while, was the nature of my relationship with Him. I suspect that this same difficulty is at the root of what some others describe as their "unbelief". You went on,

"Because of centuries of earlier conflicts which ended over 400 years ago, the West has conquered the urge to mass murder those who do not share either the belief in one God or the meaning of his message."

That's such a loaded, logically false statement! True, "the West" (meaning Europe and the Jews, in brief) has had a period of conquest, as did the Muslims, Chinese and others in earlier times... and you are suggesting that we have somehow sanctified our conquering urge by conquering our very urges themselves. That's ironic in itselff; but you go on to assert that we urged mass murder in behalf of or our religious beliefs. This is misleading:

It is true that we had religious beliefs, and it is true that we both committed mass murder and encouraged one another in this killing. I doubt the link that you make between the two, though: This mass killing would have happened, in one form or another, with or without religious beliefs of any kind. The bloodiest wars in history, after all, occurred among Oriental people such as the Japanese, Chinese and, notoriously, the Mongols. The last of these had so little a religious basis for their motives, that shortly after their conquests they adopted, in their various regions, all the world's great religions, abandoning their original pagan beliefs: The Mongol-speakers became Buddhists, after dabbling in Nestorian Christianity; and the related Hazaras and other Turkic speakers largely became Muslims. A preceding wave of related, Turkic-speaking conquerors (the Khazars) became Jews. All committed mass murder -- not because of religion, but -- as has also been the case with Christians, Muslims and Jews throughout the ages -- because of personal and national self-interest. You went on,

It certainly appears that we have mastered the dreadful problem of lethal sectarian rivalries, probably permanently.

There's a statement laced with pride, if I've ever seen one. We haven't "mastered" any such thing: We've simply substituted loftier-sounding names for "sectarianism"; but the substance is the same. Hitler didn't belong to any "sect", but he committed mass murder in a vile, systematic way that the antagonists of the Thirty Years' War will condemn him for on Judgment Day. The Vietnam War was a conflict between Secular Americans and Atheist Communists; but it involved plenty of intentional mass murder and led to the death of millions, mostly civilians. The sanctimonious Europeans didn't help us in that conflict, but they did join us in Afghanistan, and even ran ahead of us in Yugoslavia and Libya. Their preference is to (1) let the Americans do their dirty work for them, and (2) promote low-grade wars that don't involve European "boots on the ground"; but the carnage continues on behalf of their national interests in diverse places. No, we're entangled in plenty of "sectarian conflict"; we just don't label it "sectartian". If "our side" is substituted for "our sect", though, we have a perfect match.

You go on,

Your message gets more obscure when you say, "if he is truly God, then these (sectarian) issues are important." I must dissent. if anyone is willing and eager to kill purely on grounds of a difference of belief in the existence or nature of God, that proves for me that anything about that particular belief is wrong, and therefore that the belief itself is unworthy of respect.

I don't have my original words immediately in front of me, Ron, but I recall the point I was trying to make: It isn't about man's "willingness to kill". That "willingness" has been with us since the days of Cain -- and, indeed, Cain killed out of a religiously-motivated envy. A similar envy, though not religiously-motivated, caused the sons of Israel to want to kill their brother Joseph, and led the chief men of Israel to leave the prophet Jeremiah to die in the well (though the Cushite rescued him). Those things aside, I was zeroing in on the intense struggle going on today among the Muslims.

"Haykal wrote that when Sukri al-Quwatli, President of Syria, signed the agreement on the union (the United Arab Republic) in Cairo, he told Abdel Nasser: 'You have no idea, Mr. President, what you have taken upon yourself. You have accepted a people every individual of which regards himself as a politician. Half of them imagine themselves to be leaders, a quarter of them prophets and at least 10% of them gods."

The Syrian people, according to Sukri al-Quwaitli, do not seem to require any religious incentive to think overly highly of themselves, and to kill one another as a consequence. In ancient times, every city had its own god; and city-states treated those gods like football-team mascots as they fought against one another in one rapaciously bloody war after another. Eventually, Hellenistic leaders such as Antiochus Epiphanes came up with a solution to this conflict, with a philosophy that went along the lines of,

"You worship Marduk, he worships Yahweh, she worships Molech and I worship Zeus; but these are really all just the same god using different names."

The followers of Yahweh didn't go along with the program, because they considered Marduk, Molech and Zeus to be false gods -- as, indeed, you probably do also. Antiochus essentially said,

You have your god, I have mine; but we all worship God;

but the Jews were saying,

I have my God, and you have nothing.

When the Arabs embraced the teaching of Muhammed, who styled himself as a prophet of Yahweh, they also embraced the zeal that motivated Mattathias (who rebelled against Antiochus). I don't think you disagree with me there. I was asserting that Abraham's Monotheism gave Mattathias, Muhammed, the Crusaders and the like a psychological weapon to use, to advance their own selfish ambitions; but you've gone further, suggesting that those ambitions themselves, and the wars and murders that flow from them, were somehow engendered by Monotheism. There, we disagree. You went on,

I would like to see some group of reasonably dispassionate scholars and independent researchers answer the following question: Has the three-thousand-year belief, in many forms, of 'one true God', been on balance a Net Plus or a Net Minus in human affairs?

Having been a scholar and independent researcher, I can assure you that none of us are "dispassionate", nor is any group of people. Some are just more clever and polite than others; but we all love to club our opponents to submission, whether physically or intellectually. Answering your question, therefore, in as much dispassion as I can muster up, I will say that belief in one true God is a net "plus". My reason is that "one true God" is reality; and belief in reality is a net "plus". One's answer to that question, therefore, is obviously connected with one's "belief" (and I have touched on that matter in Ā¶3). You went on,

Many factors would have to be considered, certainly including estimates of the number, in the scores or hundreds of millions, of those killed in the name of any of the Monotheisms. I confess that I have no clear sense of what the answer to that question might be. But if the impulse to kill all unbelievers continues to grow and be proclaimed worldwide throughout the social media by devout Muslims, and to be practiced as we see in the news every day, I think I see a trend in what the answer might become.

The core issue to you, seems to be man's tendency to fight wars. James the Just addressed this issue:

James 4:
[1] From whence come wars and fightings among you? come they not hence, even of your lusts that war in your members?
[2] Ye lust, and have not: ye kill, and desire to have, and cannot obtain: ye fight and war, yet ye have not, because ye ask not.
[3] Ye ask, and receive not, because ye ask amiss, that ye may consume it upon your lusts.
[4] Ye adulterers and adulteresses, know ye not that the friendship of the world is enmity with God? whosoever therefore will be a friend of the world is the enemy of God.
[5] Do ye think that the scripture saith in vain, The spirit that dwelleth in us lusteth to envy?
[6] But he giveth more grace. Wherefore he saith, God resisteth the proud, but giveth grace unto the humble.
[7] Submit yourselves therefore to God. Resist the devil, and he will flee from you.
[8] Draw nigh to God, and he will draw nigh to you. Cleanse your hands, ye sinners; and purify your hearts, ye double minded.
[9] Be afflicted, and mourn, and weep: let your laughter be turned to mourning, and your joy to heaviness.
[10] Humble yourselves in the sight of the Lord, and he shall lift you up.

James deals with wars and conflicts of all kinds, as personal issues. The problem isn't with religion or politics, but with our lustful natures; and our lusting comes from our estrangement from that friendship with our Creator that He created us for. What we really want, deep inside, is friendship with God; but our Adversary has convinced us that we cannot have that -- because either God will not accept us, or God doesn't exist. We therefore lust for things to fill the emptiness, to the extent even of wars, over whatever pretense.

War will end, when mankind is changed within himself. That change will come, when he is convinced that God loves him and will accept him back if he is humble and repentant. This can happen on an individual basis; in fact, it happens every day around the world. To happen on a global scope, though, it probably requires some sign, specifically, the raising of the dead and the coming of Messiah. Short of that, I don't think anything will do the trick. I imagine men will try everything at their disposal to work around that: propaganda, hypnotism, mass programming with implanted devices or genetic meddling; but these will all fail for the simple reason that the propagandist, hypnotist and programmer all suffer from the same malady of character: God Himself must provide the answer; and this is anathema to human pride.

Concerning my comment (which you quote),

""Pagans and Atheists do not fight over these things because they do not believe in the uniqueness of God","

Pagans and Atheists don't fight over the claim to know the "one true God"; but they find plenty of other things to fight over. At the moment, the fur is flying in the Middle East over this matter; but you know that in other times (such as the Cold War, or the Mongol invasions) man has fought over other things. My prediction is that after the Muslims have exhausted themselves, the whole world will attack Israel: ostensibly, to bring about world peace by defanging the Zionist "monster"; but really, to destroy the living proof, in the State of Israel, that the God of Israel exists and is mighty. The desire to fight that battle is expressed today by the Pagan and Atheist nations in UN resolution after UN resolution; it will blossom into war soon enough.

Thank you again, for your thoughtful comments.


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Note: Opinions expressed in comments are those of the authors alone and not necessarily those of Daniel Pipes. Original writing only, please. Comments are screened and in some cases edited before posting. Reasoned disagreement is welcome but not comments that are scurrilous, off-topic, commercial, disparaging religions, or otherwise inappropriate. For complete regulations, see the "Guidelines for Reader Comments".

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