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Religious Values During War and Peace

Introduction

Despite the existence of different religions and their development, the majority of scripture and religious texts proclaim that human life is the ultimate value that has to be respected. Hence, war and other types of violence are not parts of religious values because these religions support peace, however, many wars were committed for a religion. This paper aims to discuss religious values during conflict and peace and review different examples of how religion was used to justify violence.

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Values During War and Peace

Religion and war are often linked because historically, many wars were initiated to protect or disseminate a religion among communities of non-believers. Although not all great wars started for religious purposes, the examples of the Middle East conflicts today are led because of religion. According to Koch, the battles between Israel and Palestine are prominent examples of how religion becomes the basis for war action. More recently, the conflict between Saudi Arabia and Iran gained attention, with both states’ leaders proclaiming that their version of Islam is the only correct one. Hence, when reviewing the religion and its values, with these examples, the merit of a war conflict is protecting what a community believes in, which can justify violence. With Islam in particular, there are a set of strict rules regarding people’s behavior, women’s clothes, and the roles of people within families and communities (Koch). These are the core values that society should live following, however, different Islam branches proclaim varied rules. Hence, with this example, the values during war or conflict are in protecting what is perceived as correct from a religious standpoint.

Some of the worst crimes and wars were initiated in the name of religion. One prominent example is the attacks such as 9/11 were committed as religious acts and a declaration of war to the American people. A seemingly horrible act was committed, as claimed by the terrorists, in the name of their religion. Hence, one should be cautious of the values that faith proclaims and supports and their interpretation, used by people to justify their actions. With such events, separating people’s actions and their religion is essential since, within the faith, peace, and respect for others, may be the central value. In contrast, people may use it as a justification for their violence.

Followers of Islam are not the only people who have used the scriptures to justify war. Historically, Christians have used their religion as the basis of war action. In particular, the Crusades were a series of wars between the Christian and Muslim populations, each protecting their religion. From this viewpoint, an individual’s religious values allow them to defend their beliefs, even if it means going against the other values and engaging in a war.

Despite the use of religion as a justification of war, most religious texts condemn killing or violence against other people. The Christian values declared as 10 Commandments state, “Thou shalt not kill” (The Bible 24). Moreover, if one commits such an act, they will be subjected to judgment. Hence, Christianity values a person’s life and requires others to respect and protect it by all means. Only in some instances is the killing of another can be permitted, mainly when one has to defend themselves and others. The values of Hinduism are described in Bhagavad Gita 16. 1-3, where the god-like creature talks about self-control, fearlessness, compassion, and the importance of being free of anger (Faith: Beliefs). Under this context, war appears to be impossible since its nature goes against what is valued in Hinduism.

Despite the examples used previously in this paper, Islam as a religion does not value violence and killings. The common misjudgment of this religion comes from the terrorist attacks and violence that was committed, proclaiming that they are done in the name of religion (Lipka). According to Lipka’s report, “about half of Americans (49%) think at least “some” U.S. Muslims are anti-American, greater than the share who say “just a few” or “none” are anti-American” (Lipka). This shows that there are still many misconceptions about the religious values of Muslims. However, the Quran 17:33 condemns violence against others. Again, this is an example of how a religion views war and peace and how people use religion to justify their actions. Next, the Janice religion also requires its followers to avoid violence and be engaged in violence. Thus, a common feature of all religions reviewed in this paragraph is their respect for human life and a proclamation that a religious person should not harm others. This ultimately means that a war is an act that goes the religious values.

Peace

From the perspective of religious texts, peace should be the ultimate value of the religion’s followers. However, in many cases, this is not true, and wars or killings are committed as a way of cherishing one’s faith. For example, the extremist Islam followers believe that their version of Islam should be followed by others, and if they refuse, it provides the basis for the murder of these non-religious individuals (Koch). In the Five Pillars of Isalm, there is no direct reference to war or peace. Mainly, they outline what a truly religious person should do. For example, praying five times a day and traveling to Mecca are what every Muslim should do (Faith: Beliefs). Although this does not refer to war or peace directly, it suggests that righteous Muslims should cherish their religion. Indirectly, this implies that being in peace with others is essential since a definition of “peace” is freedom from being disturbed by others. This freedom allows Islamic follower to practice their religion as outlined in the Quran.

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Peace appears to be a central implication of most religions reviewed in this paper. However, since people do turn to force and violence against others, religious leaders attempt to justify these actions. Jainism is perhaps the only religion where the core value is not killing others, and this value is implicitly stated in the religion’s core texts (Jainism Peace). Ahimsa is the core doctrine of this religion, which can be interpreted as valuing non-violent behavior. Thus, some religions condemn violence, and therefore war, of any kind, without regard for justifications.

Other religions allow for killing and, therefore, the disturbance of peace. For example, in Buddhism, it is justified if it protects the Dharma (Faith: Beliefs). Other cases include self-protection or the need to protect others. In Hinduism, men must fight, which allows them to use force against others. Moreover, killing and wars started to conquer others are prohibited by this religion (Faith: Beliefs). The Hindu scriptures even allow killing assassins who murder others for no justifiable reason. Here, religious values can be compared to those displayed in modern laws and policies, where the lives of other people should not be threatened by others. The only case when this is justified is protection, and people who murder have to be punished.

In the religious text, peace is implied directly as a way of practicing non-violence. Although most religions value human life and warn against using force or starting a war, there are cases when violence is justifiable. Self-protection or protection of one’s religion is typically the value that allows a religious person to engage in a war. A similarity between different faiths is the values they proclaim and their views on wars and peace. As was mentioned, the Ten Commandments for Christians or the Five Pillars of Islam all share a common feature, and they forbid violence against others (Faith: Beliefs). Hence, most religions value peace and proclaim the importance of human life, therefore forbidding them to cause harm to others.

Conclusion

To summarize, all major religions support the values of peace and require others to avoid killings and violence. However, in many cases, the fanatics of religion or people who use it to pursue their political agenda use religion as a justification for war. Some faiths use justifications for wars and murders, such as self-protection or protection of others. From the viewpoint of peace, human life is central and should not be threatened by others. The use of violence is justified in some cases. However, most religions value a peaceful life where one can practice their religion.

Works Cited

The Bible. Oxford UP, 1998.

“Faith: Beliefs.” British Library, 2020. Web.

Jainism Peace.” Victoria and Albert Museum, 2020. Web.

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Koch, Bettina. “Unmasking ‘Religious’ Conflicts and Religious Radicalisation in the Middle East.” E-International Relations, Web.

Lipka, Michael. “Muslims and Islam: Key Findings in the U.S. and Around the World.” Pew Research Center. 2020. Web.

The Qur’an. Oxford UP, 2005.

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StudyCorgi. (2022, May 24). Religious Values During War and Peace. Retrieved from https://studycorgi.com/religious-values-during-war-and-peace/

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