Wednesday, May 06, 2015

Holy Wars

Is it just coincidence that the world's biggest religions are also the ones famous for aggressive holy wars? The big religions of the East don't seem to have this character. Most religions, including Christianity and Islam make peace a virtue, but in their case that virtue is often trumped by their aggressive and frequently violent proselytization. Organized religion appears to have arisen with agriculture, and many such religions developed war gods, often tribal in nature. Such appears to have been the case with the Hebrew war god.

That god had a couple of notable characteristics, in that he had a very jealous character, and tolerated no other gods, and secondly, at some point he claimed universal dominion, becoming not just the war god of one tribe, but The God, not just of the Hebrews, but everybody. The aggressive proselytizing is mostly associated with Christianity and Islam, but had already begun in pre-Christian times.

I find it interesting that one of the most prominent modern, "humanist", religions, Marxism-Leninism, has the same intolerant, dogmatic and universalist character, only bases its universalist claims not on a personal god but on supposed laws of history. It too had considerable crusading success before it's internal inconsistencies brought it crumbling down.

There apparently is a universal human instinct to punish deviant behavior, and this instinct is crucial to the understanding of cooperation. Extending this instinct to punishing deviant thought is one of the most obnoxious qualities of the three religions mentioned, but, quite unfortunately, may also be essential to their successful spread.