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The Gods of War: Is Religion the Primary Cause of Violent Conflict?

By Meic Pearse
July 2008 | Review by Paul Brown
  • Publisher: InterVarsity Press
  • ISBN: 978-0830834907
  • Pages: 220
  • Price: £4.54
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Book Review

British troops have been in Iraq for five years and for longer in Afghanistan, where more are likely to be sent soon. Yet discussion of war – its effects and its possible justification – is almost non-existent among evangelicals today. This is very different from the days when National Service was a reality and all Christian young men had to decide either for military service or conscientious objection.

This book will make you think about war again, and a painful experience it proves to be. Starting from the secularist belief that religions lead to conflict and war, Pearse casts a historian’s eye over wars throughout the centuries.

It is not difficult for him to show that such a belief is grossly simplistic – the causes of war are much more complex than that. But this book also admits that religion, including professed Christianity, has sometimes been part of the motivating cause for war. This is a fact to be faced and learnt from.

I am not sure that Pearse is entirely correct at every point. I think, for example, that there is more to be said for the ‘just war’ theory than he allows, but we ought not to dodge the awful realities of war that he lays before us.

He sounds as if he would like to be a pacifist but is too realistic to adopt that position – ‘a refusal to use violence hands the world over to the person who will’. He turns the tables on secularism by maintaining that outside of the West, ‘Western secularism is perceived as threatening and aggressive. By its incessant and relentless expansionism, it is the cultural, moral and philosophical nihilism of Western consumerism that is generating warfare all around the globe’.

In view of the unceasing slaughter of millions of human beings that history reveals, thinking Christians need to read and reflect on this book.

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