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Religion And Violence

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Religion and violence have played a major role in history, whether it be using religion to start a war or using religion to break away and become your own state. The Crusades is the most well known religious wars in history. It was a bunch of wars that were paid for by either the nobility or the church to take back the holy land from muslim rule. The idea came along from Pope Urban II when he made his speech at Clermont. The Pope had received word from Alexios I of Komneons, the Byzantine emperor that he needed help against the Selijuq Turks who took a lot of land from him and his army wasn’t strong enough to compete and he didn’t have enough money to fund a war. Pope Urban II decided that he didn’t want to just help him by giving him funds, he decided to give a speech to use his power for a holy war.

The Crusades is a time of controversy for the church, it questioned how much power the Pope actually had and if it was always right to follow the Pope because he received the key to heaven. The Pope said “All who die by the way, whether by land or by sea, or in battle against the pagans, shall have immediate remission of sins.” (blackboard) This is controversial because during this time period some of the lesser nobility were killing and pillaging for money either because they weren’t in any position to inherit anything or they were just too poor. Obviously, killing another human being, especially a Christian was against what Christianity stood for that’s why the Pope saying this is basically giving out a get out of hell free card by going to kill other human beings just because they were of a different religion. Pope Urban II said . “Let those who for a long time, have been robbers, now become knights. Let those who have been fighting against their brothers and relatives now fight in a proper way against the barbarians.” (blackboard) This plays the question if some noble were to kill Christian people, rape Christian people and steal from Christian people then does that mean as long as they go kill people of a different religion or rape people from a different religion or steal from a different religion it’s justified because god or the pope said so? The Pope says throughout this speech that “I grant them through the power of God” meaning as long as I say so, God said so. People will blindly follow the Pope because of this urge of gaining remission of sins and potentially getting some spoils of war from sacking cities on the way to the holy land.

The Pope believes 100% that because he is ordering the killing of heretics that the people and himself will earn the right of a remission of sins and after you die go to heaven for it. In the speech it also says “Let those who go not put off the journey, but rent their lands and collect money for their expenses”. (blackboard) There are also other reasons to declare a holy war against people of a different religion, which is how the world works, money. By using violence and faith together there is almost always something it common and that is money. The more money the church has the more followers it gets resulting in the church getting more power. This was the last thing said in Pope Urban II speech for the crusades and it’s one of the strongest. With the lesser nobility out of the way the only thing they needed to get them to actually go was money. Also with more money that meant more mercenaires that can be hired to go fight for the church.

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Another example of how faith can justify violence is the St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre. The duke of Guise had full command over the enterprise and said “it was the will of the king that, according to God's will, they should take vengeance on the band of rebels while they had the beasts in the toils.” (De Thou 1659) Even though nobody questioned him the catholics decided to kill the protestants because it was the will of the king and of course, God. This alone gave the catholics the boost they needed to just massacre the protestants because they didn’t have the same way of thinking. Because of this about 3,000 Protestants were killed in Paris and about 70,000 were killed in france for no other reason than God and the king enforced it.

The Last Example of how religion and war are connected is the thirty years war which was a war fought in central Europe between 1618 and 1648. After the next in line holy roman emperor Ferdinand II tried to enforce Catholicism on his territories in Bohemia and Austria which were Protestant it led to a rebellion. Countries not related to the conflict saw this as an opportunity to attack territories near them because as long as it’s against somewhere not of your religion it’s fine. Many of the people used this excuse of “Well they aren’t catholic so kill them and take their land” to take land and kill people. “This year [1630] was a bad one for the Protestant religion everywhere, and if the Swedish king had not opposed the emperor in the field, the German princes would have been finished.” ( Hans Heberle 1597-1677)

In conclusion, religion and war has almost always been connected as long as there is some sort of gain. Humans always want more and when they have the chance to they will go for it. The Crusades, St. Bartholomew’s Day massacre, and The Thirty Years War all had some things in common whether it be power, land or money there is always some ulterior motive to something when it comes to religion and war.


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Religion And Violence. (2022, February 24). Edubirdie. Retrieved March 2, 2024, from
“Religion And Violence.” Edubirdie, 24 Feb. 2022,
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