Religion Vs. Conflict And The Religious Conflict

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French political thinker Charles de Montesquieu wrote that religious wars are not caused by the fact there is more than one religion, but by the spirit of intolerance. The definition of religion according the the Cambridge dictionary is ones belief in and or worship of a god/gods, or any other such system of belief. Religion means many things to many people, it can mean they follow a higher power, a group, or spiritual meanings. Religion has no right or wrong way to be followed, however this itself can lead to conflict, as people may say they follow the same religion but the meaning of an act may be construed in many ways and therefore causing conflict from within. The Cambridge dictionary defines conflict as the active disagreement between people with opposing views and opinions. Roy Eidelson and Judy Eidelson stated in their 2003 article in American Psychologist, that there are five domains of beliefs. Distrust, when the individual believes others may try and trick, hurt or humiliate them in order to gain advantage over them. Helplessness, when the individual believes that no matter their efforts they will fail in whatever they try and accomplish. Injustice, they believe that they are being mistreated by either a individual or the world itself. Superiority, is when the individual believes that it is only their opinion matters above all others and finally vulnerability, this is where the individual believes that they have a lack of control over their life, that they are in harms way and are always in danger from either internal or external factors.

Religion and conflict are far to often linked together and religion is often used as a justification in so many wars. These conflicts go as far back as the 11th century with the crusades against Muslim expansion. This was a time when Latin churches attempted to recover holy land from Islamic rule, the word crusade was later used in an attempt resolve conflict among Roman catholic groups and also to gain political and territorial advantage. Thomas Asbridge (The Crusades: The War for the Holy Land 2012) stated in the first crusade in around 1095, Pope Urban II encouraged military support in order to prevent the pilgrimage to Jerusalem. This was the first attempt to stop a religion from developing and becoming stronger than that of the current dominant religion. Willian Cavanaugh believed that the term religious wars were a division of western invention and that these wars have secular ramifications. Luc Reychler wrote that when people attach the word religion or religious to a war it takes on a different set of values, which can often have issues in the war being able to be concluded as either side are unwilling to back down in defeat as this would force them to admit that their religion wasn't the superior one and that the battle and wars they have fought in the name of it were unjust and their values weren't as strong as the victors. Luc also writes about how religion and conflict can also be linked to political gain and power, as religion can be as he states “a soft power”.

As religion is defined as a social and cultural set of beliefs. It encompasses morals, practices, texts, prophecies, ethics and behaviours. Many religions contain various factors and elements from supernatural beings, sacred items, sacred places of worship and supernatural beings. The study of religion uses a number of practices, such as social science and theology. Region cannot be defined as either peaceful or violent due to various factors a few of which include justification for such acts. While one religion believe such things are justified in their belief others many have the opposite opinion. There is also the issue of authority i.e. who has the right to tell the followers what they should and shouldn't do. Should it be one person or being be responsible for the beliefs and actions of many or should there be many individuals that take actions.

The island of Haiti is one of the Caribbean islands that shares the island of Hispaniola which was name by Christopher Columbus in 1492 with the Dominican Republic. The Spanish first established it colonies in Santa Domingo which is now known as the Dominican Republic around 1496. The population was predominately made up of farmers, however in the 15th century their trade changed to include fishing, pottery and inter inland jewellery selling. This change was due to the a group of indigenous people called the Taino becoming more dominant. In the 1660's when the French port Port-de-Paix was founded the French colonised the area and began to import slaves from Africa (Heinl 1996). Once full control of the region went from Spain to France, its economic and population increased significantly. The types of produce exported ranged from coffee, cotton, cacao and sugar. With the increased demand for goods the number of slaves increased to, with these increased number of slaves the society began to split. The split came from religion and skin colour.

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Many of the slaves escapes and formed groups to fight the French colonial rule. The slaves that escaped to the mountains came to be known as Maroons. Maroons have been long since praised for being vital to the fight against independence for the slaves in Haiti. Due to the many backgrounds of the slaves they often didn't speak the same language,to that they developed creole. This language took on aspects and elements from French, Portuguese, Spanish and also languages from the African gold coast. The other factor that these escapes slaves found they had a shared set of beliefs. The religion they all practised was Vodou. Haitian Vodou, is a religion that encompasses philosophy, justice, religion and medicine. According to the fundamental principle of this belief is that everything has a spirit and how humans are spirits that inhabit the visible world, while in the unseen world is habited by spirits, mysteries, angels and the invisibles. The main aspect of this religion is to serve the spirits and to perform rituals and prayers in the hope they are given good health, protection and favours (national geographic online). also states that, Vodou gave the Haitians the self belief and power to rise up and be seen as independent beings and deserving of more than what had become of them. In a sense it gave them dignity and pride and also the fight to be more than slaves, who were discarded when they were no longer of use.

One of the striving forces and key leaders in the Haitian revolution was Dutty Bouckman (Poujol-Orio 2005). A slave himself transported from Jamaica he was to become the leader of the Maroons and help to bring about the revolution. Killed by French planter in 1791 (Girard, 2010). Boukman's head was put on display in an attempt to show that the invincible reputation that Boukman had built for himself was that of a myth.

The ceremony in which Bouckman presided over, Bois Caiman was said to be the catalyst that started the Haitian revolution in 1791, with the numbers of slaves increasing it was only a matter of time when they would be strong enough to overthrow the colonial rule. This albeit took until 1804 with countless lives lost and lands destroyed. Although their large numbers helped them to gain freedom from French colonial rule, the French revolution is said to have played a part in Haiti gaining independence and becoming the first nation in the Caribbean to be declared and independent nation (Christopher, 2016). This was declared in 1804 by Jean-Jacques Dessalines and Henri Christophe they sign and publish a declaration of independence. Although the fight for independence was declared by Dessalines in 1804, after his assassination in 1806 Haiti was again divided into two distinct groups. Black controlled and Mulatto-ruled in the south of the country.

However you don't have to go far to come across wars and conflicts fought in the name of religion, in my own backyard there was a monument erected, the stone that has been placed there is called the martyr stone. The stone was placed there by local villagers and is inscribed with '“Twas martyr’s blood bought Scotland’s liberty. Erected February 1865, in room of the old tomb-stone, by the people of Kirkintilloch and neighbourhood'. The stone was placed to remember James Smith and John Wharry, they were the younger brothers of the laird of Scorryholm in Lanark. The brothers were said to have helped Alexander Smith escape from prison where he had been held until the revolution in 1688. There was no evidence to link the bothers to the jail break but for the fact that they were in the area the fugitive was last seen. The brothers were sentenced to be hung and also have their right hand removed, from records it was said that John Wharry stated he would lay down not only his right hand but also his neck for the cause of Christ. There is an inscription that denotes the reason for the commemoration, along with a passage from the book of revelations. John and James were said to be covenanters. Scottish Covenanters are Presbyterians who fought in the English civil war with the promise of the reinstatement of the covenant which never took place. The Scottish Covenanters signed the national covenant in 1638, the national covenant was a document that stated that those who signed it pledged to defend the true religion from innovations and against the reformers and the acts of parliament, this would eventually lead to Roman Catholicism. The national covenant was said not to be an act of rebellion but an appeal to the law of the land against the kings rule. If you signed this then you were saying that Jesus Christ was the only head of church people would recognise and should be not under the control of the king and government.

Religious conflicts are all around and still prevalent today, with many extremists using the umbrella religion to carry out horrific and senseless acts, from bombings of towns to mass shootings in nightclubs. Religion and conflict will forever be links due to the diverse society that we live in. With the differences in religion and also how we perceive religion on a personal and profound level, we often become ignorant and intolerant of other faiths, which is when conflicts arise. Religion cannot be classed and should not be classed as a one specific thing, it is all things to all people, whether you believe in a supreme being, an alien being sent to cleanse the world or simply belief in an individual person. There should be no place for conflict in religion. All religions teach us about acceptance and comprising, however many scriptures are often vague which leads to the individual to interoperate the meaning in a way in which they see fit, this is often where the conflict arise and will continue to arise as with an every changing world, our views and opinions and outlooks change and adapt.

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Religion Vs. Conflict And The Religious Conflict. (2022, February 17). Edubirdie. Retrieved April 13, 2024, from
“Religion Vs. Conflict And The Religious Conflict.” Edubirdie, 17 Feb. 2022,
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