Fforde is an award-winning author, born in London in 1961, whose most famous book, is Fifty Shades of Grey, which was later made into a successful film. Fforde, in this statement, appears to be adopting an anti-religion stance, short of knowing the context in which he made this statement we could disappear down the rabbit-hole of conjecture, which is not the purpose of this talk.
However, my brief is to place into context, how historically, mankind has used, or been used by dynasties, or leaders in warfare, often using the umbrella of religion, as a unifying ideology, with which a group of people, or cause could identify.
For centuries the Chinese Imperial cause, kept the aristocratic classes and army in an iron grip, maintaining a savage hold on power, through brutal suppression and the belief that the Emperor was a god on earth, and to be revered and worshipped. This may be an example of autocratic/religious authority. Alexander the Great who lived 350 years BC, was a king of a minor Greek kingdom, who through luck, skill and daring, managed to inspire his armies, through his personality, to break the Persian Empire and conquer countries from the Adriatic, to the Indus River, in India – without a religious ideal, as inspiration.
Ghengis Khan was a famous Mongol leader, in the 11th and 12th centuries, who managed to unify many minor tribes, in Mongolia, western Asia, and though a feared and extremely brutal leader, appeared to be genuinely tolerant of religions, other than his own.
The point again is, that he acquired great power and prestige, through personality, and not using religion as a unifying factor. Around the same time, The Crusades were beginning to have an effect, in, what is now known as the Middle East, between Christianity and Islam. This is one of the first religious campaigns, to widely affect many countries and societies, both in western Europe and the eastern Mediterranean area, including the Holy Land, known today as Israel.
Several Popes, as head of the then Christian Church, in pre-Reformation times, felt obliged to recover Israel, with all the important religious sites, which had been lost to Islamic rule. These Popes, who were the religious leaders, with their assumed spiritual authority over European Kings and Queens, felt obliged to require their religious inferiors, to supply armies, to recover the Holy Land out of the hands of Islam, and return it to Christian authority.
Islamic culture also experienced a period of time where their influence, extended into Europe and North Africa, after the Christian defeat in The Crusades, in the Holy Land in the 11th and 12th centuries. Their advance into southern Europe was stemmed in the 14th century, having advanced through a substantial area of Spain, then known as Moorish Spain. The Moorish influence has left a lasting effect on the cultures of southern Europe.
There seems to be an upsurge of conflicts, associated with religion, in more recent centuries, particularly from the Middle Ages, and in particular since The Reformation. This has led to Europe experiencing empires, like Austro-Hungarian empire, loosely based on Christian principles, the Russian Empire, heavily influenced by the Christian Orthodox Church, The Turkish Ottoman Empire which was influenced by Islam.
Within the last century, there seems to have been a different form of religion, depending on your definition of religion, or Communism. In Russia and China and indeed in Vietnam and Cambodia, many many millions have been murdered in the name of this religion or ideology. While the question maybe; In light of recent conflicts in the Middle East and the Yugoslav Wars, discuss the role religion played in WWII and currently plays in modern warfare – it is safe to say that conflicts have been inspired and perhaps inflamed by religion.
We only have to review the conflict in Northern Ireland, which has been ongoing for many decades and was fuelled by propaganda and terrorism and naked sectarianism, masked under the respective flags of convenience, and religion. To counterbalance this debate, while Protestants and Roman Catholics appeared to be at odds, there was another element coming into play, national identity.
While The Troubles were being played out, in a minor part of the United Kingdom, it should also be remembered that in the Middle East, there are similar tensions within Islam, between Sunni and Shiite Muslims, who are attacking each other in Saudi Arabia. This does not overlook the ongoing tension between the Israelis and the Palestinians, which is a potential powderkeg, barely kept under control by international politics. Add Iran to the mix, and I think we can agree, that there is a volatile situation simmering.
To address part of the statement, discuss the role religion played in WWII and currently plays in warfare, history shows us how religion was used as a means for evil, where the Nazis attempted to exterminate Jews, and how Hitler attempted to gain favour with the Vatican, and how the Vatican attempted to walk a ‘middle path’ by paying lip service to Mussolini and Hitler, while covertly trying to assist attempts to help some Jews and children.
The more recent Bosnian conflict was purely Muslim versus Christian sectarianism, where Muslims were the subject of genocide, much the same as in border areas of Northern Ireland during the 1970s. There are other conflicts, ongoing, in the likes of Nigeria where Boko Haram, as a militant variant of Islam, now align themselves with ISIS and factions in the Middle East and Afghanistan who wish to implement radical Islamic principles known as Sharia Law.
Although Western cultures are becoming less religious in their outlook, there seems to be a permanent undercurrent, where depending on the politics, of the moment, there are those in leadership, who are prepared to exploit religion, for political gain, most notably in American politics.
When we view present-day politics, in the context of, America under an unpredictable leader, a strong China, a resurgent Russia, a volatile Iran, Israel surrounded by many enemies, North Korea supposedly in possession of nuclear devices, with an EU in disarray, NATO under pressure and a toothless UN – the future is completely unknown.
To conclude, it may not be unfair to surmise that Religion is not the cause of war, it’s the excuse, to facilitate the failure of politics.