Religious wars are the vilest form of an essentially vile business. Quoting H. Beam Piper’s Lord Kalvan Of Otherwhen from memory.
It’s true, though, even if uttered by a fictional character. Organized murder for the sake of land or loot is vaguely understandable – if not acceptable – but killing someone because he eats his shellfish with the wrong hand? Where’s the sense of that?
And it’s not an issue of “God told me to.” That doesn’t work – and don’t give me Maggot’s rationale from The Dirty Dozen movie about god not being restricted in his choice of tools. If your god is so pathetic and pitiful that he can’t smite the heathen on his own, then maybe it’s time for you to think about finding a different god to follow. What part of “omnipotent” is not on the label, after all? The problem is that for most people, “God” is viewed more as a personal servant, someone they petition for their own goodies or use as an excuse to take out their own prejudices and fears on The Other. “Holy Dralm and no quarter!” means it’s okay – dare I say, “sanctified” – to slaughter the living bejeebers out of men, women, and children because they’re different. Ordinary calm, cool, collected people who otherwise would not even lift a hand to spank their own child are quite willing to push buttons, yank cords, or pull triggers that rain death and destruction down on folks whose crime is … difference.
Religion – and its wars – does not even need to involve dressing up in your Godday best and going along with other worshipers to a Special Place. An excellent working definition of religion is, “The belief in and worship of a superhuman controlling power, esp. a personal God or gods.” Seems to me that that describes statists and their relationship with the State perfectly.
Think about it – they pray for relief from whatever their problems are and, unlike some more fickle gods, the State actually performs visible miracles. Or what seem to be miracles to the uninitiated. The great god State smites enemies, provides wealth, is very accessible if petitioners make the right sacrifices, and, in general, is just the sort of god that many people dream of having. For those who would argue that there’s no “superhuman” or “supernatural” component to the great god State, just listen to its worshipers. There is nothing that the State cannot do – it can keep its worshipers safe from evil, rehabilitate (or smite) the heathen, dispense largesse … all without those pesky natural restraints that ordinary humans suffer from in regard to “limited resources.”
Moreover, the priests of the State have no qualms about conveying to the State’s worshipers exactly what a kind and benevolent god they’ve chosen. Their god can feed the hungry (food stamps), heal the lame (Medicare and Obamacare), shelter the lost (Section 8, public housing), and all at no cost to the worshipers. Worshipers flock to this god in droves, and woe betide the heathen in the wilderness who dare suggest that there’s a strong whiff of clay around the toes of the god.
So how does this all bear on religious wars? Well, it seems that not everyone worships the State, nor does everyone worship the State that is within the local boundaries. It’s pretty inevitable, then, that at some point the worshipers of the State and those who follow other religions – liberty comes to mind – are going to clash. When it finally does, the vile business will be among the most vile of its forms.