Mailvox: of war and warfare

Shadowin presents the sort of criticism that I’d like to see more often, and he even bothers to go to the effort of perusing the referenced source material:

In your article, you confuse “causes of war” with “warfare.” A cause of war is just that, a cause. Warfare, on the other hand, is the actual means. Sun Tzu, Vegetius, Machievelli, and Clausewitz wrote about the means of war. Caesar’s works were primarily accounts of his wars. Even so, religion is mentioned in their works:

The confusion is not mine, but that of the atheists attempting to forge a strong connection between “war” and “God”. (Specifically the Christian God in most cases, I’ve yet to see an atheist criticism of Hindu or Buddhist aggression.) The fact that I am aware of the distinction can be seen by my research below. This confusion is why the argument between godless atheists and educated theists tends to go thusly:

GA: “Religion has caused countless bloodshed in the name of God.”
ET: “No, it hasn’t.”
GA: “Oh yeah? Well, what about the Crusades? And the Thirty-Years War? And the Spanish Inquisition?” (laughs triumphantly) “You Bible-thumpers are so uneducated!”
ET: “I’ll give you the first two, but then, what about every other war from the Trojan War to Iraq II? Has the world’s leading military power ever even fought a religious war? Who has ever heard of, much less cares about, the 30-Years War? And by the way, the Spanish Inquisition isn’t a war, doorknob!”
GA: (momentary stunned silence) “Yeah, okay, well, um, religion may not be a major cause of war, but it’s what makes people susceptible to supporting war. You know, they get whipped up into a religious frenzy, otherwise they wouldn’t fight it.”
ET: “Yes, they’re in such a religious fervor that the govenment has to conscript or even enslave them to get them to fight. And given how there are hundreds of examples of mutinies by troops that didn’t get paid, isn’t it obvious that money is a more important motivating factor as well?”
GA: “Yeah, well, what about Ted Haggard? Huh? Huh?”

Now, Shadowin doesn’t do this, but it’s not my fault that neither Dawkins nor Harris can distinguish between causes of war and the art of warmaking either. Shadowin next references what he considers to be some counterexamples:

“The Moral Law causes the people to be in complete accord with their ruler, so that they will follow him regardless of their lives, undismayed by any danger.” – Sun Tzu, The Art of War ch.1

Considering how many times I have had atheists inform me that morality and God are two entirely separate and unrelated things, this tends to strike me as a case of Cake: the simultaneously wanting and having thereof. However, I’ve never heard it from Shadowin himself, so I’ll grant him the benefit of the doubt and accept it at its theistic face value.

Shadowin points out in a subsequent email that this is one of the five constant factors in the art of war. But Sun Tzu is merely attempting to explain that a leader must have be in accord with his people in order to successfully make war, he is neither describing nor advocating the use of religion in order to manipulate them as Dawkins and Harris suggest. The recent vote is a good example of a failure to abide by this principle in action.

“By the will of Ptolemy the father, the elder of his two sons and the more advanced in years of his two daughters were declared his heirs, and for the more effectual performance of his intention, in the same will he conjured the Roman people by all the gods, and by the league which he had entered into at Rome, to see his will executed.” -Julius Caesar, Civil Wars, Book 3

I was actually expecting someone to try to make the case that Caesar, as former Pontifex Maxiumus, was a priest-warrior. That would have been amusing, as Caesar got stuck with the position in a failed attempt to keep him out of military affairs. As for this reference to the gods, it should be obvious that this is simply a dying king’s plea to have Rome recognize his elder son and elder daughter as joint heirs to the throne of Egypt, it has nothing to do with the subject under discussion.

He’s got a few more quotes from Vegetius and Machiavelli which I shall address later. Shadowin then goes on to address my claims of evidence:

I do not have Dawkin’s book just yet, so I can not comment on the claim that religion is “a primary cause of war.” It is indeed a cause, but in many cases it is merely a tool to rouse the populace to war.

You claim that there are “vast quantities of evidence recorded to the contrary” of religion being a primary cause of war. However, you fail to provide any of this evidence. If you attempted to do so, it would require ignorance of the European Wars of Religion, the Crusades, and the Reconquista.

It’s too bad he didn’t follow the link provided in the article, wherein I referenced my study of the 489 wars listed in the Wikipedia, in which only 53 were determined to have had religious causes if each Crusade was counted separately. Thus, it is clear that even if all religion was eliminated from the world tomorrow, Man would remain occupied with what has historically proven to be one of his favorite pasttimes.

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