A college professor is taking aim at singer Tom Petty’s charge that “religion seems … to be at the base of all wars,” claiming that, based on his analysis of 400 years of conflict, this simply isn’t the case.
Professor John A. Tures, a political science instructor at LaGrange College in LaGrange, Georgia, told TheBlaze in an email that the majority of world conflicts over the past four centuries — even in the post-9/11 world — have had nothing to do with religion.
“Religion is still less likely to be a source of conflict than natural resources like oil, or questions of governance, or even good old fashioned territorial disputes,” he said.
Tures explained on his Huffington Post blog this week that he has worked with students in the past to test the possible connection between war and religion by examining data from the book “Peace and War: Armed Conflict and the International Order, 1648-1989.”
“In each century of analysis, our research found that religion was very infrequently a source of conflict. Never once did we see it factor in more than six conflicts,” Tures wrote. “Three other issues of conflict (regimes, real estate and riches) were far more likely to act as a reason to fight.”
The professor told TheBlaze that he believes religion gets press because of the attention given to Islamic extremist groups and organizations like the Westboro Baptist Church, among others.
“Radicals of their faith get a lot of media attention, and so folks who aren’t familiar with religion assume all religions and religious people think this way, which they don’t,” Tures explained. “The more numerous religious people who want peace don’t get the same coverage, often because their message is less interesting.”
He continued: “In some cases, secular leaders (like Osama Bin-Laden, who wasn’t a cleric or anything, Slobodan Milosevic, or an Indian politician like Babulal Gaur, a state minister with the Hindu Nationalist Party) use some religious words to try and pick up votes or support.”
While these individuals appear to be religious leaders, Tures said that, most of the time, they are not.
“The one that comes the closest is the U.S.-Afghanistan War, but only because Taliban ally Bin-Laden issued his ‘fatwah’ against the United States,” he said of the religious influence purported to be at the center of the conflict. “If the U.S. made war with Afghanistan to Christianize the country, then we didn’t do a very good job of it.”
Tures posited the U.S.-led war was more about fighting the Taliban and instilling a government that was more friendly to U.S. interests.
While he noted that religion has spawned war, he said Perry’s claim that it appears to be at the base of all conflict is inaccurate. Read more about Tures’ past research on the intersection of religion and war here.
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