Religion and Political Conflict “The Deity Factor”

**The assignment for this Religion and Political Conflict class was to answer the question of why people threaten voilence or wage war in the name of religion.  It was written in September of 2004.  This is still my take, what’s yours?

Fighting for Religion

(The Deity Factor)


Now after the death of Joshua it came to pass that the children of Israel asked the Lord, saying, “Who shall be first to go up for us against the Canaanites to fight against them?”  And the Lord said, “Judah shall go up.  Indeed I have delivered the land into his hand.”  Judges 1:1-2


            The first reason I can think of as to why people threaten violence and wage war in the name of religion historically is because they sense or feel a mandate by god.  That sense of what I call the ‘deity factor’ can be the ultimate motivation to cause one to wage war in a most fierce manner.  There is no higher calling for a believer to have than the calling from a deified figure.  There are a couple reasons that come to mind.  First when a person or a nation feels they have a call from On High, the deity factor says that the calling is coming from One who is all powerful and able to win any battle against any opponent. After all no one believes his god is second to another.  Second the deity factor allows the god the attributes of creation as well as life sustaining power for and over the creation, causing the created to be grateful for life itself.  This sense of gratitude is a powerful motivator in that one doesn’t mind giving his life in service in order to fight his god’s battles.  The thinking is that even a tragic death on the battlefield in this type of service carries with it eternal reward for he who fought the good fight.


            There are also other rewards within the text.  In this case the Canaanites were on land that the Lord of the Children of Israel had given them.  This was also the case in many instances in the bible, including in Joshua where the Israelites were to cross over the Jordan.


Moses My servant is dead.  Now therefore, arise go over this Jordan, you and all this people, to the land which I am giving them-the children of Israel.  Every place that the sole of your foot will tread upon I have given you, as I said to Moses.  Joshua 1:2-3


Joshua also got that deified assurance mentioned previously in verse 5 of this same text.


No man shall be able to stand before you all the days of your life: as I was with Moses, so I will be with you.  I will not leave you nor forsake you.  Joshua 1:5


            Sure there are tangible benefits to waging and winning these battles.  Some would include wealth in the forms of land expansion.  The winning side at times has an opportunity to take hold of the conquered treasures.  But the deity factor can cause one to wage war with no tangible advantages at all, but only for the glory of the god giving the orders.