War And Its Causes – The Question of War

19 Oct

Professor Stratton has divided the historic oriental religions, in so far as they deal with the question of war, into three groups, as follows:

1.  The irate and martial religions: Judaism, Zoroastrism, Islam;

2. The unangry religions:  Taoism, Vishnuism, Buddhism, Jainism;

3. The religions of anger-supported love:  Confucianism, Christianity.

(George Malcolm Stratton, Anger: Its Religious and Moral Significance, 1923, Part II.)


The ancient Persians were probably the most favorable to war of all the peoples who have played a major role in history.  They believed that conflict antedated the human race and even the earth as we know it, in the form of a never-ending struggle between Ormazd, the god of light and righteousness, and Ahriman, the god of darkness and evil.  Supported bu a host of angels of light who were led by Divine Obedience and the Spirit of Truth, Ormazd has gradually been winning this war against evil and some day he will vanquish entirely the Evil One

The great prophet of the Zoroastrian cult- Zarathustra-bore the title of First Warrior and Priest and Plowman, which probably signifies that the Persians first developed their powerful military system upon becoming an agricultural people and as a means to defense against the wild mountaineers to the east and west and the wild Scythian herdsmen to the north.


Their is no myth among the Mohammedans of a war carried on by their god Allah, but he is none the less militaristic, for all of the faithful must take an oath to fight to the death in defense of his religion or suffers the pains of hell.  All of those outside of Islam were designated by Mohammed and his successors as infidels and it was the duty of the faithful to destroy them ant to appropriate their property and their women.  It was this spirit which led the devotees of Allah to make war so successfully during the Christian Era for almost a thousand years in Asia, Africa, and Europe and to threaten at one time even the existence of Christianity itself.


Taoism, an early Chinese religion, was and is opposed to war, even to the extent of non-resistance. Vishnuism permitted the making of war against external enemies and recognized a warrior caste whose duty it was to defend the country in righteous warfare. But the greatest good, according to this religion, is to lead the gentle life and to be rid of all desire.  Buddhism sought to banish all passions of anger and hate and looked upon the destruction of life in war as contrary to the true principle of religion and morality.  Even all stories of past wars and the prediction of wars to come were prohibited by Buddhism.  Jainism went even further in the direction of opposition to war. It forbade the killing of any living thing, even of insects and vermin, to say nothing of men.  anger of individuals and warfare of collectivities were expressly forbidden. Sentient existence itself was regarded as an evil and the greatest happiness was to be found in escaping it.

Accordingly we conclude that isolated peoples seem to have been uniformly friendly and hospitable toward strangers until their isolation was broken down by predatory tribes or adventures who attempted to exploit them or to introduce customs and practices contrary to their mores.  On the other hand, peoples surrounded by hostile tribes and wandering tribes have always been warlike.

Whenever a population has grown faster than the sustaining arts or the territory upon which it subsists and has come as a consequence to press unduly upon the available food supply and other necessities of life, the people have been warlike.

L.L. Bernard; War And Its Causes (New York: Henry Holt and Company Inc ©1944)  pp. 117 -120




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