A superb short article by Anthony Esolen at Touchstone Magazine’s Mere Comments blog:
It is a commonplace among our ruling class that religion is irrational and inherently divisive, fostering hatred of one group for another. On the rationality of religious faith, Christian philosophers and theologians have long spoken, and I am not going to repeat their arguments here. It is the supposed tendency to divide and to foster hatred that puzzles me.
Let us leave Islam out of consideration, and the largely defensive wars waged by Europeans against Islamic aggression. Where are the religious wars in human history? Name them. Not Greece against Persia, not Athens against Sparta, not Rome against Carthage, not the Germanic invaders against Rome. Where are all the religious wars? In the Middle Ages, the Church, in lay movements such as the Truce of God and the Peace of God, served to restrain the violence of the ruling class. Yes, medieval city warred against city, but the warfare was not religious, nor was it inspired by religion when in the late Renaissance, Catholic France under Richelieu cast her lot with the Protestant Scandinavians against their common foe, the Hapsburg empire. That Thirty Years’ War is the best candidate for a truly religious European war, and it is no doubt the one remembered most keenly by the philosophes of the eighteenth century. But England continued to war against France, not over religion but over control of various colonies. Name, one after another, every war waged by England, France, Spain, Germany, or Italy from the Thirty Years’ War until the present, and you will find much bloodshed, but not because of religious hatred.
I look at the last hundred years, and see hatred wherever a European people has turned away from its Christian heritage, to exalt some idol in the place of God. Look at Albania, that miserable nation. Look at the gulags in the Soviet Union, or the forcible elimination of Confucian piety under Mao’s cultural revolution. How many millions of people died of starvation in the Ukraine under Stalin, while the ruling class in America, represented by the liar Walter Duranty, looked demurely away? How many people of both parties in America, people of the ruling class again, whose religious faith was rather in “progress” than in Jesus Christ, looked benignly upon the rise of the nationalist Hitler, and praised his clear grasp upon the problems of population and eugenics? How many people of that same ruling class still give Mao a free pass, or forgive the dictator Castro for his excesses now and then? Spanish Catholics are loathed for having favored the nationalist Franco rather than the communists in the Spanish civil war — and what were they supposed to do, when the communists were murdering priests and nuns, as they had done shortly before, in Mexico?