It’s almost certain that if there were no religion, people would find something else to fight about. The human tendency toward tribalism (which religion does much to exacerbate) is the cause of (or at least a front for) much conflict.
However, religion is a very pernicious form of tribalism, and lends itself readily to conflict. Religious belief systems often posit that their beliefs come from an all-knowing god who will mete out punishments for deviating from the religious system. For this reason, religious conflicts are notoriously intractable. They are not amenable to compromise, since compromise is equivalent to heresy.
Abrahamic religions, in particular, partake in an end-of-the-world narrative, in which horrific warfare and bloodshed is necessary (and in fact, desirable) as a step to ushering in a mythical time of great peace. In such an environment, there are strong disincentives to peacemaking.
So, while conflict may be inevitable, other forms of conflict are far more amenable to negotiation and compromise than religious conflict.
Posted: June 27th 2011
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