No Logic In Holy War: Paradox of Religion in Crusades

Love Thy Enemy . . . But Only When We Say To


Brandy Anderson

Holy wars make no logical sense because religions are fraught with varied contradictions, making it difficult to support any religious claims; this is clearly seen when examining the medieval Crusades. One only has to compare several passages from the Christian bible to see violent contradictions making it difficult to make clear sense out of the didactic material. Such indiscretions when it comes to the teachings and its own professed morality discounts any plausible use of Christianity as a basis for war.

An account cited in The Ethics of War recalls “the pagans were overcome and our men seized many men and women in the temple, killing them or keeping them alive as they saw fit” (103). This practice of determining life and death for captured enemies matches the teachings found in the Christian “Deuteronomy 20” texts where it details procedures for enemies. If the enemies accept peace-terms, the “people inside will owe you forced labour” but, if such terms are not accepted, then “you must beseige it (New Jerusalem). “Yahweh your God having handed it over to you, you will put the whole male population to the sword” (lines 10-14). Women are to be treated as “booty”. These passages support the Crusaders “killing them or keeping them alive as they saw fit” (Ethics 103).

However, in “Matthew 5:44” Christians are told  to “Love your enemies, bless them that curse you, do good to them that hate you, and pray for them which despitefully use you, and persecute you” (King James). If Christians are to love their enemies and “do good to them”, how can the events in the Crusades be justified? “Deuteronomy” dictates destruction and to “not spare the life of any living thing” (17) yet, in the same passage, the Christian is instructed to “not destroy its trees by taking the axe to them: eat their fruit but do not cut them down” (18). Are trees not “living things”? Instruction is given to destroy all life, which would include humans, animals, and plant life. Fruit trees are not the only living thing said to be safe from destruction even though such orders contradict what was said in the previous passage. “Women, children, livestock, and whatever the town contains by way of spoil, you may take for yourselves as booty” (“Deut.” 14). Again, there is the contradiction where the Christian is told to kill all living things in one sentence, yet a completely different order is given in another.

There are many such contradictions that are found throughout the Bible. When such varying instructions are given, how can any of them serve as the basis of a sound argument for one mode of conduct? There can be no definitive answer as to what the proper role of religion in war is. In viewing these wild discrepancies, it becomes clear that there can be no logical support for a holy war. Therefore, religion should not be a part of war.


Works Cited:
King James Bible. “Matthew 5:44”. 1611 Version. King James Bible Online.Org. 26 Sept. 2012. Web.
New Jerusalem Bible. “Deuteronomy”. Print.
“The Crusades (Eleventh to Thirteenth Centuries) Christian Holy War”. Ethics of War. Ed. Reichberg, Syse, and Begby. Oxford: Blackwell, 2006. 98-103. Print.

Deuteronomy LEGO. Web.


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