Religion And International Conflicts

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Influence Of Religion On International Conflicts


The past two decades have seen resurgence in the study of how religion affects conflicts around the wor1d. For generations, social scientists believed religion to be declining in influence to the point that it might eventually be marginalized. However, political scientists continue to observe, among other things, the importance of religion and the increasing influence of extremist Islam leading to events such as September 11, 2001. As political scientists have asked questions about these developments, the body of literature on the subject has grown to the point that the American Political Science Association recently initiated a journal titled Politics and Religion in order to give proper attention to this important area of research.

Influence Of Religion On International Conflicts


Some of the religious changes that occurred during the Hellenistic period were accompanied by violence. Notions of religious purity were central to some conflicts. For example, although the Jews of the eastern Mediterranean embraced the ideas and language of the Greeks, many resisted the polytheistic Hellenistic religions, particularly that of the Seleucids, who tried to convince their subjects of the divine nature of their kings. Jewish resistance led to bloodshed on many occasions, most notably during the Maccabean War of the second century BCE, which forms the basis for Maccabees experts and II. Under the leadership of Judas Maccabaeus, the Jews successfully gained independence from the Seleucid kings in 164 BCE. Until the end of the Hellenistic Age, the Jews had an independent state in Palestine, ruled by two dynasties of priests-kings, the Hasmonaean and the Idumaean (Jelen, 2002).

War during the Hellenistic Age was as varied as human experience. There were wars of expansion, such as those of Alexander and Hannibal (247-183 BCE); the ethnic and religious uprising of the Jews; the organized and ostensibly defensive imperialism of the Romans; the mercenary violence of leaders such as Pyrrhus of Epirus (319-272 BCE); the give-and-take conflicts of so-called "barbaric" and "civilized" peoples. Conflict and violence were so much a part of life that war was not even discussed in the context of theories of right and wrong or justice and injustice. War was a necessity. Each warrior, people, and state fought with the blessing and help of his god. Religion, however, generally had a secondary role in warfare.

The Hellenistic Age came to an end around 30 BCE, when the Hellenistic kingdoms fell to the power of Rome. The Roman Empire imposed an orderly if financially oppressive rule over the Greek-speaking peoples of the Balkans and the Near East. At the end of the Hellenistic Age, the Essenes, the Jewish ascetic sect who produced the Dead Sea Scrolls, withdrew from hectic contemporary life, its movement of peoples and ideas, and its political and religious conflicts. Withdrawal to seek righteousness became more common among thinkers and the discontented throughout the Hellenistic East. The Jewish wait for the coming of the Messiah and people's general expectation of a coming new age, were other characteristic responses to the experience of ...
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