Monotheism, War, and Intellectual Leadership

Philosophy in the Contemporary World 18 (1):102-114 (2011)
Abstract
This paper revisits William James's 1906 speech, "The Moral Equivalent of War," to look at the relationship of religion, particularly Christianity, to war and violence. Beginning with an anthropological update concerning "biological or sociological necessity," which confirms James's anti-mystical view of war, this paper then offers a case that monotheism, including Christianity, has an extremely ambiguous relationship with war and violence. There is evidence both that doing away with monotheism would have little effect on the prevalence of war and that monotheism supports war in post-neolithic cultures. Finally, it seems the contribution James makes cannot be seen until the distinction between religion and philosophy is put aside. Only then can we see his suggestion that the proper role of intellectual leaders is to offer persons with politico-military power informed advice concerning actions that will result in fewer actual wars
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