Isn’t the term “Holy War” a contradiction?

In biblical times, the early Israelites attacked the lands of Canaan under the leadership of Moses and Joshua. The Israelites included 600,000 warriors and their families, and they needed a new home. They justified their blatant attack on Jericho and nearby lands by proclaiming that all of the citizens in those lands were evil in their ways, defying the goodwill God had meant for all peoples. Further, the early Israelites claimed the land in the name of God, as God had promised it to them. But the assertion wasn’t about different beliefs. The early Israelites wanted the land. They needed the land to survive. And so the Israelites attacked and killed all of the inhabitants of Jericho and nearby lands—not just the supposed evildoers, but all of the inhabitants: the young, the old, the weak, the poor. And then the Israelites had the land.

The phrase “Holy War”—which in itself is a contradiction, for can any war be holy?—was first coined by Pope Urban II in 1095, when he declared war on the so-called blasphemous Muslims. The Arabic Muslims had had control of Jerusalem and the Middle East since the seventh century, for over 400 years. But by the eleventh century, these lands had become the essential center of the emerging trade routes connecting the Far East with Europe. The Pope was the supreme ruler of Europe in these years—the middle of the Dark Ages—and recognizing the growing importance of the Middle East, he launched the Crusade Wars against the Arab Muslims. Motivating the kings and knights of medieval Europe, he promised to free the holy lands from the blasphemous Muslim pagans so Christian pilgrims could return to the place of Christ’s birth and resurrection. The truth: before the conflict began, the pilgrims were free to do so, and when the Crusaders, with holy crosses on their tunic uniforms, attacked Jerusalem, they couldn’t tell the difference between the Muslims and the Christians living behind the walls, so they slaughtered them all.

These wars were not for religion, but for land, and land connecting the land.

Stay tuned for more examples … from the modern era.

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