The connotations of most religious we hear about today weren’t always so positive, as they often led to war among people. Throughout the middle ages, many wars were fought in response to religious disagreements with others. These disagreements turned into battles, and eventually warfare. From the Crusades to the Thirty Years’ War, there were many instances in which religion promoted warfare and destruction instead of peace and prosperity.
The Crusades were some of the first of the most notable wars caused by religious disagreements.
According to Pope Urban II’s Call at Clermont, preceding the first Crusade, Pope Urban II made it clear that the Turks and Arabs had taken over Romania and attacked the people there, and by doing so, they devastated the empire. (202) He firmly believed that if they didn’t retaliate, things would just get worse for the Christians. (202) One way the Pope encouraged the joining in on the fight of the Crusades by Christians was was guaranteeing that if one was to die fighting in this Holy War, they would be considered free from sin, which one can only infer was very enticing to the people.
(202) He eventually noted that the war was on the verge of erupting long before he told his people to fight. (202) This could lead one to reasonably conclude that tensions had been boiling for a long time prior to the Pope declaring a war against the Muslim people.
Furthermore, in the Time of the Black Death, there were different religious tensions.
According to Gabriele D’Mussis’s account of the Plague, one can see that the Tartars were out to wage war against the Christians. (240) They seemed to do everything they could to eradicate as many Christians as possible through the Plague. (240) One could even consider the things they did to be some of the first uses of biological warfare; they used disease to weaken and kill their enemies. (240) Another example of warfare based in religion during the Black Death was that of Christians against the Jews. According to the letter from the Town Council of Cologne, Jews were persecuted because Christians believed Jews were poisoning the water supplies. (241) Even though there was no plausible way for the Jews to be poisoning the water, as they drank from the same supplies, and the Town of Cologne was against the harassment, it is clear through the context of the letter that the mistreatment was already taking place and many people had it out for the Jews and there was no end in sight. (241)
Moreover, Bartolome de las Casas wrote down what he saw as a result of the European religious wars. While this was not technically a war, it is very indicative of the violent nature often seen in religious conflicts. The native people of the islands of Hispaniola, Puerto Rico, Jamaica, and the Bahamas were a very docile person, but the Christians saw them as people to be slaughtered in the name of God. (283) When the Spaniards first began to explore the islands, they began to torment, harass, and murder many of the indigenous peoples. (282) It is believed that the Spanish wiped out over five-hundred thousand people throughout the islands. (283) They were all killed because the Spanish were greedy and had no respect for the people who already inhabited the lands. (283) The Christians were out to conquer new lands and convert the people they came across, but this wasn’t the case with the people of the islands, they were brutally killed before being given a chance to learn about God from the Christians, even though they never did any harm to any of the Spanish invaders. (283)
Lastly, The Thirty Years’ War was one the one of the worst wars based on religion of all the middle ages. The war between the Catholics and the Protestants in Central Europe was one of the most brutal of the wars up to that time. As noted in The Devastation of the Thirty Years’ War, the people were being robbed and having their belongings destroyed, even though they did nothing to provoke the soldiers. (335) Grimmelshausen made sure to show the reader that the soldiers were trampling through the lower-class people’s homes and taking everything they could get their hands on. (335) If the theft and destruction was not enough, the soldiers tortured the peasants in many ways, even though they did nothing wrong, from forcing them to ingest unclean water to lighting a fire under a person, they were abused in numerous ways. (335) The Thirty Years’ War was one of the longest wars fought during the middle ages, hence the name, but it was also one of the most ruthless, especially considering it began as a civil war over religious differences.
Finally, from looking at the time period from the battles for Jerusalem and the persecution of Jews during the Black Death to the war between the Protestants and the Catholics, one can see that there was much devastation and destruction due to war. The root causes of most of the wars and the disagreements that took place were religious in nature. Throughout the middle ages, one can see that differing views on religion often led to conflict, which then quickly escalated, eventually leading to full blown war, not peace, as some would hope. Instead of promoting peace, oftentimes in the middle ages, religion caused more harm than good in the form of wars and battles.