In the monotheistic religious traditions of Christianity and Islam, one role of God (or Allah) is to limit or control aggressions among humankind. In these religious traditions, God establishes an ideal or standard for the righteous use of force by followers of the faith. These standards, or just war traditions, address details of when to use force to solve disputes, to what extent the force should be employed, and whose blessing is required to insure that the use of force is appropriate in the eyes of God. If a situation satisfies the just war tradition in that culture and the aggression is carried out for religious reasons, the action can be further classified as holy war. Many Americans connect the concept of holy war only with Islam. In fact the Christian crusades during the middle ages were just such a holy war being waged by Christians against Muslims. Whether a particular situation qualifies as a holy war or not, the focus of the just war tradition is to ask God for approval. “Appeals to ‘holy war’ or ‘religious crusade’ in one or another tradition are one type of appeal to divine authority regarding the use of force.” In recent history numerous conflicts, border skirmishes, battles and wars have arisen in which governments have decided to apply military force to varying degrees. Inevitably, politicians, policy-makers, religious and military leaders seek divine authority on which to base the struggle of their population and the loss of life. Have religious ethical values or theological aspects of the just war tradition influenced the nature of these military actions? Have the prevailing religious values kept military actions any more humane than they might otherwise have been? This paper will examine the theological roots of the just war tradition in the Christian and Islamic cultures. In addition, it will try to ascertain how religious ethics, and the just war tradition in particular, has been used between the “war” on terror and the United States. Finally, this paper will dem...
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