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War and Religion

  1. John Kelsay

Published Online: 1 FEB 2013

DOI: 10.1002/9781444367072.wbiee635

The International Encyclopedia of Ethics

How to Cite

Kelsay, J. 2013. War and Religion. The International Encyclopedia of Ethics. .

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 1 FEB 2013


In a justly famous essay on “The Social Psychology of the World Religions,” Max Weber (see Weber, Max) noted the particular role of religion in the legitimation of social and political order. Politics has to do with the distribution and exercise of power. Yet the historical record indicates that human beings wish for social life to be about something more than “mere” power. Most, if not all communities develop ways of talking that suggest the possibility of distinctions between legitimate and illegitimate (or just and unjust) forms of order. The resulting vocabularies often involve the kinds of things associated with the concept “religion”: appeals to scripture, citations of myths or tales of ancestors long removed, law codes understood as the commands of deities, and so on (see Political Ethics; Power).


  • Buddhism;
  • Christianity;
  • Confucianism;
  • Islam;
  • Judaism;
  • politics;
  • violence;
  • war and conflict