Why Do Religions Teach Love and Yet Cause So Much War?

Transcending the trauma to get to the truth of the world's faiths.

Throughout history, religion has been the single greatest source of human-caused wars, suffering, and misery. In the name of God, more suffering has been inflicted than by any other manmade cause. Does that strike you as odd? And if that statement is true, does it not follow that "peace on earth, good will toward men" demands the death of God?

An integral approach to spirituality takes that assertion very seriously. Yet it also accepts the idea that religion in some sense contains deep and abiding truths about reality, possibly about Ultimate Reality itself. It is one of the distinctive aspects of the integral approach that it claims to be able to reconcile those two astonishingly contradictory items.

Item #1:

Religion causes more human war and misery than any other manmade cause.

Item #2:

Religion is about Ultimate Reality.

The only way to reconcile those two items is to recognize that, at the very least, religion contains two very different aspects. One clearly divides humans; the other might be able to unite them. "Peace on earth, good will toward men" obviously rests upon differentiating those two aspects and placing each of them in a larger context. Exactly how to do so is one of the goals of the integral approach. But one thing is certain and historically undeniable: if we cannot do so, religion will continue to be the death of humans until humans have the death of God.


It is common, of course, to say that all religions-or certainly most of them-teach some sort of brotherly/sisterly love, that all major religions have some version of the Golden Rule, and that religions therefore have acted to introduce love and compassion into the world. Once again, however, that flies in the face of historical fact: for every year of peace in humankind's history there have been fourteen years of war, 90% of which have been fought either because of, or under the banner of, God by whatever name. (More on this at

Ken Wilber Online


Again, it seems as if there are almost two different kinds of religion, one of which brutally divides, and one of which unites (or can unite). How do we tell them apart, and how might we begin to switch allegiance from the former to the latter? If you believe in God and yet don't have an answer to that question, you are inadvertently contributing to the wars of tomorrow, yes? And it won't quite do to say that the world would be peaceful if everybody accepted my personal savior or my path to Spirit. Surely that is the cause, not the cure, of the problem, yes?

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Ken Wilber
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