Sunny Hundal makes a very insightful comment:
Conflict has always been part of human nature; what we have are codes of conduct that make sense and sound good in theory but always end up being fitted around people’s own political or personal agendas. So, attributing violence or peace to religious belief misses the target. It makes more sense to separate them to illustrate how religion is often used as a cover to disguise political agendas.
This is why a healthy debate on the interaction between faith and violence is worth having – it might even go some way towards dispelling the notion that religion is simply a source of conflict.
I find this very helpful. Religion and violence as cause and effect is indeed a flawed model; Rather, both are human activities that serve a self-purpose, and it is the interplay between them that we need to explore further.
Related – a critical assessment at Talk Islam. However, as I point out in the thread, I think that the main thrust of Sunny’s argument has a great deal of value.