The Influence of Religion on Armed Conflict Onset

Brown II, Davis Lemay, Department of Politics, University of Virginia
Owen, John, Department of Politics, University of Virginia

This dissertation examines the effect of religion on the use of military force by states against other states. Despite a growing body of literature on religion and/in international relations, the topic remains under - studied and under - theorized; most of the literature focuses either on conflict associated with religious differences, or on religious identity or culture as a driver for civil and other non - state wars. In contrast, I treat religion as an effect on the ideological characteristics of a state, and argue that religious ideas influence the outcomes of war and peace. I argue that religion wields its effect through three media: religious scripture, the priesthood (or more precisely, the writings of the priesthood), and historical narrative. Through these media, each religion generates a war ethic that influences the decisions of states to use military force or not. I measure that influence through a series of variables which capture the religious identities of chief executives of states, the preference for a particular religious category held by governing regimes of states, and the religious demographics of the citizenries of states. Having done this, and having controlled for the other conventional factors, I find that (1) religion does influence a state's propensity to use force against other states, and (2) different religions have different effects. I find that Christian states are less likely to initiate interstate armed conflicts than non - Christian states, Muslim states are more likely than non - Muslim states, and Buddhist states are no more or less likely than non - Buddhist states. In other words, Christianity has a negative effect on a state's propensity to use force, Islam a positive effect, and Buddhism no effect.

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PHD (Doctor of Philosophy)
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