In the name of God: The deadliest religious conflicts in history
Religion plays a complicated role in the horrifying events unfolding in the Middle East
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While the conflict between Israel and Palestine is about much more than religion, religion still plays a major role in the war that is currently tearing the Middle East apart. The history of Israel's occupation of Palestine goes back to 1948, but the situation escalated dramatically on October 7, 2023, when Hamas launched an attack on Israeli soil that killed 1,400 people. Hamas is another name for the Islamic Resistance Movement, an Islamist political and military organization that has been ruling over the Gaza Strip since 2007. Hamas has been condemned as a terrorist organization by much of the Western world, but they claim that they are simply fighting violence with violence to defend Palestine from Israel's ongoing advances.
Israel responded to the October 7 attack with a relentless air bombardment that has carried on for a month, killing 10,000 Palestinians, almost all of them civilians, and half of them children. As the war rages on, public discourse surrounding the conflict becomes muddled with Islamophobic and anti-Semitic rhetoric. Condemning or supporting either side is being conflated with religious discrimination, when in reality, most are just calling for an end to the violence and senseless loss of life. At the same time, those who already harbored anti-Semitic or Islamophobic views are capitalizing on this opportunity to spread hate and further confuse a debate that is already extremely emotionally charged.
For millennia, religion has been one of the many reasons for war. The use of force to impose a religious belief might sound fairly barbaric, but indeed humankind has been doing so since the dawn of time. From Christian denominations fighting amongst themselves, to the persecution of Muslims, Christians, and Jews, amongst others, history is tainted with bloody religious conflicts that claimed millions of lives.
Browse through this gallery and learn more about the deadliest religious conflicts in history.