Violence and Warfare


Click below for more information

Home Page - Index
Authorities Assessed
Old Testament
New Testament
Apostolic Traditions
Church Fathers
General Church Councils
Early Christian History
What Jesus Believed
Who Founded Christianity?
Creation of Doctrine
Origin of Ideas & Practices
The Concept of Orthodoxy
Origin of the Priesthood
Maintaining Deceptions
Suppress Facts
Selecting Sources
Fabricating Records
Retrospective Prophesy
Ambiguous Authorities
Ignore Injunctions
Invent, Amend and Discard
Manipulate Language
Case Studies
Re-branding a Sky-God
Making One God out of Many
How Mary keeps her Virginity
Fabricating the Nativity Story
Managing Inconvenient Texts
Christianity & Science
Traditional Battlegrounds
Modern Battlegrounds
Rational Explanations
Religion in General
Christianity in Particular
Divine Human Beings
Ease of Creating Religions
Arguments for and Against
Popular Arguments
Philosophical Arguments
Moral Arguments
Supernatural Arguments
  • Miracles
  • Revelation
  • Faith
  • Practical Arguments
    Record of Christianity
    Social Issues
  • Slavery
  • Racism
  • Capital Punishment
  • Penal Reform
  • Physical Abuse
  • Treatment of Women
  • Contraception
  • Abortion
  • Divorce
  • Family Values
  • Children
  • Romanies
  • The Physically Ill
  • The Mentally Ill
  • The Poor
  • Animals
  • Ecology
  • Persecution
  • Persecutions of Christians
  • Persecutions by Christians
  • Church & State
  • Symbiosis
  • Meddling in Governance
  • Interference in Politics
  • Abuse of Power
  • Church Law and Justice
  • Exemption from the Law
  • Unofficial Exemption
  • Financial Privileges
  • Control Over Education
  • Human Rights
  • Freedom of Belief
  • Religious Toleration
  • Freedom of Expression
  • Freedom of Enjoyment
  • Attitudes to Sex
  • Celibacy
  • Sex Within Marriage
  • Sex Outside Marriage
  • Incest
  • Rape
  • Homosexuality
  • Transvestism
  • Prostitution
  • Pederasty
  • Bestiality
  • Sadomasochism
  • Necrophilia
  • Consequences
  • Science & Medicine

  • Ancient Times
  • Dark and Middle Ages
  • Sixteenth Century
  • Seventeenth Century
  • Eighteenth Century
  • Nineteenth Century
  • 20th and 21st Centuries
  • Medical Records Compared
  • Violence & Warfare
  • Crusades
  • God's Wars
  • Churches' Wars
  • Christian Atrocities
  • Cultural Vandalism
  • The Classical World
  • Europe
  • The Wider Modern World
  • Possible Explanations
    Summing up
    Marketing Religion
    Marketing Christianity
    Continuing Damage
    Religious Discrimination
    Christian Discrimination
    Moral Dangers
    Abuse of Power
    A Final Summing Up
    Search site
    Bad News Blog
    Religious Quotations
    Christianity & Human Rights
    Christian Prooftexts
    Social Media


    Praise the Lord and pass the ammunition.
    Howell Forgy (1908-1983)


    One of the Ten Commandments clearly stated "Thou shalt not kill". This could be interpreted in a number of ways so that in practice it was not applied to those of whom the Church did not approve. Sometimes this was done by claiming that people were not really human (congenitally deformed children, non-Europeans, non-Christians, etc). Sometimes it was done by citing contradictory biblical injunctions (e.g. for Old Testament crimes). But what about warfare? How has the Church dealt with the problem of killing in war?

    The question about taking part in war was straightforward to early Christians. In the earliest days of Christianity, they refused to serve as soldiers. Until AD 175 there was not a single Christian prepared to defend the Roman Empire. When Christians did appear amongst the ranks, Church leaders like Tertullian encouraged them to desert. In the fourth century the official line softened. St Basil thought that soldiers who killed in battle should refrain from taking Communion for three years as a sign of repentance. After the Empire became Christian, the prevailing view changed completely. By 416 only Christians were allowed to enlist. Soon the Imperial army was manned entirely by Christians. By the middle of the ninth century Pope Leo IV was confidently declaring that anyone dying in battle for the defence of the Church would receive a heavenly reward1. A few years later another pope was ranking those who fell in a holy war along with the martyrs2. Soon, anyone who doubted the propriety of Christians killing non-Christians, or even killing other Christians, was liable to be executed for heresy or blasphemy.

    Now there was no question that Christians were allowed to kill in battle, but what about killing prisoners? Reference was made to the Bible. Time and time again God had authorised killing, not only in the heat of battle but also afterwards. God not merely authorised the slaying of prisoners but also on occasion demanded it. Clearly the sixth commandment did not apply to God's enemies, even if they were Christians, women, helpless prisoners, or all three. Countless Christian armies have been responsible for the massacre of captives: men, women and children alike, a record that Christian armies have sustained into recent times. When these massacres had to be explained away, they were invariably justified by reference to God's own proclivities as set out in the Old Testament.

    M1868 Papal States Remington Rifle (The "Pontificio"). These rifles were made for the Papal States, under a papal licence, in the ninteenth century by Wesley Richards in Birmingham, England and by Emile & Leon Nagant in Liege, Belgium - and stamped with the papal cypher.


    In recent years the Church has been sanitising its past in many ways, so that many Christians are aware that monks, priests, abotts, bishops, cardinals and popes routinely fought in wars for many centuries.

    According to a widespread tradition, clerics were held to favour weapons like maces that did not cause effusion of blood (on the grounds that the Church did not shed blood). As many recent apologists have noted there are only a few documented cases of senior clerics using maces. But there are counless reliable documents referring to churchmen carrying weapons, training in warfare, fighting in battles, and killing their enemies, even training knights in fighting techniques. The earliest known manual of swordsmanship is illustrated with clerics fighting, and was probably written by a cleric3..


    In the 13th-century illustration to Einhard's famous 9th-century biography of Charlemagne the Vita Karoli Magni, below, the upper panel depicts a warrior wearing a helmet crest in the shape of a bishop's mitre, indicating that he is a bishop (possibly Turpin, Archbishop of Reims) wielding a lance.

    The lower panel also has a warrior bishop (dressed the same) but both king and bishop are now wielding swords instead of lances.

    (Because of the universal lack of understanding about fashion, this illustration establishes more about 13th century episcopal warrior practice than 9th century episcopal warrior practice)

    from Der Stricker, Karl St. Gallen, Stiftsbibliothek, Ms. Vad. 302 II, fol. 35v, ca. 1300


    Fechtbuch I.333..
    Note the clerical tonsure


    With few exceptions, notably Quakers and Jehovah's Witnesses, all of the mainstream Churches have an embarrassing record of bloodshed, which we will now look at in a little more detail.

    Many other examples of fighting clerics are included in the following:


    Fechtbuch I.333..
    Note the clerical tonsure


    Fechtbuch I.333..
    Note the clerical tonsure





    Buy the Book from



    Buy the Book from
    Beyond Belief: Two Thousand (2000) Years of Bad Faith in the Christian Church
    More Books







    1. J. D. Mansi, Sacorum Conciliorum Amplissima Collectio (Florence, Venice, 1759-98), vol. xiv, p 888, cited by Runciman, A History of the Crusades, vol. 1, p 84.

    2. John VIII, letters, in M. P. L. vol. cxxvi, col. 696ff. J. D. Mansi, Sacorum Conciliorum Amplissima Collectio (Florence, Venice, 1759-98), vol. xvii, p 104, cited by Runciman, A History of the Crusades, vol. 1, p 84.

    3. Produced by an unknown author and illustrator, "Fechtbuch I.33" is an anonymous German manuscript from ca 1300. It is the earliest surviving manual of swordsmanship. Known as Manuscript I.33 it deals with the use of the Medieval sword and buckler. This manuscript now in the collection of the Royal Armouries in Leeds, England. (Tower of London manuscript I.33, Royal library Museum, British Museum No. 14 E iii, No. 20, D. vi.). It has been traditionally referred to as the "Tower Fechtbuch". The author is thought to have been a German cleric. The text makes reference to a Sacerdos (priest) who instructs the Scholaris (student) in the art. One of the illustrations also shows a fighter with the tonsure worn by Medieval clergy at the time. The manuscript itself was discovered in a Franconian monastery.







    •     ©    •     Further Resources     •    Link to Us    •         •    Contact     •