Only Islamic extremists and Christian conservatives are calling the conflict with ISIS a war between religions

holy warWhat does Holy War mean in this day and age? When discussing the geopolitical issues the United States has, I am confronted with the term “Holy War.” Usually when I hear the term it is related to a struggle against “Global Jihad.” Lately this term has circulated again, thanks to Fox Noise’s own Bill O’Reilly.

Bill O’Reilly was spouting off on his show, as usual. This time his focus was on statements made by State Department spokesperson Marie Harf. O’Reilly attacked Harf’s statements that we couldn’t “kill our way” out of the ISIS problem, and that other approaches would be needed to curb recruitment by ISIS. One solution Harf gave is perhaps helping improve economic conditions in the Middle East, having more job opportunities available.

Certainly this is not the end-all-be-all solution against ISIS and radical Islam in the region, but it’s worth a look at. Harf is right that defeating ISIS won’t simply boil down to killing them all off. O’Reilly, of course, lashed out at these statements.

O’Reilly essentially lambasted any idea of using non-violent strategies against ISIS and radical groups. According to O’Reilly, we are engaged in a “Holy War” against ISIS, and that the best strategy is to just ramp up the bombing and military campaigns. O’Reilly seems to miss the significance of calling the conflict a “Holy War”, though, he knows exactly what he’s saying.

Holy War is a medieval term that I generally tend to associate with the famed Crusades. The term, today, has been mainly associated with the Islamic ideal of “Jihad.” The term is supposed to literally mean “Holy War”, and is essentially the Islamic version of what Christendom would have known as a “Crusade.”

The right-wing has used the word jihad as the ultimate buzz-word to invoke fear of impending attacks by Muslims. Though, in response to these fears of “jihad” comes the revival of the term “Holy War.” I guess the right-wing didn’t care to revive Crusade.

In all seriousness though, reviving the term Holy War is not insignificant. For the most part, this is how those on the right tend to view the conflicts in the Middle East today. Invading Iraq and Afghanistan, and now interventions in Libya and Syria, are more than just wars to “defend our freedoms” or “spread democracy.” To the Christian Right, these conflicts are part of a grand-strategy, a Holy War against Islam.

The reason O’Reilly calls this a Holy War is because that’s what he thinks this is. It’s a religious war, between the Christian West and Islam, in which the enemies of Christ must be destroyed. Sadly enough, O’Reilly and conservative Christians fail to understand something important: that’s exactly what Islamic radicals want.

For years radical Muslim groups have been trying to frame the conflicts in the Middle East as a Holy War being waged by Christianity against Islam. It seems that, another thing that right-wing Christianity and Islam have in common, both view the conflicts in the Middle East as fundamental Holy Wars against the other. Says a lot perhaps about why both sides always want to go to war with each other.

For a much more entertaining take on O’Reilly’s remarks, Cenk Uygur from The Young Turks gives a breakdown.


  1. Every time I see Bible Quotes and Comments from right wing Christians talking about the war that MUST happen for “end time the return of the Messiah b I feel like I need to regurgitate somewhere. It makes me so sick to think that this genre prophet has been turned into an sex use for another war yet again. I often think if Jesus knew what his preaching would become he would have stayed home and made cabinets with his dad.

  2. There are always interesting things happening on the American Right. And, scary things.

    One of the most interesting—and scary—streams of thought developing in what has become the civil religion of the American “evangelical” community involves the meshing of core American political/economic principles/values with Christian/Biblical principles/values.

    “Democracy,” “representative government,” etc. require no defense and no apology (though they do require that one not engage them uncritically but maintain a critical distance between himself/herself and how they are manifested in a particular society/culture). However, they are not biblical values and they are not ideals advocated for in either the Old or New Testaments. Indeed, the Bible is most certainly not of one mind relative to the powers of “this city.” And, as would be expected, it is all over the map per the various institutions of governance which ruled “the people of God,” so to speak, over the centuries in which their history is recorded.

    It is one thing to be supportive of a particular system of governance. It is quite another to give it biblical sanction.

    The same is the case with “capitalism” or a “market economy.” To imagine that the Bible places its imprimatur on a particular economic system is, well, unimaginable. It is often curiously ambivalent about money and riches—again, all over the map. And, though the preponderance of biblical evidence testifies to a “preference for the poor” being a core value in the Judeo/Christian ethic, there are opposing theological threads (especially in Proverbs) that tout the tired notion that wealth is a sign of righteousness and poverty a sign of, well, non-righteousness.

    There are other examples, but suffice it to say that, when religious adherents can no longer see light between their religious and civil ideologies—when they have become one and the same—one does not have to travel far in order to consider any and every conflict a Holy War.

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