One of my pet peeves is hearing the typical atheist/agnostic come up with the war between Catholics and Protestants in Northern Ireland as an example of how religion spurs war.
Let's review this shall we? Englishmen crossed the waters to Ireland and conquered it. Most of Ireland managed to boot the English out eventually and become their own country again. Unfortunately, a small parcel was not so lucky. The English stayed.
A hundred years pass. Two hundred years pass... The descendants of the original Irish are still Irish. The problem is, the descendants of the English can no longer be considered English. For generations, they have not lived in England. Therefore, they too are Irish.
However, all is not well in the state of Northern Ireland. The conquerors (aka the descendants of the English) are still nagging the conquered (aka the descendants of the original Irish) and this is creating a little unrest.
Now, we could have called the two groups conquered and conquerers, but I suppose that sounds a little pejorative. We could have called them descendants of the original Irish and descendants of the original English, but that's a bit of a mouthful. So somebody settled on a much easier way to distinguish between the two.
It just so happens that, (and this has nothing to do with the real reasons for the original conflict by the way) the original Irish were Catholic, and the original English were protestant. The descendants of both groups have retained their denominations. Hence the descendants of the Irish become "The Catholics" and the descendants of the English become "The Protestants".
And voilà! You have now created for yourself a religious war! Observe how religion is a horrible thing, and should be banished to Hell for all the wars it creates.
This is not the only example Atheists have, but certainly the silliest. The other examples, when reviewed historically and put into context can equally be explained.
Atheists like to bring up the Inquisition (especially the Spanish Inquisition) and the mutual murdering of Protestants and Catholics in England for example. I find it funny how in the Catholic Church, it is the Mother Theresa's and the Maximilian Kolbe's, and not the actual murderous people who killed in the name of religion who are venerated as saints. Could it possibly be because Catholics do not consider these actions to be Catholic? The people burning heretics or other denominations at the stake, are those the people who spent their lives in humble prayer? Or are they the "pharisees" who didn't get it, and were only in it for the power and the glory and the personal recognition?
Let's talk briefly of the crusades. Athesists love the Crusades. Especially Christian-hating atheists. The popular version these days is that the Christians, totally unprovoked, attacked these poor, peace-loving muslims who never saw anything coming.
Fact: Muslims invaded Catholic territory (Spain) in 711. Now, I am willing to give the Muslims the benefit of the doubt on this one, and say that their leaders were probably as power-hungry and ruthless as any that Christian kingdoms may have seen, and that they cannot be considered good representatives of the Muslim faith any more than many Christian Kings could be considered good representatives of the Christian faith. (Take Henry the VIII for example. I highly doubt that there is a clause anywhere in the gospels that says killing off or divorcing all your wives is permissable.)
Fact: Spain was not the only previously Christian country to be attacked and conquered.
Fact: It was getting pretty darn near impossible for anyone to make a pilgrimage to the Holy Land anymore. (Through what used to be Christian lands.)
Fact: Everyone was barbaric in those days when at war. War is barbaric. It isn't until very recent times that anyone has even been concerned about innocent civilians during war. Just ask the civilians of Hiroshima and London if World War II was good to them. The innocent civilians in Vietnam in the even more recent 70's were no better off. The funny thing is, when Christians fight Christians in wars such as the Scottish with William Wallace fought against the English and Edward the Longshanks, nobody considers that religion made them do it, and no one is surprised that either side was barbaric in it's methods.
So, barbarism aside, when does the first of the Crusades start? 1095. Yes, after 300 years of constant Muslim invasion, the Christians finally strike back. The question here is not "What made them do such a barbaric thing?" but rather, "What took them so long?"
No offense to the Muslims. The peaceful ones I mean. Like the ones I personally know, who actually participated in our CHRISTMAS parties, invited us to their Eid Al Fihr and naturally expect to be wished a merry Christmas in Canada without being in the least insulted by it.
Tolerance, social justice, even the idea that women are worth more than just as possessions... these ideas come from faith in a God of love and peace and justice. Maybe what the world needs is a little MORE religion, not less.