Most of the wars that were supposedly fought over religion were really not about religion at all. Most of them were fought due to desire for power and money for those at the top, and had nothing at all due to religion. However, the sad truth is that there are some cases in which people went to war at least partly because of protecting or trying to project their own religious view over other people. The most famous case in history of this happening is in the Muslim wars of conquest in the seventh through ninth centuries in which Muslim armies marched across North Africa, through the entire Near East, Spain and elsewhere, conquering in the name of Allah. This is an example of an “Abrahamic faith” using religion as a motivation for war.
Unfortunately, Christianity is not off the hook here. The Crusades against Muslim powers in the Middle East in the eleventh through thirteenth centuries is a case in point. Also, although it is little known, many of the Roman Catholic crusades were against other Christians, such as the Albigenses in Southern France in the thirteenth century and the followers of John Hus in the fourteenth century. Protestant rulers generally did not wage war for religious reasons, but the 30 Years War in Europe had some religious undertones. It is true that hundreds of thousands and probably millions of innocent civilians were plundered, displaced, raped and murdered by these supposedly God-inspired wars. This is an embarrassment to anyone who believes in the God of the Bible. We can say that “they” did it, not us, but such blame-shifting is not going to be very convincing to people who are not of an Abrahamic faith. What is better is to be like Jesus, to be humble and to accept at least some responsibility for these sinful acts committed in the name of the God of Abraham. We need to accept responsibility, even though we did not personally take part in these atrocities, and then we need to explain why we denounce warfare in the name of God.
After humbly accepting some responsibility for the horrors of war in the name of religion, we should then note that this is so totally opposed to anything that Jesus did or stood for that anyone who knows anything about Jesus will agree that such wars in Jesus’ name are totally unacceptable and completely reject what Jesus taught and stood for. If one were to offer to Jesus to defend his cause through warfare, surely he would say no thank you. Actually, more like heaven forbid! Those who do these things may think they do it in the name of Christ, but they could not possibly be more wrong. Like I said, anyone who knows anything about Jesus, including atheists, Hindus and Muslims, have to know that he would absolutely reject warfare in his name. Jesus was an uncompromising pacifist. This is so obvious I probably do not even need to quote scripture, but I will. Jesus said to love your enemy and to pray for your enemy in Matthew 5:44. Paul said that our weapons are not the weapons of the world. He also said that we should not take vengeance on our enemies but leave room for God to judge people (Romans 12:19). So many more scriptures could be mentioned, and there are zero New Testament passages that can be used to support warfare in the name of God. In a Christian context, warfare in the name of Christ is totally unacceptable.
Islam is a different story. Jihad–warfare in the name of Allah–is countenanced in the Qu’ran and encouraged in the Hadith. I will leave it at that, as it is not my place, but the place of Muslims to defend this teaching and practice. From a Christian perspective, Muhammad is not a prophet of God and does not represent the legacy of Abraham, but, like I said, I will let Muslims speak for Islam.
Our organization, the Apologetics Research Society put on a debate several years ago titled “Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Which is the True Legacy of Abraham.” (available at www.ipibooks.com) In this debate, the Jewish teacher, Schmuley Boteach and the Muslim Imam, Shabir Ally, criticized Christianity and Christ for being a religion of pacifism. Well, we as Christians will accept this charge against us. We do not wage war in the name of Jesus–not ever! The criticism of your friend should be handled with humility, but if the charge is that Jesus supports warfare in his name, then this is a totally false charge.