Most recent commentary on religion and war has focused on religious causes for war, in particular the Islamic concept of jihad. The emphasis on the causal effects of religion for radical, Islamic, and non-state actors has obscured the many effects various religious traditions have on professional armed forces, including Western militaries, beyond the causing of war.
Ron Hassner argues that religious ideas affect even secular militaries, and the effects go beyond just the causing of war. Religion also can influence the identities of participants and opponents, the legitimacy of weapons and targets, the timing and location of confrontations, how soldiers dress, eat, fight or die, tactical and strategic calculations, or the conceptualization of victory and defeat.
Hassner concentrates on decision-making by professional military services in recent decades, especially Western military forces, which he characterizes as “the primary blind spot in prior analyses of religion and war.” By shifting away from the study of “other people’s” religion and onto the contemporary, professional, and seemingly secular military organizations, he shows that religion is not an extremist, alien, and irrational force but a pervasive one. He traces its under-appreciated effects: how religious ideas shape appreciation of time and space, authority and intelligence.