** World War I religion








War and Social Upheaval: World War I--Religion


Figure 1.-- This is a painting at the American National World War I Memorial in Kansas City, Missori. Americ had the largest rail network in world. And Union Station in Kansas City became a central location for soldiers passing through for training and then shipping off overseas. The same was true of the food to feed the American Expeditionary Force as well as the Allies during the War and the starving people of Europe after the War. Notice the religious iconography. The Menorial was opened in 1926 with President Cooldige presiding. It was opened to great acclaim, but soon rather forgotton. We do not know who the artist was.

Religion is often neglected in World War I histories. Religion has played a major role in European wars, but by the 20th centyry is was no longer a major factor. And while it did not play a major role in the War, there were a range of relgious matters that arose which need to be noted, and especially the consequences of the war impacting the major religions. The War was fought primarily by Christian nations with both Protestant and Catholic populations as well as Orthodox Russia. These countries were largely secular states, but religious groups had varying influences. A major religious factor was with nursing. Religious orders played a major role in nursing, especially in Europe. Only the Roman Catholic Church was an international church centered in the Vatican at the heart of Rome. Pope Benedict XV (r.1914-22) was elevated to the papacy shortly after the War erupted. He took a neutral poition and worked hard to bring about a negiotiated peace, but to no avail. The Church's humamitarian efforts were notable. His most imoortant peace effort was the Papal Peace Note (August 1917). It failed because both sides believed that victory was within their grasp. There were no other truly international churches. And in each beligerant country, the multiple churches for the most part supported their country's war effort invoking God to assist in victory. There were some religious-based pacifist groups like the Quakers and Seven-Day Adventists, but they were a small part of the population. The major unfathomable were the largely Lutheran German-Americans. German-Americans were the largest American ethnic community and while not stringly pro-German, they were against Amnerican entry into the War. They were a powerful political force, especially in the Midwest. A smaller, but not unimortant group were the advoacts of Muscular Christianity exeplified bu still very popular, former-president Theodore Roosevelt. An anonmally was Tsar Nicholas II was head of the Russian Orthodox Church. (King George V was also the titular head of the nglican church, but it was not as imprtant in more secular Britain with many distenting sects and a nore secular society.) The Tsar was not the only deeply religious war-time figure . The other Was American President Woodrow Wilson. Keeping American out of the War was at first in part a relgious matter, but as the War progressed his attituse shited to pomoting a negotiated peace to wageing a crusade to make the world safe for democracy. His policies at each stage were strongly influenced by his religious faith. Caught between the waring Christian parties and distrusted by both were the Jews, especially the Jews of Eastern Europe. Tsarist repression, especially deportations, turned much of Jewish population toward the Central Powers. As a result of pre-War Tsarist repression, Jews were no longer a European population, but were becoming an imprtant part of American society. The third Abrhamic religion was also involved--Islam. The titular head of Islam was the Caliphic of the Ottomn Empire. When the Ottoman Empire joned the Central Powrs, he declared a jihad (holy war). Few Muslims tooks this seriously, in lrge measure because most Arabs viewed the Ottomans as an occuoying colonial power which the British woukd exploit in the the Arab Revolt. Perhaps greater than the religious impact on the War is the War's impact on relgion, especially Christianity.

Religions

Religion is often neglected in World War I histories. Religion has played a major role in European wars, but by the 20th centyry is was no longer a major factor. And while it did not play a major role in the War, there were a range of relgious matters that arose which need to be noted, and especially the consequences of the war impacting the major religions.

Christianity

The War was fought primarily by Christian nations with both Protestant and Catholic populations as well as Orthodox Russia. These countries were largely secular states, but religious groups had varying influences. A major religious factor was with nursing. Religious orders played a major role in nursing, especially in Europe. Only the Roman Catholic Church was an international church centered in the Vatican at the heart of Rome. Pope Benedict XV (r.1914-22) was elevated to the papacy shortly after the War erupted. He took a neutral poition and worked hard to bring about a negiotiated peace, but to no avail. The Church's humamitarian efforts were notable. His most imoortant peace effort was the Papal Peace Note (August 1917). It failed because both sides believed that victory was within their grasp. There were no other truly international churches. And in each beligerant country, the multiple churches for the most part supported their country's war effort invoking God to assist in victory. There were some religious-based pacifist groups like the Quakers and Seven-Day Adventists, but they were a small part of the population. The major unfathomable were the largely Lutheran German-Americans. German-Americans were the largest American ethnic community and while not stringly pro-German, they were against Amnerican entry into the War. They were a powerful political force, especially in the Midwest. A smaller, but not unimortant group were the advoacts of Muscular Christianity exeplified bu still very popular, former-president Theodore Roosevelt. An anonmally was Tsar Nicholas II was head of the Russian Orthodox Church. (King George V was also the titular head of the nglican church, but it was not as imprtant in more secular Britain with many distenting sects and a nore secular society.) The Tsar was not the only deeply religious war-time figure . The other Was American President Woodrow Wilson. Keeping American out of the War was at first in part a relgious matter, but as the War progressed his attituse shited to pomoting a negotiated peace to wageing a crusade to make the world safe for democracy. His policies at each stage were strongly influenced by his religious faith.

Judaism

Caught between the waring Christian parties and distrusted by both were the Jews, especially the Jews of Eastern Europe. Tsarist repression, especially deportations, turned much of Jewish population toward the Central Powers. As a result of pre-War Tsarist repression, Jews were no longer a European population, but were becoming an important part of American society. The Zionist movement had begin to grow, primarily because of Tsarist avctions, biut not entirely due to the Russians. Antimseitism was growing, although among many Zionistrs there was more concern about France than Germany. The greatest action against any religious ghtoup occurred in the Muslim Ottomzn Empire--the Smenian Genocide. In this case, however, it wa generated primarily from secular officisls. The British issued the Blfour Ddeclartion to garner Jewish support.

Islam

The third Abrhamic religion was also involved--Islam. The titular head of Islam was the Caliphate of the Ottomn Empire. When the Ottoman Empire joined the Central Powers, he declared a jihad (holy war). Tradonally, tyhe Suktan Carries authiority in religious matters. Few Muslims tooks this seriously, however, in large measure because most Arabs viewed the Ottomans as an occupying colonial power which the British would exploit in the the Arab Revolt.

Hinduism

While the war wa primasrily fought by Chtrisdtisnm countries, India was an importasnt support for tne British war effort. As far as we know, Hinduism was not a factor in the War. There was wide-spread support fir Britain duting the Waer. Gandhi at the outbreak of the Waf was on his way home from South Africa, but first wanted to spend a little time in Britain. He landed in English (August 6, 1914). He immediately met with Indian friends to raise an ambulance unit.

Impact on Relogion

Perhaps greater than the religious impact on the War is the War's impact on relgion, especially Christianity.

Countries








CIH






Navigate the CIH World War I Section:
[Return to Main World War I page]
[Aftermath] [Alliances] [Animals] [Armistace] [Biographies] [Causes] [Campaigns] [Casualties] [Children] [Countries] [Declaration of war] [Deciding factors] -------[Diplomacy] [Economics] -------[Geo-political crisis] [Home front] [Intelligence]
[Military forces] [Neutrality] [Pacifism] [People] [Peace treaties] [Propaganda] [POWs] [Russian Revolution] [Signals and intelligence] [Terrorism] [Trench warfare] ------[Technology] ------[Weaponry]
[Bibliographies] [Contributions] [FAQs] [Images] [Links] [Registration] [Tools]
[Return to Main World War I page]
[Return to Main war essay page]
[Return to CIH Home page]




Created: 7:43 PM 8/7/2021
Last updated: 7:44 PM 8/7/2021