The Structure of Religious Violence: Hugo Grotius on Property and Pious War

15 Pages Posted: 17 Sep 2017

Date Written: September 10, 2017


Hugo Grotius (1583-1645) is well-known for his defence of just war in The Rights of War and Peace (1625). He is less well-known for his defence of pious war and religious violence. God wants Christians to wage just war against the wicked, he argued, this being part of ‘the whole duty of a Christian solider’. Grotius held that religion presents no barrier to military alliances and commercial trade with heretics, infidels, and pagans. On the contrary, religion is an ideological tool to be used to achieve national prosperity and international justice (Immanuel Kant famously called him a ‘sorry comforter’ of military aggression). Grotius replaced the traditional defence of religious violence (the liberty of the Church) with a new libertarian defence of property rights. Religious war is justified on non-religious grounds, namely the protection of property and the recovery of just compensation for injury and sin. This paper examines Grotius’s defence of pious war, paying special attention to the creditor-debtor relationship as foundational structure of religious violence.

Keywords: Grotius, war, religion

Suggested Citation

Magendanz, Doug, The Structure of Religious Violence: Hugo Grotius on Property and Pious War (September 10, 2017). Available at SSRN: or

Doug Magendanz (Contact Author)

Independent ( email )

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