News | Feb. 12, 2023

Gods at War: Religion and the Pacific Theater in World War II with Dr. Dayna Barnes

By Dr. Dayna Barnes Article

Religion played an underappreciated role in Asia during the Second World War. Governments used faith and religious organizations to garner support in colonies, pacify occupied areas, and court global allies. Faith leaders participated on the home fronts by building morale and used religious teachings to provide justifications for violence. Allied and Axis powers embedded monks and chaplains into military units as part of the war effort.

This is a complicated history. Three of the major combatants, the United States, Great Britain, and Japan, were empires influenced by religious nationalism. Each also governed over populations which did not adhere to the majority religion. Another major combatant, China, was home to diverse religious communities with transnational ties and a large anti-religious political element represented by the Chinese Communist Party.

This short paper provides a overview of the interplay of Buddhism, Christianity, Shinto, and Islam in the conflict. Read it here.