Is Religion the Cause of Bloodshed?

In his absurd analysis of the Ten Commandments, George Calin once said to a loud applause, “More people have been killed in the name of God than for any other reason.” This is undoubtedly a jaded atheist/agnostic party line. A variation of it says: “Religion has caused most of the killing and wars in the world.”

This cloyed slogan is so often repeated that even some Christians now rehash it without realising its logical conclusion: “Destroy religion and there will be world peace!”

The intent of this overplayed script is to promote a “us vs. them” thinking that atheists are inherently more tolerant and benign than religionists. It’s quite embarrassing to find educated and reasoning people with such a lame worldview. An objective look at history shows a different picture.

Most atheists cite incidents of the Crusades, Inquisition, Northern Ireland and even 9/11 as examples, but logically, they don’t add up. It has been estimated that approximately 1-3 million people died in the Crusades, perhaps tens of thousands during the Inquisition, but 35 million soldiers and civilians died in the secular slaughter of World War 1 alone

History shows that only a fraction of human conflict have religion as their prime cause. Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod in Encyclopedia of Wars (2004) document the history of recorded warfare, and from their list of 1763 wars only 123 have been classified to involve a religious cause, accounting for less than 7 per cent of all wars and less than 2 per cent of all people killed in warfare.

In another standard reference work, the number of people that have historically been murdered by various factions were listed:

Catholics – 4,951,000

Animists – 7,469,000

Muslims – 9,101,000

Atheists – 31,519,000

Secular governments – 55,597,000

Source: David Barriet, George Kurian and Todd Johnson, World Christian Encyclopedia, Oxford Univ. Press, 2001, 11.

From this, it’s clear that atheists historically have more blood on their hands. Ex-atheist, Theodore Beale points out that: “The total body count for the ninety years between 1917 and 2007 is approximately 48 million dead at the bloody hands of fifty-two atheists, three times more than all the human beings killed by wars, civil wars and individual crime in the entire twentieth century combined.”

It must also be admitted that the Wars of Napoleon, the American Revolution, French Revolution, American Civil Wars, WW I & 2, Russia Revolution and conflicts in Korea and Vietnam were not religious in nature (though some religious groups were targeted).

The historical record of collective atheism is worse in an annual basis than Christianity’s worst and most infamous misdeed, the Spanish Inquisition. George Koukl, a Christian apologist, noted that “the assertion is that religion has caused most of the killing and bloodshed in the world. There are people who make accusations and assertions that are empirically false. This is one of them.”

Militant atheism which spawned Communism, killed 60 million people in the 20th century. Courtois Stephanois et al. (1999) in The Black Book of Communism says more than 100 million people were murdered.

Cleon Skousers, in The Naked Communists, estimated that in the past 100 years, governments under the banner of atheistic communism have caused the death of somewhere between 40,472,000 and 259,432,000 human lives.

The French Revolution in the 18th century which established the Cult of Reason – based on the works of Voltaire, Jean Jacques Rousseau, Denis Dierot and Sade de Marquis – intended to promote militant atheism. About 300,000 French men were murdered during the Robespierre’s Reign of Terror in 1793.

This Revolution led to the murder and persecution of thousands of Christians. Many people were burnt in ovens, children trampled by horses, girls were cut in half after being raped and people were tied together to a log and drowned in water (“Republican Marriages”).

These brutal massacres inspired Karl Marx to write that “Once we are at the helm, we shall be obliged to re enact the year 1793 …  We are pitiless and we ask no pity from you. When our time comes, we shall not conceal terrorism with hypocritical phrases.” These were declarations of an avowed atheist who had the goal of furthering the cause of an atheist state.

One atheist wrote in a forum: “…our criticism [of religion] did not result in millions of deaths and starvation and bodily injury whereas religion did and still does.”

What is the basis of these rather vague statements? Which religion did these? And talking about millions of deaths, Mao (an atheist) didn’t murder 60 million people in the name of religion.

Pol Pot started the Khmer Rouge atheistic Movement, leading to the death of 1.7 million Cambodians by execution, starvation and overwork.

Mengistu Haile Mariam, an atheist, murdered thousands of political opponents and turned a blind eye to the starvation of 1 million people in Ethiopia.

Joseph Stalin starved 10 million Ukrainians in the 1930’s. That wasn’t the work of religion. Today in secular climes, systematic genocide goes on in the name of abortion (backed by the arm of the law).

The World Health Organization estimates 40-50 million abortions taking place every year, but atheists would rather selectively talk about ancient wars in the Bible. Atheists love to go after religions but choose to be blind to the evils going on today in secular or “enlightened” societies.

The truth is, even without religion, mankind will still hate, starve, murder and destroy one another. As long as humans desire power, conformance and control; as long as there is greed and ambition, there will always be strife. Yes, there are very bad religions (Islam is one). But religion is not the sole root of wars and bloodshed. The real root is the sin that is present in each and every human being’s heart. The only difference is how it’s expressed in degrees.

Of course, there are kind atheists and there are some heartless “Christians” too. But blaming all the world’s ills on religion? That’s nonsense talk. Christians believe that until when the Prince of Peace returns to reign on earth, there cannot be peace in this world.