religion to blame for most of history's killings?
name of Christ has caused more persecutions, wars, and miseries than any
other name has caused."
people dislike organized religion in general, not always or not just Christianity.
Some people blame organized religion for most of history's killings. It
is also sometimes claimed that more people have been killed in the name
of Christ than for any other reason.
this true, and is Christ or his teaching to blame?
-- DEATHS ATTRIBUTED TO CHRISTIANITY
is true that in the world's history of beliefs and practices, there have
been many wars and cruel inhumanities conducted in the name of different
religions and ideologies. Those notorious events stand rightly condemned.
The total number of deaths estimated to lie at the feet of humanity's
poor practice of Christianity is approximately 17 million. This number
would include ancient wars, the Crusades,
various European wars during the Middle Ages, and witchcraft trials.
the other side of the table, atheistic ideologies and worldviews have been
responsible for their own share of wars and inhumanities. Before we tally
up that number, let's make clear what, if anything, the scriptures had to
do with deaths attributed to Judaism and followers of Christ.
Old Testament passages explicitly record God directing ancient Israel to
destroy certain peoples or cities. Study of the O.T. reveals that these
were limited and specifically directed at people whom God had warned
generations in advance to change their ways. (Detailed
discussion follows in the next
question to separately address this issue, as well as discuss the
character of God.)
when an ancient war was carried out and someone said it was in the name
of Christ or the God of the Bible, on what basis do we believe them? In
other words, who is to say which killings God or the Bible authorized?
answer: the Bible.
importance of this point is that the terrible killings of the Crusades,
Inquisitions, and early Reformation
periods (all killings popularly attributed to "Christianity")
are not outlined or even suggested in the Bible. The greatest proof
of the Bible's innocence of this charge is probably the thousands of Christians
during the Inquisitions who were burned at the stake for just possessing
a Bible or reading the Bible for themselves. I assure you the Bible doesn't
advocate banning itself or killing all its readers.
Bible never ordered the slaughter of Muslims, Jews, Protestant Christians,
or Catholic Christians. Orders for those deaths came from men who used others'
admiration of the Bible to achieve their own selfish or political
ends. European believers did respect the Bible during medieval times,
but few copies existed, most people couldn't read it, and many were dependent
on a single denomination's control of its interpretation.
anything linked to the Bible was responsible for the organized killing during
these dark ages, it was people's ignorance of the Bible. John
Foxe, writing of his own era, agreed:
At this time Christianity
was in a sad state. Although everyone knew the name of Christ, few if
any understood His doctrine... Instead, the Church was solely concerned
with outward ceremony and human traditions. 8
lack of having read the Bible or studied it for themselves, people were
misled into believing what others had told them it said - a situation which
has ironically become descriptive of today's critics who claim to be the
most outraged by the atrocities of those ancient times.
for the sake showing the proportionately small amount of killings which
lay at the feet of humanity's sometimes poor practice of Christianity, I
am willing to include even deaths due to ignorance of the Bible (arguably
not the fault of Christ or his teachings).
-- DEATHS ATTRIBUTED TO NON-CHRISTIANITY
let's look at the number of killings attributed to non-Christianity, including
atheism and other anti-religious forces. To be conservative, we will limit
the count of anti-religious killings to the last seventy years or so.
from the early 1930's to 1945, Hitler's Germany exterminated 6
million Jews and killed about 9 million Christians. Although
Hitler was an occultist, he chose the swastika for Germany's emblem; a symbol
ancient German Christians used (as did Buddhists). The swastika appeared
in the brick work of an old boyhood school he attended of which he had fond
memories ("The SS, Alibi of a Nation" by Gerald Reitlinger).
But Hitler loathed Christianity as much as Judaism, as he stated in one
of his shrill orations,
the Christian religion is nothing but a Jewish sect... After the destruction
of Judaism, the extinction of Christian slave morals must follow logically...
We are fighting against the perversion of our soundest instincts. ...That
poison with which both Jews and Christians have spoiled and soiled the
free, wonderful instincts of man and lowered them to the level of doglike
the Stalin purges in the Russian republics prior to and continuing
after World War II killed roughly 40 to 60 million people; nearly
wiping out every Christian church under Stalin's domain. 2
following World War II, China saw to the end of more than 24 million
lives during the first ten years of Mao's takeover 4,
another 25 million killed or intentionally starved between 1959 and
plus an additional 22 million killings in the 1970's Great Proletariat
Cultural Revolution. 6
Cambodia suffered more than 2 million killed in its own bloody
transition to anti-religious communism after United States forces suffered
the fall of what was called Saigon and then largely withdrew from the region.
the more recent rulerships within Ethiopia, Uganda, Rwanda,
Sudan, and Iraq have each killed, systematically starved,
or chemically or biologically poisoned hundreds of thousands of their
own citizens. It will likely be decades before full numbers are tallied
for these ongoing situations. (Since some would argue these are attributable
to Islam, I will omit them from the tally.)
sixth, for those who accept abortion as intentional killing (it clearly
is, but the debate is over what is actually being killed), an additional
30 million or more cases in the United States alone could be added
to the number of irreligious killings (the estimate for the total number
of abortions worldwide over the last century is approximately one billion).
to everyone familiar with the Bible's instructions for human conduct, it
is obvious which actions throughout history have been truly representative
of God and the Bible, and which have not. Any murder in the name of Christ
is wrong. But as we have seen, the greatest acts of crime and killing have
not been instigated by people professing to follow Jesus. The numbers:
- Judaism and Christianity
throughout history: 17,000,000
- Anti- or irreligious
forces over the last 100 years:
6,000,000 + 9,000,000
+ 40,000,000 + 24,000,000 + 25,000,000 + 22,000,000 + 2,000,000 + 1,000,000,000
Thus it is erroneous
to state that organized religion, or the name of Christ, is the cause of
all or even most of history's killings. Quite to the contrary, modern
history shows that the killings associated with the denial of divine authority
outnumber the killings of professing Jews and Christians on an order exceeding
66 to 1.