Tuesday, February 24, 2009

Is Christianity Responsible for the Mass Murders of History?

If you were to sit through a Western Civilization 101 class today, it would not take long to get the impression that Christianity is responsible for the worst atrocities in history. Exhibits A, B, and C would be the Crusades, Inquisition, and witch trials. My point here is not to delve into the intricacies of history or justify what did or did not happen; though I would encourage people to go beyond the often unsubstantiated slogans and rhetoric to the facts of history themselves (it is one thing to take responsibility for what you did, it is quite another to struggle under the weight of what others wrongly perceive you to have done). Rather, I want to compare these events with Atheistic atrocities—which seem to get far less press.

If you were to only examine the big three Atheistic regimes of the 20th century—Mao in china, Stalin in Russia, and Hitler in Nazi Germany—then you would discover that they are responsible for more than 100 million deaths (and that does not even include others like Pol Pot’s mass killings in Cambodia). Dinesh D’Souza observes that:

"Religion-inspired killing simply cannot compete with the murders perpetrated by atheist regimes. I recognize that population levels were much lower in the past, and that it’s much easier to kill people today with sophisticated weapons than it was in pervious centuries to kill with swords and arrows. Even taking higher populations into account, atheist violence surpasses religious violence by staggering proportions. Here is a rough calculation. The world’s population rose from around 500 million in 1450 A.D. to 2.5 billion in 1950, a fivefold increase. Taken together, the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the witch burnings killed approximately 200,000 people. Adjusting for the increase in population, that’s the equivalent of one million deaths today. Even so, these deaths caused by Christian rulers over a five-hundred-year period amount to only 1 percent of the deaths caused by Stalin, Hitler, and Mao in the space of a few decades."

D’Souza further adds that, “If Christianity has to answer for Torquemada [cf. Inquisition], atheism has to answer for Stalin. By the same token, if the ordinary Christian who has never burned anyone at the stake must bear some responsibility for what other self-styled Christians have done on behalf of religion, then atheists who think of themselves as the kinder, gentler type do not get to absolve themselves for the horrible suffering that their beliefs have caused in recent history.” All loss of life is tragic, and I am certainly not trying to “white-wash” the evils done in the name of Christianity, but the facts of history show that atheism, not Christianity, is responsible for the mass murders of history.
For more on interacting with the New Atheism, check out Dinesh D'Souza's book, What's So Great About Christianity


jimtrox said...

I am not very impressed with this argument. So Christians are better than Hitler, is this supposed to make me want to join a Church? I think in doing apologetics we do well not to focus on the history of the Church which we should simply admit isn't pretty but on demonstrating the wisdom of the Biblical worldview and its ability to give life sense and purpose.

prodigal said...

I understand what you're saying but he's made a good point. If you speak with atheists or watch a debate between Christians and atheists, this is a stone regularly thrown by atheists.

I think the argument here is that there case is grossly overstated and/or based on misconception.

This is very good material.

blog admin said...

Hello jimtrox. Thanks for your input on my post. I understand and agree with you that this isn't a pro-Christian argument.

apologetics has defensive (i.e., responding to specific objections against Christianity) and also, offensive apologetics (i.e.,which seeks to commend the Christian worldview to others.)

This particular approach, as prodigal observed, is defensive responding to a very popular and common New Atheist argument. So I wanted to weigh in on the historical facts of the matter.

I am also certainly not trying to whitewash evil done in the name of Christianity either--but this does put into perspective the magnitude of evil done by Atheistic regimes.

Thanks for your input.