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Were Most Human Deaths Caused By Religion?

Death Tolls

Sometimes when in discussion with atheists or people resisting Christianity, or religion in general you will hear the claim that religion has been the cause of the most human suffering and death in the world. Typically, events like the Crusades, the so-called "witch hunts" and the Inquisition will be trotted out as proof. And many Christians will shrink back or will say something like, "Even so, Christianity as it was espoused by Christ is non-violent." Although it is true that Christianity as espoused by Christ was to be spread not by the sword (as Islam is designed), but by the Word, by mere preaching. But why should we allow the atheist to even use the Crusades and such as evidence in their claim that most human suffering and death has been caused by religion. It plainly is not true.

What I want to do is offer a detailed listing of human death from the 18th century through the 20th century and see if the claim is true. Yes, we'll also look at the Crusades, the witch hunts and the Inquisition.


DEATH TOLLS

18th Century Slave Trade

  • Atlantic slave trade: ca. 5,000,000 transported and 8,100,000 died.
  • Islamic slave trade: ca. 1,300,000 transported and 2,000,000 died.

Seven Years War (1755-63)

  • 1 million, 300,000

French Revolution and Napoleonic Wars (1792-1802)

  • Estimated 3-4 million

And these wars were supposed to be about bringing "freedom" to civilized men.

War of the Spanish Succession (1701-13)

  • 1 million, 324,300

Yet another non-religious war

As we leave the 1700s don't forget all of the many, many other events -- all non-religious where hairless apes killed other hairless apes.

On to the 19th century...

19th Century Slave Trade

  • Atlantic slave trade: ca. 1.6M transported and 2.5M deaths.
  • Islamic slave trade: ca. 2M transported and 3M died.

Venezuela, power struggles (1830-1903)

  • 1 million

Colonial El Niño Famines (1876-1900)

  • 31-61 million

American Civil War (1861-65)

  • Over 600,000

Paraguay, War of the Triple Alliance (1864-70)

  • Over 1 million or more than 80% of its population

Maybe it gets better when we get to the 20th century??? I mean, mankind becomes so much more advanced....well at least advanced at killing each other.

  • WWI (1914-18)= 15 million (half of that is non-military death) and this is a low estimate
  • Russian Civil War (1917-22) = 9 million
  • Soviet Union, Stalin's regime (1924-53) = 20-51 million (the Soviets were decidedly "atheistic", right?)
  • WWII (1937-45) = 55 million (yet another non-religious war)
  • Post-War Expulsion of Germans from East Europe (1945-47) = 2 million, 100,000
  • Chinese Civil War (1945-49) = 2 million, 500,000 (another not so "civil" war)
  • People's Republic of China, Mao Zedong's regime (1949-1975) = 40 million (again an "atheist" thing)
  • Tibet (1950 et seq.) = 600,000 (China imposing "atheism" on others)
  • Korean War (1950-53) = 2 million, 800,000
  • North Korea (1948 et seq.) = 1 million, 663,000 (not even warring, just imposing "atheism" on its own people)
  • Rwanda and Burundi (1959-95) = 1 million 350,000
  • Second Indochina War [including Vietnam] (1960-75) = 3 million, 500,000
  • Ethiopia (1962-92) = 1 million, 400,000
  • Afghanistan (1979-2001) = 1 million, 800,000 (Soviets trying to impose "atheism" again)
  • Sudan (1983 et seq.) = 1 million, 900,000 (no more slave trade deaths, so they start killing each other??)
  • Kinshasa Congo (1998 et seq.) = 3 million 800,000

Shall I go on?

Just to be fair, how about those "Crusades"??? (which in reality was less about Christianity and more about securing wealth) Certainly that had to be the biggest death toll, since according to atheists, most people have died due to "religions". Or how about the "Witch hunts" or the Inquisition? That should really push up the numbers eh?

  • Crusades (1095-1291) = 1-5 million
  • Witch Hunts (1400-1800) = est 20-100 thousand
  • Spanish Inquisition (1478-1834) = est 32 thousand

Wow, I guess the hairless apes have Christians beat when it comes to killing. So you see, the claim that most human suffering has been caused by religion, is just plain false. Don't let anyone use this argument ever again.

sources:

http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/wars18c.htm
http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/wars19c.htm
http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstat1.htm
http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstat2.htm
http://users.erols.com/mwhite28/warstat0.htm

Awesome Rod. Def will use this in the future

#1 Yes. Please use these inflated, fallacious numbers. Those of us in the Rational Camps will be waiting to tear you to argumentative pieces.

A history major, you are not.
The slave trade you point out was actually condoned by many different religions. you show the graph, but somehow don't make that connection. (Have you read your bible?) WW2, Hitler used Christians (he was catholic, and many say he turned away from religion, perhaps he did, but that didn't stop him from using it to do his bidding.) More than 20 million killed world wide. Shall we move to the Middle east? Israel/Palestine? How about Iraq/Iran? 15 million killed..mostly children..as they used them to clear minefields..no, I'm not kidding.
Ruwanda and Burundi are almost ENTIRELY religious based wars..ask the Priest and two nuns serving life sentences for genocide.
As someone that sees the hypocrisy (I was raised and baptized Lutheran), I beg you to dig deeper. Religion is not helpful to anyone..and especially not God. Your entire argument looks at the leadership of those various conflicts..when its the soldiers that did the dirty work, at their behest..because they believed that God was speaking thru them. This is what is meant when a person might say, Religion has killed more than anything else. The simple fact of the matter is..is that its true. It'll stop being true as soon as people stop killing one another over who's God is best, who's religion is right. The moment you figure out that ALL religions are simple constructs for the control of man, is when you'll see just how misinformed, and ignorant you really are to Religions evils. In fact, your lead in alludes to that. You make the distinction that Christianity is spread via Prostleytizing, and Islam by the sword..yet, it was Christianity that invaded Islamic countries, put their people to the sword (crusades).
Lets look at some of your other assertions, You conveniently point out the slave trade..making an effort to list Islam as taking part in the slave trade..but, you leave out any mention of Christians in the slave trade..what do you think most of the people in Europe, and the America's where? Atheists? c'mon. For every single thing you list, I can punch a hole clear thru it with facts...your simply not versed in history enough to make the assertions you make. this isn't meant to offend, but to enlighten. I admire that your trying to enlighten others..but, the history your giving is definitively biased, and definitively wrong from both a historical standpoint, and a moral standpoint. I would kindly suggest you do some reading and researching of the ARMIES that were used.
One would assume that if Christians are so good, that they would balk at killing another individual..this doesn't seem to be the case does it? You mention Islam...guess what..Abrahamic faith..nearly identical in many ways to Christianity..yet, you make the distinction, that they are not, and that Islam is violent...Lets say for an moment your right...I'll use 9/11 as an example...19 men of Islamic faith fly planes into a building, killing 3000+ Our Christian country's answer..was it to turn the other cheek? Prosletize those that attacked us? Nope..we responded by indiscriminately killing more than a million...still want to say that Christianity is benign? Please.

#2 Thanks for the comments. I find it interesting you take issue with the content of this article yet you consistently incorrectly used the word "your" instead of the contraction, "you're". This makes it difficult for me to consider "you're" much of a history major yourself...let alone a grammarian. However, I will interact with your comments in further detail soon. Thanks again.

#2.1 Bad grammar or not, this commentator's absolutely right. You've given data but failed to interpret it in historical circumstance.

You mention the slave trade beginning in the 18th Century. This isn’t precisely true. Slavery has been around in Europe, like, /forever./ Originally, most of the slaves that entered the Christian/Catholic world of Europe were enslaved based upon religious characteristics - that would be Christians, enslaving Muslims. The Atlantic slave trade itself starts in Portugal as well. Trying to find new shipping routes, they stumble upon a slave market in Sub-Saharan Africa. Using a religious justification – they were ‘civilizing’ the blacks, and bringing the light of Christianity to them – Portugal brought small numbers of slaves to Europe, where they were used as conspicuous consumption goods and domestic labour. The first large-scale shipments of black slaves from the coasts of Africa to Europe and the Caribbean start taking shape around 1492, when Rodrigo de Borgia (Alexander VI) takes office and divides the territory of the new world to Spain and Portugal.

The close involvement of the pope indicates how much arguments used for colonization and slavery were articulated on the basis of the "civilizing mission." Although it later became known as the “White Man’s Burden,” the civilizing mission was first expressed in religious terms. It is the Catholic and Christian belief that their religions were superior, civilized and must be propagated that justified colonization. Before racial hierarchies became firmly established by the then pseudo-science of anthropology in the late 18th century, 'savages' were just seen as 'Unchristian.’ They could be reformed. It was a clear duty, and part of the slave trade system, that slave owners were expected from the fifteenth century onwards to baptize their slaves. There were even biblical arguments made to justify blacks as a race 'designed for slavery.'
In this light claiming the Colonial El Niño Famines as secular deaths seems a bit irrational as well, considering the deep, deep religious roots of the colonial system. We can use phrases or paradigms like the missionary impulse, civilizing mission, "Good Christian's Duty," etc etc. but it all amounts to the same thing. The colonial system was always, always, phrased, justified, and articulated by and with religious terminology.

As we move into the nineteenth and twentieth century it’s true on the surface conflicts become articulated in more secular terms, but underlying processes of religious identity remain a large component. WWI, for instance, was a conflict born mainly of alliances; however, the ‘spark’ of the war, so to speak, came from the religiously volatile Balkans. ‘Ethnic’ divisions between Balkan peoples are FREQUENTLY religious differences. The Russian Revolution can also be seen as a religious conflict. One of the participants, the Tsarist regime, is heavily backed by the Russian Orthodox Church and Church ideals of what it meant to be a subject of the Russian nation. The atheistic forces that overthrew the Tsars were acting in response to and in conflict with religion; the Tsarist regime was explicitly religious.

Speaking of explicitly religious; it is a little worrisome that you’ve claimed all fifty-five million deaths you record for the Second World War as being secular in motivation. SEEING AS THAT WOULD INCLUDE THE FUCKING HOLOCAUST. Is killing Jews for their religion now a secular conflict? And if you argue that the Nazi’s were a secular group – “The anti-Semitism of the new movement… was based on religious ideas instead of racial knowledge.” –ADOLF HITLER. “I have followed [the Church] in giving our party program the
character of unalterable finality, like the Creed.” –ADOLF HITLER. “What we have to fight for…is the freedom and independence of the fatherland, so that our people may be enabled to fulfill the mission assigned to it by the Creator.” – I’M GOING TO STOP QUOTING THESE NOW BECAUSE ADOLF HITLER WAS FUCKING CHRISTIAN.
I did also notice that you’ve devoted little-to-no time to ethno-religious struggles in the Balkans; or the Middle East; or Asia; or Africa; I just sort of assumed that you only cared about white people when you wrote this. Or you’re being racist today. Or people of colour don’t actually have religion and historians been wrong all along. And I’m going to assume even further that you don’t mention anything before the 18th century because you imagine the world sprang fully formed into being just then?

As we move into the Cold War era, dominant religious ideology and national identity-building are closely tied. If you watch speeches of the era, American politicians especially are keen to tie themselves into Christian/Protestant religious morals. The Cold War of the 1950s developed as a result of and under the influence of McCarthyism and Catholic resurgence in the West. Ideological motivators in America for continuing the Cold War were explicitly expressed in religious terms; it was the god-fearing Americans against the godless soviets. In South Vietnam, the Diem regime was given support because Diem was Catholic. While the conflict itself was mainly (although not entirely) secular, American reluctance to abandoning the Diem regime accounts for a large proportion of the casualties of the early stages of the war, especially civilian casualties. The Diem regime’s rampant unpopularity as well probably contributed to the tenacity of the Vietnamese in resisting their rule. The reason American statesmen supported Diem for so long WAS his religion; he was not a particularly good ally in many other ways.
Your expression of the Sudanese civil war as “no more slave trade deaths, so they start killing each other??” is completely inaccurate. Because I don’t think you know, the Sudanese Civil War actually focuses on a strong central state trying to impose control over regions in the south where it’s typically been weak. And, it might interest you to learn, it’s a religious conflict. Muslims trying to enforce Sharia law.
You’ve picked and chosen conflicts to illustrate your point; not mentioned are the Catholic and Protestant residential schools of the colonies, the religious divisions that caused such difficulties in Syria, or inter-European religious wars from before the 18th century. Your point isn’t strongly made. Even among the conflicts you’ve so carefully chosen, you tend to disregard religious motives and the separation of religious groups as a motivator for ethnoreligious conflict. You ignore a great number of deaths that can be attributed entirely to religious conflicts, because they don’t suit your point; you’ve restricted your focus to only three hundred years of human history; and, lastly, you’ve centered your argument nearly entirely on European and American conflicts, which is an incredibly biased picture of global loss of human life.

P.S. A lot of your stats are pretty inflated compared to what I've seen in other documents. You might want to check that source.

#2.1.1 Thanks for the comments. I especially like vigorous yet not intentionally rude comments. I'm sorry if you understood that I think there is no history before the 18th century. Obviously I had to start somewhere and since most of the accusations against Christianity specifically focus on slavery, I began with the height of Western/European participation in that. I agree with you 100% that slavery was around, not only in Europe but in most of the world since "forever". As a matter of fact, people often think of Negro/African slave trade, but in reality, in the course of history there has been perhaps as many if not more Caucasian/White slaves traded. (ref1, ref2, ref3).

As for the colonial period of Europe and its use of the concept to "civilize" or "Christianize" the world; Africa and the New World, there is no dispute there. And you know what? Countries with Christian backgrounds are by evidence often more advanced. Christian principles call for reason - the apostles REASONED with people. The Apostle Paul reasoned with the Athenians...he didn't threaten to behead them if they didn't accept Christianity. Whether some Christians who came after Jesus stopped reasoning with people and started being more forceful, doesn't change the FACT that Christianity at its foundation and core is to be propagated by reason. The civilizations that have adopted Christian principles often advanced and progressed in ways they would not have otherwise. Tribal civilizations often didn't operate on reason. There is no reason to be ashamed that Christian principles have changed the world...for the better.

I am pleased to see your acquiesce to the idea that from the 19th century on, most global conflicts were secular based. And as you pointed out, WW1 was predicated on ethnic differences, not primarily religious. We need to understand, humanity by nature is tribal. We always prefer to be with our "kind" and our "kind" can be based on race, or religion, town, city, country or whatever we want to express as our "kind". Eradicating religion will not change this nature. The fact that conflicts may include a religious component is simply so because religion or any deep devotion is used by leaders to motivate people. Look at political mantras: "Hope and Change". What does it mean? Nothing, yet it was enough to get millions of people to elect a completely unqualified person to lead an entire nation. By unqualified, I mean that Obama never really worked in the private sector his entire life except briefly as a youth at an icecream shop. He never ran a business. Was never a CEO. Never a mayor or even a governor. Yet people followed his sloganeering and he was elected twice.

As for WW2 and the Holocaust -- It is typical of people to immediately identify Jews with the religion of the Jews, however Hitler's hatred of the Jews was ETHNIC based, not religious based. It would be like saying you hated the Irish or the English, or the Americans. It has little to do with their religion and more to do with...well...their "tribe"...their "kind". Hitler didn't like their "kind". Hitler's focus was primarily on building a "master race", not a "master religion" (though he dabbled with that too). If you don't want to believe me, believe the Anne Frank organization which said:

"Hitler and the Nazis also thought that people could be divided into different races and that there was a struggle going on between these different races. According to the Nazis the ‘Aryan race’ was the best and strongest race. Jews were of another inferior race." - source

Again, Hitler's opposition to the Jews was to use them as a scapegoat, a vehicle, a focal point to get the Germans to rally to his ideas. It wasn't primarily about religion at all...and adding the word "F***ing" before your words doesn't improve the misinformation. Hitler was no Christian by anyones definition. He was no more Christian than Jim Jones.

As for why I have focused on the so-called "white" people is because the typical accusation that religion has caused more deaths than any other reason is typically pointed as "White Christianity". The fact that you use the politically correct term "people of color" as if the peach colored skin of Caucasians is not a color shows your bias. Who then is the real racist? Of course there has been religiously motivated deaths among all races and civilizations but AGAIN it is really less about the religion and more about the differences in "kind/tribe". Once we get past this notion and get back to REASONING with each other about our ideas instead of threatening to kill each other, THEN we'll make progress. Eradication of religion will not solve this issue. They tried this in atheistic USSR and China and North Korea but it was not suddenly all sunshine and kittens. Something ELSE lies at the heart of what causes man to kill man. It is not simply religion or no religion.

In your comments, you repeatedly admit that many of the conflicts were "mainly secular" but then you keep coming back to blame religion because there is sometimes a component of religion somewhere. Well, of course there will be. Even so-called irreligious people "believe" something and those beliefs will and do play a part in their behavior and actions. This cannot be changed. It is what makes us humans with ideas over mere animalistic instincts. Even devotion to no religion can be considered "religious".

I will concede one thing, which I think was already part of my original article; Islam is a violent ideology that would be better to be eradicated. Lately, we (the world) have been trying to PRETEND there are "moderate" and "extreme" Muslims. In reality the "faithful" Muslims ARE the truest expression of Islam -- which at its core is violent. If there are "moderate" Muslims, they are really apathetic or unfaithful Muslims who don't really follow the Qur'an. It would be better to simply expose the entire religion for what it is rather than trying to save it from itself.

I didn't "carefully choose" the evidence I provided in the article. I cited some of the most common conflicts and their impetus. You accuse me of "ignoring a great number of deaths" attributed entirely to religious conflicts yet you cited none...because there are none with the comparable "great numbers" of the conflicts I DID cite. The truth is, most human deaths have not been and are not CAUSED by religion.

I thank you for the time and effort you spent commenting and welcome any reply.

#2.1 His typo is FAR less serious than the false ideas you put forth. The fact that you think his comment can't be taken seriously because of a poor usage of your/you're shows that you yourself can't be taken seriously.

#2.1.2 Except a typo is usually a one time thing. This commenter consistently used bad grammar. Hmmm. As for false ideas; are you going to be specific?

#2 The key to your comments is this one phrase: "used religion". I do not dispute that religion has been and is used by many godless people to advance agendas. As a matter of fact, the entire Global Warming agenda is predicated on the "religion" of evolution and is "used" to advance that agenda. This is different than saying human deaths are CAUSED by religion. Getting rid of the traditional religions (Judaism and Christianity) will not stop people from "using" a religious type fervor to advance agendas.

Take for example the 2008 election of Barack Obama, his mantra of "hope and change" and "yes we can" was a type of religious fervor. The religion of man. The religion of the contrived oppressed. You pick up on this when you state:

Your entire argument looks at the leadership of those various conflicts..when its the soldiers that did the dirty work, at their behest..because they believed that God was speaking thru them. This is what is meant when a person might say, Religion has killed more than anything else.

It is usually NOT because "they believed God was speaking through them". They simple USED that medium to get people into a fervor to do the dirty work at their behest -- be it killing others immediately or with political programs that kill people slowly. But do these "leaders" REALLY believe God is speaking through them? Whether it is Jim Jones, David Koresh, Adolph Hitler or any other madman. Or are they using this a vehicle to advance a dictatorial agenda?...knowing full well God ISN'T speaking through them. As a matter of fact, these leaders are actually irreligious. They are using people's hope in God to fool them. I grant you that people need to be more careful what they believe, whether it is religion or the evening news or their government's propaganda. You might consider watching a German film called "The Wave". It demonstrates how easily (and innocently) people can get caught up in this fervor, with or without religion.

Again, if all traditional religions are eradicated, this will not change the FACT that "leaders" invent "constructs for the control of man". It has always been so and will always be so. The key to escape this is not to become irreligious but to become guarded against ANYONE who makes a claim to be a savior -- religious or political.

On the issue of Christianity being different than other religions, especially Islam, I stand by the facts I presented. I listed the deaths caused by the Crusades, the Inquisition and the witch trials. These were minuscule in comparison to the purely political deaths caused by wars over land, resources, and pride.

I'd like to end my reply by quoting your last paragraph and responding. You said:

"You mention Islam...guess what..Abrahamic faith..nearly identical in many ways to Christianity..yet, you make the distinction, that they are not, and that Islam is violent...Lets say for an moment your right...I'll use 9/11 as an example...19 men of Islamic faith fly planes into a building, killing 3000+ Our Christian country's answer..was it to turn the other cheek? Prosletize those that attacked us? Nope..we responded by indiscriminately killing more than a million...still want to say that Christianity is benign? Please."

First, Islam is NOT "nearly identical to Christianity". Have you ever even read the Qur'an? I've read it through 5 times and done all sorts of historical and grammatical studies on it. It is the 7th century version of North Korea -- with a dictator at its core, killing those who get in the "leader's" way. If you've ever read the Bible, you would know Jesus never advocates killing anyone for not accepting Christianity. Now, whether "leaders" after have used Christianity to do evil, that has little to do with Christianity. But Islam at its foundation and core is a death-cult.

Secondly, it has been a very long time since America has been a "Christian country". You might want to read some history on the Barbary Pirates so maybe you can begin to understand what America was facing and why we are STILL facing it. If any religion needs eradicating, it is Islam. However, how do you eradicate an entire way of life? A way of life IMPOSED upon people. Again, Islam spread by the sword, not by reason and optional acceptance. Just try to go to ANY Islamic country and preach any other "religion".

Again, I thank you for your comments. You apparently are bitter from your experience with "religion". I urge you to be more careful what you believe and who you follow. Not all the glistens is gold.

#2 DAMN SKIPPY! Preach it BRAAAA-THAA!! You don't intend to offend, but I do. The "writer" (I apologize to actual writers) uses the SAME old LAME cites used by other religiously blinded morons. Their own kind eat it up because they are too stupid to think for themselves. "Gots all i needs rights here in this ONE book that's (actually less than, not more than) 2000 years old."
You pathetic fools make me retch!

Great post......it's not even close, communism ALONE, RUSSIAN AND CHINESE, account for FAR more deaths than any religious war. And how does CONDONING slavery, as hideous as that is, equal CAUSING something???

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