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. RELATED ARTICLE

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.



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.



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