One of the dilemmas the religious face, is accounting for the horrific atrocities of their religion whilst simultaneously holding on to the belief their faith is the product of a loving, moral creator. I can't say that I'm persuaded for instance, that a religion that spawned the crusades, inquisition, witch-trials and pogrom demonstrates any divine origin.
There is a type of theist who responds to this by arguing that atheism has killed more. This is done by cherry-picking some of the 20th C totalitarian states and the death toll these perpetuated. In effect, they are trying to justify the body count of their religion with the body count of other regimes.
- The argument is on one hand, simply offensive. The emergence of
totalitarian regimes in the early and mid-twentieth century were a
product of many factors. These factors were myriad- political economic,
military etc. Most importantly, such states ranged from true Christian
regimes (Mussolini, Franco) to Christian-influenced theism (Hitler)
German Wehrmacht belt-buckle with slogan "God with Us".
- The comparison also fails because the Communist regimes did not kill in the name of atheism. They killed because they identified some groups as being enemies of the state and targeted them. Atheism isn’t a political philosophy. It is not a synonym with Marxism.
- On the other hand, religions have killed in the name of their religion. Christians tortured and executed their neighbours for witchcraft because that’s exactly what their religion said to do. Torture was attendant to this to force a confession- so that the person’s soul could still be saved. It was a strange concern- Christian love- for the soul that made torture acceptable.
- The history of Islam since the days of the 4th Caliph Ali is one driven by sectarian violence.
The normally moderate 12th C Damascene historian ibn al-Qalanisi
describes the attacks on the Batinis in Damascus- adding with relish how
their slain bodies were just left in the streets for the dogs to
devour.The current stories of horrific
Two Bombs Kill 66 in Baquba, Iraq
- The third problem is the changes in technology are ignored. If the Crusaders had spandau machine-guns instead of swords and spears, the whole body-count comparison would look a lot different. It’s not even a fair comparison.