Dinesh d’Souza, a wonderful public thinker in our age, has written a great little article [http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/1121/p09s01-coop.html -Blogger seems to be tripping over links right now] confronting and dispelling one of the most widely disseminated falsehoods of our day: religion is one of the most violent and bloody things that has happened to humanity. According to such authors as Richard Dawkins, religion needs to be done away with and all will be well (read-Christianity especially needs to be done away with) .
The slogan is that religion has killed more people through the ages than anything else. D’Souza remarks:
The best example of religious persecution in America is the Salem witch trials. How many people were killed in those trials? Thousands? Hundreds? Actually, fewer than 25....It is strange to witness the passion with which some secular figures rail against the misdeeds of the Crusaders and Inquisitors more than 500 years ago. The number sentenced to death by the Spanish Inquisition appears to be about 10,000. Some historians contend that an additional 100,000 died in jail due to malnutrition or illness.
These figures are tragic, and of course population levels were much lower at the time. But even so, they are minuscule compared with the death tolls produced by the atheist despotisms of the 20th century. In the name of creating their version of a religion-free utopia, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong produced the kind of mass slaughter that no Inquisitor could possibly match. Collectively these atheist tyrants murdered more than 100 million people.
D’Souza goes on to make the observation, made by many, that more people have been killed in the name of atheism in the last 100 years than in all the religious conflicts in the last 2,000.
I am indebted to the CU philosophy grad student email list for this link and for this professors incisive response to D’Souza’s assertions:
The basic argument is that atheism has killed tons more people than religion.
(Okay, holding my tongue about that...)
It is not hard to hold your tongue when there is nothing intelligent to say in response except to repeat the tired old slogans about evil and bloody religion.