atheism is bad


Humanity did more politically motivated killing in the 20th century under atheistic regimes than in the previous 19 centuries combined.

In a conversation stemming from my recent post about the blood lust of the Christian faith, Pastor James Miller made the above shocking statement. Given that this strikes me as something that might be commonly spread around, in order to smear the good name of fine atheistic natural and logical ‘morals’, I thought it would be worth investigating the charge further.

Undoubtedly the ‘atheistic regimes’ referred to include Stalin and Pol Pot, who were responsible for the deaths of an estimated 20 million and 2 million people respectively. The shameful list also includes 10s of millions of deaths under Chairman Mao in China.  There’s really no escaping the brutality and horrendous violence exercised by these power-absorbed and empathy-blinkered atheist men.  But what is the significance of their atheism?  How narrow a definition of ‘politically motivated killing’ do we follow?  Aren’t all deaths that result from following the ideologies of individual leaders political?

Theistic Hitler was responsible for the deaths of between 4 and 17 million from his extermination programme alone. Mass murder directed by those of a religious persuasion has continued through the 20th century in Nigeria (1-3 million), Rwanda (1 million), Afghanistan (1 to 2 million) and all over the world.

These huge murder rates are clearly much higher from the 20th century onwards due to the increase in global population, the increasingly organised nature of society, and technological advances in terms of transport and weapons.  It goes without saying that such vast numbers of deaths couldn’t have been achieved in previous centuries.

Well, not exactly. Between 20 and 100 million people are estimated to have died as a result of the religiously-motivated Taiping Rebellion in 19th century China, the medieval Mongol Conquests killed 30 to 60 million people, around 5 million died as a result of the Napoleonic Wars, the 15th century French Wars of Religion killed 3 million people, and the Crusades resulted in the region of 2 million deaths. (very useful tables found in Wikipedia

Coming back to the original quote, I’m not going to add up all the numbers, because I’m lazy, and a quick glance tells me that the ‘atheistic regimes’ haven’t done a whole lot more killing that the good religious folks.  I’ve come to the conclusion, as many a person before me, that there is always a space for an ideological nutter to come along and incite enough irrational fear and hatred in their fellow human beings to commit acts of all too common, yet unimaginable, violence.  Religion, or lack thereof, tells you nothing about the ‘moral standards’ or logical thinking abilities of the individuals involved.

Besides, this sort of accusation against atheists is a bit rich coming from Christians, whose chosen deity clearly relishes in and, unfortunately, promotes acts of vengeful genocide:

When the Lord your God brings you into the land you are entering to possess and drives out before you may nations…then you must destroy them totally. Make no treaty with them and show them no mercy.

Now go, attack the Amalekites and totally destroy everything that belongs to them. Do not spare them; put to death men and women, children and infants, cattle and sheep, camels and donkeys.