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August 20, 2007

Comments

Chris Todd

In doing research I came across some interesting statistics. If you combine all of the people killed during the crusades, the witch hunts and the Inquisition, you get between 1.5 and 2 million. That's appalling. But if you add up all the people killed in the various Communist countries, you get 110 million. That's 55 times the number killed by the churches. And the atrocities committed under athetistic regimes were all done in one century, whereas the others were spread over several. That argues that an ideology need not be "relgious" to provoke violence. Further, since the organized Christian violence resulted in just 2% of the deaths that thoroughly secular governments did, statistically it appears that Christianity actually has a restraining effect on the abuse of power... perhaps because one really has to twist its theology and ethics to justify killing people in the name of self-sacrificial Divine Love.

Raymond Takashi Swenson

I am a native of Japan, where my mother grew up in a Russian Orthodox family. About 1% of Japanese are Christians. Unlike Korea, where the trauma of Japanese conquest and then of the Korean War has led to rapid growth of Christian and quasi-Christian (e.g. Unification Church, AKA "Moonies")churches, Japan has a dedicated secularity that has concentrated more on identity as Japanese rather than as Buddhist or Shintoist (native animism akin to Native American religions). The Japanese Army conducted incredibly brutal violence on people in Korea, China and the Philippines, without religion ever entering into it. Nationalism and a belief in the superiority of the Japanese race, without any specific belief in the afterlife, motivated massacres and kamikaze attacks. No heaven was necessary. Not even an international utopian vision like Communism was needed. Just Japanese people thinking of themselves as the best of all possible nations. Just overweaning pride, hubris without gods.

Looking back, this motive for conquest seems to have been the one that animated Menelaus at Troy, the Greeks and Macedonians under Alexander, the Romans, the Mongols, and the various Germanic tribes that are ancestors of modern Europe. It motivated the Aztecs and the Maya and the Inca. Neither Christianity, Islam nor Judaism is needed to created conquest and brutality. To the contrary, until those religions began to make inroads on how people behaved, no one thought that the world could or should be different. Are in fact the people who are most obedient to religious belief actually a threat, or is it people who might use a veneer of religion to sanctify their own ambition and tribalism, as the Ku Klux Klan did? Their use of a burning cross was both a mockery of Christianity and an adoption of the same use of the cross as was made by the Romans: to threaten and intimidate. What passage in the Sermon on the Mount tells men to wear masks and murder people of other races? What verse in Paul's epistles invites Christians to give vent to their lusts for power, wealth and sexual conquest? It is in fact the opposite. It asks Christians to reject the ordinary behavior of the world around them, and become holy, set apart, a slave of God rather than of their lusts and ambition. The short letter to Philemon asks him to lay aside the legal status of his slave, Onesimus, and instead accept him as a brother in the worship of Christ. It exhorts Philemon to love and tolerance, instead of the violence which Roman law said was his right as a master. Jesus spoke about the hypocrisy of those who claim to be more righteous than others, but who disobey God's laws enjoining justice and love, highlighted by the parable of the Good Samaritan. The source of intolerance and violence is in men, without any help. It is their natural state. If we are lucky, they allow religious belief to change their nature.

david ellis

The difference between the west and the islamic world is simple. The west had the Enlightenment and the islamic world has yet to go through anything similar.


But if you add up all the people killed in the various Communist countries, you get 110 million. That's 55 times the number killed by the churches. And the atrocities committed under athetistic regimes were all done in one century, whereas the others were spread over several. That argues that an ideology need not be "relgious" to provoke violence.


Of course not. Only a fool would claim otherwise. Violent fanaticism can come in secular forms as easily as in religious ones.


Further, since the organized Christian violence resulted in just 2% of the deaths that thoroughly secular governments did, statistically it appears that Christianity actually has a restraining effect on the abuse of power


That doesn't follow at all. There are simply too many complex variables involved to come to that conclusion so easily.


one really has to twist its theology and ethics to justify killing people in the name of self-sacrificial Divine Love.


That partly depends of the particular variety of christianity, of course. But it doesn't seem to me that religious views involving the idea that most of humanity will be tortured for eternity (and, yes, I know not all christians hold this view) or that believe God wouldn't extend divine forgiveness to humanity til a truly innocent being was tortured to death require a huge amount of twisting to become a basis for violence.

Gabriel Mckee

"The difference between the west and the islamic world is simple. The west had the Enlightenment and the islamic world has yet to go through anything similar."

Actually, I think the differences between the West and the Islamic World are anything but simple. They're enormously complex, and we ignore that complexity at everyone's peril. My point is that the likes of Sam Harris are in total agreement with Bush that America's history of colonial involvement is unimportant in today's international relations, which is simply false.

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