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Thursday, July 24, 2014

Lies, Myths and Misinformation: Christianity Causes Wars

The application of the statement “religion causes wars” to Christianity is actually a double lie. 

One reason it’s a lie is because of the mere fact that Christianity is classified by its detractors as a “religion”, just the same as any other. You be the judge of whether or not that’s fair.

Secondly, it’s a lie because it’s not even true to say that the disparate group of things secular people call “religion” causes wars. It’s not just intuitively wrong, it’s statistically absurd. A few basic facts quickly blow this delusion out of the water.

First, Some Common Sense

To begin with, even intuitively the idea is really stupid. Consider the following list of things that historically have caused wars:

Secular Ideology

… and so on. You can add as you will.

Now, if you had to guess, which factors would you think would have caused the most wars?  And realistically speaking, where would you expect “religion” to be in such a list?

The Facts

But let’s add in some facts, just in case we worry our intuition has missed something.

There are cases of wars that contain a religious element in their motivation. The compendious, three-volume secular resource Encyclopedia of Wars* could find only 123 cases of wars throughout history that had any significant religious element in their motivation. Now, if that sounds like a lot, we’d best remember that there's been thousands of wars, and many far bigger than those with religious components. In fact, the potentially “religious” conflicts make up only 6.98% of all the wars recorded in the encyclopedia.

More than half of these were waged by nations with one religion — Islam. That leaves 3.23% of all of humanity’s wars to be accounted for by Buddhism, Hinduism, Judaism, Pantheism, Polytheism, etc., and Christianity.

Oh, but then, since the encyclopedia does not differentiate between Catholicism and Christianity, we have to strain out the statistics for things like the Crusades and Inquisitions … and what’s left is an indeterminately small statistic — so vanishingly small, in fact, that we cannot even determine it precisely.

So much for Christianity “causing wars”.

The Truth

Now, let’s look at what does cause wars. Begin with the fact that in the last century, more people died in war than in all previous historical wars combined. How many of those twentieth century wars were “religious”?  WWI? WWII? Korea? Vietnam? The Cold War? Cambodia?

Ummm … none of the above.

But what really did kill so many people? There have been 28 countries that have been verifiably ruled by atheists. More than half of these have murdered at least 20,000 of their own people. (Stalin and Mao killed vastly more.) In the last century, atheist regimes killed 148 million people. There is a 58% chance that an atheist leader will murder a sizeable percentage of his own population. And get this …

… the average atheist crime against humanity is 18.3 million percent worse that the single very worst case attributed by the encyclopedia to “Christians”.

And just in case you’re curious, by the way, the worst slaughter alleged to be a “Christian” one was the killing of Huguenot Protestants (i.e. actual Christians) by the Catholics of France in the St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre.


I think the reason so many people just accept that religions in general cause wars might be the realization that ideally, Christianity should never be a contributing factor to any wars — so even one is too many. Or it may be the press attention lavished on things like Northern Ireland or the Middle East.  However, we must always be careful when analyzing the cause of such conflicts, for too often things like territorialism, greed or racism use a religious face to sanctify their unholy causes. And the press is all too credulous of their sincerity when they claim, “Our cause is righteous”.

To be wiser than that, we always need to ask, “Is the primary motivation for this conflict really a religious one, or is religion merely being used here for propaganda purposes?” And a key deciding factor in judging that will be, “Are the actions of the combatants actually approved in their authoritative religious texts and sources?”

Now, we Christians follow One who said, “Love your enemies and pray for them”, “Do good to those who abuse you”, “Do not return evil for evil, but overcome evil with good”, and “My kingdom is not of this world”. If wars were ever caused in His name, then the problem surely was not that the soldiers were too Christian, but that they were not Christian enough.

So the next time someone says to you, “Yeah? Well, religion causes wars”, feel free to challenge that with confidence. And feel free to point out that the real greatest cause of human deaths in history has actually been avowedly-atheistic regimes.

And don’t just grant their point.

Reason and facts show us unequivocally: it’s just not true.

* Axelrod, Alan & Phillips, Charles, Encyclopedia of Wars, Facts on File, November 2004

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