War

“My Sunday school teachers had turned Bible narrative into children’s fables. They talked about Noah and the ark because the story had animals in it. They failed to mention that this was when God massacred all of humanity” ― Donald Miller.

A lot of people have died in religious wars – which leads many to decry religion as a source of violence. Religious apologists retaliate by pointing fingers at the ‘atheists’ Hitler, Stalin and Mao. This debate as to who was responsible for more deaths – the religious or atheists – is spirited and ultimately meaningless.

Conflict and violence are written into man’s DNA. As is family, clan and tribe – and ultimately nation. War is fought by some group against another group to achieve some end.

With that in mind let’s do a thought experiment. Let’s take Stalin. He was religious as a boy and rejected religion. He can safely be called an atheist. Hitler might have been an atheist, but the Nazis dripped with Christian iconography and rituals, so the Third Reich is hard to pin down.

It is also harder to pin the atheist label on Mao. Chinese religion has never been God-driven in the way the West understands it. Ancestor worship – rather than a single God – underpins Chinese spiritual life. So, by western lights, the Chinese are atheists, but by their own standards they can be quite religious.

So Stalin it is. And here’s the question. Did atheism drive his violence and bloodlust? Or if he were born into different circumstances – say the Inquisition – would he have embraced the religious justification for subjugation?

Look at it from the other direction. The Crusaders fought for God; that is undeniable (even if it didn’t hurt that a little loot came their way). But what if this same group had been born in Attila the Hun’s world. Is it reasonable to assume they would have been equally happy to fight for conquest?

It is obvious. It isn’t religion – or rejection of religion – that sparks the fight. It is only that religion sometimes provides the cause and that sometimes the cause lies elsewhere. Man will fight for God or something else – if he is born in a time and place conducive to fighting and something to fight for.

Take the Civil War. There were deeply religious men on both sides. There were other men, whose relationship with the Divine was more casual. And there were a few who were atheists. The War was not religious, but it sure involved a lot of Christians who found justification for their action in the Bible.

Great evil expressed in great violence needs a figurehead. For the religious it is the celestial God. For others, it is a terrestrial godhead.

If the 20th century was the playground of a secular totalitarianism, then the 21st century belongs to the religious fanatic. Africa and the Middle East are today’s hot spots for violence. And the violence is exclusively the province of a fanatical flavor of Islam.

However, lest the Christians in the congregation congratulation themselves for rising above this sort of religious nonsense, consider this. In the 1990s, the Christian Hutus slaughtered 800,000 Islamic Tutsis in the Rwandan genocide. All with the active encouragement of the church.

So do more people die in the name of God or not? The answer is thus. Millions have died in the name of God. Millions more have died to further the megalomaniacal machinations of tyrants. But what cannot be claimed is that millions have been killed to further the interests of atheism.

This time God did the violence  himself.

An early example of God doing the violence directly.

 

 

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