Many atheists will argue that religion is the problem for all the violence, suffering and wars we face in the world. The atheist, however, does have a point. It is true that suffering is brought on by religious extremists.
An interesting source on this is Philip and Axelrod’s three volume work called the Encyclopedia of Wars that records some 1763 wars over human history. Their research found that of those wars only 123 are wholly religious in nature which constitutes only 6.98% of all wars. Excluding religious wars waged in the name of Islam that drops to 3.23%.
History shows that mostly non-religious motivations are responsible for mankind’s wars. Atheism also doesn’t escape here as some of the worst atrocities have been committed by governments and individuals of an atheistic outlook. For example, the lives lost under atheistic regimes is staggering as seen in Joseph Stalin (42 672 000 lives lost), Mai Zedong (37 828 000), Chiang Kai-shek (10 214 000), Vladimir Lenin (4 017 000), and Pol Pot (2 397 000). Commentator Joe Heschmeyer writes that “you’ll find three anti-religious states: Communist China, the USSR, and Nazi Germany. These three alone were responsible for an estimated 130,000,000 victims, which dwarfs the number of people killed in the name of all religions throughout all of history. And that number doesn’t even take into account the millions killed by Pol Pot’s Khmer Rogue, the Communist North Korean regime, or the Derg (the Ethiopian Communist state, headed by Mengistu Haile Mariam)” (2)
Christian writer Tyler Vela is of a similar view, commenting that “It is no small thing that the most secular century has been, hands down, the bloodiest century in human history – a fulfillment of Nietzsche’s dark prediction that the death of belief God would mark the beginning of the most violent era in human history. People would replace their faith in God with faith in the state – “barbaric nationalistic brotherhoods” as he called them” (3). In fact, atheist writer John Steinrucken agrees with Tyler that “Those secular attempts for utopia, when actually put to the test, have not merely come to naught. Attempts during those two centuries to put into practice utopian visions have caused huge sufferings” (4).
1. Axelrod, A. & Phillips, C. 2004. Encyclopedia of Wars.
2. Heschmeyer , J. 2015. Is religion responsible for the world’s violence? Available.
3. Vela, T. 2012. Secularism’s Ongoing Debt to Christianity. Available.
4. Steinrucken, J. 2010. Secularism’s Ongoing Debt to Christianity. Available.