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Stalin and Mao
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3 months ago
stalin and mao
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Several things wrong with your analysis, CR01,
First, very few wars have actually been fought over religion, although many have been fought using religion as a rationalization and between countries with different and even hostile religions. The Crusades- often pointed to as an example by those hostile to religion generally and Christianity specifically- were essentially defensive wars fought against an expansionist entity that was a threat not because it represented a rival religion but an expansionist political entity. The Thirty Years War- probably the quintessential example of a European "religious war-" had at least as much to do with economics as with religion, and by the time it was over had both Protestant and Catholic nations on each side!
The same is true of most "religious wars." Behind them almost always stand economics or power rather than religious motivation. Certainly, there have been episodes of persecution for specifically religious reasons- the Inquisition, for example, or the other religious persecutions of that era- but it's naive in the extreme to think that the genocide of native populations in the Americas or Africa were actually motivated by anything other than financial gain and the desire for political and strategic power. Wikipedia being a wiki, is subject to ideological manipulation and should generally be taken with a grain of salt. Suffice it to say that none of the examples you have cited were actually religious in origin or nature at all. They simply used religion as a rationalization.
R.J. Rummel's study summarized on the University of Hawaii site currently estimates the victims of the Soviet Gulag state (most, though admittedly not all under Stalin) at 61,991,000. The current estimate for China (again, Mao is pretty much your man here) is 73,236,000. The combined total for the two regimes is 135,227,000. I'm not sure, btw, why deliberate mass starvations brought about as matters of policy should count any less than straight out ethnic cleansing.
That figure dwarfs the number of people ever killed in wars and persecutions whose motives were actually religious rather than economic and political but using religion as a justification (!). It even dwarfs the latter.
The argument that religion has been used as an excuse for genocide is undeniable. So is the argument that the behavior of religious people in history has been every bit as savage and un-Christlike as Christian theology would predict from sinners. (Cont.)
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I started to upvote - and then I wondered if that was actually true.
I believe the internal KGB figures were just under 40 million for Stalin, and if you ascribe say 60 million to Mao, the jump to beat is then about 100 million. These are generous numbers that take in the effects of willful starvations and the like.
The Crusades are sort of low at just 1-3 million, but they are only a small element on the counterbalance. For example it'd probably be fair to say Spanish colonial wars in the Americas were specifically guided heavily by the Roman Catholic ideology of saving the heathen (hmmm...), with conquest rationalized to fund it, and Wikipedia cites estimates running from 15 to 70,000,000 with a geometric mean of 34 million. And that's before we weight for the religious dimension of purportedly "secular" conflicts, let alone begin to count the religious wars elsewhere thoughout the non-Eurocentric world such as China, India, and Africa. They are quite a bit more than is generally known.
And once the numbers are leveled out better, the savagery is no less lacking, and in fact probably much greater, on the religious side. Random cite, Catholics in France I think slaughtered 100,000 Protestants on just the St Bartholomew's Day massacre (a modern Order 66 so to speak), and for a more qualitative example in another instance,
“Our men spared no one, irrespective of rank, sex or age, and put to the sword almost 20,000 people. After this great slaughter the whole city was despoiled and burnt, as Divine vengeance raged miraculously…” (“The History of the Albigensian Crusade”, Tr. W.A. Sibly & M.D. Sibly)
That was of course the war that famously gave us Rome's words, "Kill them all [ie. friend and "foe" alike] - God will know his own."
So both those two probably still beat out any of the popes individually, but history is long and wide, and just gauging by feel for the basic statistics, absent further looking, I'm not even close to sure your general statement is actually true and suspect it may more likely be false.
Do not forget to add Hitler. He was not of faith, he just used them to get what he wanted. He jailed and had killed priests and other religious leaders. See Dietrich Bonhoeffer who was the most known leader killed.
(Previous continued) But two things need to be kept in mind in any realistic analysis of the numbers. The first is that despite the intellectually dishonest tendency of neo-atheists to want to treat specifically "religion" differently than any other philosophy or ideology, the real question here is whether it's really true that religious people, and Christians generally, have been nearly as savage as those who believe that, in Mao's words, "power flows out of the barrel of a gun" and the highest ethical authority is the State. History clearly says the opposite. And secondly, the real issue here is the absurd claim that religion makes people more savage rather than less so. Even judging Christianity by the behavior of people who profess it, the record of those unconfined by religious considerations is far worse. And it's especially interesting that the regimes whose ideology has been specifically atheist generally teach the perfectability of man, whereas Christianity teaches his essential moral corruption. Those using Christianity as an excuse for savage behavior are certainly not conforming to Christian teachings, but they are acting as Christian theology would predict.
People don't commit mass murder or go to war for ideologies. To argue otherwise is naive. They go to war for profits, power, and material advantage. Idealism is often used as an excuse, but the actual motivation is generally the exact opposite.
However, none of that is what the meme argues. That point must be conceded. So finally my reply is that neither you nor anyone else is going to be able to come up with actual statistics showing that all the religious inquisitions and "religious" wars in history have resulted from the deaths of anywhere near 135,227,000 people. And I think that it's significant that despite arguing that point rhetorically, you yourself didn't really try.
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THESE TWO ATHEISTS ALONE... ...KILLED MORE PEOPLE THAN HAVE DIED IN ALL THE RELIGIOUS INQUISITIONS AND WARS IN HISTORY.
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