Does “Religion” Cause Wars and Death?

In interactions with unbelievers, it’s common for the phrase “religion has caused so many wars and deaths” to come up in the conversation. This is aimed primarily at Christianity because of popular misconceptions concerning the Crusades. The problem is, it is a factually baseless and persistent myth.

The 20th century (1900-2000) was by far the bloodiest century in all of recorded history.  It has been called the “Genocidal Century.” Historians refer to this aspect of this period as a “Hemoclysm” (“blood flow”).  By taking a look at the lives taken during the 20th century we can get a more accurate picture of the true motivations for the killing of other human beings. The 20th century has seen 180,000,000 people murdered. Here is a summary of  just the top five “killers” of the 20th century which account for 150,000,00 of those deaths.

1) World War I, 15 million (Geopolitical)
2) Russian Civil War, 9 million (Lenin: 4 million) (political)
3) Stalin’s purges, 25 million (consolidation of political power)
4) World War II, 50 million (Geopolitical)
5) Mao Zedong (Cultural Revolution in China), 50 million.

These are ONLY the top five 20th century totals, caused by atheists and for geopolitical secular reasons. Lets add in some others:

Mongol Conquests: 35-40,000,000 deaths
African Slave trade: 20,000,000 deaths
Taiping Rebellion: 20,000,000 deaths

Now, let’s take a look at deaths caused by religion.  The first thing you will notice is how far back you have to go to hit some significant numbers:

All Crusades (both sides, Christian and Muslim) 900,000-1,000,000 deaths
The Inquisition: 250-350,000 deaths
Salem Witch Trials: 19 deaths
30 Years War – 7,000,000 (arguably geopolitical reasons, with religious undertones)

Deaths due to “religion:” approx. 1.3 million ( 8.3 million if you count the 30 Years War)

While any death of a human being in the name of Christ or religion is a moral travesty, the popular notion that “more people have been killed in the name of religion . . .”  is  is pure nonsense. Deaths due to “religious reasons” are less than 1% (5.5% if including the 30 Years War) of the top five secular or atheists murderers of the 20th century. The 20th century secularists and atheists make everyone else look like amateurs in the war and death department.

So the next time you are at a party or in a dialog with an unbeliever and this tired cliché is brought out, respond with some facts. A lie, if repeated often enough, becomes truth in the minds of hearers.

I am indebted to William Suttles, Ph.D., Raleigh, NC,  for source data.

Copyright 2011 Dr. Stephen R. Crosby Permission to copy, forward, or distribute this article is granted as long as this copyright byline is maintained in all duplications, copies, and link references.

7 comments on “Does “Religion” Cause Wars and Death?

  1. Article was interesting. To note, WW II was religious in essence. Hitler took his Aryan philosophy from Hegel and also from Hinduism, which is inherently Aryan. At war’s end at least 3OO dead Yogi’s were found in his mountaintop fortress.
    Erwin Lutzer has done extensive work and published on this.
    Last year the head of our Vet’s outreach in the agency educated the staff on war. Brought out that in last 5000 yrs. of recorded history only about 2OO yrs. were without war.
    Incidentally I believe war is a result of the fall and only benefits the Devil.

  2. It is so illogical to take a minor premise and draw a conclusion. thanks for putting the facts on the table. However, there are those who prefer to expound some hypothesis and then try to find or manufacture ‘evidence” to support it! The real reason for wars is..religion!!!! Really.

    i find some insight in the letter of James,

    1 Where do wars and fights come from among you? Do they not come from your desires for pleasure that war in your members? 2 You lust and do not have. You murder and covet and cannot obtain. You fight and war. Yet you do not have because you do not ask. 3 You ask and do not receive, because you ask amiss, that you may spend it on your pleasures. 4Adulterers and adulteresses! Do you not know that friendship with the world is enmity with God? Whoever therefore wants to be a friend of the world makes himself an enemy of God. James 4: 1-4

    Lust!!! There it is in one word..or to quote a distinguished lady: (I think you know her, Stephen) “there are only three reasons, the lust of the flesh, the lust of the eye and the vain glory of life.”

    I would contend that even in the case of “religious” wars the underlying reason or cause is one or all three of the above.

  3. I have been “non-plussed” at the assertion that “religion has caused so many wars and death”, having not done the math. I appreciate those numbers and will employ them in my next discussion of this topic. Thanks.

  4. Realy religious wars are baseless and have no meanings on a godly side. After all, they don’t believe in salvation to trust the Lord Jesus and receive Him as their personal savior. Who ever is out of Christ is lost, and there is no gain in what you fight for.
    But we born again Christians, don’t fight physically but ours comes at the cost of Christ Himself to let us fit for the kindom of God, fighting the spiritual warfare but not carnal. So we fight like Christ fought the devil at His death to overcome in the spiritual world. For it is a very good article please, i have loved it so much please.

    May God bless you much.

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