Dinesh D Souza, The Greatness of Christianity: Table of Contents
Cf. Dinesh D’souza, What’s So Great About Christianity, at Amazon
“Without God and the future life? How will man be after that? It means everything is permitted now.” —Fyodor Dostoevsky, The Brothers Karamazov
WHILE THEY REGULARLY FAULT RELIGION for its role in promoting conflict and violence, secular writers rarely examine the role of atheism in producing wars and killing. It’s interesting that we routinely hear about how much historical suffering religion has caused, but we seldom hear about how much suffering atheism has caused. Five hundred years after the Inquisition, we are still talking about it, but less than two decades after the collapse of “godless Communism” there is an eerie silence about the mass graves of the Soviet Gulag. Why the absence of accountability? Does atheism mean never having to say you are sorry?
Atheist writers who take up the question concede that atheists, like religious people, sometimes do terrible things. According to Richard Dawkins, “What matters is … whether atheism systematically influences people to do bad things. There is not the smallest evidence that it does.” In other words, “Individual atheists may do evil things but they don’t do evil things in the name of atheism.” Physicist Steven Weinberg concedes that scientific atheism “has made its own contributions to the world’s sorrows” but “where the authority of science has been invoked to justify horrors, it really has been in terms of perversions of science.”In this chapter, I want to focus on the really big crimes that have been committed by atheist groups and governments. In the past hundred years or so, the most powerful atheist regimes—Communist Russia, Communist China, and Nazi Germany—have wiped out people in astronomical numbers. Stalin was responsible for around twenty million deaths, produced through mass slayings, forced labor camps, show trials followed by firing squads, population relocation and starvation, and so on. Jung Chang and Jon Halliday’s authoritative recent study Mao: The Unknown Story attributes to Mao Zedong’s regime a staggering seventy million deaths. Some China scholars think Chang and Halliday’s numbers are a bit high, but the authors present convincing evidence that Mao’s atheist regime was the most murderous in world history. Stalin’s and Mao’s killings—unlike those of, say, the Crusades or the Thirty Years’ War—were done in peacetime and were performed on their fellow countrymen. Hitler comes in a distant third with around ten million murders, six million of them Jews.
So far, I haven’t even counted the assassinations and slayings ordered by other Soviet dictators like Lenin, Khrushchev, Brezhnev, and so on. Nor have I included a host of “lesser” atheist tyrants: Pol Pot, Enver Hoxha, Nicolae Ceausescu, Fidel Castro, Kim Jong-il. Even these “minor league” despots killed a lot of people. Consider Pol Pot, who was the leader of the Khmer Rouge, the Communist Party faction that ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979. Within this four-year period Pol Pot and his revolutionary ideologues engaged in systematic mass relocations and killings that eliminated approximately one-fifth of the Cambodian population, an estimated 1.5 million to 2 million people. In fact, Pol Pot killed a larger percentage of his countrymen than Stalin and Mao killed of theirs.5 Even so, focusing only on the big three—Stalin, Hitler, and Mao—we have to recognize that atheist regimes have in a single century murdered more than one hundred million people.
Religion-inspired killing simply cannot compete with the murders perpetrated by atheist regimes. I recognize that population levels were much lower in the past, and that it’s much easier to kill people today with sophisticated weapons than it was in previous centuries with swords and arrows. Even taking higher population levels into account, atheist violence surpasses religious violence by staggering proportions. Here is a rough calculation. The world’s population rose from around 500 million in 1450 AD to 2.5 billion in 1950, a fivefold increase. Taken together, the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the witch burnings killed approximately 200,000 people. Adjusting for the increase in population, that’s the equivalent of one million deaths today. Even so, these deaths caused by Christian rulers over a five-hundred-year period amount to only 1 percent of the deaths caused by Stalin, Hitler and Mao in the space of a few decades.