Email Question: Why have religious people killed more people than any other reason?
Back in 1996 I was sitting at an awards banquet receiving, as a representative for the physical education department at Grant Middle School, The California Governor’s Council on Physical Fitness and Sports award for excellence. At my table was my principal Julie Rich, Olympic decathlon gold medalist Bruce Jenner, gymnastics gold medalist Peter Vidmar, creator of Jazzercise Judi Missett, and television exercise guru Jack Lalanne. It was a star studded table as we shared lunch together.
During our meal, the conversation was dominated by the opinionated Jack Lalanne. He seemed to be a self proclaimed expert in multiple areas, including who is responsible for violence in this world. Jack very dogmatically proclaimed to the entire table, that religious belief was the greatest killer of human lives throughout history.
As I heard this proclamation, I knew in my heart I couldn’t let this go unchallenged. I looked at Jack and said I believe you have your facts wrong about religious beliefs and violence. I told him the greatest mass murders of all time were atheistic. According to the 1995 Guinness book of World Records, under mass killings, the worst killers of all time were Stalin, Lenin, Khrushchev, and Mao Zedong (Mao Tse-Tung), all atheists, who had over 100 million people murdered. I said religions have caused harm but they are not close to millions murdered by atheistic regimes.
The table went silent. This was incredible, especially since Jack had not been quiet the entire lunch. My principal looked at me as if I was from Mars. You see I had no star power and I just challenged one the most famous television personalities of all time. As I looked to my left, towards Vidmar and Missett, I could see both of them smiling. I had not only quieted Jack Lalanne for the first time during lunch but I had made a compelling factual counterclaim to his ramblings. After 5 seconds of silence, Lalanne quickly changed the subject and began spinning another tale, with himself as the focus.
What can a Christian learn from this incident? We need to be equipped to answer challenges to our beliefs. Through study I was prepared to give the facts; yes I had to show courage to speak up at the right moment, but knowing the facts gave me that courage. We all need to study and be prepared to share the truth with anyone and in all situations. I didn’t share in a nasty or inappropriate way; I simply quoted the facts from a book I had researched. At home I have a photo copy of the page from the Guinness book just in case I get my source challenged.
Are religious beliefs dangerous? They can be if the written beliefs support violence and the leaders promote it. The Bible records violence but doesn’t support it. Nowhere in the New Testament do you see verses that promote any sort of violence. And the main leader of Christianity, Jesus Christ, told us to love our enemies.
Atheism on the other hand doesn’t directly promote violence but doesn’t have any objective reasons to prevent it. If atheism is right and God doesn’t exist, then objective morals don’t exist and atheistic governments are free to do what they want. Hence, you open the door for communist regimes to murder millions.