War & Religion: Sam Harris' Claim

Something that Atheist often try to assert is that Religion is the main cause of death and war in Human History. Sam Harris, says in his book The End of Faith that faith and religion are “the most prolific source of violence in our history.”1

While there’s no denying that campaigns such as the Crusades and the Thirty Years’ War foundationally rested on religious ideology, it is simply incorrect to assert that religion has been the primary cause of war. Moreover, although there’s also no disagreement that radical Islam was the spirit behind 9/11, it is a fallacy to say that all faiths contribute equally where religiously-motivated violence and warfare are concerned.

In their recently published book, Encyclopedia of Wars, authors Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod document the history of recorded warfare. They list off 1763 wars of which 123 have been classified to involve a religious cause, accounting for less than 7% of all wars and less than 2% of all history’s war deaths.

Half of these wars were Islamic, leaving some 3% of history’s wars attributable to some religious cause other than Islam.

Religion does not even register among the major motivations for murders.

Mass Murder
The worst mass murderers of history have been communist dictators securing power. The worst two alone, Stalin and Mao, killed more people than all the religious violence of all human history.

Even terrorism is not primarily religiously motivated. Most acts of terrorism are committed by political separatists, and even animal rights activists commit more acts of terrorism annually than religiously-motivated terrorists.

Non-Religious Dictator Lives Lost

  • Joseph Stalin - 42,672,000
  • Mao Zedong - 37,828,000
  • Adolf Hitler - 20,946,000
  • Chiang Kai-shek - 10,214,000
  • Vladimir Lenin - 4,017,000
  • Hideki Tojo - 3,990,000
  • Pol Pot - 2,397,000

Some Scripture to reflect on: 

“For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulteries, deeds of coveting and wickedness, as well as deceit, sensuality, envy, slander, pride and foolishness. All these evil things proceed from within and defile the man,” (Mark 7:21–23).

“What is the source of quarrels and conflicts among you? Is not the source your pleasures that wage war in your members? You lust and do not have; so you commit murder. You are envious and cannot obtain; so you fight and quarrel,” (James 4:1–2).

It's false to claim that Religion produces hate, mass war and murder in some quantity that Sam Harris claims. The fall and the human heart is the cause of war. In fact, later in other articles, we will explore the Psychology behind Religion. 





http://books.google.com/books?id=sK5CJFpb2DAC&pg=PA23&lpg=PA23&dq=stalin+42,672,000&source=bl&ots=Tw7FJG9OnR&sig=aSUiodXqC4euU2UTyVNlnFkwyRE&hl=en&sa=X&ei=fc2KT7rnNcipgwe9tL3mCQ&ved=0CFMQ6AEwBw#v=onepage&q=stalin%2042%2C672%2C000&f=false and http://books.google.com/books?id=mbnLn6A3q-4C&pg=PA178&lpg=PA178&dq=Zedong+37,828,000&source=bl&ots=-VlfCns1xy&sig=2TrcOYMxZTjr653ULLdNkIkltwU&hl=en&sa=X&ei=2c6KT-G7BYGXgwf63-3kCQ&ved=0CEsQ6AEwBg#v=onepage&q=Zedong%2037%2C828%2C000&f=false