The terrible things that religion and Christianity in particular have done is ably summarized by Richard Dawkins when he says:

“Imagine with John Lennon, a world with no religion. Imagine, no suicide bombers, no 9/11, no 7/7, no Crusades, no witch-hunts, no Gunpowder Plot, no Indian partition, no Israeli/Palestinian wars, no Serb/Croat/Muslim massacres, no persecution of Jews as ‘Christ killers’, no Northern Ireland ‘troubles’, no honour killings’, no shiny-suited bouffant-haired televangelists fleecing gullible people of their money (‘God wants you to give till it hurts’). Imagine no Taliban to blow up ancient statues, no public beheadings of blasphemers, no flogging of female skin for the crime of showing one inch of it.” [1]

He is saying is that if we just got rid of religion all the evils that he listed and many more would be gone and when you think about it he has a got a point. Religious people and people that call themselves Christians have done and continue to do some terrible things and so if we just get rid of religion wouldn’t all our problems be gone?

But one of the things that popular atheist writers like Dawkins don’t admit is that the 20th century is the most bloody century in the history of the world and the men that led their countries to partake in this bloodshed were mostly atheists.  Here is what noted agnostics philosopher David Berlinski says:

In the early days of the German advance into Eastern Europe, before the possibility of Soviet retribution even entered their untroubled imagination, Nazi extermination squads would sweep into villages, and after forcing the villagers to dig their own graves, murder their victims with machine guns.  On one such occasion somewhere in Eastern Europe, an SS officer watched languidly, his machine gun cradled, as an elderly and bearded Hasidic Jew laboriously dug what he knew to be his grave.

Standing up straight, he addressed his executioner.  “God is watching what you are doing,” he said.

And then he was shot dead.

What Hitler did not believe and what Stalin did not believe and what Mao did not believe and what the SS did not believe and what the Gestapo did not believe and what the NKVD did not believe and what the commissars, functionaries, swaggering executioners, Nazi doctors, Communist Party theoreticians, intellectuals, Brown Shirts, Black Shirts, gauleiters, and a thousand party hacks did not believe was that God was watching what they were doing.

And as far as we can tell, very few of those carrying out the horrors of the twentieth century worried overmuch that God was watching what they were doing either.

That is, after all, the meaning of a secular society.[2]

If we are being honest with ourselves both Christianity and atheism has got blood on its hands. So what are we to say then?

All we can say is this proves neither that Christianity nor atheism is worse for the world but that there is human evil that is waiting for an ideological spark to ignite it. Human evil could be ignited by a form of fundamentalist Islam or it could be ignited by a wacky cult that calls themselves Christian or it could be ignited by extreme atheism.  This is what the Oxford professor Alistair McGrath says:

The reality of the situation is that human beings are capable of both violence and moral excellence—and that both these may be provoked by worldviews, whether religious or otherwise. It is not a comfortable insight, but one that alerts us to the shortcomings and dangers of identifying any one people group as the source of violence and the ills of humanity. It may facilitate scapegoating; it hardly advances the cause of civilization.[3]

Will the world be a better place if we get rid of religion? We really need to look at whether religion has actually done any good in the world before we answer this vital question.

But that my friends is another blog…..

[1] – Richard Dawkins, The God Delusion (Boston: Mariner Books, 2006), 23-4.

[2] David Berlinski, The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and its Scientific Pretensions, (New York: Crown Forum, 2008), 26-27. You may be thinking that there is no way the New Atheists would ever condone killing people because of of their beliefs I will leave you with this quote from Sam Harris “Some propositions are so dangerous that it may even be ethical to kill people for believing them. This may seem an extraordinary claim, but it merely enunciates an ordinary fact about the world in which we live.” Sam Harris, The End of Faith: Religion, Terror, and the Future of Reason, pp.52-53.

[3] Alistair Mcgrath, The Dawkins Delusion?: Atheist Fundamentalism and the Denial of the Divine (2007), 49

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