In the recent years many atheists and secular humanists have consistently made claims that religion is the number one cause of violence and war throughout the history of mankind. One of hate theism’s key cheerleaders, Sam Harris, says in his book The End of Faith that faith and religion are “the most prolific source of violence in our history.”
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 attacks, it is a fallacy to say that all faiths contribute equally where religiously-motivated violence and warfare are concerned.
An interesting source of truth on the matter is Philip and Axelrod’s three-volume Encyclopedia of Wars, which chronicles some 1,763 wars that have been waged over the course of human history. Of those wars, the authors categorize 123 as being religious in nature, which is an astonishingly low 6.98% of all wars. However, when one subtracts out those waged in the name of Islam (66), the percentage is cut by more than half to 3.23%.
That means that all faiths combined – minus Islam – have caused less than 4% of all of humanity’s wars and violent conflicts. Further, they played no motivating role in the major wars that have resulted in the most loss of life.
The simple truth is, non-religious motivations and naturalistic philosophies bear the blame for nearly all of humankind’s wars. Lives lost during religious conflict pales in comparison to those experienced during the regimes who wanted nothing to do with the idea of God – something showcased in R. J. Rummel’s work Lethal Politics and Death by Government:
Below we see the lives lost by Non-Religious Dictators in the history of humanity:
- 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
The historical evidence is quite clear: Religion is not the number one cause of war.
Now, if religion can’t be blamed for most wars and violence, then what is the primary cause?
Jesus provides the answer very clearly: “For from within, out of the heart of men, proceed the evil thoughts, fornications, thefts, murders, adulterers, 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).
James (naturally) agrees with Christ when he says: “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).
The world should be regarded as a family. The Good Lord himself created man in his image, for man to love one another. The heart of man is filled with the things that trigger all crime, cruelty, violence and loss of life such as the quest for fame, money, wealth, sex, property, and prowess coupled with pride, arrogance, disregard for the existence of a supreme creator of the heavens and the earth.
We should put aside our insatiable quest for wealth and fame and learn to be tolerant and respect other people’s lives and dignity irrespective of one’s religious origin.
In the end, the evidence shows that the atheists are quite wrong about the wars they claim to so desperately despise.
Sin, wickedness and the huge appetite and desire to gain wealth and fame is the number one cause of war and terrorism today.
Let’s all change our perspectives by respecting the lives of others so that the world will be a better place for us all!