Atheism, Government and Killing

It is often claimed by atheists, misotheists and Christophobes that religion is the world’s biggest killer. There are two major problems with this. First, by lumping all religions together, we get a very distorted picture of religious killing. The truth is, not all religions are the same.

Some religions indeed thrive and advance by killing. Islam is the most obvious example of this. For 1400 years it has spread by the edge of the sword – or today, by means of airplanes or murder/suicide belts. But most of these critics really have something like Christianity in mind.

They tend to be silent when it comes to Muslim atrocities and mass murder, but spend all their time on supposed Christian crimes and misdemeanours. It is certainly true that much mischief has been done in the name of Christianity, and many have died at the hands of those claiming to be followers of Christ.

But the number are often grossly exaggerated. Take for example the witchcraft trials. Critics claim that the church burned five million women as witches over the centuries. But some of the most recent estimates put the number of people killed for witchcraft at about 150 to 300 per year throughout all of Europe and North America, three-quarters of whom were women.

Over a period of about 300 years, this comes to 30-100,000 people. That is a lot of deaths, and they should not have taken place. But compare deaths in the name of atheism. That in fact is my second point. The number of people killed in the name of Christianity pales into insignificance when held up against the number killed by godless, atheistic regimes.

Atheism is the world’s greatest killer, bar none. Plenty of research has gone into this. Consider just one piece of scholarship. R.J. Rummel is professor emeritus of political science at the University of Hawaii, and has spent his career collecting data on all this. Indeed, he coined a term, “democide” to describe murder by governments.

Image of Death by Government: Genocide and Mass Murder Since 1900
Death by Government: Genocide and Mass Murder Since 1900 by R. J. Rummel (Author) Amazon logo

In 1994 his important book Death By Government was released (Transaction Publishers). In it he argues that over 169 million people were murdered by governments in the 20th century. Of those most were atheistic regimes. For example, the Soviets murdered some 62 million, the Chinese communists, 35 million, and the Nazis, 21 million.

In an article written a year earlier, he defines democide: “It means for governments what murder means for an individual under municipal law. It is the premeditated killing of a person in cold blood, or causing the death of a person through reckless and wanton disregard for their life. Thus, a government incarcerating people in a prison under such deadly conditions that they die in a few years is murder by the state – democide – as would parents letting a child die from malnutrition and exposure be murder.

“So would government forced labor that kills a person within months or a couple of years be murder. So would government created famines that then are ignored or knowingly aggravated by government action be murder of those who starve to death. And obviously, extrajudicial executions, death by torture, government massacres, and all genocidal killing be murder.

“However, judicial executions for crimes that internationally would be considered capital offenses, such as for murder or treason (as long as it is clear that these are not fabricated for the purpose of executing the accused, as in communist show trials), are not democide. Nor is democide the killing of enemy soldiers in combat or of armed rebels, nor of noncombatants as a result of military action against military targets.

He also said this: “With the passing of communism into history as an ideological alternative to democracy it is time to do some accounting of its human costs. Few would deny any longer that communism – Marxism-Leninism and its variants – meant in practice bloody terrorism, deadly purges, lethal gulags and forced labor, fatal deportations, man-made famines, extrajudicial executions and show trials, and genocide.”

He concludes his article as follows: “As a government’s power is more unrestrained, as its power reaches into all the corners of culture and society, and as it is less democratic, then the more likely it is to kill its own citizens. There is more than a correlation here. As totalitarian power increases, democide multiplies until it curves sharply upward when totalitarianism is near absolute. As a governing elite has the power to do whatever it wants, whether to satisfy its most personal desires, to pursue what it believes is right and true, it may do so whatever the cost in lives. In this case power is the necessary condition for mass murder. Once an elite have it, other causes and conditions can operated to bring about the immediate genocide, terrorism, massacres, or whatever killing an elite feels is warranted.

“Finally, at the extreme of totalitarian power we have the greatest extreme of democide. Communist governments have almost without exception wielded the most absolute power and their greatest killing (such as during Stalin’s reign or the height of Mao’s power) has taken place when they have been in their own history most totalitarian. As most communist governments underwent increasing liberalization and a loosening of centralized power in the 1960s through the 1980s, the pace of killing dropped off sharply.

“Communism has been the greatest social engineering experiment we have ever seen. It failed utterly and in doing so it killed over 100,000,000 men, women, and children, not to mention the near 30,000,000 of its subjects that died in its often aggressive wars and the rebellions it provoked. But there is a larger lesson to be learned from this horrendous sacrifice to one ideology. That is that no one can be trusted with power. The more power the center has to impose the beliefs of an ideological or religious elite or impose the whims of a dictator, the more likely human lives are to be sacrificed. This is but one reason, but perhaps the most important one, for fostering liberal democracy.”

The figures speak for themselves. The state is the world’s greatest killer, but primarily atheistic communist states. When it comes to killing people, all religions combined over two millennia do not compare with what godless government has done in just one century.

Yet I keep getting the God-haters coming out with foolish remarks such as the one I noticed just the other day: “Atheists don’t commit as much crime as the religious do”. Um, duh! That is really helpful. Guess what bud? Atheists don’t sleep as much as the religious do.

Atheists don’t eat as much as the religious do. Atheists don’t talk as much as the religious do. Atheists don’t walk as much as the religious do. All that for the simple reason that there are far more religious folks in the world than atheists – always have been. So of course atheists do less of everything, whether good or evil.

The simple facts on all this are quite clear: the greatest killing machine in history comes in the form of godless governments, chief of which has been atheistic communism. When Christians have murdered innocent people in the name of Christ, they have been quite wrong to do so, and betray their Christian faith.

But when godless communist regimes murder millions of people, they are doing it fully in accord with their own political ideology, and feel fully justified in doing so. As Greg Koukl once said, “It is true that it’s possible that religion can produce evil, and generally when we look closer at the detail it produces evil because the individual people are actually living in a rejection of the tenets of Christianity and a rejection of the God that they are supposed to be following. So it can produce it, but the historical fact is that outright rejection of God and institutionalizing of atheism actually does produce evil on incredible levels. We’re talking about tens of millions of people as a result of the rejection of God.”

For the Rummel article, plus more detailed reading on all this, see the following links:

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11 Replies to “Atheism, Government and Killing”

  1. Another excellent article. So eminently quotable. I am glad that you wrote this; it is something I think about often.

  2. Thanks for the truth on this matter, Bill. This is exactly why the religious humanists are always looking for more governmental power, more rights sanctioned by government, just more government in general. Evil needs money and power to exercise its will. Freedom for the masses cripples their iron reach. God bless you!

  3. I was really excited to hear this. Even as a new Christian I believed that Christianity had a massive amount of deaths on its hands because that’s what I was brainwashed to believed. I wondered how on earth I’d be able to explain that to non-believers. It wasn’t until I did my own research that I realised that was one of those smoke-screen lies. Much like the one that supposes the bible says the earth is flat.

  4. Very handy article Bill.
    The way I usually put it is similar to the Greg Koukl quote. Humans are hell-bent on evil behaviour anyway, so the last thing humans need is an excuse to do more evil. The Bible helps to curb these tendencies for a nominally Christian society, but it is scary to think how low humanity can go when their official doctrine is violence.

  5. A “religious” individual will most likely do evil by virtue of his nature, but ideologies such as communism create evil by intent and promise brownie points to individuals within its influence for doing it if they don’t downright force them to do it which is what is most commonly reality.
    Where does abortion fit into all this? Of course in countries like China it has been government policy with no choice left to the individual, but in the west it has been a joint venture between individuals being deceived and looking for the easy way out and governments condoning it through their influence-manipulation of culture and the legalisation of it.
    Many blessings
    Ursula Bennett

  6. Hi Bill,
    I wonder how many of your readers are aware of the resemblance of the Victorian government to a full-blown dictatorship in the matter of smart meters. There have been many studies showing not only the increased incidence of house fires, but also the long term health dangers, especially for children. And yet, when many of its citizens express concern, they are totally fobbed off.
    My wife and I, as a result of having solar panels installed in our home back in 2011, received a smart meter 6 weeks later. From the outset, we both began to get ringing in the brain, nausea and muscle cramps. The ombudsman sent around a team to test our home. Their findings were that the system complied with Victorian standards, so there was nothing they could do, but they did give us 3 options:
    1. Remove the smart meter at our expense, and live without power
    2. Remove the main fuse at our expense, and live without power, and
    3. Sell up and move elsewhere.

    With God’s help, we were able to find a buyer for our home, and have moved to Queensland, where they are yet to exhibit such undemocratic behaviour. However, we are seeing more and more the influence of the evil one in every facet of human existence, and recognize it is only by God’s grace that we are able to stand.
    God bless Heidi Mund!
    Vic Trudeau

  7. Very good article, except where it refers to godless, murderous communism in the past tense:

    “With the passing of communism into history…”

    China–the most evil regime in history–is still committing mass murder and many other crimes against humanity.

  8. One more thought: You said the Chinese communists murdered 35 million people. But this doesn’t count the estimated TWO HUNDRED MILLION forced abortions during the decades of China’s “one-child policy.”

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