Christianity doesn’t kill people, people kill people

I’m sick and tired of atheists blaming Christians for killing millions of people or condemning the God of the Bible for doing so. It’s not actually a logical position for them to take.

If religion, as they see it, is a baseless form of social control invented by our survival driven minds to make people be nice to each other then it’s not actually “Christians” killing people, or God killing people. It’s people killing people.

If the Christian God is a baseless myth how can he be accused of killing people? If Christianity is a delusion then surely the defence of insanity works for those who allegedly killed in God’s name.

Christianity can not, by itself, be responsible for the death of anybody. It can, at best, be the justification used by a killer for their actions either from a deluded sense of duty or because they’re looking to act in a sinister manner and need a scapegoat.

On one hand atheists will often assert that there is no such thing as evil and on the other they’ll call religion (and especially Christianity) evil on the basis of a few conflicts throughout history that were pretty clearly the actions of depraved and power hungry individuals disguising their ambitions in a cover of religiosity.

The “new atheist” will also claim that all the good stuff we take for granted – like the end of slavery – was won through the “enlightenment”. What they fail to mention is that more people were killed during the enlightenment’s French Revolution (16,000 to 40,000 during the “Reign of Terror”) than during the Spanish Inquisition (3,000 – 5,000).

21 Comments Christianity doesn’t kill people, people kill people

    1. Nathan

      They don't overlook it so much as deny that they're not Christians. It's the "no true Scotsman" fallacy. It seems most atheists don't have a definition of Christianity past "that's what they call themselves"…

    1. Nathan

      I'm not entirely sure what the point of your comment is Paul – are you suggesting Christianity shouldn't be given to children or mentally unstable people?

      Neither should atheism. It's the mentally unstable atheists who kill people too.

  1. Trevor

    People rarely kill without motivation. And throughout history Christianity has quite clearly been the motivation behind a lot of killing: the crusades and witch burnings are prime examples. Certain doctrines based on Christianity are also indirectly responsible for much suffering and death, like the Catholic prohibition of contraception helping the spread of AIDS, "Christian Scientists" who pray for dying children instead of giving them medical care, and Jehovah's Witnesses' ban on blood transfusions. You can't just claim "Oh these people aren't really Christians" or "Christianity has nothing to do with these deaths" when that's obviously untrue.

    "If the Christian God is a baseless myth how can he be accused of killing people?"

    The point is not that God has actually killed people, it is that you believe in a monstrous tyrant of a god.

    "If Christianity is a delusion then surely the defence of insanity works for those who allegedly killed in God’s name."

    The point then being that the delusion itself is bad…

  2. Lee Shelton

    Has it ever occurred to you that people claiming to be Christians might actually be motivated by things like greed and pride? Religion is a convenient scapegoat, allowing people to avoid examining their own hearts. That's why it's typical for atheists to blame Christianity for the world's problems — as if the spread of AIDS has absolutely nothing to do with lust and lack of self-control.

    By the way, most atheists I know shrug off men like Stalin and Mao by claiming they weren't really atheists. The fact of the matter is that atheism brings out the worst in people. What better recipe for violence and chaos than the innate belief that we're all just bags of chemicals floating around on some random spheroid in a Godless universe with no purpose?

    Thank God most atheists don't actually practice what they preach.

    1. Andrew

      most atheists I know shrug off men like Stalin and Mao by claiming they weren't really atheists.

      I'm often frustrated by the way many anti-theists, in their prejudice will happily use fallacious arguments that they would never let a Christian use. This is one. Any suggestion of a link between institutional atheism of the Leninist regime and their persecution of Christians is posited as coincidental as if Stalin like dogs, but the Crusades were all purely religious.

      And yes, much evil has been done in God's name, and it is wrong. But so too has much evil been done in the name of secularism and a bunch of other isms. If evil is done by non-religious as well as religious people then that just shows that the problem is not religion, but much deeper – people

  3. Trevor

    "Has it ever occurred to you that people claiming to be Christians might actually be motivated by things like greed and pride?"

    Yes, I've encountered it personally and can it see it in people like televangelists. But how exactly does that explain the crusades and witch burnings?

    "…as if the spread of AIDS has absolutely nothing to do with lust and lack of self-control."

    Obviously these are major factors, but prohibiting contraception significantly exacerbates things.

    "The fact of the matter is that atheism brings out the worst in people. What better recipe for violence and chaos than the innate belief that we're all just bags of chemicals floating around on some random spheroid in a Godless universe with no purpose?"

    What absolute nonsense. Take a look at the Scandinavian countries, which are some of the most livable on earth. Then take a look at how secular they are. If the only reason you have to behave yourself is belief in a god, then that's really, really pathetic.

    1. Andrew

      Obviously these are major factors, but prohibiting contraception significantly exacerbates things.

      I don't get this argument. As well as forbidding contraception, the RCC also forbids sex before marriage… so if someone was going to listen to the pope on one issue, why not both?
      (Not that I'm defending the RCC stance, I just don't follow the logic of the objection)

  4. Nathan

    "And throughout history Christianity has quite clearly been the motivation behind a lot of killing: the crusades and witch burnings are prime examples."

    Even if this is the case – either directly, indirectly, based on misunderstanding or design – I don't see how this point has anything to do with the existence of God nor with our response to that God.

    Not believing in God because he commands certain actions from believers doesn't seem particularly logical.

    Why is it wrong to kill someone because God tells you to?

    Once you've answered that question you should remember the example of Jesus with the Samaritan women. Because we believe that Jesus was the fulfilment of the Old Testament law – and the leading human expert on its meaning – we should probably understand it (as Christians) through his actions.

    Adultery was a capital offense – Jesus pointed out that none of us are qualified to dish out the punishment for capital offenses – it's this message that Christianity hinges on. We all deserve the penalty of death – and we are all offered the opportunity of mercy.

    What you, Trevor, are objecting to is a caricature of Christianity that those who truly live with Christ as Lord object to also. This is my problem with the new atheists – you tilt at windmills and triumphantly execute strawmen. Your arguments find no traction with those of us who actually read the Bible because your objections are not based on the Bible but on passages of the Bible stripped of their context for the purpose of criticism.

    This isn't a new criticism. Until you address it and actually engage with the ideas Christians actually buy into I will not find any of your arguments in favour of atheism particularly convincing. You could start with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and a viable explanation for the emergence of Christianity. Or you could explain morality and consciousness in a way that didn't involve an appeal to the irrelevance of asking such a question…

    Convince me that Jesus was a fraud, that his death and resurrection did not happen or that he never existed and I'll shout the message of atheism from the rooftops… I just don't see that happening.

  5. Lee Shelton

    As an atheist, why would you have a problem with the crusades or witch burnings? On what basis do you determine the difference between right and wrong? If all there is to reality is the material universe, then there is no accounting for morality. What one random collection of atoms does to another is of no consequence.

  6. Trevor

    You're deflecting. Even if I don't have a fully consistent and satisfactory concept of morality by your standards, you seem to think that you do. So, either justify the crusades and witch burnings as moral, or demonstrate that Christianity bears no guilt for them. Or admit that Christianity, has, on at least a few occasions, caused harm.

  7. Lee Shelton

    I don't seek to justify the crusades or witch burnings, though whatever has been done in the name of "Christianity" pales in comparison to what atheist regimes have done. While some Christians may have been duped into going along for religious reasons (just as many Christians throughout history have been duped into supporting the numerous violent escapades of their respective governments), you can't assume religion is the cause. Religion can be exploited just like anything else. Sin is the cause.

    But again, I don't know why atheists throw such a fit about how violent religion can be. From a purely material viewpoint, how is what one person does to another any different than what one animal does to another?

  8. Trevor

    I can't assume religion is the cause when the crusades were fought over who should control the "holy" land? I can't assume religion is the cause when "witches" were burned because the "holy" book says "thou shall not suffer a witch to live"? Instead I should blame a completely nebulous thing like sin? What exactly is "sin" and how is it causing anything?

    "I don't know why atheists throw such a fit about how violent religion can be."

    Maybe because violence is unpleasant and we don't want to live in violent societies where deranged people on a "mission of God" are going to murder us for being "infidels". Maybe because, even if such things aren't happening to us personally, we have empathy for fellow human beings.

  9. Trevor

    I haven't been offering any arguments for atheism. I was objecting to your claim that atheists have no right to claim that Christianity has caused any deaths. I'm certainly not arguing that if Christianity has caused some suffering than atheism must be true.

    "Why is it wrong to kill someone because God tells you to?"

    It's not. If God is real, and He really tells you to kill someone, then that's what you should do. If there is an eternal afterlife, death is pretty much irrelevant (which makes me wonder why Christians cry at Christian funerals; shouldn't you be happy? No more mortal suffering, they're going to wake up to eternal bliss!). The problem is with people who believe there is a God and come to false conclusions about what they are expected do, like "kill the infidels!". You think is Islam is false. Do you think Islamic terrorists should act on what they perceive to be the will of God? How does the Christian know that he's right, and should do what God wants, but that the Muslim is wrong?

    "Your arguments find no traction with those of us who actually read the Bible because your objections are not based on the Bible but on passages of the Bible stripped of their context for the purpose of criticism."

    What exactly is the proper context for 2 Kings 2:23-25? Aside from supposedly out-of-context passages like that, my objections are based on the Bible as a whole. First it begins with a false account of the origins of the universe and mankind. Then, in the rest of the Old Testament, God is completely without mercy for anyone but the Israelites. Instead of having his "chosen people" unite the world and prosper, all He does is have them kill, rape and plunder, and give them absurdly cruel laws. These actions don't strike me as those the God of the Whole Universe would take. We get to the New Testament and suddenly God is a softie (well, not really, since hell is now introduced) and you should "love your enemies" and "turn the other cheek". How does this mesh with OT God? Jesus walks around a small section of the middle east for a few years performing random miracles and giving out deliberately obscure parables. What about all the people in east Asia, Africa, northern Europe, Oceania, and Australia? Why doesn't Jesus – God of the Whole Universe – give them a visit and share some truth with them as well? Then he dies, without any personal written record. Why couldn't Jesus have written his own gospel, miraculously made 5000 copies, and handed them out? Instead, 40 years after his death his stories begin to be put to paper. The 40 year gap, and the fact that the gospels are propaganda casts doubt on their credibility. Anyway, then the Bible ends with Revelations, which foretells a thousand war with Satan and all sorts of weird stuff. What is the point of any of this? Why is God fighting a war with Satan when he can snap His fingers and remove him from existence?

    What have I taken out of context in the above? Why do I find this so silly? What do think I’m missing? I’d really like to know.

    "You could start with the life, death and resurrection of Jesus and a viable explanation for the emergence of Christianity. Or you could explain morality and consciousness in a way that didn't involve an appeal to the irrelevance of asking such a question…"

    Jesus was a unconventional but charismatic Jewish preacher who lived in a time of great superstition and was executed by the Romans as a public nuisance. Christianity emerged because it threatened superstitious people with hell, and gave downtrodden people hope of a better life to come.

    Morality is advantageous for society. Immoral societies destroy themselves. Moral people do well in moral societies and have a reproductive advantage. I cannot explain consciousness, but I don’t think you can either. "God put it there" is not an adequate explanation. Can you offer a better one?

    "Convince me that Jesus was a fraud, that his death and resurrection did not happen or that he never existed and I'll shout the message of atheism from the rooftops…"

    Why would this make you an atheist? Christianity isn’t the only religion. Wouldn't you default to Judaism? Maybe give Islam or Buddhism a chance?

  10. Lee Shelton

    It's important to note that most of what's in the Old Testament is a shadow of what was to come in the New. If you think executing people for sin is brutal, that's nothing compared to what awaits those found outside of Christ when they cross into eternity.

    We are now under a new covenant (Hebrews 9:15). The difference between the church and the ancient theocracy of Israel is that we are no longer under the law, and therefore have no covenantal authority to impose capital punishmentfor sin.

  11. Nathan

    Trevor,

    I just thought I'd address this point from your original comment before moving on to the next bits…

    Certain doctrines based on Christianity are also indirectly responsible for much suffering and death, like the Catholic prohibition of contraception helping the spread of AIDS, "Christian Scientists" who pray for dying children instead of giving them medical care, and Jehovah's Witnesses' ban on blood transfusions. You can't just claim "Oh these people aren't really Christians" or "Christianity has nothing to do with these deaths" when that's obviously untrue.

    Can you justify any of those beliefs from the Bible without using a fallacious syllogism or odd interpretation? I can't. In fact I repudiate the positions the Catholics or JWs take on those issues.

    Why would this make you an atheist? Christianity isn’t the only religion. Wouldn't you default to Judaism? Maybe give Islam or Buddhism a chance?

    Because I think the question of God's existence hinges on the person of Jesus Christ. And I find all the other religious truth claims unconvincing.

    The 40 year gap, and the fact that the gospels are propaganda casts doubt on their credibility.

    I don't follow your logic here.

    Nor do I have any problem with what goes down in 2 Kings 2… which, for the record, and for other readers, says…

    From there Elisha went up to Bethel. As he was walking along the road, some youths came out of the town and jeered at him. "Go on up, you baldhead!" they said. "Go on up, you baldhead!" He turned around, looked at them and called down a curse on them in the name of the LORD. Then two bears came out of the woods and mauled forty-two of the youths.

    Maybe you're making an assumption that the text doesn't – ie that the youths were killed.

    I bet those youths never mocked another prophet.

  12. Trevor

    "Can you justify any of those beliefs from the Bible without using a fallacious syllogism or odd interpretation? I can't. In fact I repudiate the positions the Catholics or JWs take on those issues."

    I'm not really interested in defending those positions. While your particular version of Christianity may be harmless, and indeed beneficial, what you've shown is that it's easy for some sects of Christianity to misinterpret the Bible, and because of the complete and utter confidence in the fact that they are doing "the Lord's work", to do bad things. Therefore, Christianity, as a whole, cannot be said to be blameless. We can argument semantics about who the "true Christians" are, but remember that all these other sects think that their versions are just as true as you do yours.

    I actually don't really think bringing up "the crimes of Christianity" is much good for refuting Christianity. Particular denominations perhaps, but not as a whole. I think the point is to show that when someone has a) crazy ideas, and b) a conviction that those ideas come from God, they can be pretty dangerous (e.g. Islamic terrorists, witch burners, etc.). Which is partly why atheists feel justified in speaking out against religion… If all religious people were as reasonable as you seem to be, I don't think atheists would have much to say at all.

    "I don't follow your logic here. "

    Well, what I'm saying is that I don't trust the gospels because they were written anonymously quite a while after the events they purportedly record occurred, by people with an agenda to spread their religion and defend it from detractors. Suppose forty years from now the ALP wrote a second-hand account of Rudd's time in government as election material for the 2050 elections. How credible would you find such material? There is no first-hand, unbiased account of Jesus's ministry, a problem the son of God could presumably have foreseen and corrected.

    "Maybe you're making an assumption that the text doesn't – ie that the youths were killed."

    The way I usually see it written is that the bears "tore up" the children. I don't think a child could survive being "torn up" by a bear. Even it was just "merely" a mauling, don't you think that's still pretty extreme? How would you feel if one of your children was mauled by a bear for cheek? I find it very unlikely that you would encourage parents to discipline their children by mauling.

    "Because I think the question of God's existence hinges on the person of Jesus Christ."

    I find that interesting. So you don't buy any of the cosmological, moral, teleological or ontological arguments for God's existence?

    1. Andrew

      I don't trust the gospels because they were written anonymously quite a while after the events they purportedly record occurred, by people with an agenda to spread their religion and defend it from detractors.

      Hi Trevor. the time of writing of the gospels is well within a normal, acceptable time-frame for historical documents, and within the lifetime of eye-witnesses who could counter them, and if you actually compare them with other ancient documents, You'll see this. Most historians don't have a problem with the date of composition, it seems only to be the popular 'new atheists' (who have an agenda) who says this.
      While some of them of course do not specifically state an author (a number do!) if the very earliest tradition from the time of writing is unanimous about who the authors were, then that is reliable.
      Of course, as in any text, there is bias, but with the NT documents we actually see that the authors were not adverse to including embarrassing information, including that about the leaders of the movement. Further, there were a number of doctrinal issues going on in the early church at the time of writing, which we see in Paul's letters, yet Jesus, in the gospels, says nothing on these. These two points indicate very strongly that the gospel writers were not just writing propaganda to bolster their position – they were, as Luke claims, writing what happened.

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