Nov 132009

Following a discussion with a friend of mine, I did some crude statistics today. Perusing Wikipedia, I ranked the world’s religions in terms of the effectiveness with which they were able to commit mass murder between 1914 and the present day. I did not count “legitimate” victims of war. My statistics are necessarily crude, as I probably didn’t include all incidents, and I just used the concept of a “predominant religion” instead of researching the actual religious breakdown of perpetrators and victims. The figures themselves may also be in dispute.

Having said that, I calculated some percentages (normalized by dividing the number killed by the square root of the product of the populations of the perpetrators’ and the victims’ predominant religion) and arrived at this bleak ranking of our recent history:

Buddhist-on-Buddhist: 10%
Christian-on-Jew: 3%
Christian-on-Christian: 0.9%
Muslim-on-indigenous: 0.5%
Muslim-on-Christian: 0.2%
Muslim-on-Muslim: 0.1%
Buddhist-on-Hindu: 0.01%
Hindu-on-Christian: 0.006%
Christian-on-Muslim: 0.0006%

Muslim claims about evil Christians are clearly bogus, at least insofar as recent history is concerned; Christians were far more busy killing each other and killing Jews, and Muslims were certainly more efficient when it came to killing Christians than the other way around (mostly thanks to the efforts of the Ottoman Empire).

But no, I do not conclude from this that religion is inherently evil. About two thirds of all the killings listed here were, in fact, committed by states that were nominally atheist. Reason may lead one to atheism, but atheism certainly doesn’t guarantee reason…

 Posted by at 4:09 pm