By Rev. Clinton Chisholm
“Religion is the greatest source of evil in the world. More wars have been fought and more blood have been shed in the name of God than for any other cause.” (many skeptics, Christopher Hitchens, Sam Harris, et al)
If you are a Christian and heard/read the quoted statement above, you might have felt as embarrassed as I did when I first came across it quite a while back.
If you are not particularly sympathetic to religion in general and Christianity in particular, you may have treasured/used the statement as an irrefutable silencer for religionists who dare to invade your cerebral higher sphere with their religious nonsense.
Well, years ago I stumbled on a book by a Christian scholar that argued that a careful check of the Guinness Book of World Records raised serious doubts about the accuracy of the statement.
I recently finished reading the just released 10th anniversary edition of a mind-stimulating book by Greg Koukl of Stand to Reason, called Tactics. Near the end of this diamond-mine of a book Koukl deals a 3-fold slap to the statement.
First, Koukl raises the logical question ‘so what?’ re the statement. Even if the statement is true, Koukl urges, it is not clear what exactly follows logically from that about religion. The atrocities done by Christians say are neither justified by the Bible nor are caused by adherence to the teachings of Jesus.
An aside, while walking to school (Cornwall College) one morning, ages ago, two friends walking with me got into a fuss and when one of them was roundly told off and silenced, in a drowning man effort he limply blurted out “Gu weh, gu weh, yu eat breadfruit.” [Jamaican for “Go away you eat breadfruit”] No one said it but our raucous laughter implied it “so what?”. idiotic breadfruit retort from my school mate.
Beyond the ‘so what’ slap though, Koukl slaps harder thus: “In their massive, three-volume Encyclopedia of Wars, researchers Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod show that of the 1,763 wars they chronicle over the last five millennia, only 123—less than 7 percent—were motivated by religion. And religion played no part in the two greatest military conflagrations in history—World War I, with 16.5 million dead and World War II, with 60 to 80 million perishing.” (p. 214).
Koukl’s final slap on this same page is this: “Grab an older copy of the Guinness Book of World Records and turn to the category ‘Judicial’ subheading ‘Crimes: Mass Killings.’ You’ll find that carnage of unimaginable proportions resulted not from religion but from institutionalized atheism…”
And yet, as Koukl points out, atheists Christopher Hitchens in God is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything and Sam Harris in The End of Faith: Religion, Terror and the Future of Reason, trade on this myth re religion.
Is this a case of indictable ignorance on the part of these two very educated atheists?
In my recent book A Controversial Clergyman: Provocative Newspaper Articles to Foster Critical Thinking I chided logically the central thesis of Hitchens’ book, as hinted in the title’s philosophically undifferentiated ‘Everything’.
Bogus facts may impress as a sound byte for the ignorant but lack intellectual impact as a serious criticism!
(Rev Clinton Chisholm is academic dean at the Caribbean Graduate School of Theology)