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Does Religion Cause Violence?

Atheist: I hate religion because religion just makes people fight. There has been more bloodshed over religion than over any other issue in the history of the world!

Christian: Do you mean that most of the bloodshed has occurred over religion, or by religious peoples?

Atheist: Both, I guess.

Christian: Because remember, Atheists are a small and shrinking minority. 97 some-odd percent (at least) of all human history and population is religious in one way or another. So it would be possible (I am not saying you are doing this, but it would be possible) to get all the atheists together on one scale, and all the theists on another, and say, “the atheists have killed less people” – but you just have fewer people on the scale, don’t you?

Atheist: That’s besides the point. Religion makes people fight – it’s not worth the hassle!

Christian: You are assuming that it is not true. If an eternity in Heaven or Hell was a reality, would the hassle be worth it?

Atheist: Well, I suppose if it was true than just about anything would be worth the price of avoiding that.

Christian: I actually agree with your statement, “Religion makes people fight” – this is what Jesus said, that His religion (and also probably all religions) would divide people. But I think that your definition is just a little too narrow. Actually, it is ideas that make people fight – and religious ideas are just one sort of idea that people fight over. The 20th century was the bloodiest century the world has ever known – and people fought for the most part over political ideologies, rather than religion.

Atheist: Yes, but in past generations most of the fighting was over religion. I mean, just look at the Crusades!

Christian: Yes, but religion has been removed from the public square in the West, and has it helped? Has it made us more peaceful? If anything, it has made people more warlike to remove religion from the equation.

Your thesis has been that religion makes people fight. If this were true, atheistic nations like Russia, Cosovo, China, etc. should be havens of peace. But if they are just as warlike and corrupt as the rest of us, despite removing “religion,” then doesn’t that prove that religion is not the real problem?

Look at it this way: it’s like humanity is a room full of boys, all fighting and hitting each other over the heads with books. You say the books are the problem. I say the problem runs deeper. You say we should get rid of the (religious) books. I say if you take that away, they will find something else to hit each other with – perhaps political books, or philosophical books, or race-related books, or what have you. So what is the real problem?

If it were religion, the problem would be solved when religion is removed. Rather, I believe that the problem runs much deeper.

It seems to me that people fight because they greedy and selfish and they don’t care about the other, but only their own needs, or the needs of their own group. “Religion” may be one way of defining who the “other” is whom they can rob and kill – but it is only one way, and take religion away, and humans will find another reason to draw lines of distinction and harm others because of it.

And actually, I think that Religion (I mean Christian religion) is far more valuable than Atheism because Christianity teaches love for the other – which is the real solution to the human problem of violence.

For more on Jesus’ teachings of peace, and how they can change the world, see the sermon Why I am a Christian Pacifist.

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