Dinesh D’Souza's “What’s So Great About Christianity, Part 2

Skipping to later chapters, Dinesh D’Souza argues in his book “What’s So Great About Christianity,” that the crimes of Christianity’s past were not that big of a deal when compared to the mass killings under recent atheist regimes, especially Mao, Stalin, Hitler and Pol Pot, to name just a few.

D’Souza claims the Crusades were mostly defensive battles against the invading Muslims by pilgrims who had to pillage for food, and in the process raped and murdered too. What wonderful pilgrims they must have been! The Salem Witch trials only killed 19 or more people. “Few casualties, big brouhaha,” D’Souza proudly proclaims (p. 207). Although, he admits that 100,000 witches were either burned or executed during a 300 year period. The Inquisition only killed 2000 people, he boasts, and was directed only at professing Christians. D’Souza totally ignored the terror the church had over the thought life of most everyone their entire lives during these centuries, since most people were in the church. When it comes to the many religious wars and conflicts people fought, D’Souza argues that they were not about religion, but about ethnic tensions, territory and land. He further opines that for the Christian, “the tragedy of violence in the name of religion is thankfully in past.” (p. 210).

Turning to atheism D’Souza argues: “the indisputable fact is that all the religions of the world put together have in three hundred years not managed to kill anywhere near the number of people killed in the name of atheism in the past few decades….Atheism, not religion, is responsible for the worst mass murder of history.” (p. 221)

I’m planning to write more about his arguments later, but let me throw a few comments about on the table for now.

Some Christians will say the atrocities committed by professing Christians of the past do not represent Christianity, just as many Muslims today say that the militant Muslim terrorists do not represent Islam. If they can get away with this then atheists can do likewise and argue the crimes done in the name of atheism do not represent atheists. So D’Souza, to his credit, does not take that tact, at least when it comes to what Christians have done in the past. However, he still wants to blame atheism for the crimes done in the name of atheism. Just because he avoids one error doesn’t mean he is not stepping into another error when he does this.

One consideration is the big difference in the means people had to commit these crimes. In our modern era we have guns and tanks and bombs. People with guns kill more people than people without them. So I wonder how many more people would’ve been killed in the past by Christians if they had this arsenal at their disposal? Surely many many more.

Another consideration is that D’Souza excuses the wars done in the name of religion as defensive ones based on ethnic rivalries, and/or over territory. But why can’t it be said that Hitler's war was based on territorial expansion and ethnic tension too? I think it can.

Another consideration is that D’Souza fails to realize the role of a dictator in a totalitarian government. Most all of the Russian tsars, for instance, were hated because they were cruel. Ivan the Terrible, was one such example unrelated to his religious preferences. Saddam Hussein was cruel too. Most dictators ruled with an iron fist because of fear they would be assassinated. Those of us who have never been a dictator will not understand this. So they terrorize their people to fear them. This is just what most dictators do, and it’s a defense mechanism unrelated to their religion, or none at all, and best explains Stalin and Mao’s atrocities.

Another consideration is that religious views, or non-religious views, are mostly used by people to justify whatever they want to do. It’s not clear Hitler was an atheist. But he was certainly the type of maniac that would use anything he could to advance his egomaniacal power over people.

The bottom line is that civilized people todyy are less likely to commit such crimes because we have all learned our lessons from history, both Christians and atheists. Why? Because that's how human beings learn our morality, through trial and error and the lessons of history.

38 comments:

Mark Plus said...

Theists who keep bringing up 20th Century dictators should consider that these dictators rejected religions that these theists usually don't belong to and don't respect any way. Lenin & Stalin rejected Russian orthodox christianity, which many American christians consider some weird foreign cult. Mao rejected Confucianism, Taoism and Buddhism, more religions alien to Western christianity. And Pol Pot rejected his countrymen's Buddhism as well. Which religion of the ones they rejected would have kept them from killing their fellow citizens for political purposes? And why don't more people join that religion, if it has that kind of power over human behavior?

GordonBlood said...

Frankly if I thought atheism was true I wouldnt care if Stalin killed 1,000,000,000 people. Ive always said myself that the "your side did this" arguments are absolute lunacy. On this point I certainly agree with Richard Dawkins when hes being honest.

WoundedEgo said...

>>>>....The bottom line is that civilized people toady are less likely to commit such crimes because we have all learned our lessons from history, both Christians and atheists....

Um, John... I think you went off the track here...!

Bill Ross
http://bibleshockers.blogspot.com

Mark Plus said...

gordonblood writes,

Frankly if I thought atheism was true I wouldnt care if Stalin killed 1,000,000,000 people.

Not to politicize the discussion here, but how many Muslim creationists does the Bush Administration have to kill before the slaughter begins to bother Bush's christian upporters? Many Muslims like that Iranian leader with the difficult name blame America's foreign policy on "atheism," so it looks they plan to make room for Bush on their Mt. Rushmore of atheistic dictators.

Chris said...

I'm with Gordonblood.

WoundedEgo said...

Killing people is not a bad thing. Numbers don't count. Motive counts. WHY kill people? I think we should nuke Mecca and rid the world of millions of Muslims in a single strike. Hit the next Hezbollah rally!

But terrorism to advance religious bullshit ala Shariah law is what makes me wanna puke.

Bill Ross
http://bibleshockers.blogspot.com

Joseph said...

"Frankly if I thought atheism was true I wouldnt care if Stalin killed 1,000,000,000 people."

Gordon, I hope you are not trying to say that atheism is intrinsically amoral that it would stand by apathetically and shrug as a billion people met their demise at the hands of a dictator. The data just doesn't back up that notion.

Jim Jordan said...

From the original post.
The bottom line is that civilized people today are less likely to commit such crimes because we have all learned our lessons from history, both Christians and atheists.

I respectfully disagree. Is Iraq not Vietnam and Korea and Crimea and so on all over again? We stand on the potential abyss of a nuclear world war as surely as we ever did during the Cold War. And we have surpassed all former holocausts with the slaughter of half a billion children worldwide in under a generation.

The truth is that mankind, Christians and atheists and all others, is just as sinful as ever before. The only difference is, because of our advanced weaponry and science, that our sin has more reach than it ever did before.

Richard R. said...

I think it needs to be made more clear that, while many atrocities have been committed in the NAME of religion, few if any atrocities have been committed in the NAME of atheism. If an atheist commits an atrocity, it doesn't follow that it was done in the NAME of atheism.

Furthermore, this entire line of discussion is completely irrelevant to the question of whether a god exists or not.

GordonBlood said...

What I said is just what I said Joseph, I meant nothing by it other than that. While I certainly consider certain Christians to not be truly Christians because the term Christian necessarily involves certain intrinsic behaviour, there is variety. For example, you can be a Christian and be fabulously rich, you cant be a Christian (let us remember Christian means little Christ or Christ-like) if you murder people and steal their money. I would compare this to someone saying they were a utilitarian if they constantly caused massive amounts of pain on other creatures because they enjoyed causing pain. The stated philosophical committement necessarily contradicts the actions.

Jim Jordan said...

Richard R. wrote, I think it needs to be made more clear that, while many atrocities have been committed in the NAME of religion, few if any atrocities have been committed in the NAME of atheism. If an atheist commits an atrocity, it doesn't follow that it was done in the NAME of atheism.

How do you define "name of religion" or, for that matter, the "name of atheism". Seems to me that you've subscribed to the "if it sounds good, do it" school of thought.

Imagine the Crusader who raises his axe over the Muslim's head and says, "I kill you in the name of Jesus Christ because....'who came to give us life....so that...we might have life....abundantly'. Now, die, pig!"

Consider that a graphic depiction of what Gordonblood was saying. The argument doesn't really work either way.

Hallq said...

Does D'Souza even try to cite instances of atheists specifically citing atheism as their reason for committing atrocities? If you know the right search terms, a few minutes of Google searching will bring up documents by some of the most important thinkers in the history of Christianity, defending horrible crimes on explicitly Christian grounds. Here's Augustine, Aquinas, and Luther:

http://www.newadvent.org/fathers/1102173.htm
http://www.newadvent.org/summa/3011.htm#3
http://www.humanitas-international.org/showcase/chronography/documents/luther-jews.htm

There's the evidence that Christianity motivates violent suppression of dissent, often to the point of murder. Is there any comparable evidence for atheism?

Steven Carr said...

Evil people will do bad things.

The difference is that religious people will often praise the murders committed by other religous leaders.

I wonder why D'Souza does not include the public beheadings of 600 or 700 Jews by Muslims after the Battle of the Trench in 627 AD?

Perhaps because D'Souza knows that Muslims can be scary , but he can attack atheists without having to go into hiding.

Steven Carr said...

D'Souza trying to convince the world that religion does not condone killing is facing a David and Goliath task.

Still, at least D'Souza has the consolation of knowing that David killed Goliath, so perhaps he can show the world that religion does not condone killings.

zilch said...

This reminded me of a quote from that master of the understated slam-dunk, Herman Melville (in Moby Dick):

"For even the high lifted and chivalric Crusaders of old times were not content to traverse two thousand miles of land to fight for their holy sepulchre, without committing burglaries, picking pockets, and gaining other pious perquisites by the way."

Shygetz said...

First of all, I can't believe that no one has said a word about Bill's "nuke Mecca" comment. I'm not going to derail the thread by getting into a discussion on the topic, but I do want to emphasize that Bill's sentiments completely oppose mine.

Secondly, I would claim that a crime committed "in the name of religion" would be one in which religious commands or differences in religious beliefs was a major motive for the crime. So, an atheist killing a Jew because the Jew believed in God and the atheist didn't WOULD be a crime in the name of atheism, in my mind. An atheist killing a Jew because the Jew would not submit to the atheist's totalitarian authority, while a crime, would not be a killing in the name of atheism.

Finally (and most lengthy), I would like to remind people that the Nazi movement was NOT an atheist movement. A HUGE number were practicing Catholics (who were protected by Church functionaries even after the Nazi regime fell). If I remember history correctly, the first treaty Nazi Germany signed was with the Vatican, giving the Catholic Church wide rights in religious education in return for papal indulgence and support. Early in his reign, Hitler outlawed freethought organizations and tried to stamp out atheism altogether.

“We have . . . undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out.”--Adolf Hitler

The Nazi faith was based on Protestant anti-clerical and anti-Semetic thought, folk religion, and blood myth. It was NOT atheistic. Look up "Positive Christianity" for more info on Nazi faith.

Remember that Stalin and Hitler weren't the only ones commiting atrocities at the time. Japan was an entirely religious society, worshiping the emporor as arahitogami or "a god who is a human being". This was the central tenet of the state religion. The Japanese army commited many atrocities against their enemies, especially the Chinese.

Mussolini was baptized as a Catholic, recognized by the Catholic Church as the rightful leader of Italy. His followers and thugs were largely practicing Roman Catholics.

"The Fascist State does not remain indifferent to the fact of religion in general and to that particular positive religion which is Italian Catholicism. The State has no theology, but it has an ethic. . . . The Fascist State does not create a "God" of its own, as Robespierre once, at the height of the Convention's foolishness, wished to do; nor does it vainly seek, like Bolshevism, to expel religion from the minds of men. Fascism respects the God of the ascetics, of the saints, of the heroes, and also God as seen and prayed to by the simple and primitive heart of the people."--Mussolini

Francisco Franco ran an exclusively Catholic fascist state in Spain. He went so far as to annul all civil marriages and require them to be reconfirmed by the Catholic Church. The enforcement of Catholic social values was a stated goal of the brutal fascistic regime.

Stalin was an atheist and wanted to eliminate religion in the world, but the Soviet Union was NOT an atheist state (as in, religion was not consistently banned there). It had a state church when one was useful to the regime--Stalin sponsored a revival of the Russian Orthodox Church during WWII to help engender patriotism within the Soviet peoples. The Church was treated in direct accordance with how it helped the state at the time; power was the immediate goal, not atheism. Khrushchev continued this doctrine, arresting uppity clergy but often replacing them with more docile ones rather than doing away with the church completely. Yes, Stalinist Communism was atheistic and terrible things were done in its name, but the practice of Stalinist Communism was not consistently atheistic; it was, however, consistently totalitarian. It would eagerly use the Church to help it control the people when necessary, but in general the Church was distrusted as a competitor to the state for power over the people.

Chairman Mao established a true cult of personality and set himself up as a kind of deity. Unlike Stalin (who also set up a "cult of personality", but did not seem to encourage thinking of him as other than human), worship of Mao as greater than human was encouraged, and continues among some even to this day.

“Some continue to worship Mao at their family altars, praying to him for peace and safety ... thousands of people visit the temple each day burning incense and kowtowing to images of Mao”--Xing Lu, Rhetoric of the Chinese Cultural Revolution

Of course, there are various other atrocities outside of the WWII era. The Rwandan genocide, while not inherently religious in nature, was actively assited by many local Catholic Church representatives, including a bishop. The Second Sudanese Civil War was mainly between Muslims and a Christian/Animist coalition. The Bosnian genocides pitted Christians against Muslims (and ethnic Christians against one another). The Armenian genocide was Muslim against Christian. The current sectarian violence in Iraq is one Muslim sect against another. North Korea's brutal regime is not a secular state; the president is a dead man, and the state is a cult of personality (this is not a cliche; I mean the phrase in the literal sense). Kim Il-Sung and his son Kim Jong-Il are worshipped; children are taught that they came down from heaven and were placed upon Mt. Paektu, where they were transformed into human beings.

The case against atheism as a source of atrocity is not as clear cut as D'Souza would like to claim. Many of the killings regarded as atheistic were, in fact, the acts of cultic societies (they had a god that actually did talk to them). The Stalinist killings, which probably were done by a truly atheist regime, were usually for power and not done out of a hatred of religion, which was used when it was useful.

The number of killings done because someone falsely believes in a God is probably rather small. The number of killings done because someone believed in the wrong God is quite large. Christianity has played a sufficient role in these atrocities to prevent me from seeing why it should be exempted as being different from the "uncivilized" religions.

D'Souza's defenses of the Crusades are too silly to be commented upon. If anyone really thinks the Pope called together a multi-national army multiple times just to make an armed "pilgrimage" in force, and that they ever planned on returning empty-handed from the Middle East, they are an idiot beyond my help.

Andrew said...

But Gordon, in regard to your first post here, they DO think that atheism is true and they DON'T care if Stalin killed Millions.

And anyway, since when have atheists had a problem with violence?

Andrew said...

By the way Stephen, atheists frequently praise the murders done by atheist leaders.

You know, "historial necessity" and all that jazz.

Andrew said...

Woundedegeo is a case in point.

Atheists have historically felt quite justified in killing believers.

Go to Trotsky.net and read Trotsky's autobiography.

Jennifer said...

So I wonder how many more people would’ve been killed in the past by Christians if they had this arsenal at their disposal? Surely many many more.

Like the Saracens using Greek Fire?

Like the English longbow used at Agincourt?
England and France...two "Christian" nations at war...tribal/power/political.

This is all akin to what is happening in Sudan and Uganda right now. The Christians are taking up arms just as readily as their counterpart because of inbedded tribal warfare. Pastors who teach peace to their congregations are killing each other as well. It will take a long time to turn that tide and the it will require the deaths of many who choose to sacrifice their life for the sake of peace...that is being done as well.

There is a strong correlation between the wide distibution of the Bible to a literate populace and gentle, peaceful living. Anyone well versed in a study of the Bible would have been able to topple any argument for war in the name of God.

The difference between religion and atheism is that the former is used and twisted to serve the purposes of dictatorial regimes, while the latter, in and of itself, spawns abuse and power mongering.

Unless you were born and raised in another country with no Christian influence, you cannot seperate the influence of the gentle beliefs associated with Christianity enought to say you would value life so strongly.

Shy,
D'Souza's defenses of the Crusades are too silly to be commented upon. If anyone really thinks the Pope called together a multi-national army multiple times just to make an armed "pilgrimage" in force, and that they ever planned on returning empty-handed from the Middle East, they are an idiot beyond my help.

I thought the same thing upon the first reading, but I'd have to read the book in order to see if what John is saying is actually what D'Souza wrote.

The Pope was responding to the request of the king for knights to guard the pilgrims, who WERE being killed by the encroaching rule of Islam. Do you dispute the fact that Islam was spreading like wildfire and that it may have caused concern? I'm not justifying the Crusades as they were dont, but this is the problem.....

At what point do you say it's OK to defend? Defense shouldn't be done in the name of God, but it is necessary at times isn't it? And..the "Christians" were just as ignorant of what Jesus taught as the Muslims were ignorant of what Muhammed taught (although, there is quite a difference betweent he two). Saladin actually read the Q'uran, but it wasn't in print for the masses.

The third Crusade was not ordered by the Pope, but by then I suppose it didn't matter.

About the witch hunts....Nowhere in the Bible did God say, "Go hunt down witches and burn them." The context was within the "house of God" and was to keep evil out of Isreal. God never told the Israelites to hold other civilizations to their own Law. The Inquistition is not supported by Scripture, it was a cultural evil which used unrelated Scripture to justify the actions of those involved.

Joseph said...

Andrew, did you read it? "Trotsky alone defended the genuine traditions, ideas and methods of Marxism." Marxism, not atheism. Big difference, friend.

Joseph said...

"The Inquistition is not supported by Scripture..." You mean YOUR post-modern interpretation of Scripture, don't you? It didn't exist at the time of the Inquisition. There is no uniform interpretation of Scripture--that's problem I will be writing about in my next article: theological incoherence.

"...it was a cultural evil which used unrelated Scripture to justify the actions of those involved." Really? I thought witchcraft was viewed as a cultural evil by most Christians. It definitely was back in the days of the Salem Witch Trials. So was heresy--all the way back to the days of Peter and Paul. As soon as the state got mixed with church, it started applying civil punishments to religious crimes. It was a danger back then and it's still a danger today.

Ben said...

Does anyone really believe that Stalin, for instance, killed millions of people because he believed that the universe could be understood through rational means? Or because he thought all humans had worth regardless of their relationship with God? Or because he believed the world was created by natural forces working over billions of years? Or because he believed humans, like all other life on Earth, evolved?

Did Stalin exterminate people because he was an atheist, or because he was a madman?

Shygetz said...

There is a strong correlation between the wide distibution of the Bible to a literate populace and gentle, peaceful living. Anyone well versed in a study of the Bible would have been able to topple any argument for war in the name of God.

That's right! In fact, both Luther and Calvin, the two founders of the Protestant "priesthood of believers" prove it! Once they had gotten Biblical authority to the people, they presided over peaceful and loving societies.

Oh, wait, they didn't.

The difference between religion and atheism is that the former is used and twisted to serve the purposes of dictatorial regimes, while the latter, in and of itself, spawns abuse and power mongering.

Yeah, those fucking Norwegians! Why won't they stop breeding so much hate?

The original "purpose" of the First Crusade was to help the Greeks ward off invaders. However, by the time of the Council of Clermont where bellum sacrum was actually declared, the purpose of the First Crusade was explicitly to capture the Holy Land. The Pope likened the Saracens to the Amalekites of the Old Testament; does anyone here need to be reminded of the story of the Amalekites? There are numerous accounts of the Council, although most seem to have cribbed heavily off of Gesta Francorum; the emphasis was on posessing the Holy Land.

Steven Carr said...

ANDREW
Atheists have historically felt quite justified in killing believers.

Go to Trotsky.net and read Trotsky's autobiography.

CARR
I did.

I could not find the word 'atheist' or 'atheism'.

Or even the phrase 'methodological naturalism.'

However, I could find the Christian Cadre saying in 2007 'Knowing full well that some atheist will accuse me of justifying genocide, I wanted to look another time at the account of the destruction of the Canaanites....'

http://christiancadre.blogspot.com/2007/10/termites-and-caananites.html

Steven Carr said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
WoundedEgo said...

I have argued here that this kind of debate is terribly flawed. It is entirely impossible to falsify because:

* any good done in the name of religion is praised as the good effect of religion

* any evil done in the name of religion is dismissed as an aberration of an otherwise wonderful character

In other words, we are told that the same fountain can bring forth both bitter and sweet:

James 8:
11 Doth a fountain send forth at the same place sweet water and bitter?
12 Can the fig tree, my brethren, bear olive berries? either a vine, figs? so can no fountain both yield salt water and fresh.

At any rate, here is some info on Luther. He was a rabid anti-semite. His sermons, along with the Catholic ghettoization of Jews, paved the way for Hitler:

http://www.reference.com/browse/wiki/Martin_Luther

"...Historian Robert Michael writes that Luther was concerned with the Jewish question all his life, despite devoting only a small proportion of his work to it. As a Christian pastor and theologian Luther was concerned that people have faith in Jesus as the messiah for salvation. In rejecting that view of Jesus, the Jews became the "quintessential other, a model of the opposition to the Christian view of God. In an early work, That Jesus Christ was born a Jew, Luther advocated kindness toward the Jews, but only with the aim of converting them to Christianity: what was called Judenmission. When his efforts at conversion failed, he became increasingly bitter toward them. His main works on the Jews were his 60,000-word treatise Von die Juden und Ihren L├╝gen (On the Jews and Their Lies), and Vom Schem Hamphoras und das Geschlecht Christi (On the Holy Name and the Lineage of Christ) — reprinted five times within his lifetime — both written in 1543, three years before his death. He argued that the Jews were no longer the chosen people, but were "the devil's people." They were "base, whoring people, that is, no people of God, and their boast of lineage, circumcision, and law must be accounted as filth. The synagogue was a "defiled bride, yes, an incorrigible whore and an evil slut ..." and Jews were full of the "devil's feces ... which they wallow in like swine. He advocated setting synagogues on fire, destroying Jewish prayerbooks, forbidding rabbis from preaching, seizing Jews' property and money, smashing up their homes, and ensuring that these "poisonous envenomed worms" be forced into labor or expelled "for all time. He also seemed to sanction their murder, writing "We are at fault in not slaying them.
Luther successfully campaigned against the Jews in Saxony, Brandenburg, and Silesia. Josel of Rosheim (1480-1554), who tried to help the Jews of Saxony, wrote in his memoir that their situation was "due to that priest whose name was Martin Luther — may his body and soul be bound up in hell!! — who wrote and issued many heretical books in which he said that whoever would help the Jews was doomed to perdition. Michael writes that Josel asked the city of Strasbourg to forbid the sale of Luther's anti-Jewish works; they refused initially, but relented when a Lutheran pastor in Hochfelden argued in a sermon that his parishioners should murder Jews. Luther's influence persisted after his death. Throughout the 1580s, riots saw the expulsion of Jews from several German Lutheran states.."

But, Luther was a good tree. He just had bad fruit. Right?

By the way, note that the sins of the Jews were only imaginary. The imagined sins of the Jews were a useful in the first century to create a powerful Roman religion. They were useful to Hitler to create a powerful Reich. They are useful to Iran and Egypt to focus Islamic fascism.

But they were lies then, and they are lies now. And the 25 million who died in WWII will seem like small potatoes before this ideology is put to bed.

Bill Ross
http://bibleshockers.blogspot.com

WoundedEgo said...

Ok, wait... I didn't know this, but apparently it was D'Souza that freed her from her demons!:

http://archives.cnn.com/2001/WORLD/asiapcf/south/09/04/mother.theresa.exorcism/

Bill Ross
http://bibleshockers.blogspot.com

WoundedEgo said...

Sorry, apparently there is more than one Christian hero in India named D'Souza. What are the chances of that?!

http://archives.cnn.com/2001/WORLD/asiapcf/south/09/04/mother.theresa.exorcism/

Bill Ross
http://bibleshockers.blogspot.com

Tommy said...

Does Dinesh D'Douchebag mention the Baltic Crusades, wherein the Sword Brothers and the Teutonic Knights slaughtered pagan Lithuanians and Latvians?

Does he mention the frequent pogroms against the Jews throughout the millenia? Those same Crusaders marching off to fight a "defensive" war against the Muslims in the Levant also slaughtered Jews they encountered along the way in Eastern Europ.

As for the Crusades to take Jerusalem being defensive, that is utter nonsense. The Muslims conquered Jerusalem from the Byzantines, who still existed at the time. If it was truly a counter-offensive, then the Crusaders, many who were Normans whose ancestors were themselves pagans during the era of the Muslim conquests, would have given the reconquered Holy Land to the Byzantines. In fact, if the Crusades were really about legitimately curbing Muslim power, they would have helped the Byzantines expel the Seljuk Turks from Asia Minor. The failure to do so ultimately made the existence of the Crusader States untenable, as well as setting the stage for the entry of the Ottoman Turks into Europe. Yeah, those Crusaders were real strategic thinkers.

Gordon, that's a weird statement. If I believed that Marxism was true, I wouldn't have cared it Stalin killed a billion people. Atheism and Marxism are not the same thing. A Marxist can be an atheist, but an atheist is not necessarily a Marxist.

Tommy said...

Also, the Muslims were not "running rampant" in the 11th and 12 centuries, except in Asia Minor against the Byzantines. The catalyst for the Crusades was when the Byzantines asked the Christian West for help to recover Asia Minor from the Seljuk Turks.

Elsewhere, Islam was in decline. The great caliphates had fractured into smaller states. The Byzantines had already recovered Crete and Cyprus, the Moors in Spain were starting to lose their grip on Spain, and the Normans took over Muslim occupied Sicily before the Crusades were ever up and running.

Again, the one place where the Muslims were gaining ground, Asia Minor, was the one place where the Catholic Crusaders didn't give a shit about, because those Byzantines were Orthodox and deserved whatever happened to them.

Jim Jordan said...

Tommy said**A Marxist can be an atheist, but an atheist is not necessarily a Marxist.

A Marxist is an atheist. But you are correct that the sins of Marxism can't be placed in atheism's corner. But neither can Christianity be condemned for the sins of the Crusaders or any such offenders.

You couldn't call unrepentant murderers Christians any more than you could say there is a meat-eater who is also a vegetarian. An unrepentant Christian murderer is an oxymoron.

Jesus said of these people "I will say I do not know you!" Jesus rebuked Peter when he cut off the ear of the soldier who was arresting Jesus. He even put the ear back on the soldier.

I haven't read D'Souza's book but he seems to be playing a game of keeping score while confusing what is historical Christianity or historical atheism with what the authentic expressions of each really are.

He does neither Christians nor atheists any favors. These arguments condemning Christianity and/or atheism for the sins of a few rogues are dead in the water. They're like a turd swirling at the bottom of the toilet that just won't flush.

Jennifer said...

Shygetz,
The point I am making is that the cumulative influence of Christianity makes a positive difference.

What we are talking about here is the influence of power which has used religion as it's justification for evil by taking Scripture out of context.

Luther was of Germanic descent. The Germanic culture has historically been abusive toward women and rather barbaric according to our standards. His childhood was filled with abuse and the freedom he experienced in learning that God is gracious was a catalyst for future Christians to build upon. It is part of the evolution of Christianity. It take time to change patterns, as you must know in your proffession.

Thousands of year of history show that men are territorial. Christianity, over the long haul, IS what brought about the peace that all of the West enjoys.
Norway is a perfect example of a culture that has been formed in the petri dish of Christianity.
Atheism can survive in a culture that is peaceful because the foundation has already been laid.

Give me an example of a peaceful culture that exists apart from the influence of Christianity.

I'm confused about the first Crusade...we may be talking about two different eras. I am referring to the Crusaders..those who wore the "Crux" and marched on Jerusalem at the bidding of the Pope. King Alexios asked for knights, Pope Urban 2 sent around 60,000 men with the promise of forgiveness of sins etc... in Jerusalem. The "knights" didn't know any better, they were illiterate and originated from cultures steeped in warfare and territorialism. There wasn't anything else to come from!

Tommy,
I did NOT say that the conquest of the Holy Land was in defense. The initial request by King Alexios was for knights to guard pilgrims and traders along trade routes to the Holy Land. It was the Pope who took an action of power and conquest.

Another view to consider about the encroachment of Islam, is that the Roman Empire was scattered. The descendents of the citizens of Rome were occupying all of the regions who were instumental in the fall of Rome. They, along with the govenment, were well aware of the ability of a minority to overtake a majority with well timed attacks. The fact that Islam was spreading is undisputed. They lost battles and cities, but I think they would have been seen as a real threat to territorial men.

Joseph,
Yes, I am looking at history through my lense which is the only lense I have.
I agree with you that the Church and state do not mix and thankfully our founding fathers were wise enough to put that into our Constitution.

About uniformity of interpretaion of Scripture, I agree there too. I don't think there needs to be as it seems clear that it is not a textbook or meant to be taken as the only source of information.

zilch said...

Why do I get the feeling that when Christians do good, it's because they are following God-inspired Scripture, but when they do bad, it's because they are misinterpreting Scripture, or are German or otherwise incapacitated?

And likewise for atheists: when they do good, it's because of the benificent influence of Christian culture, or it's proof that God is working even in the godless; but when they do evil, it's because they are godforsaken unbelievers.

It seems to me a daunting, if not impossible task, to say whether or not the total effect of Christianity on the world has been good or bad. Who can say? How can we possibly imaging a counterfactual world that would have developed without Christianity?

In any case, we are not going to understand the goodness of Christianity by examining Scripture and debating about who is a "real" Christian, but by seeing what effects Christian belief has on societies. Didn't someone once say, "By their fruits ye shall know them"? And like the fruits of all religions, some are good and some are bad.

Norway and Estonia seem to be doing fine with a large majority of atheists, and here in Austria people are leaving the Church in droves, and Austria is also not collapsing into chaos. It's hard to say whether a successful atheist society must pass through a religious stage, to build up enough cooperation to make the kind of culture and education that can support the trust necessary for success. Who can say?

My main concern is not really with religious belief, but rather with bad behavior, which is sometimes augmented by religious belief.

Dale McGowan said...

I didn't read all 156 comments, but hope the point has been made that D’Souza is caught in the common confusion that anyone who is not a Christian must be an atheist. An atheist by definition does not believe in the existence of a supernatural deity. Stalin was indeed an atheist, but Hitler –- though born and raised Catholic -- was neither quite Christian nor remotely atheist at the end of his life.

I twice taught a course in Germany about the use of the arts by the Third Reich to promote the idea of German superiority, during which I had considerable opportunity to examine the research surrounding Hitler’s various influences and beliefs. Toward the end of his life he was critical of the organized Christian church (“The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity”) but also specifically denounced atheism (“We do not want to educate anyone in atheism”) and repeatedly affirmed his personal belief in God (“Whoever sees God only in an oak or in a tabernacle, instead of seeing Him everywhere, is not truly pious”) and even in certain elements of Judeo-Christian religion (“The Ten Commandments are a code of living to which there's no refutation”).

By the end, he had merged Catholic ideas with a strange blend of Teutonic religious ideas and pantheism, referring to God as “The Lawmaker” and continuing to use the New Testament to justify his actions. These are things that are extraordinarily well-documented — yet the bizarre myth of “Hitler the atheist” persists.

Dale McGowan
Editor/author, Parenting Beyond Belief: On Raising Ethical, Caring Kids Without Religion
www.ParentingBeyondBelief.com

John W. Loftus said...

Dale, click on my name and email me.

Shygetz said...

Give me an example of a peaceful culture that exists apart from the influence of Christianity.

The Semai. Puts you Christians to absolute shame when it comes to peacefulness.

The point I am making is that the cumulative influence of Christianity makes a positive difference.

But you haven't made that point. The Christian Roman Empire was just as violent as the pagan Roman Empire. The post-Empire Christian Europe was more violent and unjust than the Chinese dynasties of the same time (which, while not paragons of virtue, were much more civilized than Dark Ages Europe). The arrival of Christians to the New World certainly did not bring a sweeping era of peace upon the natives. Where is your historical evidence? Christianity has just added another way to separate people into "us" and "them", and you have shown no historical evidence that Christian socieities are more peaceful than their contemporaries.

Luther was of Germanic descent. The Germanic culture has historically been abusive toward women and rather barbaric according to our standards.

What explains his virulent anti-Semitism? Luther is thought by most historians to have been the major source of Germanic anti-Semitism since the Crusades, with well-known results. The virulence of his anti-Semitism was unprecedented in contemporary Germanic culture and exceeded the casual anti-Semitism of the Catholic clergy (indeed, the papacy often went out of its way to protect Jews from physical violence), so what prompted it if not his Protestant theology?

And you still haven't explained Calvin and his loving treatment of Servetus in Calvin's Geneva.

I'm confused about the first Crusade...we may be talking about two different eras.

No, we're not. Read about the Council of Clermont where Pope Urban II declared the First Crusade. The histories written by eyewitnesses state that he did NOT emphasize aiding the Byzantines to defend their land or to guard pilgrims, but rather directed the crusaders to capture and hold Jerusalem. They were led by the so-called Princes' Crusade, which contained many educated nobility and was led by the Bishop of Le Puy. The grown-ups were indeed in charge, and not the unwashed masses.

Bob said...

It seems to me the argument is misplaced. Modern dictators (like all dictators) must eliminate sources of opposition. In many societies, religion - any religion - can provide that opposition and must be neutralized!

Atheism isn't really an "ism" as such. It's simply the lack of a belief. Nothing can be done "in the name of" a nothing.

The mass atrocities cited by Dinesh resulted from a dictator's substitution of "the state" for "god." It was a power thing!

Only societies which recognize "individual rights" can hope to tolerate both the religious and non-religious. Cancel the Bill of Rights and it doesn't make much difference whether the resulting dictatorship is religious or non-religious... it will be total and brutal!