Some claim that Christianity is not the “saint” many assume it to be. Rather Christianity has been the cause of the most atrocious evils in history. Instead of spreading peace, reconciliation, forgiveness, and all the good qualities it claims, it has only spread division and hate. This argument can be seen in many of the new atheists’ books, such as A Letter To a Christian Nation by Sam Harris or God Delusion by Richard Dawkins.
When the argument that Christianity is responsible for many of the great atrocities in history often there are several events mentioned: The Crusades, Salem Witch Trials, and the Inquisitions. When considering the claim against Christianity and the events associated with it, then are three arguments to consider in light of these claims: (1) Many of the events mentioned were exaggerated, (2) those who committed these atrocities were not Christians or following the teaching of the Bible, and (3) more unimaginable mass killings have been done through secular ideologies, such as nazism and communism than any religion, especially Christianity.
Often the Crusades and Inquisitions there are claims that millions of people died. However, thousands in the Inquisitions and in the tens of thousands in the Crusades died. This is not to make light of the deaths from these events, but exaggerated claims can make something seem one way when it is not. More specifically during the Salem Witch Trials only around 30 people died and hundreds imprisoned. In the end, those who were imprisoned were released, given public apologies, and many were compensated afterwards. Also many Christians fought against the trials, and helped end them, too. In all of the events mentioned often the number of those killed are drastically exaggerated to make the events seems much more than they were. (Again I am not making light that people died. Even if it were one person dead it would be a problem. I am trying to give a clearer perspective and one part of a larger argument.)
The claim is that Christianity has been the catalyst in all of these events. Problem is that the Bible does not condone any of the actions committed during the events. Those who were leading these events were either wrongly informed through high up people twisting the Bible, or they misinterpreted the Bible to either fit their agenda or through poor reading of the Scripture. I know many of you may think right now: Exactly! It was their interpretation. Maybe they interpreted the Bible right or there are many interpretations of the Bible. As Sam Harris put it in Letter to a Christian Nation, “While we may want to ascribe this to human nature, it is clear that such hatred draws considerable support form the Bible. How do I know this? The most disturbed of my correspondents always cite chapter and verse.” May we be extremely careful not to think the Bible claims something because someone uses verses. The authors of the Bible had certain intentions and it is possible that people can misinterpret and in the process misuse the verses. I do not want to spend lots of time in this article covering that topic because I have already covered this problem in another blog titled Thats Just Your Interpretation(Click on the title to read the blog). It seems logical to judge a religion off its foundations and authorities, not off certain individuals. Just because someone claims the name doesn’t mean they are a true follower. For example, if there were someone who claimed to be with a certain company and acted in their name, but was given no instructions to do so then whose to be blamed? In the Bible, 1 John speaks very clearly throughout the letter that those who act against God’s commands are not off or for God. So it seems reasonable to judge a religion by these foundations and authorities that instruct a them. For Christianity that would be the Bible. The Bible and the teaching’s of Christ, the ultimate authority, do not teach these actions. On the other hand, there are other religions and ideologies that do condone certain acts that are violent or a way of thinking, so if someone were to commit some of these crimes then it would be consistent. Unlike Christianity were it would not be consistent.
Many more unimaginable mass killings have been committed by secular ideologies than Christianity. Nazis and communism both have had their hands in millions of deaths through people like Stalin, Hitler, or Pol Pot (for actual numbers check into an old edition of Guinness Book of World Records under “Judicial”, then “Crimes: Mass Killings”). Many may claim that they had religious influence, but if we look at history you will see that they had socialist, communist, or atheist ideas not Christian ideas. Nazi’s were given several books to read when entering the Red Army, and one of those books was Origin of the Species. The idea of “survival of the fittest” gives power to the Nazi’s to do things like eliminate other races.
In conclusion, may we at learn one important thing here: Many people may do acts in the name of God (that is of Christianity), but unless His instructions (the Bible) condone it then it is false and should not be used as ammunition against Christianity.
The Real Murderers by Greg Koukl
God Is Not Responsible by Greg Koukl
Christianity’s Real Record by Greg Koukl