Atheist Governments of the 20th Century: The Death Toll of Godless Goodness

After 17 years in political office, I am familiar with many of the tactics political bullies employ.

One of the most commonplace — and effective — is disruption. I’m not sure when this began, but I do know that both the Communists and the Nazis used it to good advantage, and that it then moved onto the scene here in America in the last half of the 20th century.

The methodology is quite simple. Simply go into a meeting, an on-line discussion, a classroom or whatnot and make yelling speeches out of turn, ask strident and abusive questions, call people names and take over the place. Stop other people from talking by shouting them down.

The so-called “new atheists” employ this tactic constantly in on-line spaces where Christians gather. They often swarm on Public Catholic like a bunch of angry wasps. One of the tactics they employ (along with sending me a barrage of name-calling, abusive messages when I won’t allow them to post their name-calling, abusive comments on this blog) is to demand ridiculous levels of “proof” of any statement that anyone makes in favor of Christianity.

If you say that water is wet, they want a cite.

This is both tiresome and diversionary. It pulls the discussion away from the main points of the post in question, and refocuses it on the yelling blather of the disrupter. This is an especially good tactic to employ when you don’t have any valid points to make, as in, say, trying to argue against the simple fact that 20th Century atheist governments murdered many millions of their own citizens.

Just for the fun of it, I tried googling to find a source which gave totals of the people atheist regimes slaughtered in the past century. I found a lot of sites. Interestingly, the totals were pretty much the same, wherever I looked. So, instead of giving you a clickable site for what is common knowledge, I’m going to suggest a book. If you want to learn about deaths under the atheist regimes of communism, go to and order this:

If you want to learn about the tactics you’ve seen employed on this and other Christian on-line sites, go to and order this:

In the meantime, here are the generally-accepted death counts from atheist regimes of the 20th Century. I think it’s important to note that these figures are the most conservative I could find. For instance, Stalin’s death toll is only for the 1930s.

Hitler is a special case in that he is a right wing rather than a left wing killer. What this means in practice is that Hitler pandered to Christianity in his early rise to power, then took over the churches once he got in power. He enforced this by imprisoning and killing large numbers of bishops and Catholic priests as well as protestants. Anyone who tried to stand for the Gospels in his regime was signing their own death certificate. According to documentaries I’ve seen on the History Channel, Hitler made fun of faith and religious people in private.

In my opinion, claims that Hitler was a Christian at the time he committed these crimes (he may have been as a child, I don’t know) or that Stalin was a Christian, which I’ve also heard, put the claimants in the same intellectual space as holocaust deniers.

Another important point is that most of these deaths were the result of government leaders, killing their own citizens. Again, Hitler is a special case in that he also killed civilians in conquered territories of the Reich. Whether or not this made them citizens is a point of law. I think it does, since he was responsible for their governance.

There are a plethora of places where you can verify these numbers, if you are so-minded.

Mao Ze-Dong (China, 1958-61 and 1966-69, Tibet 1949-50) 49-78,000,00 people murdered

Jozef Stalin (USSR 1932-39 only) 15,000,000 people murdered

Pol Pot (Cambodia, 1975-79) 1,700,000 people murdered

Kim II Sung (North Korea 1948-94) 1.6 million people murdered

Tito (Yugoslavia 1945-1987) 570,000 people murdered 

Suharto (Communists 1967-66) 500,000 people murdered

Ante Pavelic (Croatia 1941-45) 359,000 people murdered

Ho Chi Min (Vietnam 1953-56) 200,000 people murdered

Vladimir Ilich Lenin (USSR, 1917-20) 30,000 people murdered

Adolf Hitler (Germany 1939-1945) 12,000,000 people murdered

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  • Jack

    Long but worth it.
    Main Currents of Marxism: The Founders-The Golden Age-The Breakdown by Leszek Kolakowski.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Thanks Jack. I’ll check it out.

      • Jack

        Free pdf files online. Google the title.

        Check this out as well. One minute and ten seconds of your time.
        On youtube. Slavoj Zizek in conversation with Jonathan Derbyshire At Central Saint Martins.
        1:22:30 to 1:23:40.
        Slavoj Zizek is one of those atheists who bases his thinking on the Bible but doesn’t believe in God. If you watch the rest of the video he doubts his atheism at one point.

  • neenergyobserver

    Incredible almost, isn’t it? But your figures are very close to right on the money.

    My only quibble is that to me Hitler is only slightly right of Stalin, seems to me the spectrum runs from communist on the left to anarchist (which is little better) on the right.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I think of it as more like a circle, with Hitler and Stalin sitting side by side as the complete the circle from opposing directions. Extremists of both the left and right have more in common with one another than they do with people like us.

    • Theodore Seeber

      I’m not sure anarchist is actually any better, as anarchy has a tendency to break down into tribal warlords and might-makes-right. There has never been an anarchy that didn’t.

  • Bill S

    There are so many variables in life, religion being just one. Whether people or governments are good or bad depends on many factors and shouldn’t be judged solely on religion or the lack thereof.

    It is true that really bad people will not be adhering to a religion that teaches that bad people go to hell. But that is not reason in itself to assume that all irreligious people are bad.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I agree.

      “that is not reason in itself to assume that all irreligious people are bad.”

    • Libertarian

      No True Scotsman

  • kmk

    I think Tito and Suharto are not in the millions , but great post!

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I think you misread it. They’re in the hundreds of thousands. Thank you, btw!

  • Jessica Hoff

    No one was assuming all non religious people were bad – red herring time. Atheist regimes have slaughtered millions in search if an earthly utopia, so next time atheists bang on about those killed in the name of religion, they might like to consider those killed in the name of political ideologies – and go bother politics bloggers.

  • pagansister

    Many religions have also slaughtered millions of people in the name of their faith, over the last 2000 years and before, some with the current government/ruler/ dictator’s approval/behest.

    • Bernie

      I really don’t think so. Back up your statement?

      • pagansister

        Perhaps millions is a stretch. Depending on the site, the Crusades killed tens of thousands, the Inquisitions (more than 1) numbers range from 3,000 to 5,000 (a Catholic site) to another site claiming 800-20,000. In Northern Ireland, the number is 3,526. During the same century that the Inquisitions were occurring, 150,000 witches were burned. So my number was off, but even 1 is 1 too many to die in faith conflicts, IMO. Didn’t even try to find numbers for the deaths in the Middle East, among it’s citizens. (not the wars we are involved in).

        • pagansister

          Need to add, “”——–150,000 witches were burned in Europe.

          • Libertarian

            Actually, that number is often exaggerated. It’s likely that the number of people killed as witches was significantly less, probably below 50,000.

            • pagansister

              I agree.

          • Rebecca Hamilton

            First, the Crusades were a poorly executed act of defensive war in the face of a hostile invader. All you have to do is go to the countries in question and look at the artifacts to see that entire Christian populations were subjugated and then oppressed. These invasions reached into Europe. As for witches, I doubt if your figures are accurate. This was a tragedy, and I do not deny it.
            However, in what way does it address the point of this series of posts that atheist claims that religion is the cause of war and oppression and if you do away with faith, then there will be no more war and oppression are objectively and provably not true?
            You have to go back many centuries to support your claims, whereas all I have to do is talk to people who were alive and who experienced the horrors of atheist regimes as they happened.

            • pagansister

              Rebecca, most certainly what I mentioned was much longer in the past than the recent horrors. I realize there are survivors of those horrors. Only mentioned what I did as saying that in many ways things haven’t changed over the centuries. People are still being killed either for their beliefs or for not believing, if you will, at the direction of one leader or another. You’re saying that atheist governments have been the cause of horrible deaths in the 20th century and there is no disputing that at all, but there is a past (yes, different centuries) of similar events caused by those belonging to certain religions. As I mentioned previously, (below I think) I do not believe that all of the world’s problems would be solved by the removal of religion. As to the number of witch burnings, I do think the number I read and wrote above was too high—even when I read it it seemed inaccurate.

              • Rebecca Hamilton

                I agree with you. We are fallen creatures in a fallen world and we all sin because of that. There are no exceptions. That is why we need Jesus Christ as our Savior. Without the cross of Calvary, we are all doomed to die in our sins.

          • Theodore Seeber

            Including at least one Catholic Saint who was burned as a witch, so I’m not sure what that proves. If anything, adding the Inquisition brought a requirement of evidence (YMMV, depending on the secular culture of the time) to such trials.

            Kenya could use some good Catholic Inquisitions right now- to replace the way witches are normally treated there (the default treatment for witches in such traditional cultures is mob justice).

          • Theodore Seeber
      • AlanGNixon

        You must also take into account the large population rise that occurred just before and during the 20th century and the more efficient methods used to kill people in the modern period. When one acknowledges these things it becomes hard to compare numbers of people killed in modern conflicts with those before. Imagine what the inquisition would look like with modern population sizes and social/war technologies.

        Although I think you can argue that all of these figures were more driven by their communism than their atheism, Hitler is a particularly misleading example. Hitler’s beliefs are hard to pin down and are often cited as being a mix of Christianity and old German Paganism (nationalism). There is far too much evidence against Hitler being an atheist to place him in the atheist category.

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          Alan, it’s not so much the sheer numbers as the murderous governance. If you apply the same standards to Christians and religious people that you are applying to atheists, then most of the claptrap about Christians, people of faith and religion itself being the cause of all the wars that were ever fought and having killed blah blah blah numbers of people falls over on its head. All I’ve done with these blogs is apply a tiny bit of a comparatively gentle version of the same attacks that atheists have been launching against Christians to them.

          I am very tired of the blood libel that atheists are so fond of leveling against Christians, especially when they have to go back almost 1000 years to find examples to use and then they have to distort them. I didn’t invent this line of reasoning. I am merely responding to it in kinds.

          If these posts have taught me one thing is that the atheists who are so desperate to climb aboard the good ship Public Catholic are not willing to apply the same logic to themselves that they do to other people.

          If you don’t like it when its applied to you, don’t do it to others.

          Either accept these figures as caused by atheism or apply the same kind of logic to others that you do to yourself.

        • Theodore Seeber

          “Imagine what the inquisition would look like with modern population sizes and social/war technologies.”

          I don’t have to imagine. I live in a state where this happened:

          And where it continues to happen slightly more clandestinely:

          True modern technology just means instead of killing the minorities outright, you convince their children to become sterile to exterminate the race.

          • Theodore Seeber

            I just realized that wikipedia article was more general than I wished. The relevant quote is: “The Oregon Board of Eugenics, later renamed the Board of Social Protection, existed until 1983,[42] with the last forcible sterilization occurring in 1981.”

            This puts it *within* my lifetime that The Board of Social Protection was active, and with the actions that Bill Diss has uncovered in every minority-white high school in Portland, still appears to be active.

        • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

          What the Hell are you talking about? Read Alan Bullock, you twit. Or Martin Broszat. Or ANYONE who knows anything about Hitler and Nazism.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      The point of my original post was not that there are any people, anywhere who are other than fallen. My point was that the claims by atheists that all we have to do is end religion and the problems of the world will go away is patently false. The murderous atheist governments of the 20th century, which where every one of them a slaughterhouse, shows this quite clearly.

  • Claude

    Ms. Hamilton,

    I’ve read this post twice to make sure that I wasn’t imagining your implication that “new atheists” (whatever that is) employ tactics traceable to 20th-century genocidal dictators. While you did not explicitly make this claim, the juxtaposition of a photo of a concentration camp victim with your complaints about the conduct of “new atheists,” and your casual transition to a most murderous ideologues contest left no ambiguity as to your meaning.

    “Diversion” is a commonplace on the internet that is hardly exclusive to any one group. I suppose it is a burden to moderate a blog, but that is what we’re talking about here: people who you find annoying posting on your blog.

    To associate this situation not only with references to “tactics” practiced by “Communists and Nazis,” but by extension (“just for fun”) with “atheist regimes” responsible for the deaths of millions is not only tasteless but outright demagoguery. Your own blog rules request that people be polite and use courtesy and civility. The irony must be lost on you.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      They most certainly do employ the tactics of hazing, hectoring, disruption of conversations and hijacking of other people’s conversations. I’ve also seen them do the things I described in meetings. These are tactics which were used by the Nazis and Communists both.

      I do not mean to say that all atheists behave like this. They do not. But the evangelical atheists who come around here do.

      If they don’t like the association, they should stop the behavior.

      The post itself is a response to a demand for “proof” that atheist regimes of the 20th century killed many people. This was in itself hectoring in my opinion, but I obliged. The truth is that the claim of atheists that all the world needs is to do away with religion and we would all live in harmony and happiness — a sort of secular second eden — is patent nonsense. The atheist governments of the 20th century were butcher shops.

      It is amazing to me that people who are so uniformly rude, belittling, mocking and verbally vicious toward everyone who disagrees with them should be so sensitive about themselves. Read some of the atheist blogs here at Patheos, then go to some of the others out there to see what I mean. I will not be writing another post to “prove” things about this.

      • Bob Seidensticker

        I put up with a lot of game playing and downright rudeness from people who don’t like my atheist blog Cross Examined. I don’t moderate comments. I should mention that some Christian commenters are quite civil, and we can actually exchange ideas.

        I don’t see the atheists being any worse than any other group; rather, the issue IMO is that the internet brings out the worst in some people.

    • Ted Seeber

      I’m not willing to say all atheists do. But New Atheists often argue for eugenics and genocide. They just call it abortion, contraception, sterilization, and euthanasia.

    • Bob Seidensticker


      My reaction was similar. Sure, regimes headed by atheists or that were officially atheist did terrible things. So what? Religion was a victim in these cases, just like those groups of people that the regimes were annoyed at. The regimes did terrible things because they were dictatorships, not because they were atheist. It’s like saying that Stalin’s shenanigans are because he had a mustache or that Hitler’s were because he was a vegetarian. (I wrote more on that in a recent post.)

      • Rebecca Hamilton

        Bob, I realize that you feel the need to galump in here to help your more addle-pated associates, but this point is something of a red herring. My point is that the atheist claim that religion is the cause of most wars and that getting rid of faith would lead to more peaceful relations and better governance is, not to put too fine a point on it, baloney.

        Your bizarre associations with mustaches and parsing about dictatorships notwithstanding, atheist governments have been tried and found murderous.

        • Bob Seidensticker


          We could haggle about the role religion has had in wars, but that’s not an interesting argument to make. You can charge baloney to someone else, because I don’t make that argument.

          As for atheism causing wars, as I have made clear, it has caused none. I know of no one killed in the name of atheism. Was my comment unclear? You can’t dismiss an association between mustaches and violence without dismissing, for the same reasons, any association between atheism and violence.

          • Rebecca Hamilton

            Bob, I think that the lack of any higher moral authority is of more importance in shaping a person’s behavior that whether they are vegetarians or wear mustaches, which was your (obviously flippant) comment. The truth is that we’ve had a number of atheist regimes in the past 100 years and every single one of them has committee mass murder against its own citizens. Every single one of them has reduced people to chattel and treated them like objects. Is this due to atheism? I think it’s likely connected. There have been dictatorships that did not kill millions of their citizens and reduce people to chattel, btw.

          • Theodore Seeber

            Like most of atheism, the fact that you don’t know of anybody killed in the name of atheism just means you have not been paying any attention to the evidence at all.

            • JoFro

              Why yes, Theodore! Please tell that to those Orthodox priests who were hunted down by the atheist communists and shot dead because they were men of religion who were not willing to bow down to the “superior atheist materialist view of life” – tell them they were not killed in the name of an atheist idealogy.

              Please tell that to the Orthodox faithful who watched as the biggest Orthodox church in the world was dynamited by the Communists because apparently they had a thing for its bad architecture – nope, nothing to do with the fact that it was a church.

              I do not know which is scarier – that a mere 20 years since the fall of the Soviet Empire you have ignoramuses who know nothing about the hell that they and their Marxist atheist allies brought to the world or actually think that none of their horrors had anything to do with their very open hostile views towards religion and their very open love for the atheist position

          • Jack

            “I know of no one killed in the name of atheism.”
            Of course, atheism has no position. It took only 11 words to go back to the blank state of mother Russia. Thank God all we have to do is shave his mustache.

  • pagansister

    I disagree with those atheists (or others for that matter) that ending religion will end the problems of the world. Religion can bring, in some cases, more gentleness to the world. What is unfortunate is that over zealous members of religions can cause a lot of problems in the world too.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Agreed. But if they are sincerely trying to follow the Gospels of Christ, they are in a way held hostage to those gospels. I’ve dealt with a lot of people in my life and I’ve yet to meet a person who was following Jesus who couldn’t be brought around on that basis.
      When people are their own god, there is nothing or no one to appeal to with them.
      Also, the Holy Spirit is real. If a person is trying to follow Jesus, they can’t get too far afield before the Spirit jerks him or her up. This has happened to me, more than once.
      I know that some people who go to church and claim Christ as their savior are impervious to the Holy Spirit, but what does that tell you about them?

  • Ted Seeber

    Abortion alone in the United States dwarfs all of these numbers. But one could say that too is due to militant secularism.

    • Ted Seeber

      Before I wrote that, I should have read Mao’s number- 78 million? That HAS to include the one child per family policy.

      • Rebecca Hamilton

        I don’t think so. Remember the size of China and the many things Mao did that killed people.

  • Frederick

    The idea advanced by the evangelical atheists is that religion is the cause of war. Yet less than 6% of all wars were caused by religious differences and half of those were caused by Islam.

  • Libertarian

    None of this changes the non-existece of deities.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      I’m not trying to address the reality of God’s existence in this series of posts. What I am saying — and I think I’ve pretty much proved it — is that atheist claims that religion and faith are the cause of the all wars and misery and that all we have to do to create a new world of bliss is do away with faith is screwball hyperbole.

      As I said, I am not trying in these posts to “prove” the existence of God. However, the facts of the human condition, including the ones I talk about here, are certainly consistent with the theological concept of original sin.

  • Bill S

    Getting rid of Islam would have a beneficial effect. Getting rid of Christianity would not. I say that even though I don’t think either faith is based on a true event (Mohammed receiving the Koran from the angel Gabriel or the Resurrection of Jesus). At least Christianity teaches those virtues that we most need for world peace.

    • Theodore Seeber

      Muslims believe the Quran to be verbally revealed through angel Gabriel (Jibril) from God to Muhammad gradually over a period of approximately 23 years beginning on 22 December 609 CE,[7] when Muhammad was 40, and concluding in 632 CE, the year of his death.

      I give this quote from wikipedia because I was wrong and you are right. I had no idea Jibril was supposedly involved. What I did know is that what we have of the Koran is but a fragment, ordered very incoherently, and it did not come down in a single sitting or even as a book.

  • Yvain

    Hi, I posted a response to this last night pointing out a few errors, like that some of the dictators you list as atheist were actually Christian. I thought I was pretty polite about it, but my post got deleted. Can you let me know if that was a mistake so I can post it again? And if it wasn’t, can you tell me what I did wrong so I can avoid doing it again on this blog?

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Your reply ran to hundreds of words; way too long for a combox. Shorten it up.

      • Yvain

        Shortened and posted again. I don’t think I can make it any shorter as I do want to include the references to make it clear that I’m not just making this up.

        • Rebecca Hamilton

          Scott, it will be awhile before I can look at this. I want to read it through because I will probably want to reply to it myself. I’m going to be very busy the next days, so I can’t do it easily. But I will get to it. Thank you for your courtesy.

  • Reluctant Liberal

    I know this wasn’t the main point of your post (you were responding to others), but I have to throw in my two cents anyway.

    Religion is far from the most useful predictor of violence. I would suggest far more useful measures are nationalism, intolerance, patriarchy, or (if that last one made some of you wince) militarism.

    However, if we are going to tally up the dead, I would submit that colonial rule, which was justified in theological as well as racial terms, should be included. The 60 million that died of famine in India alone under British rule might make a numbers game undesirable.

    Once again, I know you were just saying that atheists kill people, too. But I could see some people start unwarranted fist pumping after reading your post, and I wanted to throw some water on that idea.

    • Theodore Seeber

      Colonial rule in general was evil. Just look at what happened to the Jesuits and Incans in Peru after the fall of the Incan Empire- then what happened when Colonial Spain decided to take over.

    • Isaiah

      The colonial rule was based off darwin’s idea of selection. same thing for the kkk.

  • Jack

    It’s funny how atheists are always trying to make it look like they are innocent.

  • Bill S

    Why would anyone want or need an atheist government when a secular government meets the needs of atheists and theists? Why be against a secular government when the alternative could be atheist or a religion that is not yours. Of course, we want the government that best matches our religion or world view, but we can’t have one that favors one over another. So a secular government is the only sensible option.

  • Jack

    “but we can’t have one that favors one over another.”
    Bill, ” I’m right”
    Jack, “I’m right”
    Judge, “Errrrr”
    Well at least it looks like you’re in “utopia” Bill. Evil doesn’t exist anymore.

  • Jack

    Rebecca, the multicoloured liberal rainbow is the mirror image of the Russian blank state. Liberals just don’t get that.

  • aveteran

    “Hitler pandered to Christianity in his early rise to power, then took over the churches once he got in power.”

    And what guarantee do we have that today’s “Christian” dominionist politicians wouldn’t do the same or worse when they manage to eradicate the Constitution? Mike Huckabee comes to mind.

    There is no room for freedom in a nation where the Constitution is displaced by the Bible.

    • Rebecca Hamilton

      Actually, if you read through the posts on this blog, you’ll see that I agree with you that today’s right wing politicians are pandering to the church to use it for their own purposes, and that they are sincere. I think that politicizing the Christian message and compromising it for party politics has done a great deal of harm to Christian witness and to the understanding of individual Christians about the Gospels. I also think that for some people it has successfully encouraged them to make a false idol of their political party.

      Your second point is a red herring. No one (except perhaps for a few fringees no one pays any attention to) is suggesting or wants to have the Bible replace the Constitution.

    • rhodes autry

      The Bible does not tell us to kill people to insure world domination… you have it confused with the Koran. The Bibli instructs us to love, doj good, etc. and when Christ returns, He will subdue the world without our aid. Have you not read these things?

    • Raini Way

      You are aware that the Constitution was written by a Christian, aren’t you?

      • TJ Bradders


  • Fabio Paolo Barbieri

    The figure for Lenin is ridculously inferior to reality. Try two to five million people.