Enough of the Inquisition! Christianity and Genocide

Enough of the Inquisition! Christianity and Genocide January 29, 2012

Some time ago, I was having lunch with a good friend. The conversation turned to Christianity, and he asked me what I thought of it. I mumbled though my sandwich some generally affirmative answer, and he responded with utter conviction: “But what about the Inquisition?” In his mind, this Christian-based atrocity (which executed three to thirty thousand people) constituted sure proof against the validity of Christianity.

Ugh… This fellow is a good friend, and he’s very bright, but what a knuckleheaded thing to say.

The logic of this church-morality argument goes like this: The Christian Church should be perfect, and the Christian faith is invalid if the church displays a grievous moral failure, which it has done many, many times. This argument is inconsistent with Christian beliefs, let alone common sense, both of which hold that the Church is not perfect.

This argument is not apostasy, it’s bad social science.

If one wanted to judge Christianity by participation in atrocities, one should compare the Church’s participation in atrocities versus that of other religious and secular institutions. As data for this comparison, here’s a list of the worst genocides of the last 100 years:

China (1960s, 1970s), 30 million dead
USSR (1920s, 1930s, 1940s), 2 0 million dead
Germany (1930s, 1940s), 11.4 million dead
Japan (1930s, 1940s), 10 million dead
Pakistan (1970s), 3.1 million dead
Sudan (1960s, present day), 2.8 million dead
Nigeria (1960s), 2 million dead
Afghanistan (1980s), 1.8 million dead
Cambodia (1970s), 1.7 million dead
Turkey (1910s, 1920s), 1.5 million dead

Indonesia (1970s, 1980s), 1.2 million dead
Rwanda (1990s), 1 million dead
India (1940s), 1 million dead
(Source: Barbara Harff, National Geographic, Jan 2006, p. 30)

Okay, I don’t think that counting up atrocities is a useful way to judge religions, but if one is going to do so, at least do it accurately. From the above list, it appears that most of these terrible atrocities have been committed by governments or institutions rooted in belief systems other than Christianity. By the logic of this argument, then, Christianity is supported.

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