Cause of Death: Militant Atheism

We are living through a time when those who believe in God are treated with disdain.  The late Christopher Hitchens, and the lively Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins attack people who believe in God. Harris wrote in his book End of Faith that religion represents “the most potent source of human conflict, past and present.” Richard Dawkins said:

I am a fairly militant atheist, with a fair degree of active hostility toward religion. I certainly was hostile toward it at school, from the age of about sixteen onwards. I mellowed a bit in my twenties and thirties. But I’m getting more militant again now.

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He encourages people to not only challenge religious people but to “ridicule and show contempt” for their doctrines and sacraments. He said this at the “Reason Rally” in Washington, D.C. in 2012.

I have lost track of the number of times I have heard that religion is the greatest cause of war and death. But the facts prove otherwise.

Dinesh D’Souza, the Rishwain Fellow at the Hoover Institution, wrote:

It’s time to abandon the mindlessly repeated mantra that religious belief has been the greatest source of human conflict and violence. Atheism, not religion, is the real force behind the mass murders of history.

Encyclopedia of Wars, authors Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod document the history of recorded warfare. From their list of 1763 wars, only 123 have been classified to involve a religious cause, accounting for less than 7 percent of all wars and less than 2 percent of all people killed in warfare. It’s estimated that more than 160 million civilians were killed in genocides in the 20th century alone, with nearly 100 million killed by the Communist states of USSR and China.

Few people are aware of the religious persecution that took place in the USSR. There are many stories about the Jews, but I have not come across many about the persecution of Christians. There is a documentary in production called Martyred in the USSR, directed by Kevin Gonzales of Twelve Points Productions that takes us to the now dismantled USSR, to eastern bloc countries where religion was attacked under communism.

Dr. Christopher Marsh of Baylor University, who is also involved in the film, said:

People in Russia today also do not know of the intense persecution of Christians and Jews that occurred in the USSR, perhaps to appear more liberal or democratic to the West.

Under communism an attempt was made to wipe out believers that led to multi-million deaths including 1.9 million Polish civilians, mostly Christians. More than three million Soviet prisoners of war died and more than two million Soviet civilians, mostly Christians, were killed.

The need for this documentary comes from the desire to bear witness before memories are lost. Witness names must be attached to accounts so that, years from now when one asks about the martyrs to religion in Russia who were martyred because they believed in God in a state culture of atheism, there will be an historic account.

Vasily Vlasivich, an Evangelical Christian who refused to take an oath to the Soviet Communist Party during World War II was immediately sentenced to death but managed to escape being executed.

Nikolai Bobarykin was a pastor in a small town in the Soviet Republic. He went to the gulag twice in his life for simply being a pastor.

R. J. Rummel, Professor Emeritus at the University of Hawaii, researched the deaths of civilians under Marxist rule:

The consensus figure for those that Joseph Stalin murdered when he ruled the Soviet Union is 20,000,000.  Considering that Stalin died in 1953… it did not include – camp deaths after 1950, and before 1936; executions 1939-53; the vast deportation of the people of captive nations into the camps, and their deaths 1939-1953; the massive deportation within the Soviet Union of minorities 1941-1944; and their deaths; and those the Soviet Red Army and secret police executed throughout Eastern Europe after their conquest during 1944-1945 is omitted.

Rummel asked:

Why is this death by Marxism, so incredible and significant in its magnitude, unknown or unappreciated compared to the importance given slavery, cancer deaths, auto accident deaths?

Today, according to the organization Open Doors, religious persecution continues in states that are officially atheist. North Korea is ranked first.

John Das, a medical student, took an interest in the history of religion in the Eastern bloc and discovered:

Militant atheism was a cause for disaster in the entire Eastern Bloc leading to the persecution of millions of believers of many faiths.

He became the Lead Archivist for the film. He says:

The documentary:  is not meant to be a political film, but rather one that documents history. However, we do hope that it will cause people to think about selectively targeting religion as the scapegoat of the ills of society and that it will encourage people to stand against similar movements of militant atheism in the present, as well as in the future.

The attacks on religion as the cause of evil continue despite the facts to the contrary. How sad that people in pursuit of promoting an agenda deny the facts, even when there are eye witness accounts. Holocaust denial comes to mind.

Can you imagine how easy it would be to undo/rewrite history if we did not have people of conscience choosing to record and bear witness to evil events?

Moses Mendelssohn (1729-1786), a noted German philosopher and the grandfather of composer Felix Mendelssohn, wrote that historical truths and events are only witnessed once. We learn of them through those who pass down the information.

Hence the respectability and the trustworthiness of the narrator constitute the sole evidence of historical matters. Without testimony, we cannot be convinced of any historical truth. Without authority, the truth of history vanishes with the occurrence itself.

As John Das astutely pointed out:

We know from history that the mockery of certain ethnic and religious groups often led to their persecution.

We just don’t want to believe it.

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