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.