How many people have died because of religion? Including war, genocide, terrorism, witch hunts, botched exorcisms, forgone medical treatment, etc?
Difficult to say. It would involve a lot of estimating.
On the whole, though, it’s probably a lot less than the number of people killed by secular regimes. For instance, the much-maligned Spanish Inquisition is estimated to have killed between 3,000 and 4,000 people during it’s existence, an average of less than 10 people per year. The USA with it’s famously non-religious government executes more people than that each year. During Chairman Mao’s reign in China, the government may have killed as many as seventy million people.
In addition to what ITR Champion said, what about people who died for partially political and partially religious reasons? Do you count them as fractions of people for the purpose of these tallies? What about wars that were nominally for religious purposes but in reality for political or economic reasons? This isn’t a question that has an answer.
I don’t think it can really be calculated. Even small portions of the death toll would be impractical to calculate; for example, many people have certainly died because of the religiously-motivated efforts to slow the attempt to fight against AIDS, but how would you calculate the exact number? The efforts by creationists to forbid teaching evolution have hampered America’s abilities in biology and medicine and therefore killed people, but how do you count the exact numbers?
“Famously non-religious”? The same one that prints “In God We Trust” on the money, makes students swear allegiance to the flag “Under God”, and fought a decades long ruthless Cold War against “Godless Communism”? The American government is not remotely non-religious, and borders on theocratic at times.
And Communism was in many eyes (including mine) a non-theistic religion; something of a knockoff of Christianity, actually.
Wrong. The U.S. has executed 1391 people since 1976. Cite
I think he means that the US executes more than ten people per year, i.e. the US has a higher execution rate than the Spanish Inquisition.
So that would make me right, not wrong.
Edited to add: UDS is correct. I was asserting that the U.S. government executes more than 10 people each year.
Yeah, if you want religious deaths, the Spanish Inquisition is the wrong place to look: turns out that their sum total of deaths wouldn’t rival a single major Aztec holy day. Look instead to religious wars:
-The Thirty Year’s War, a war between Protestants and Catholics, may have killed more than 10 million people.
-The French Wars of Religion may have killed around 4 million people.
-The Crusades may have taken out another three million.
-The Yellow Turban War may have taken out seven million.
-And then we’ve got the Taiping Rebellion, led by a dude who claimed to be Jesus’s baby brother. Death toll? 20-30 million.
I don’t think there’s any good answer.
First, there’s the veil of history. The further back we look, the sketchier the data are. There are tens of thousands of year of human conflict, most of it invisible to us.
Second, as The Joker and the Thief said, it’s hard to tell what deaths count. Conflicts often start over multiple issues. Religion may be included in the reasons for a particular conflict, but it’s rarely the only one. If a leader invades a neighboring area and claims it as his own, that might seem like a simple land-grab. But what if he believes it’s his Divine Right to conquer that land? This might be the case even if the invaded area worships the same gods as the invaders.
In addition, a leader might rally the support of his people by appealing to religion, even though he himself doesn’t believe the same way. If religion is cynically used as a tool to gain support, and that support leads to a conflict and therefore deaths, do those deaths count?
Even trickier, do we count deaths of people who wouldn’t have even been born if a religious group hadn’t opposed widespread use of contraceptives? Maybe. Maybe not.
Oh. I totally misunderstood, thought you were saying the U.S. executes thousands per year. My bad.
But they pale into insignificance next to the Great War, the Second World War, the Mongol Invasions, the Three Kingdoms war, etc.
As others have pointed out, the death toll you arrive at depends on which of these you ascribe to “religion”. Is the Taipeng Rebellion a religious conflict because the head dude on one side had religious delusions? Or is it just, perhaps, possible, that other issues were in play? If the head dude on the other side offered a basically secular justification for fighting, can we not with equal justification chalk these deaths up to non-religious motivations? Or is there a kind of “one-drop” rule at work here?
And, as as Der Trish illustrates, is Maoist repression (and Stalinist repression) not “religious” merely because it’s not theistic?
Or, in other words, I don’t think the question can be answered, and I’m not sure of the point of asking it. Most wars involve the exercise of force to conquer poeple, control land or otherwise aquire resources or wealth. Knowing what we do of human nature, we aren’t surprised that people sometimes offer religious justifications for fighting wars, but equally we aren’t stupid enought to think that if they didn’t have religious justificaions to appeal to their appetite for wealth, or their willingness to fight to take it, would miraculously disappear.
Another variation on that: The people of a region are encouraged by their religion to have large families, as often happens. A few generations down the line the resulting population pressure helps motivate the region to engage in wars of conquest against its neighbors; wars in which religion is not consciously used as a motive. Do the deaths in those wars count as “caused by religion”?
Student in the US are not “made to sear allegiance to the flag ‘Under God’”. In fact, it’s illegal to make the student swear to the flag.
No, no. Those deaths are cased by sex, obviously.
On reflection, you could go further. Suppose mediation by religious figures is instrumental in bringing a conflict to an end, or averting one in the first place. Instead of dying in the war, lots of people go home, settle down and have babies, resulting in population pressures which lead to the next generation’s war. Do we count the deaths in that war as “caused by religion”? And, if so, do we net off the estimated deaths averted by the ending or avoiding of the first war in order to make our estimate as accurate as possible?
The more you look into the OP’s question, the less satisfactory it is.
Well, strictly, if we’re talking about rates, we need to take into account the relative populations of the US and medieval Spain.
Spain 1500-1800s. Population ~8 million. 1 kill per 800,000 per year.
US 1976-2014. Population 220-320 million. 1 kill per 7.5 million per year.
So, ITR is still wrong.
:rolleyes: I was, and every other student was.
No one died of religion, people have died due to people wanting to force their view on them or for resources. Religion is used as a reason and rallying cry to gather troops around them.
This idea that religion is cause of all of mans’ miseries is just plain simplistic at best.
In other words, people have died of religion.
What you appear to be doing there is using two different standards. Apparently, nothing counts as “killing someone by religion” short of literally beating them to death with a holy book, but when it comes to other motivations for violence, suddenly they count as motives despite being just as abstract as killing someone in the name of a god.
And who is saying that it is? I’m maybe the most anti-religion person on the forum and I don’t say that.
OK point one, I am saying that religion never killed anyone. But it has been used as a tool to get the peeps on board so to speak.
Second point, didn’t say it was you who said it.
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