Doesn’t religion cause killing?
“If a person doesn’t think that there is a God to be accountable to, then what’s the point of trying to modify your behavior to keep it within acceptable ranges?”
–Convicted serial killer and cannibal Jeffrey Dahmer
The idea that religion causes violence is taken as an almost self-evident truth in many circles. Atheists often use this as a justification for embracing a “secular” lifestyle and belief system that does not acknowledge the existence of God. But there are big problems with this line of reasoning. Religious scholar William T. Cavanaugh writes in The Myth of Religious Violence: Secular Ideology and the Roots of Modern Conflict:
“What would be necessary to prove the claim that religion has caused more violence than any other institutional force over the course of human history? One would first need a concept of religion that would be at least theoretically separable from other institutional forces over the course of human history. …The problem is that there was no category of religion separable from such political institutions until the modern era, and then it was primarily in the West. What meaning could we give to either the claim that Roman religion is to blame for the imperialist violence of ancient Rome, or the claim that it is Roman politics and not Roman religion that is to blame? Either claim would be nonsensical, because there was no neat division between religion and politics.”
“It is not simply that religion and politics were jumbled together until the modern West got them properly sorted out. As Wilfred Cantwell Smith showed in his landmark book, The Meaning and End of Religion, religion as a discrete category of human activity separable from culture, politics, and other areas of life is an invention of the modern West.”
“…The first conclusion is that there is no trans-historical or trans-cultural concept of religion. Religion has a history, and what counts as religion and what does not in any given context depends on different configurations of power and authority. The second conclusion is that the attempt to say that there is a trans-historical and trans-cultural concept of religion that is separable from secular phenomena is itself part of a particular configuration of power, that of the modern, liberal nation-state as it is developed in the West.”
Thus, it is impossible to establish which conflicts were caused by “religion” and which conflicts were caused by “politics” or “culture” because such categories have no intrinsic meaning, but rather, are human inventions. Cavanaugh continues:
“At first glance, this may seem like an academic exercise in quibbling over definitions, but much more is at stake. The religious-secular dichotomy in the arguments sanctions the condemnation of certain kinds of violence and the overlooking of other kinds of violence. …The myth of religious violence is so prevalent because, while it delegitimates certain kinds of violence, it is used to legitimate other kinds of violence, namely, violence done in the name of secular, Western ideals. The argument that religion causes violence sanctions a dichotomy between, on the one hand, non-Western, especially Muslim, forms of culture, which—having not yet learned to privatize matters of faith—are absolutist, divisive, irrational, and Western culture on the other, which is modest in its claims to truth, unitive and rational.”
(Please see this article for more detail).
And history provides no better example of violence legitimized for “secular” reasons than the violence committed by atheistic communism (although many scholars believe that Marxist communism fits the definition of a “religion”). In 1920, Vladimir Lenin (the key founder of the Soviet Union) stated:
“We repudiate all morality that proceeds from supernatural ideas that are outside class conceptions. Morality is entirely subordinate to the interests of class war. Everything is moral that is necessary for the annihilation of the old exploiting social order and for uniting the proletariat.”
Lenin also said,
“Our program necessarily includes the propaganda of atheism.”
Adopting a “religious” faith in no way guarantees that someone will become a moral person. Just as going to the hospital does not guarantee that someone will recover from an illness, adopting “religious” beliefs that promote peace and love will not guarantee that a person will become peaceful and loving. But if a person kills in the name of a religion with a text that clearly says, “Thou shalt not kill,” that person is clearly perverting that religion. This is entirely consistent with the biblical concept of humankind’s “fallen nature.”
With political systems that embrace atheism or concepts of human dignity that are rooted in atheism, no such perversion is necessary. Communism is a political system that officially embraces the atheist worldview. It is telling that the number of people who have been killed by atheistic communism is estimated to run as high as 110 million (sources: Death by Government by political science professor R.J. Rummel and The Black Book of Communism).
Nazism was not officially atheist, but it was staunchly anti-religious and similar to communism in the respect that it adopted concepts of human dignity that are rooted in atheist philosophy. I recommend From Darwin to Hitler by professor of modern European history Richard Weikart, to explore this subject further.
When I say that “no such perversion is necessary,” I mean that the atheist worldview greatly diminishes the value of human life by declaring that people are nothing but “survival machines” that exist mainly to pass on their genes and ensure the survival of the species. This is why the communists were able to send people to their deaths in “gulags” (or prison camps) in such great numbers with so little restraint. As Lenin is quoted above, the atheist communists “repudiate all morality that proceeds from supernatural ideas”….such as the supernatural Judeo-Christian idea that human beings have a supernatural soul and therefore transcendent value.
In a nutshell, because atheism denies the existence of any “supernatural” (or transcendent) reality, it also, by extension, denies that humans have any transcendent value. This severely devalued concept of human life is what allowed the communists to justify their historically unprecedented killing spree.
The Nazis killed anyone and everyone who they did not feel was worthy to pass on their genes. It seemed to them perfectly justifiable to kill any “survival machines” with what they perceived to be “undesirable” genes. As Weikart points out, the racist Nazi rationalization for killing comes straight from Darwin. In The Descent of Man, Darwin writes:
“With savages, the weak in body or mind are soon eliminated; and those that survive commonly exhibit a vigorous state of health. We civilized men, on the other hand, do our utmost to check the process of elimination; we build asylums for the imbecile, the maimed, the sick;….Thus the weak members of civilized societies propagate their kind. No one who has attended to the breeding of domestic animals will doubt that this must be highly injurious to the race of man.”
At another point in The Descent of Man, Darwin writes:
“The civilized races of man will almost certainly exterminate, and replace, the savage races throughout the world.”
And exterminating everyone perceived to be “savage” or unworthy of passing on their genes is exactly what the Nazis tried to do. It is not, then, difficult to see why Weikart was justified in saying that:
“Darwinism by itself did not produce the Holocaust, but without Darwinism…neither Hitler nor his Nazi followers would have had the necessary scientific underpinnings to convince themselves and their collaborators that one of the world’s greatest atrocities was really morally praiseworthy.”
This can be seen in the statements made by Hitler which betrayed his Darwinist views. Hitler once said:
“The law of selection justifies this incessant struggle, by allowing for the survival of the fittest. Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature. Taken to its logical extreme, Christianity would mean the systematic cultivation of the human failure.”
Hitler also said:
“The stronger asserts his will, it’s the law of nature. The world doesn’t change; its laws are eternal.”
What one kills “in the name of” is far less relevant than the philosophical factors that facilitate or motivate killing. This is evidenced by the fact that the communists and Nazis were by FAR the most prolific killers in all of human history. And as time passes, the link between rejecting the Judeo-Christian concept of the sacredness of human life and killing just becomes more apparent. This is clearly illustrated today in the stark difference between North Korea and South Korea. North Korea is run by an officially atheist regime that would not exist were it not for the massive slave labor / starvation camps that keep the population in a constant state of fear. North Korean citizens are routinely thrown into such camps (often to die) for believing in God, of for infractions as minor as sitting on a newspaper photo of the dictator (Kim Jong Il).
Contrast this with South Korea, which has seen an explosive growth in Christianity in recent decades…and which has a human rights record far, far superior to its neighbor to the north.
When it comes to the connection between atheism and unrestrained killing, mathematician David Berlinski hits the nail on the head in his book The Devil’s Delusion: Atheism and It’s Scientific Pretensions:
Somewhere in Eastern Europe, a [Nazi] SS officer watched languidly, his machine gun cradled, as an elderly and bearded Hasidic Jew laboriously dug what he knew to be his grave. Standing up straight, he addressed his executioner. “God is watching what you are doing,” he said. And then he was shot dead. What Hitler did not believe, and what Stalin did not believe, and what Mao did not believe, and what the SS did not believe, and what the Gestapo did not believe, and what the NKVD did not believe, and what the commissars, functionaries, swaggering executioners, Nazi doctors, Communist Party theoreticians, intellectuals, Brown Shirts, Blackshirts, Gauleiters, and a thousand party hacks did not believe, was that God was watching what they were doing. And as far as we can tell, very few of those carrying out the horrors of the twentieth century worried overmuch that God was watching what they were doing either. That is, after all, the meaning of a secular society.
Battle of Cajamarca
Spanish – 106 foot-soldiers and 62 horsemen (1 wounded)
Inca – 7,000 of Atahualpa’s personal attendants (nearly all dead); Atahualpa assassinated.
As a mere example, what was their motivation? Answer: The spread of the Christian faith.
Muslim conquest of India – 13 million casualties
Conquest of the Americas – 15 million casualties
How many Sunni have killed Shiite, and vice versa?
Your 100 million is relative to communism, not atheism. There are no references to atheism when researching communism, except on Christian websites.
The following article is a “must read,” as it destroys the concept of state-sponsored atheism:
You cannot “destroy” the concept of state-sponsored atheism any more than you can destroy the concepts of the American Civil War or the fall of the Soviet Union. These are historical facts, open and shut. Here is a link to the wikipedia post about state atheism.
I am not suggesting that all atheists think that human life is worthless or that being an atheist makes you a killer. What I am suggesting is that atheist philosophy was a crucial component of the most prolific killing sprees (communist and nazi) in all of human history.
This can be seen in the comments made by the most important communist revolutionary of all, Vladimir Lenin. In 1920, he said:
“We repudiate all morality that proceeds from supernatural ideas that are outside class conceptions. Morality is entirely subordinate to the interests of class war. Everything is moral that is necessary for the annihilation of the old exploiting social order and for uniting the proletariat.”
For the most bloodstained political system in all of human history to set out on its killing spree, it turned to atheist concepts of human nature in order to “repudiate all morality that proceeds from supernatural ideas.” The repudiaton of the supernatural is atheist through and through.
What specific “morality that proceeds from supernatural ideas” am I referring to? The Judeo/Christian concept of the sanctity of human life.
Once again, your article about atheists not killing “in the name of atheism” is irrelevant because nobody has ever suggested that atheists have killed in the name of atheism.
Also, I have mentioned the nazis and communists, but there is a third example of an atheist philosophy being involved in an historic killing spree (mentioned in the above wikipedia post): The French Revolution.
I have deleted the duplicate copies of your comment. In the future, please just post a comment once, not on multiple locations on the website.
“Everything is moral that is necessary for the annihilation of the old exploiting social order and for uniting the proletariat [in Marxist theory, the working class].”
I see. So Stalin and others chose anti-religion or atheism as ways to remove any and all power from the church et al. (organized religions), including everything but the state, and thereby eliminate organized revolutions, to more constructively impose communism. But, atheism did not result in or inspire communism, or would not form into an organized movement such as revolution; it’s a [non-religion] disbelief in [religion] theism; nothing to do with the devaluation of human life. Political impositions, some resulting in severe famine, racism, and/or ethnic- /infidel-/class-cleansing, resulted in many deaths. As Stalin put it, “Morality is entirely subordinate to the interests of class war.” Do you agree?
The motivation for conquering peoples, lands, and resources during the Spanish Conquest of the Americas was to spread the Christian faith. Is this the same situation where faith was a tool to exploit political motives?
Yes, it is fair to say there is no conclusive proof that atheism in any way “resulted in or inspired communism,” as you put it.
But atheism did serve as a crucial component to the communist philosophy. Specifically, it served as the means to “repudiate all morality that proceeds from supernatural ideas,” (as Lenin put it) so that they could justify the killing of millions upon millions of people who were perceived to be a threat to their political goals.
Such “supernatural ideas” included the Judeo-Christian concept of the sacredness of human life. It would have been impossible for them to morally justify their massive killing spree without first adopting a much more devalued concept of human life.
Being officially atheist, they rejected the idea that humans have transcendent value….because atheism denies that there even exists a transcendent (or “supernatural”) reality.
The sacredness of human life is not unique to Judeo/Christian concepts, or any other religion. Doing onto others as you’d have them do onto you is a universal concept, being entirely advantageous to self- and community-preservation, and yes, procreation. Being an atheist does not justify killing people over “class wars.” Being an atheist does not mean you are anti-religious, it does not in any way involve a devaluation of human life (to which a belief or disbelief in transcendence is completely irrelevant), it’s simply a disbelief in god or religious followings, and is in NO WAY demoralizing. “Adopting a much more devalued concept of human life” involves racial, ethnicity, and/or class discrimination and hatred, for example. How do you explain the Spanish Conquest of the Americas, the motivation being the spread of the Christian faith, resulting in approximately 15 million dead?
Danno, nobody is saying that the “Golden Rule” is unique to Christian teaching, and even if they are, it is irrelevant. What you need to explain is why atheists should _oblige_ to this rule. The simple fact of the matter is that you can’t, and you know you can’t.
You say that atheism doesn’t justify class wars, it doesn’t demoralize people, it doesn’t devalue human life (and that transcendental value is irrelevant), and it doesn’t mean anti-religion. The simple fact of the matter is that of all those assertions, only the last one can be called ‘accurate’. The rest are so wrong I want to hit my head on my desk just reading them, but let’s not fall into that temptation.
I challenge your assertions: do you care to explain to us why atheism does _not_ lead to these things? If I’m certain of anything on this subject, it is that those assertions rest upon morality. You fail to realize, like most atheists today, that if morality is not grounded in something, then it doesn’t exist. Lenin and the other communists/ Marxists realized this simple fact: without God, everything is permissible. Morality then, is merely an illusion to manipulate people, like the lines painted on our streets. You can follow the lines, but it doesn’t matter because ultimately _nothing_ matters (you are nothing, and you aren’t going anywhere). The street doesn’t take you where you’re trying to go, anyways…. Man is demoralized because he has no moral obligations, and can commit any evils he desires. Class wars are justified because they are no longer “wrong” in any way.
You next say that transcendent value is not important to human value. This shows foolishness. To have transcendental value means to be an end in oneself. This means that if you are right, then men only have value as tools. If you are right about _this_, then you are wrong about _everything_else_ you have just asserted! Class wars are justified again, but now because they can be used to fulfill some selfish person’s goals without caring about the people who will die. Man is again demoralized, because he can kill his fellow men without being in the wrong. Human life is devalued because life is meaningless, and can be stepped on to fulfill meaningless goals. Maybe you should memorize Ecclesiastes? “‘Meaningless! Meaningless!’ declares the teacher, ‘the whole world is meaningless!'”
By proving that human life is devalued, I have just proven your assertion that ““Adopting a much more devalued concept of human life” involves racial, ethnicity, and/or class discrimination and hatred, for example,” is nothing more than you making obviously false assertions. You’re only blowing more smoke to protect your beliefs.
By complaining about the Spanish, you’ve only proven two things: 1) You are supremely bad at paying attention. 2) You suck at math.
1) First, the Spanish did not necessarily kill all those Native Americans because they wanted to. Second, the Spanish lacked a neat division between church and state, so the problem could easily be political at the end. They wanted to spread the Good News, but politics have been involved as well. “We want their land! We want their gold!” Third, Christianity teaches “Though shalt not murder,” so even if we say that you are right about the conflict being politics-free, all you’ve done is show that people can pervert the Christian religion, and that is most definitely _not_ surprising.
2) Fifteen million is simply an insignificant fraction of how many people atheists have killed. One hundred ten million through wars, and over the fifty million mark in abortions, and _growing_. Increased suicides… you name it, you have it! The fact is that there is _no_comparison_ to what atheism has done in the end.
Once we take a belief to its logical conclusions, we see that yes, atheism leads to all the negative things that you have said it doesn’t. This is the reason why Nietzsche, Sartre, and all the other atheist philosophers of the nineteenth century said that the twentieth century would be the most bloody one ever, now that they have killed God. Nietzsche gave us the body of superman, Hitler tried to bring it to life. Nietzsche and Sartre gave him permission to do so, and science the tools. The tools are the only thing that are not at fault.
Please try to think your responses to me out more carefully, I beg of you. I feel like I’m picking on a child.
“Our program necessarily includes the propaganda of atheism” Vladimir Lenin quote (Russian Founder of the Russian Communist Party, leader of the Russian Revolution of 1917.
For communists to go on the rampage to remove religion by committing mass genocide on the clergy, believers & raze churches clearly shows that any ideology particularly religious was abhorent to the communist regime. To say that a godless ideology like communism didn’t necessarily include atheistic concepts is to say that Christianity embraced racism, dishonesty & violence as its core precepts
“We were convinced that the people needs and requires this [Christian] faith.
We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement,
and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out.” – Adolf Hitler, in a speech in Berlin on 24 Oct. 1933
Hitler was opposed to state atheism.
“Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” – Hitler (Mein Kampf)
I will borrow from Dashan’s comment (copy and paste):
Hitler’s version of social-darwinism was obvious, “The law of selection justifies this incessant struggle, by allowing for the survival of the fittest.””Christianity is a rebellion against natural law, a protest against nature.”
You are correct that Hitler and the Nazis were not officially atheist (as the communists were). The wikipedia post (yes, I know, wikipedia sucks) about “Adolph Hitler’s religious views” says that:
So it is difficult to say what Hitler’s (and the Nazi’s) religious views were, except to say that they were extremely bizzare and inconsistent. But this does not subtract from the fact that their decision to exterminate anyone and everyone that they did not like was justified by a denial of the Judeo-Christian concept of the sacredness of human life (as pointed out by Richard Weikart in From Darwin to Hitler).
Read this for the most commonly accepted understandings of the book, “From Darwin to Hitler.”
I don’t know how you can characterize this as “the most commonly accepted understandings of the book.” This is just what the critics say. You can see just by looking on the back cover that the book has the endorsement of several other professors of history. It is clear that the authors of this wikipedia post wanted to call attention to the critics of the book without addressing its supporters. Many of the supporters of the book were conveniently ignored.
Below is a cut and paste of some quotes from Charles Darwin’s book The Descent of Man. It doesn’t take much analysis to see how Darwin’s views influenced the Nazis:
At another point in The Descent of Man, Darwin writes:
It is not, then, difficult to see why Weikart was justified in saying, in his book, that:
Not seeing it. On first read of these excerpts, I’m seeing Darwin bag humans for being such a way that “must be highly injurious to the race of man.” This appears to be his analysis with predictions, not convictions.
Read “Guns, Germs, and Steel” and “Collapse” by Jared Diamond to see what perhaps Darwin was talking about.
Nazis using these quotes to justify the Holocaust? Sounds like a stretch; desperation.
Racism doesn’t require scientific justification. We all know that people of all societies are capable of producing world leaders, given the right upbringing and resources necessary to get to the top, or simply the drive or passion. Racism requires pure ignorance, believing a race, or ethnos, is superior to others. Spinning someone’s quotes doesn’t count.
Why doesn’t wikipedia address the book’s supporters? Because peer reviews have not substantiated them. Again, you use wikipedia when it’s good for you, but then say it’s not worthy (“conveniently ignored”) when it doesn’t. Just like some stories in the bible were meant to be metaphorical, others literal. I don’t think wikipedia favors anybody.
No, racism does not require scientific justification. But racism and mass killing do require a philosophical basis to underpin them. One cannot believe that the lives of people of all races and ethnicities are sacred while simultaneously carrying out a mass extermination of certain groups of “undesireables.” Yes, racism does require “pure ignorance, believing a race, or ethnos, is superior to others,” as you say. And Darwin clearly did believe that there are “civilized races” which are superior to what he referred to as “savage races.” I will again rehash the quote from his book The Descent of Man below:
And the Nazi’s rationalization for killing off mentally and physically handicapped people was originally expressed by Darwin. Hence, my other quote from his book The Descent of Man:
The Nazis, like Darwin, considered allowing physically and mentally handicapped people to live “injurious to the race of man.”
Peer reviews have not substantiated the book? That is a strange claim considering that I have repeatedly pointed out that several of his peers (other professors of modern history, some of which are from top tier universities) support his book. You can view the endorsements by viewing the book on Amazon.
“Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord.” – Hitler (Mein Kampf)
And he also said that if u tell a big enough lie enough times, the masses will eventually believe it. Anyone can quote scripture (even the devil , Scripture says). Hitler did it often in his rise to power. How do u think he won the trust of a people desperately seeking liberation from the burden of the 1st world war?
Saying that God or the devil made be do it, might ease the conscience of a terrorist or a madman but it will hardly exempt him from Divine judgment.
Why is it encouraged by the Catholics that men should not wear protection during sex? This is a teaching all too prevelant and adhered to in a Christian dominated African continent. This continent suffers some of the highest HIV rates on the planet, where poverty is rife and the flame of aids is vigorously fanned and fuelled by this indoctrinated command from the higher echelons of a faith that preaches on the sanctity of human life.
a small illustration of a continental epidemic:
Why is it condemming multi-millions of vulnerable African’s to an impoverished existence, untold suffering and ultimately an earlier or very early death, with this irresponsible and consequential doctrine. This ignorance and refusal to curtail on what is clearly an attack on the human rights of a vulnerable population, serve’s as a pertinent example of religion killing in a blind and uncompromising devotion to rules and doctrine conceived in, and for a world far different to the technological post enlightenment age we supposedly inhabit.
It see’s the suffering and the death, yet it preaches not a solution to the problem, but a catalyst.
To what extent can you blame this epidemic on a Catholic doctrine when only 15% of Africa is Catholic? Further, those that are spreading AIDS are clearly violating the Christian prohibition against sexual promiscuity. AIDS is not spread by having unprotected sex exclusively with your spouse.
Without the violations of Judeo-Christian concepts of sexual morality by certain segments of this population, this epidemic would not have happened.
This particular issue is of essential acknowledgement accross many fronts and is something that Christians themselves should be campaigning against.
Firstly, if 15% of Africa is Catholic then you must ask yourself how many people make 15% of a continental population of over 1 billion people. This could be estimated at around 150,000,000 people in Africa who are Catholic if your percentage is correct. So the Catholic chruch is preaching to perhaps 150 million people in Africa, as well as seeking to spread its church and its teachings. This number is roughly equivalent to half the population of the USA or almost 3 times that of the UK.
Secondly, you have quoted a figure of 15% which speaks only for the Catholics. Would it be fair that if you add to this number any other denomination of Christian, for example; the evangelicals, the protistants, the orthodox, the methodists, the baptists, etc, that the percentage of African Christianity would rise even further?
Following this, I would say, that I am unfamiliar with the exact teachings on contraception, sex and pre-marital sex across all the denominations of Christianity. However, I do believe that it is a controversial topic universally in Christendom and it is generally taught that any kind of sex outside the bonds of marriage is sinful. Further, I think that it is not uncommon for condoms to be taught as sinful across the denominations, as it is certainly not unigue to Catholicism.
So, in response to your percentage, surely Christianity exerts a far wider force, than that simply of Catholicism in the African Continent. Even if it is just the Catholics that we are talking about, then we are considering a population half that of the United States.
Thirdly, to answer your first question, I did not blame Catholicism solely for the explosion of AID’s in Africa. I said it was an afliction fanned by and catalysed by the teachings of the church. If one single death happened as a result of a good Christian following this teaching, then the answer to the title of this snippet in relation to this issue, is a chatagorical ‘yes’.
Your final words about sexual morality and abstenance are how I believe the Church would defend itself on this, but in this particular instance are about as morally apathetic, neglegent and un-Christian as any words on this site. I do not seek to be offensive here, but we are talking about people’s lives in the ‘here and now’. This is more than a discussion about philosophy or metaphysics, this is a real world affliction that the church is having a large, genuine and tangible affect on. As that link shows, the explosion has really been happening since the 80’s, this is real life.
I accept that Christianity teaches abstinance and prohibits sexual promiscuity, both of which are fantastic barriers to the spread of AID’s.
Such a debate about sexual morality may be acceptable in the developed world, where such life threatening illnesses do not hold equally widespread presence and threat in the population. Africa is in the main, a developing and third world continent. If the results of sexual premiscuity are a vicious, painful and ultimately terminal desease, can we really talk on the same plain that we do in Europe or the US about sexual conduct? Which comes first in the eyes of the church, the sanctity of human life or the ommission of protection during sex?
For me the answer is clear and the answer for Christians should be clear.
If you wish to retain the ideology on sex, ‘why not do so?’ But, surely in the face of such a continental affliction, an exception must be made. If the church’s wish to retain their teachings on sexual morality, why not do so in geographical regions where the consequences for failure do not involve HIV? Surely, it could put in place some sort of covenant, so that once this terminal virus is defeated and the population recovers, then the laws and ideology of the church can be returned. To say, ‘well we told them not to’, is one of the most un-Christian rebuttals in history, given the genuine care that Chritianity teaches its followers to have of one another and the sanctity of human life.
I would put it to you, that it is more sinful to neglect the reality of the real world on issues like this, in a continent where children as young as 6 may be sent to fight with AK47’s. Once the explosion of AID’s is curtailed, Christianity may think about reinstating its ideals on sexual morality. Until that day, the church should endorse and promote sexual protection in Africa, to protect its flock and so too those who are not, saints or sinners.
I genuinely believe that Christians should be campaigning against their leaders on this issue.
You have offered rebuttals to many other posts since this one. How would you respond to this particular issue? This is in part a critique of religion; in part a response to the title of this snippet; in part a question of philosophy; but majorly, in part a description of current events that demand significantly more acknowledgement and consideration, in many ways, than other debate of events of lesser immediate consequence.
I see this as a criticism of religion, but not a complete counter. It would become a complete counter if religion cannot and does not engage and consider that it may need to make some re-evaluation. I have attempted to voice a way that catholicism could deal with this issue and retain some of its integrity and ideology, rather than being completely destructive or pessimistic.
How would you respond to the question in the penultimate paragraph of my last response? Would the Church or Christianity be able to make some concessions and alterations on this issue, where millions of people are becoming infected, ill and dying?
Sorry, sometimes I miss your comments because of the volume on the site. The first thing you should understand is that I am not a Catholic, so I don’t have any particular knowledege of what the Catholic Church is up to in Africa. What are you alledging? That they are causing AIDS by discouraging condom use? How can this be rationally argued in light of the fact that Christianity teaches that sexual promiscuity is wrong? Are the people who practice sexually risky behaviors not responsible for their own actions?
Journalist Peter Seewald, who interviewed Benedict over the course of six days this summer, raised the Africa condom comments, asking him if it wasn’t “madness” for the Vatican to forbid a high-risk population from using condoms. What Benedict actually said was that condoms are not a moral solution to stopping AIDS. But he said in some cases, such as for male prostitutes, their use could represent a first step in assuming moral responsibility “in the intention of reducing the risk of infection.” Benedict made the comment in response to a general question about Africa, where heterosexual HIV spread is rampant.
He used as a specific example male prostitutes, for whom contraception is not usually an issue, but did not mention married couples where one spouse is infected. The Vatican had come under pressure from even church officials to condone condom use for such monogamous married couples to protect the uninfected spouse from transmission.The Pope reiterated the church’s position that abstinence and marital fidelity is the only sure way to prevent HIV.
The Pope has indeed ammended his perspectives on contraception in Africa a few months ago. I think that anybody working on this issue and trying to help welcomes this as movement in the right direction. Any kind of improvement like this can only be positive, even if it is only the slightest thing. If it saves one life, then it will have been positive.
As you have continued though, the Pope has retained his stance on contraception for anyone but homosexual male prostitutes. This leaves the vast majority of sexually active people still at risk, which leaves the problem still majorly unresolved.
His advice is that abstinance and fidelity are the only tools we should use in this struggle. These two ideas would be fantastic ways of helping to stop the problem, so they should definitely be included in the fight. However, are they going to be able to stop one of the strongest natural instincts of human beings? Is AIDs really a just punishment for a teenager too young to know what she’s doing, or an uneducated person who is totally unaware of the risks? The Pope’s stance is wrong and dare I say it evil, in this specific region of Africa. It is severely aggravating one of the worst problems that exists in the world today, where people are suffering and dying, for the Pope’s stubbornness on this difficult issue. Not content, with his harmful lack of compromise, he has actually spread the lie that contraception actually increases the risk of disease and AID’s.
It is very telling that even those from within his own church plead for compromise and special action on this difficult problem. The Pope needs to take far more action than to concede contraception is only OK for homosexual male prostitutes. He needs to be questioned, campaigned and pursued on this issue. The difference with this issue, is that people are dying right now in Africa. It is one of the most serious issues in the world at the moment and could be aided no end by a constructive atitude from the Pope, yet currently he does the exact opposite.
I hope you would agree that the Pope is wrong on this issue and needs to take far greater and more positive action.
I seem to be getting a wrong “CAPTCHA Code” Message so I’ll try again
“As you have continued though, the Pope has retained his stance on contraception for anyone but homosexual male prostitutes”
This is incorrect. If u read the quote I gave, the concession of condom use was also extended to an infected person in a heterosexual relationship and rightly so. In fact any act by such a person who knowingly infects another is not only iimmoral, its criminal.
It seems to me that the degeneration of this topic into a preoccupation with condoms is rather silly. The extensive problems facing 3rd world countries like Africa & Asia are all about the male ego’s lust for power, prestige & position resulting in poverty, malnutrition, child prostitution & slavery, STDs, violence & exploitation. Condoms in my estimation is just a bandaid solution to a far far greater need. Lets look at the cause of the dilemma not argue about how to plug one hole in the Titanic.
Hi Gerry, did you lose a whole response ‘cos of the code? That’s happened to me before. It’s v annoying when you type out a full response and lose it when it doesn’t go through.
Any movement from the Pope in the right direction on this issue is positive, so I’m sure that however far he has gone can only be an improvement. I have read a couple of articles relating to this issue and I remember reading about it when it happened. He has gone a little further than just male prostitutes as you say, but still a long way from far enough. Female prostitutes, young adults, married couples, singles, everyone should be encouraged and educated to practice safety on this issue.
‘It seems to me that the degeneration of this topic into a preoccupation with condoms is rather silly.’
I’m afraid that this is a huge portion of the problem and is anything but silly. It is by no means the only reason for the problem, so contraception is but one factor, but it is a very significant and consequential factor.
You are completely right about the other problems facing poverty stricken and impoverished parts of the world. I would agree that all sorts of things need to be done to help this and contraception, is not a solution to poverty. Contraception is one major solution to the problem of AID’s, not of poverty. I am not saying that third world problems will be solved by contraception, but in sub Saharan Africa, it is a huge tool in the fight against AID’s.
If we are trying to extinguish the fire of poverty, we will not do this by solving AID’s alone, but one huge log could be removed in this struggling part of the world. Something like 30 million people suffer with AID’s in this region of Africa, with some places reaching above 20% of the population living with the condition.
We should indeed argue on how to plug this one hole, because, this hole could be significantly closed or reduced by the simple endorsement of safe sex. The church doesn’t need to condone sexual promiscuity, just to recommend that people practice safely. The sanctity of life surely is at risk simply because, the church refuses to support the simplest of safety precautions, that is no more technologically advanced than a balloon and no harder to distribute, than boxes of food. This hole in the Titanic is important, because it is livesthat are at stake, not simply ideology. It’s not an impossible hole to close, it’s a hole that could very simply be reduced very significantly and very simply, by a change in direction from the Pope. That’s all it needs from him, a change of attitude. His slight ammendments so far are most welcome, it is imperitive that we see more, at least in this specificly hard hit region of Africa, if not elsewhere.
Nick, see http://www.godandscience.org/apologetics/catholic_church_aids_africa.html for more information on this subject. I find it interesting that you ignore that it is _human_lust_ that is leading to the prevalence of STDs. So even granting that the cite I referenced is misinformed, your argument simply proves the point about mankind’s fallen nature. All you’ve done is confirm Scott’s point. Besides, you seem not to be considering the context behind God’s invention of sex: to produce children. People die, so need somebody to ‘replace’ themselves. Birth control completely forgets this purpose. The invention of marriage was to create an environment that is suitable for the raising of children, and this is why a marriage is a promise between two people, in front of God, to love each other.
Now, it should be noted that one can question their interpretation of Genesis, and therefore give justification of birth control, and still keep God in the picture. “Be fruitful and multiply,” we’ve already filled the Earth, so the command has been fulfilled.
You have no reason to reject God, only one possible understanding of a Christian doctrine (an interpretation that is highly suspect, so should be amended). You only made a single scratch on a meter-thick brick wall, that extends two kilometers in all the other directions.
Hi rational dude.
I briefly checked out your reference. It seems a little short, as well as dismissive, slightly disregarding the complexity of the issue, as well as the gravity. Another graph might be drawn to compare with the demographic of AIDs versus Catholic population that the site postulates…. One might draw a graph displaying the same AIDs infection rates for populations all araound the world, thus comparing parts of the world without such high proportions of Christianity, especially Catholicism and ask the question, ‘Why such high prevelance of AIDs in such poverty stricken and also religious parts of the world in comparison, to places such as Europe, Australia, Japan, Russia….etc…?’
I may respond in greater length to your post, but I think you should read all my posts on this page, before you dismiss what I have said. I did not claim that AID’s was caused only by Catholic doctrine, it is a complex situation that should not be dismissed lightly. Nor did I say that I reject God. I am an agnostic.
Thanks but you don’t need to apologise, there seem to be more people commenting on this site by the day ….
I appreciate that you are not a Catholic, but this issue is a direct answer to the question posed by this snippet.
I would like to preface my answer here by saying, that the Catholic Church and indeed Christianity as a whole, do so much good in Africa and across the world in terms of charity and aid. Christian Aid, the Red Cross and CAFOD are but three organisations sending invaluable aid and help to suffering parts of the world.
I do not neccessarily question their good intent and I believe that they do so much good, demonstrating the sides to religion and Christianity that should be encouraged.
However, the problem is that there are two sides to the coin in this case. With one hand they heal, but with the other they cause harm. This contradiction is the problem and it is why some people talk increasingly critically of religion and some of their uncompromising doctrines.
My last answer was reasonably clear.
I was clear in stating that I do not blame Christianity nor Catholicism solely for the explosion of AID’s.
I am alleging that the strict teaching of Catholicism (and most likely other branches of Christianity) fan the flames. They have mixed teachings on this issue, whilst commanding a great authority and presence across the continent. Christianity is a very prevalent and widespread faith in Africa.
“What are you alledging? That they are causing AIDS by discouraging condom use? How can this be rationally argued in light of the fact that Christianity teaches that sexual promiscuity is wrong? Are the people who practice sexually risky behaviors not responsible for their own actions?”
I answer all of these questions in my previous post and finished my post by posing a question, which I would repeat and ask of you again.
I am alleging that the strict teaching on sex is not appropriate in a continent where: education across many area’s is little better than medieval; civil war disects and cuts through huge regions; poverty, drought and famine are systemic and widespread; the consequences of sexual activity could very well result in infection, desease and death; yet Christians feel it is just that they preach that condoms should not be used and those who are sexually active are deservant of any negative consequences.
They do all of this on top of the precepts and core teachings of the sanctity of human life, charity and like the Samaritan, helping all people, even those who are sinful. There is so much suffering as a result of AID’s and endorsing condoms is a huge weapon in the fight against it. Criminalising them is the opposite.
Re-read my last reply (the longer one). I tried to express this controversy reasonably clearly.
What would you say to this in reference to the question posed in this snippet?
I suppose this allegation against the Catholic church would have validity if they were preaching against condom use but not preaching against sexual abstinence. That would amount to encouraging people to engage in unsafe practices and would be blameworthy.
But your argument seems to presuppose that they are treating condom use as the evil to be avoided rather than sex outside of marriage. If I understand the Catholics correctly, they are teaching that using a condom does not make sex outside of marriage an exceptable activity. It is not condom use in general that they are trying to discourage, but rather condom use as a justification or rationalization for sexual promiscuity.
You seem to think that they are teaching that it is the condoms that are bad…not the sex outside of marriage.
Thank you for your reply.
The strict Catholic premise, is that any sex that is not ultimately natural and reproductive is sinful. They endorse no kind of sexual activity, except that between a married couple for the natural act of reproduction. It is a very strict doctrine and this is the message that is taught. I know this having been a baptised and confirmed Catholic myself.
In reality most married couples in Catholicism probably forgive themselves and practice safe and marital sex, whilst harbouring some mild guilt. Few would adhere to the doctrine in its strictest sense, although this is the teaching. It has indeed been taught by the church and by the Pontiff himself, that condoms are sinful.
I completely accept the general teaching of abstenance and forbidding sexual promiscuity. This is a fantastic way to prevent the spread of AID’s, there’s no doubt. I do not presuppose, ‘that they are treating condom use as the evil to be avoided rather than sex outside of marriage’, they do both. One is helpful in the battle against AID’s and one is the opposite.
My argument is that whilst they teach good things about sexual conduct (in the battle against AID’s), that may be beneficial to the populations who are at risk, they actively preach against one of the best forms of protection against the spread of this epidemic. My proposition is that, instead of accepting the natural and real world reality of this desease they criminalise one of the best ways of combatting it.
‘AID’s is a tragedy that cannot be overcome by money alone, that cannot be overcome through the distribution of condoms, which can even increase the problem.’
These are the words of Pope Benedict XVI when visiting Cameroon in 2009.
His words defy belief. Not only is he denouncing the use of condoms, he insinuates the deception that they not only fail to work but inflame the problem.
From a non-religious perspective, what is your opinion on the successfulness of condoms? Do they work first of all? And do they in fact, increase the chances of contracting a disease or decrease the chances?
These words were issued by the head of the Catholic Church, who is also a head of State.
I can’t figure out what the Pope’s reasoning is in thinking that the distribution of condoms could increase the problem. Did he say what he meant by that? Maybe he meant that doing so would encourage sexual immorality.
But if Catholics in Africa are heeding the Pope’s discouragement of condom use but not his discouragement of sexual immorality, who is at fault? Is the church responsible for the actions of individuals? It would be quite a stretch to say that the Catholic Church is encouraging unprotected extramarital sex.
These words were spoken in 2009 and the Pope came under international criticism for his stance on this issue. On the one hand he preaches something that will help (abstenance), on the other something that exacerbates the problem (criminalising condoms).
I’m sure that the Church is reluctant to change its hard line stance because, in part, it may inadvertantly lead to greater promiscuity as you argue. Perhaps this may have been part of what the Pope meant in his words and I’m sure it was. However, he spoke those words in a quite literal sense as well. Catholicism takes an extremely hard line on contraception and if you google it or research it through the web, you will find conformation of this. When the Pope crosses the line from confused, traditional and perhaps misunderstanding to actively deceiving, I think that we see religion stepping on to dangerous ground, even from a man who’s overall message is supposed to be peaceful and loving.
I accept what you say and within your answer lies the deep complexity of the problem. The Church’s hard line stance, though controversial and debatable, has less consequence in first world countries. I would grant the Church every right to preach about it and I would also believe that a free society should have the opportunity to behave as they wish, within the laws of state of course.
However, this hard line stance in the third world meets with one of the most malicious diseases on the planet. The reason that this is of such importance and concern to the international community is the effect that sexual conduct can have. This is not a benign practice of religious freedom, in Africa this can be malign and hugely consequential.
In brief answer to your questions, the Catholics who do not use condom’s are at fault for failing to be abstinant. The church is not responsible for the acts of everyone, but can be deeply influential. I certainly do not accuse the Church of encouraging extra-marital sex, they do just the opposite. The questions you ask are fair, but help to reveal the problem here, which is a complete mismatch with the reality on the ground.
uneducated society. human urges and sexual instincts. poverty, famine and drought. People are sinful. people have sex. AID’s is prevelant. people die because of AID’s.
When somebody is trying to quit smoking, is there a chance that whilst they no it’s wrong and bad for them that they may have the odd cigarette or not quite succeed in giving up? Human nature is weak and sinful and reproduction is probably our most primal instinct behind eating and breathing.
The trouble with this case is that one unfortunate lapse could lead to a terminal infection. The punishment does not fit the crime.
Perhaps the end is just, or at least not evil, but in the meantime the means are helping the spread of AID’s. The uncompromising stance, although clearly in the face of this specificly regional problem, is unrelenting and unchageable. It needs to recognise that it needs to endorse condoms in front of death, due to the reality of human nature, especially in an ill-educated region of the world.
The Church teaches on the sanctity of human life, but currently is prepared to overlook this in its desire for sexual purity.
The case of Africa needs to be the exception, at least until the problem is solved, or the answer to the title of this snippet in relation to this issue is ‘yes’ and probably by the hundreds of thousands. This is a complex issue, but I believe a just one to raise, as it does indeed affect the lives of some 24 million Africans today.
Nick, I think you may be justified in asserting that the church needs to soften its stance with regard to this issue. However, it would be very difficult to establish a definite link between the chruch’s stance and the spread of AIDS.
Further, I think you have inadvertenly called attention to another example of how LACK of religious adherence causes human suffering and death. If the church’s stance is contributing to this problem, its contribution would be very slight when compared to the REAL cause of this problem:
The “sexual revolution” of the 1960’s (when traditional Judeo-Christian sexual mores were soundly rejected by many in wealthy western societies) was the true impetus behind the growth of STDs worldwide. This article demonstrates what I mean. The cultural influence upon African societies coming from such “sexually liberated” places as the U.S. and U.K. is the TRUE cause of the AIDS epidemic in Africa. TV shows from the U.S. and Europe, for example, constantly bombard Africans with images of “sexually liberated” people who toss aside traditional Judeo-Christian sexual mores.
It should be of no surprize that the AIDS epidemic occurred in the decades following this cultural shift.
‘Perhaps the end is just, or at least not evil, but in the meantime the means are helping the spread of AID’s.’
-the end being the church’s teachings on sexual morality.
I sent you the link because I was only focusing on Christian doctrine and AIDS. The article was written to refute the idea that AIDS spreading is the result of a single factor, as so many atheists seem to be saying.
As I’ve said, however, it seems that we’ve proven the failures of human nature, even granting the reference is inappropriate to this more balanced understanding you have than atheists.
It would be interesting to see how this graph of the world would look. If you find something, feel free to let me know. :)
You may be right about fanning the flames, and I do think that the Roman Catholics have this wrong for some reasons. This is why I try to give additional stress to abstinence, and try to downplay this question over artificial birth-control. Africa should have these things, even if they use them –according to the moral code I follow– “improperly”.
Not to sound antagonistic, but Jesus said that all who are not for Him are against Him. Part of my point is that from what I’ve read, it sounded like this was your main reason for agnosticism. I’ll just back away before I risk starting a flame war over this misunderstanding I had.
Hi. Thanks for the reply. Don’t worry, I won’t be starting a flame war.
You sent me the link because you say it was meant to refute the idea that AID’s was only spread by a single factor, but this is clearly not what the article contends from the very first line. Here is the first line of the article: “The claim that the teachings of the Roman Catholic Church are at least partly responsible for the spread of AIDS in Africa is one of my favorite myths among atheists.”
I did not claim that the Catholic Church was the only reason for this problem, but I did claim that it promotes a teaching that is a tangible and negative factor. The conclusion of the referenced article reads, “The hypothesis that the Roman Catholic doctrine against the use of condoms facilitates the spread of HIV and AIDS is formally falsified through available demographics.”
It concludes from a very brief investigation and extremely limited consideration of a small sampling of data that there is no relationship or influence whatsoever. It leaves no room for error, it makes the positive assertion that this issue has been “formally falsified”. At the very least, a little humility or acknowledgement of the problem should be part of the conclusion. Even the Pope has made some very marginal amendments to his policies on the situation.
“It would be interesting to see how this graph of the world would look. If you find something, feel free to let me know. :)”
I agree. If you do a google ‘image’ search, you will find all sorts of graphs, global maps and illustrations of the demographics. Type the words, ‘Global AID’s distribution’ into a Google Images search and you will see an array of maps and graphs. You will see from Global maps that Sub-Saharan Africa is by far the most afflicted place on the planet by this disease. Rather than me linking to a selected page, as there are so many, it would be useful if you do some brief searching around google ‘images’ simply for pictures of population distributions and demographics (it should take less than 3 or 4 minutes). It would be useful if you compare also a search for Catholic or Christian populations in Africa (as we are not just talking about the Catholics here) and compared them with an AID’s population map. The correlations are striking. The article you linked to illustrates the problem faced by those campaigning to ease the spread of this disease. It is a dismissive and ill considered rebuttal to an issue that deserves, at the least, far greater consideration.
You suggest at the end that I am against Jesus. I am not against Jesus. I admire his teachings and would find it hard to argue against the message of love and peace that he spent his life trying to promote. If you would like me to be for or against Jesus, then I would be ‘for’. It might be interesting to consider what Jesus’ teaching might be on this issue in Africa; a man who spent his life trying to ease the suffering of the poor and the sick. Would he condone the promotion of such an inflammatory and destructive doctrine in such a hard hit part of the world?
I read the article before I sent it to you. He made his comparison, and one is free to dismiss it. He ran his own searches as well, as seen in his footnotes (which is how he constructed the graph). Aren’t the CIA Factbook, and World Health Organization better than Google?
No, Jesus wouldn’t spread a doctrine that causes needless suffering, but that’s yet another reason why I am siding with you on the issue. I’m merely defending against what I think are errors, and making corrections as I go along.
I appreciate that you side with me on this issue. This, then is not a rebuttal, but just a comment on the referenced article. The extent of the effect is open to investigation, but to say it would be marginal would be to grievously underestimate the situation and to say that it has been “formally falsified”, is to either be mistaken, unthorough or worse. The article has references and sources at the bottom and does attempt to make a case. The graph plotted is interesting and it would be fair to say that if the contentions of the article were to say that Catholicism as ‘the one and only’ factor is falsified, I would agree, but the article contends that it has no part to play whatsoever.
I checked through the references at the bottom of the page. One of the pages (World Health Organisation) was from 2000 and has expired. The other references he uses to plot his graph seem reasonable for a cursary understanding. When I said to check out Google, this would probably be the best means of researching, because Google is not biased and will display an array of sources and websites. The websites you mention, I’m sure, would appear amongst the sources displayed in a google search. You can then look at each displayed page from the search and evaluate for yourself its credibility. The more pages, sources, graphs and maps that are in accordance, the more reliable we can infer the data to be. If you check the wikipedia reference from which he gains his population numbers in the article (referenced at the bottom of the article), you will see a map of Catholicism in Africa. Check the map that is referenced through wikipedia and compare it with this map that comes up in a google search: http://aids-in-africa1234.wikispaces.com/
You will note that large populations of Catholics exist in the same parts of the continent as the epidemic. If you take it as Christianity in general (ie. including Baptists, Evangelicals, Orthodox, etc easily found in another search) then the correlation is extremely strong. If you look at the global map of Catholicism, we can see that there is a rich vein of it in Sub-Saharan Africa, especially down the East coast and centrally. Wider regions of Sub-Saharan Africa are also heavily populated by other branches of Christianity. Essentially the South of the continent is mainly Christian, whilst the North is predominantly Muslim. The situation is such that in the Southern expanse of Africa the proportions of those suffering with AID’s are the largest on the planet, in a mainly Christian population. The graph that your article postulates, may have some weight to it and it is sure that other factors are heavily involved in the problem, such as poverty and lack of education, so the correlation is not perfect, but neither is the correlation absent completely. My original point was that it is complex, but Catholicism is a significant and negative factor in this difficult problem.
I appreciate, that you said you sided with me, so I was aware of this in writing this response, but it seems like an issue that deserves our attempts to understand it and I think that in agreeing with me, you would be acknowledging that the referenced article is factually incorrect in its conclusion.
I concur with some of your sentiments here. The liberation in sexual attitude, I’m sure has had an affect on the world. This is a hugely complex issue, which is why I believe it needs serious consideration and acknowledgement. I do not treat it lightly or something that is simple.
However, in response to your words about the sexual revolution, are 2 main points:
In the US and Europe we promote education, family planning, sexual health and contraception to combat the problems that occur because of this new sexual attitude. We accept the new attitudes but our first concern is public health and safety. Sex education is compulsory in our schools. The TV shows you mention always try to promote sexual health and contraception (as a whole), allthough they will often promote promiscuity.
When considering the Developed world, though we suffer from problems such as STD’s, our rates of such serious infection are in no way comparable to the continental epidemic existing in Africa. We may have a higher rate of minor infection’s or maybe not (I’m not sure), but our rate of terminal AID’s is not even in the same category. Two thirds of those who suffer from HIV in this world live in sub-saharan Africa. The remaining third is spread across six other global continents.
The church’s teachings on this issue are more than influential and consequentially have rammifications that are more than slight. I agree that from a very strict standpoint as you put it, ‘LACK of religious adherence causes human suffering and death’ in this instance.
But this is exactly my point, the lack of movement is what is exacerbating the problem. In a poverty stricken society, whilst strict adherence to Catholicism would perhaps prevent this disease, how easy is total strict adherence?
Which is more important to the church on this issue, strict sexual adherence or the sanctity of human life? This is probably the key question in reply to your point.
‘The cultural influence upon African societies coming from such “sexually liberated” places as the U.S. and U.K. is the TRUE cause of the AIDS epidemic in Africa.’ I disagree here because, whilst an element of this is true, the developed world (whilst promoting promiscuity admittedly), does nothing but promote sexual health, contraception and good practice in sexual conduct.
‘It should be of no surprize that the AIDS epidemic occurred in the decades following this cultural shift.’ Perhaps again there is some truth to your words here, but in the developed world we do not even approach the same problems as they do in Africa.
Allow me to give a quick example of the confusion that can be caused. Young men and women in rural parts of Africa may spend their time working in the fields from the age of 8 onwards. They have little or no education, but perhaps attend the village Catholic Church. They are taught that condoms are evil and to remain abstinant. Young people when they reach the age of 15 may all of a sudden start noticing others of the opposite sex. How easy is it to prevent an occasional lapse of judgement in rural villages such as this? If condoms are taught of as evil, then the village may not even have access to them as a Catholic settlement. One or two lapses between a group of young people could occur. This might happen once or twice, yet that could be enough for half the village to suddenly become infected.
Un-educated children that have raging hormones at the age of 15-16 may not have a clue how AID’s is transpired, or even that it exists. They may know that they are breaking the teachings of abstinance, but if they have no clue of the reasons why, they may innocently and unintentionally be infecting one another before they even reach adulthood. We all break rules sometimes, but at the age of 15-16, how easy is it for everyone to suppress perhaps our 3rd strongest instinct? This is why it is an epidemic and rips through areas of Africa. People that are too young or ill-educated to understand, could infect half of a local population within months.
The ideal is something that I feel may be arguable and I would be acceptant for the church to preach in regions that are educated and not vulnerable, but the reality on the ground in the developing world is so different. I
‘Sir, As the president of a Catholic Aids-care agency very much engaged in work in the African nation of Malawi, I deplore the ill-advised remarks by Pope Benedict. The Pope especially needs to recognise the paradigm shift in the use of condoms over the years. Initially, they were designed as a contraceptive device but, with the arrival of HIV/Aids, they are a lifesaver in that they block the transmission of a fatal disease.
To deny their value is pure folly, and to condemn their use in those marriages in which a partner is infected by HIV is to abandon every semblance of Christianity. The Pope would have been better advised to have stayed at home and to have donated the costs of his visit to Aids care work.’
The Australian Aids Fund
The above is a short letter regarding the Pope’s visit to Cameroon in 2009, from the president of a Catholic AID’s charity.
Here is a link to the site he heads.
A short excerpt from his site:
What words do you wish to convey to the pope?
I would say that, like him, I believe in the ideals of abstaining from sex before marriage and remaining faithful to your partner within a stable marriage relationship. My problem is that in the desperate situations where I work, the promotion of these ideals does not meet the need. We, instead, need a more realistic approach, to be consistently pro-life from conception to death. I’ve sat with vulnerable women for years in their shacks, have seen them and the babies in their arms dying of AIDS. Their hopelessness has seared my heart and spirit. I believe Jesus’s injunction to the Pharisees applies to me. He said that they are the ones who put impossible burdens on the shoulders of their people but will they lift a finger to help them carry them? Not they. I want to be the one who lifts a finger.
I will say again that you may be right that the Pope needs to ammend his stance on this issue. But keep in mind that STDs such as AIDS were not a problem in traditional African societies (or at least nowhere near as much of a problem). It is the influence from the “sexually liberated” western societies that provides the fuel for this fire…the reason that “the promotion of these ideals does not meet the need.”
Further, in order to be described as consistent with Christianity, a papal declaration such as this must have a demonstrable scriptural basis. But as your quotes point out, it is not scripturally justifiable. I have no problem in saying that the Pope is wrong and that his stance is inconsistent with Christianity.
But what is on trial here are the actions and statements of the Pope, not scripturally based Christian concepts.
I will say that we have some greater agreement on this issue, however there is are scriptural and historical reasons for the opposition to contraception.
With regards to the Papal declaration on this controversy, this is not a new issue or philosophy, this is a doctrine that goes back as far as the Church has existed. I believe one of the founding theologians to contemplate and argue on this was St. Augustine of Hippo, yet the concept had been around since the earliest days of the Catholic Church. This is not a sole argument from the modern Pope but a deeply indoctrinated philosophy as old as the Church itself.
I have just found these words online on some brief Scriptural references to Birth Control:
It begins in Genesis 1:28 when God blessed Adam and Eve, saying, “Be fertile and multiply…”.
However, after the Fall, man wasted no time developing ingenious methods of contraception such as wool that absorbed sperm, poisons that fumigated the uterus, potions…In some centuries, even condoms were used (though made out of animal skin rather than latex).
One form of artificial contraception condemned in the bible is Coitus interruptus, a method used by Onan in Genesis 38:8-10:
Then Judah said to Onan, “Unite with your brother’s widow, in fulfillment of your duty as brother-in-law, and thus preserve your brother’s line.” Onan, however, knew that the descendants would not be counted as his; so whenever he had relations with his brother’s widow, he wasted his seed on the ground, to avoid contributing offspring for his brother. What he did greatly offended the Lord, and the Lord took his life too.
Scripture also condemns sterilization in Deuteronomy 23:1:
“He that is wounded in the stones, or hath his privy member cut off, shall not enter into the congregation of the Lord.”
For more scriptural support against the use of artificial birth control, I recommend the following:
The Bible and Birth Control by Charles Provan (a Protestant)
I think that we share some agreement on this controversial and difficult topic. I am pleased to hear you argue that the Pope is wrong on this. I believe that he is completely wrong, but I would concede him the allowance to preach and hold the ideal in regions of the world that were not so at risk from the terminal HIV epidemic.
I agree with you that the sexual liberation of the west has certainly had an affect on the world, of this there is no doubt. However, I do think that you are mistaken in blaming strongly the West for the epidemic in Africa. I think that you are right to an extent, but it is too simplistic to say that the west is predominantly to blame, this is a hugely complex issue with many attributing factors. That is why I did not rest the blame solely with Catholicism as there are a host of hugely challenging factors at work here. I will repeat that whilst the west is promiscuous, it promotes sexual health, education and contraception. The same must be done in the poorest regions of Africa. That is why the Pope is wrong and upon this we do agree.
It is wrong to assume that the cause of ‘the need’ is the sexual liberation of the West. The most plagued regions and areas of AID’s existence in Africa are amongst the poorest and most impoverished places on Earth. We are talking about ghetto’s, rural farms, war zones, shanty towns and areas of complete destitution and poverty. To say that the influence of the western sexual liberation is the cause just does not wash in so many of these areas. We are talking about communities with barely the means to stay alive, with barely the water to stay on their feet, with barely the food to feed their families. These people are in the grasp of extreme poverty. They will rarely have the benefits of electricity, much less the luxury of a television set screening promiscuous western sit-coms and movies. Prostitution is often the cause of the spread, yet for many, prostitution is not a western induced choice, it is the only method of survival, in a reality so far removed from the luxury of our western homes, that we have no right to make any such naive judgements.
I believe that we agree about the Pope, as well as various other aspects of this issue and I know that your intentions are good, as are the Pope’s. He is not evil, just misguided and wrong on this issue.
What all of this does, to relate this discussion to the issue at hand is show how religion is killing even in today’s world. Perhaps Christianity does not promote the Pope’s ideals and on this I think I would tend to fully agree with you. The core message of faith on this issue is good and not wrong, but the uncompromising nature and tradition of the Catholic religion is what is causing the deaths and suffering. The question that you ask in this snippet is, ‘Doesn’t religion cause killing?’ and the answer quite positively is yes. We see here that it is the religion that is causing the suffering, probably not the core values of faith, and it would seem not some of it’s more sensible followers. The two examples being yourself and Mr. Brian Haill in this case, as well as countelss others I am sure!
I would ask you to perhaps browse Mr. Haills site that I linked to above (and below). I came across it by chance, but it truely demostrates and explores some of the difficult issues about this topic. He is a Catholic and it is a Christian site, so you may well find it both interesting and quite palatable. I believe that it is a positive demonstration of the inherent good and positivity that can come from religion, as this is such a just cause in combatting such a terrible and real affliction. Yet he is not a blind follower, he uses his own intelligence and reason on such a contentious and significant issue as this. He retains his faith but says that the teaching of the church on this issue is simply wrong. This is a healthier attitude towards faith and I find his site to have a positive and constructive attitude. Such reasonable thinking and positive action is the positive and true way forwards around the problems of religion. Yet, if all religions can’t begin to think more as this man does, then the suffering will continue.
Having spoken before on this issue, you should know that I am not against religion or God and perhaps open to Deism myself, but I am also interested in facts. I have just re-read the article by Kirk Durston. Do you genuinely believe that he has constructed a balanced and well written article? I’m not making an argument against religion here, but I don’t think that articles on such serious subject matter should go unchallenged, I just find his words a little concerning.
Well, if it is unbalanced, I need it pointed out to me where the imbalance is. I like this post from a website similar to mine. An excerpt:
The history of human warfare goes back to the beginning of recorded history (and, no doubt, well before that). A recent comprehensive compilation of the history of human warfare, Encyclopedia of Wars by Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod documents 1763 wars, of which 123 have been classified to involve a religious conflict. So, what atheists have considered to be “most” really amounts to less than 7% of all wars. It is interesting to note that 66 of these wars (more than 50%) involved Islam, which did not even exist as a religion for the first 3,000 years of recorded human warfare.
Further, atheists and agnostics often like to refer to themselves as “not religious,” but this is rather misleading. Because the definition of “religion” is something that has never been agreed upon in scholarly circles, it would be pointless to squabble about whether or not atheism and agnosticism are “religions.”
But they are without a doubt belief systems. Disbelief in God necessarily involves believing in something else. Rather than believing that God created the universe, for example, atheists believe that the universe is a “brute fact.” Belief in such a concept is faith, pure and simple (and I would argue involves much more faith than belief in God).
Agnostics believe that we cannot know which if any religious views are true. How they know that this religious view is true is not clear to me, but it is a belief system (or “worldview”) just like any other.
I was commenting here in reply to Durston’s article as I think it needs scrutiny, but you are correct about Islam, although I am unsure of the figure 50%.
the title of the above article is, ‘Doesn’t religion cause killing?’, but you have not actually given any consideration to religions aside from Christianity. There have been deaths as a result of Judaism, Christianity, Islam, Shamanism, Druidism, Sikhism, the Aztecs and more. Jihad, is something that you agreed to on another page, yet you have not mentioned it in the above article. I’m not sure how useful your quote of only 7% of wars being religious is, as it does not explore many factors, nor the size of the 1700 wars. For example, it may be the case that the Roman Empire was a series of unreligious wars in the eyes of this figure, but the Romans were deeply religious people, so whilst they may have killed for country and Empire rather than religion directly, they killed as people of faith. Such things will make this simplistic figure of 7% far more complex.
Your article asside, it was Durston that I wanted to scrutinise. He makes a fair point about Christianity and its basic teaching about morality. He is right that Christianity teaches not to kill and that Christians who do are in breach of Christian teachings. Yet I find his portrayal of Christian deaths versus atheistic ones entirely unbalanced, unacademic and lacking in depth, scrutiny and accuracy.
To point out the imbalance, my issue with Durston here is that he manipulates and invents data in order to make an emotional plea to the reader.
Split into 3 sections, I would broadly agree with what he tries to say about the nature of the teachings of Christianity in paragraph 2, (allthough there is some conflict here). I don’t have much prior knowledge of communist China and would be prepared to say there may be some truth to what he says there, but I would have to rigorously check and research his claims and figures based on the rest of the article. His claims about Nazism leave out any ambiguity painting the regime as irreligious, with no further consideration of history, complexity, policy, doctrine or facts. His initial words about killing and Christianity, are poorly researched or perhaps deceitful. He cherry-picks 3 famous Christian conflicts, invents at least two extremely low death estimates and neglects huge swathes of other Christian related killings, with no mention to these other lives lost (or at risk in the present). This is not only weak academically, but hugely disrespectful to the human life lost or presently in danger and quite frankly, immoral.
I again must state that I am not trying to be anti-religious here so you don’t get me wrong, I am trying to establish some facts that Durston seems to be distorting. The present killing that I am talking about would mainly be the AID’s crisis, so if he wishes to distort or neglect such problems, I don’t see his views as harmless, but actively damaging, unhelpful, dangerous and un-Christian.
To point out the shortcomings of his calculations and the imbalance in his article there are numerous examples.
Can you counter his numbers with some numbers of your own obtained from a reputable scholarly source? Can you reply to statistic from the Encyclopedia of Wars by Charles Philips and Alan Axelrod which puts the number of wars with a religious element at 7%? Please note that this total is for ALL religions, not just Christianity. Can you back up your assertion that he manipulated data with some sort of hard data?
I will deal with Durston, as it is impossible to deal with the Philips/Axelrod work without vast extra discussion and investigation. Durston is the main source of my concern. There is so much scholarly evidence counter to what Durston writes, it is difficult to know where to begin. My impressions of him are not good.
There are varied death tolls for these events and I have found evidence of different numbers all over the place. An example of the variation is with Rudolph Rummel who calculates the death toll for the 4 centuries of the Spanish Inquisition at around 350,000. This does not include the addition of the torture toll, which did not result in deaths. This is the first demonstration of some miscalculation by Durston. I believe that should this estimate be correct, it would be ten times Durston’s figure. This is some miscalculation. Perhaps the figure is somewhere in between, but either way how wrong can Durston be?
He calculates the death toll for the entirety of the Crusades at 133,000. I think that what he has done here is gather the rough death toll for the first Crusade and forgotten to add the sequential 8 or 9. Estimates again vary from different scholarly sources, but a low or conservative estimate is somewhere closer to 1,000,000 (Schertzer Hittell) over the 2.5 centuries, whilst some higher estimates put the total at around 9,000,000 (John M. Robertson). At the lowest end of the scale, again Durston’s figure seems to have gone up by a factor of ten. Does he work in Banking?
He calculates a rough total of Christian killing over the centuries of 264,000. This figure seems to have gone up at least tenfold, with a little research into the examples he gives. I have not mentioned Nazism, for the time being, perhaps his words there need more consideration later. With some slight corrections to his initial claims we have barely scraped the surface. I’m not sure whether to continue listing Christian conflicts that he has ommited as the numbers seem to inflate dramatically. His figure of 264,000 is quite literally absurd. He may have a point when it comes to state sponsored atheism although I would need to research what he says given his total deceptions elsewhere, so the numbers may be larger on that side. This is not a nice comparison but overall he is completely misrepresenting one side of the argument to make a point. Propaganda might be a good description of his article.
This article corrects many of the misunderstandings surrounding the crusades. Christians needed to defend themselves against a very real military threat.
Excerpt: “That is what gave birth to the Crusades. They were not the brainchild of an ambitious pope or rapacious knights but a response to more than four centuries of conquests in which Muslims had already captured two-thirds of the old Christian world. At some point, Christianity as a faith and a culture had to defend itself or be subsumed by Islam. The Crusades were that defense.”
This article discusses the topic of the crusades. Yes, it is from a Christian source, but it makes a valid points. This is what I consider to be the key excerpt:
“The common guess brings the body count to around one million. This number includes Christian crusaders, Muslims and Jews. It should also be noted that this count also includes those who died from disease, those who were sold into slavery and many who died before they made it to the Holy Land.”
So can you demonstrate how many of this one million died at the hands of another human, and how many died from other causes? Disease was rampant in the middle ages. Further, disease killed far more people during the American Civil War than battlefield injuries. Do we have any reason to believe that this was not the case during the Crusades, when medicine and hygiene were even more primitive?
Also, this post is from a forum about military history, so it would presumably be uninfluenced by religious motivations. It details the difficulty in coming up with accurate stats with regard to the death toll.
Can you give me a link or a citation to an article that John M. Robertson wrote which puts the figure at 9 million?
Please cite for me some other Christian conflict besides the Crusades. The example from China that you cited before was a huge overreach, especially considering that the very article that you linked me to listed the primary cause of the conflict as something other than religion.
You are broadly right about the Crusades, I was not claiming otherwise. They began as Christians were worried about the Holy Land and Jerusalem. But this does not make them any less real, nor any less religious. The death tolls do indeed include the wider effects of the conflict such as those who died of disease, starvation and in travelling. Again this does not make these deaths any less real or diminish their relationship to the Crusades. Whether by the sword or by fatigue on the journey, if someone dies as a result of this endeavour it is part of the death toll. If you had a relative who died on his way to battle because of unsanitary conditions, would you consider the death any less real? He would not have been in a position to be vulnerable to such things had he stayed at home with his family, so his death is an important part of the toll. Some died in World War One in the trenches as a result of disease, fatigue, trench foot, and poor supplies or aid. Their deaths are still noted and recorded when considering the wider affects of the conflict and rightly so.
You say that the common guess for the Crusades is around 1 million. If this figure is correct, it is roughly ten times that of Durston. Whatever the causes, motives or actual death toll, this alone shows his article to be rediculous. If he cannot record facts and display an honest appraisal of all the parts of the problem, then he is deceitful or stupid.
The figure by Robertson is 9 million. I did not quote this as fact, I said that this is the highest estimate, which is significantly different to Durston’s. It is difficult to get exact stats as you say, with varied opinions throughout academia. Why doesn’t Durston mention this? The general figure I have found most commonly for the Crusades is between 2 and 3 million deaths and I have given the lowest estimate here (although my feeling would be somewhere around the 2-3 million mark) rather than trying to inflate or exagerate.
Below are some more Christian related conflicts.
The Chinese civil war started by Xiuquan was heavily influenced by Christianity. How can this be overlooked? I feel that the opinion you voice here on this particular conflict is not right. The website I linked you to has numerous pages describing the influence and affects of Christianity on this conflict. On the page of Causes, Christianity has its own section amongst others. It is amongst the causes, as I said all along, rather than the sole cause, yet was indeed of major effect and influence. Xiuquan’s conversion was one of, if not the main catalyst for his move to evangelise and ultimately to action.
Between 20 and 100 million people died as result of this war. Christianity was a major factor in the reasons for its initiation, as well as political causes. To deny this would seem to simply be denial. I recall you claiming that Christianity was only a peripheral reason for this conflict. I disagree, but let’s assign, for the sake of argument, Christianity with a 1% involvement in this conflict. If 20,000,000 people died as a result of this conflict and we give Christianity 1% of responsibility for these deaths, then at this death count Christianity can assume responsibility for 200,000 lives. This number is calculated at the lowest end of the death toll estimates at 20 million, whilst assigning 99% of the deaths to non religious causes. This extremely low estimate ‘doubles’ the calculations of Kirk Durston and yet he has not even so much as mentioned it as a war. To double his calculated death count in one swoop is of huge significance with regards to the reliability of his work. Is this scholarly writing? Furthermore, I believe that these estimates here are completely farcical as Christianity was a major catalyst in this conflict, (amongst many other catalysts) not a 1% cause. Whatever, the level of involvement of Christianity in this conflict, what further adjectives are appropriate to describe Kirk Durston’s article?
Some Christian wars that Durston fails to mention:
Lutheran Reformations Europe 1500’s. Lutherans fighting Catholics.
The Peasants War. 1524-1525. Around 100,000 dead.
Civil War Germany. 1546-1555. 9 year conflict. As a result of Charles V of the Holy Roman Empire. Couldn’t find a death toll… probably quite high after 9 years. Reformation and wars in Switzerland 1529-31.
The Reformation in France. ‘The French Wars of Religion’ 1562-1598. 36 years. Estimated between 2 and 4 million died over 36 year period. Perhaps 1/6 of the French population killed.
St. Bartholomew’s day massacre 1572- Roman Catholic Party murdered more than 30,000 Huguenots across France in one day.
The Reformation led to a series of religious wars that culminated in the Thirty Years’ War 1618-1648, which devastated much of Germany, killing between 25 and 40% of its population. Estimated at around 7.5 million people dying in the Thirty Years War as a result of religious disagreements between Lutherans and Catholics. Although again with some respect to honest academic research, as with Xiuquan, the war was complex with various contributing factors including political, social and religious. Where is this acknowledgement and scrutiny in Durston’s report?
There are many more Christian related wars and more on the Reformation that I have not mentioned, but perhaps this is enough for you to at least ask some questions of Durston. Looking at these figures having done a little research, I actually feel quite angry at Durston, because quite frankly he is ignoring the plight of millions that have died. Why is he doing this? Appalling might be a good word for his article or perhaps, badly researched, un-academic to be kind, or deceitful and immoral to put it less kindly? He failed to take into account the entire Reformation. Who is he? Is he an academic? Perhaps these lives lost didn’t fit the point he was trying to make. If he is going to make the claims he has, he should be challenged with fervour.
The Protestants and the Catholics have fought each other over territory, politics and ideology in Ireland since the 1600’s. Thousands have been killed in the name of religion in Ireland and the unrest lead to the death of a policeman with a car bomb this weekend.
This is a fair. The conflict between the Protestants and Catholic in Northern Ireland is a clear cut example of religious differences inciting killing. Other examples you have provided, such as the Chinese example, are far more sketchy in terms of establishing a link between religion and war.
Further, I have to point out to you that making a statement such as “we should do away with religion because religion causes killing” is not logical. “Religion” is a term that scholars have never been able to define conclusively. “Religions” such as Christianity and Judaism are “worldviews” just like atheism and agnosticism. Atheism and agnosticism cannot be conclusively excluded from the list of “religions.”
Religion (or “worldview”) is a fact of life and always will be because of life’s inherent mystery. Therefore, to say “we should do away with religion because religion causes killing” is every bit as absurd as saying “we must do away with politics because politics kill.” Both politics and religion (or “worldview”) will always be with us and will always be a source of conflict.
It is therefore necessary for you to draw a causal link between a specific belief system and killing in order to demonstrate that said religion or worldview causes killing. Otherwise, there is no reason to believe that the killing that coincides with that belief system is the result of anything beyond the normal human tendency to seek dominance for one’s own cultural/social group—whatever that cultural/social group may be. In short, was it the belief system itself that caused the killing, or was it the normal human tendency to seek dominance for one’s cultural/social group? I will assert that if Christianity were not the cultural/social organizing factor for conflicts such as that in Northern Ireland, some other cultural/social organizing factor would be.
I have detailed how there is a causal link between atheism and killing. That causal link is the devaluation of human life that is intrinsic to the atheistic worldview. What causal link, I will ask you, are you proposing to exist between Christianity and killing that goes beyond the commonplace human tendency to seek dominance for one’s cultural/social group?
Thank you for your reply.
Let me first say that I at no point have said, ‘we should do away with religion because religion causes killing’. You are profiling my critique and categorizing it as an argument that says we should do away with religion.
In my answers and points here I am doing no such thing.
What I am doing is trying to display some facts in response to the poorly written article by Kirk Durston. The reply you give here seems to be a standardised response to a request to do away with religion. My understanding of these issues on this topic is that the picture is very complex and far from black and white.
My main critique here is to do with Durston and your response here deals neither with my criticism of his article nor with the examples of Christian killing and warfare that I have given.
I will deal with the causal link later as you see that as an important part of your defence. Whether or not there is a causal link does not affect the documented facts that I have given here. You have not responded to my criticism of Kirk Durston and it is on this that I am looking for a response. Do you accept that his article is propaganda or very poorly researched, or do you defend his words?
Causal link or not, to Kirk Durston I put the words, ‘The Reformation’?
The form of Christianity that you Scott, follow was born of this 16th Century European Conflict in which millions died and suffered.
Do you defend Durston’s calculations on this or admit that they are false?
264,000 people may have died in the first 2 Crusades, he has at least 7 left to add to this.
This above post deals with the Reformation. In light of your response here, I feel you may have dismissed it. Please Research any of the battles that I have quoted, their causes and effects. This was a Christian motivated phenomonon that went on for over a century and I have not, by any means, listed all the figures, battles, parts or countries involved in it.
One particularly gruesome event would be the St. Bartholomews Day Massacre. This was carried out by the Roman Catholic Party, lead to anywhere between 20,000 (estimate) and 100,000 (high estimate) deaths on one day, and celebrated in Rome with virility. The Pope celebrated this event and thanksgiving services in Rome were celebrated for the slaughter for many years after.
April 8, 2011 at 10:53 am
I’m not arguing that we should do away with religion. I think that religion can offer much good to the world, as I have said many other times. I am just trying to get some facts straight in relation to the article from Kirk Durston. I am not anti-religion, but I may very well be anti-Durston.
But once again, in order to demonstrate that a particular religion or belief system promotes killing, you must show how that religion or belief system promotes killing. Otherwise, there is no reason to believe that the killing which persons who belong to a particular religion or belief system commit is anything more than the common human tendency to seek dominance for one’s own cultural/social group.
For example, the massacre in Rwanda in 1994 by the Hutus against the Tutsis was motivated by ethnic/tribal differences. Does this mean that belonging to a particular ethnicity somehow caused these people to hack members of the rival ethnicity to death with machetes? What was it about being a Hutu that made them kill? Answer: Nothing. The killing was the result of human evil, and in particular the evil tendency of people to seek dominance for their particular group….whether that group is organized based on ethnicity, culture, or religious identification.
It would be nice if adopting a religion which teaches “thou shalt not kill” would more often result in people actually following this precept. Sadly, Christianity, and other religions all too often become just another cultural organizing principle for which one group aligns itself against rival groups.
So my point is that religion didn’t cause the killing in the examples you are providing. The human tendency to seek dominance for one’s own cultural/social/religious group, and religious intolerance caused the killing. If this were not the case, then we would not find so much killing with no religious motivation. As I mentioned in a previous reply, the Encyclopedia of Wars by Charles Phillips and Alan Axelrod shows that fewer than 7% of wars had a religious motivation.
Many many wars were motivated by political differences and by ethnic differences, etc… Did politics and ethnicity therefore cause these wars? Of course not. Human intolerance and the human tendency to seek dominance caused these conflicts.
So when I say that it is necessary for you to establish a causal link between a particular religion or belief system and killing, I mean that you must show that the religion or belief system in question motivates people to kill above and beyond the killing that results from human intolerance and dominance seeking tendencies.
Atheistic communism clearly did when you consider the sheer magnitude of those killed in a very brief period of time. The causal link that I am establishing is the degraded concept of human value that atheist beliefs result in.
Millions died and suffered? Once again, can you show how many of these died from actually being killed by another human being and how many died from disease, etc.?
Do I defend Durston’s calculations? Unless it is demonstrated to me that the numbers that you cite are actually the numbers killed as opposed to dying from disease and other causes, I don’t at the present time see any reason to doubt his calculations. Remember that roughly 60 million people died in World War II. And this was a worldwide war with much much deadlier weapons than we have today.
Please provide a scholarly reference to the “millions who died” and in what war you are talking about.
How many people really could have died as the result of a conflict where the armies were armed with nothing more deadly than a sword and in which armies (and populations) were far smaller? Medicine and sanitation were far more primitive during the 16th century and death from disease was absolutely rampant. Can demonstrate for me how many of these people were actually killed by another human being as opposed to dying from other means?
This article was written by a historian who specializes in medieval history.
“As in almost all medieval wars, the casualties and material damage caused by the Crusades were relatively light and generally localized. More people died as a result of disease or starvation as a direct or indirect result of these campaigns than were killed in battles or sieges.”
I wondered how you would respond to my citations of events that Durston had missed and on this basis I can either conclude that you still haven’t checked or researched them or you are denying their existence. You are an intelligent guy and have said some very sensible things on this site, you have quoted some sensible sources and made some decent arguments, but your defence of Durston here is probably bordering on crazy. I can’t work out whether it is genuine denial, or perhaps you haven’t researched the events that I have put forward, or you are trying to defend his article even though you know it to be false. Perhaps you see this as an attack on Christianity and will defend it whatever your feelings about Durston. I have no problem with religion, this is not an attack on you or your faith, this is an attack on Durston.
As a (supposed) scholar he is obliged to correctly outline and include all the parameters of such an argument if he is to make one. He ommits one of the largest Christian conflicts of the middle ages. This is rediculous. Once again, you have not actually commented or replied on my mentioning of the Reformation.
Where did Protestantism come from Scott? You are a Protestant. How did Protestantism begin? What is the history of the Protestant tradition?
Please research the Reformation. Protestantism was born of different theological thought process’s in the middle ages. People of Christianity were beginning to disagree with the traditions and doctrines of the Catholic Church and began to seek a different way of practicing. The Reformation began as an attempt to reform the Catholic Church. This began in 1517 when Martin Luther (a German priest) nailed his 95 theses on the door of the Castle Church in Wittenburg.
Put very simply from this point in 1517 the conflict between the Catholics and the Protestants began and lasted untill roughly 1648 at the end of the Thirty Years War. That makes the Reformation an event that lasted something like 130 years and Durston fails to even mention it.
There was fighting, persecution, execution and conflict across Europe for over a century. This lead to huge death counts as a result of a Christian conflict. The Protestants wanted reform and the Catholics did not, which lead to heated disagreement and violence on a continental scale.
Please research the Reformation. It is the reason for the existence of Protestantism.
The French Wars of Religion are one part of the Reformation. The very title of these events states that they were religious and you seem to deny their existence.
Scholarly References for the death toll:
In the French wars of Religion, the Catholics fought the Huguenots. Robert J Knecht, a historian specialising in the French middle ages calculates the death toll of these wars in France to be between 2 and 4 million. This one single example is enough to show how poor Durston’s calculation is.
St. Bartholomew’s Day Massacre. John Lothrop Motley places the death toll at anywhere between 20,000 and 100,000 for one short event in which the Catholic Party set out to exterminate as many Huguenots (French Protestants) as possible.
Please research the Reformation and tell me whether you still think that Durston’s figure of 264,000 stands up. The Reformation was a Christian motivated conflict about doctrine and the right to practice differently. This happened as a result of Martin Luther and his challenge to Catholic Doctrine. The causal link was that he and other Protestants believed they had a right to practice seperately, thought that Catholicism was wrong and sought to do this. The conflict arises from the disagreement between the two traditions. It was seen as blasphemous by the Catholics who saw the Protestants as heretics and the vice versa. The killing began as a result of these disagreements. Protestants felt so strongly that they were right, that they were prepared to fight and die for their cause, as did the Catholics. This is one amongst the causal links.
Please research The Reformation and respond. Please do not talk about state sponsored atheism or the causal link. Durston may be correct about state sponsored atheism, I am not debating that here, nor am I trying to debate the causal link, though I do not evade either of these issues, I will answer your questions on these. I am trying to get some facts right on the laughable figure of 264,000 that he peddles with little evidence of him being anything approaching a scholar. If even a small percentage of the killing in the Reformation is attributable to Christianity, then his figure will inflate by many factors.
Please give me until next Wednesday or so to respond. Currently, I am preoccupied with my job.
You may have a point that Durston was not the best choice of people to cite for this essay. I will look into it when I have more time.
Please do not worry. If you have work and such things, it is no problem. I was only investigating such things if you wished to and had the time and you have given much.
If you post again on this I will read it or respond if asked, but please do not worry if you can’t. Durston needs to be questioned on his research, but he is right about one thing, which is that, whilst not always perfect, Christianity is a religion that does always endeavour to teach peace and kindness.
From our exchange, I have realized that a mere citation of death statistics is not effective in communicating my point. This is because the number of deaths for conflicts that occurred hundreds of years ago are very difficult to establish conclusively. Further, it is difficult to establish which deaths were caused by a conflict itself and which were caused by secondary causes such as disease. Therefore, I have removed my reference to Durston, as per your wishes. Please re-read the essay at your convenience.
I am not completely finished with my updates…it is a work in progress.
I must say, I respect you for withdrawing Durston. It is difficult to re-evaluate or to change your mind sometimes. I did not specifically ask that you do so, but I think that you are correct to remove that article.
The replacement article seems to be a far more sensible and reasoned argument on this topic. I’m not sure if I entirely agree with it, but it seems to be a far better considered and more viable alternative to Durston’s.
This is not as black and white as Durston attempted to portray, but a hugely difficult area with shades of grey, complexity and controversy, as well as conflicting archeological or academic records and opinions.
I am quite impressed that you have withdrawn Durston, as I’m sure it was not easy, although it shows you to be very intelligent and considered over these issues.
This is quite an important topic, as it can become relevant in the present if people are mislead or unaware. One of my biggest concerns with the article by Durston and one reason he needed to be challenged, is the AID’s crisis. This is a problem happening now and is something that can be tackled. I have said below that this is not a conflict of guns and swords, but of doctrine and ideology and the deaths are just as real as in any other. For him to ommit this even as a consideration is quite un-Christian and quite wrong as this is a present day problem, not something from history. If people are not aware of such problems, then how can they be solved?
The AID’s crisis is a valid concern in this topic, because it is inflamed by Christian teaching, yet I could barely imagine a Christian that would wish for AID’s to be a side effect of their teachings. I think that the great irony here is that Christians will sacrifice their time or even lives and travel the globe to help people in such conditions, where many others will not, working for charities such as CAFOD and Christian Aid, so it is a valid debate to have and to be concerned with.
Really, whilst this is a huge problem, it is something that could be fixed or at least eased greatly by some slight ammendments to Christian teaching in Africa. I’m sure that Christians would actually agree, if it helped, which makes this a problem that could be solved, or at least treated. This is a problem for Christianity, but not something that couldn’t be fixed and in doing so, would probably benefit everyone including the Chrsitian faith. If such issues are ignored by people such as Durston, then how will they be tackled or solved? I think your article reads better without him.
Thanks. I realized that trying to convince people with body counts is not going to be effective. This is mostly because coming up with body counts that people can agree upon is extremely difficult.
You seem to think that Christian teaching is playing a big role in causing AIDS. This is a very sketchy claim. If the pope is teaching against condom use, his supposedly harmful influence would only effect those who both 1) acknowledge his authority and 2) fail to acknowledge his authority regarding sex outside of marriage. This has to be a remarkably thin segment of the population.
Further, education may not be up to western standards in certain parts of Africa, but these people are not stupid. If you think about it, you are basically insulting their intelligence by suggesting that they cannot catch on to the link between sexual promiscuity and AIDS. And any African who has enough access to the media to hear what the pope is saying also has enough access to the media to hear about the link between sexual promiscuity and AIDS.
I am certainly not accusing you or racism, but I think your view of AIDS in Africa has some paternalistic overtones.
I was just using it as an example of the damage that can be done through misleading people as Durston was doing.
Knowledge is the key to these things. I am not accusing Africans of being unable to understand about the AID’s link, I am saying that if the public information is fudged, wrong or misleading then communities become far more susceptable. Think of your previous responses regarding Durston. You are certainly capable of interpreting information correctly. However, you were arguing for his case strongly untill your last post (I believe the Reformation may have been the changer), which is not to say he is wrong about everything, but untill you investigated and truly considered his claims you backed him and posted him on your site. Imagine a very similar situation in Africa. People are not stupid, but if they are getting conflicting or wrong public information about such important issues, then the results can indeed be dire. Not everyone has the time to sit and consider things deeply as you and I have done on this site Scott and the places that suffer most from these kinds of issues are in deep poverty, not suburban paradises with libraries and braodband.
The Pope has a voice in these places, but it will be through the teachings of his church. It will be the village priest who delivers this message not the Pontiff himself, so the locals will be hearing the direct teachings of the Pope on a Sunday when they attend mass. Religion is strong and widespread in Africa, with many Christians of all denominations. I believe you estimated that 15% of Africa is Catholic, which makes the Pope’s audience something like 150 million people at least.
I am not insulting their intelligence. Of course they can understand these issues, but if they recieve the wrong guidance and information, how will they know? Have you not discovered new things since creating this site and talking with others? You are certainly capable of understanding, but sometimes you are not aware of things untill you are told or investigate. Chirstianity is certainly one major factor in these issues, which is something that many Christians will concede especially charities and aid foundations seeking to help in these places (I linked to one in a post further up the page). This is not ‘sketchy’ as you call it, although this is again, one reason in a very complex series. As is the case with so many of these issues, I do not attribute the blame to one place, these problems have many attributors and causes.
This is an important issue, which is why I brought it up for a second time. I’m not sure what you mean by paternalistic overtones, but my main reason for bringing this up is to at least spread some awareness and discussion. I’m not sure you had even considered it on this page previously. I think the figure is something like 4 million people suffering as a result of AID’s in Africa at the moment. This is not a minor issue.
Nick, whatever be the pope’s role in promoting AIDS, I hope you don’t use this as an excuse for leaving God out of your life. As I said before, you might very well have a valid point that the pope needs to soften his stance on this issue.
If you want to use this as a reason to dismiss Catholicism, I suppose that is fine. Just make sure that you don’t fall into the trap of rationalizing a belief system that does not acknowledge God because of issues such as this.
I recall that you said in the past that you wish you could believe but that you cannot. Would you be willing to read a book that I recommend? It is called “Who Moved the Stone” and it is by the English journalist Frank Morison. When he set out to write the book, Morison was determined to disprove the biblical account of Jesus’ resurrection. As a result of his research, however, he underwent “a revolution of thought” and found himself confirming the the very event he hoped to disprove.
If you cannot find the book at the library, and your financial situation is not good, I will pay for it and have it sent to you.
Thank you, that’s a very generous offer. I have read many arguments on the Christian faith and am familiar with many who contemplate and philosophize over this subject. My dissertation at university was on the history and nature of Christianity. Perhaps I will read this book at some stage, but arguments that I find more persuasive on the existence of God are generally arguments from cosmology, rather than Biblical contentions. Surprisingly for me, from a brief glance at Robert Spitzer on youtube, I could be more tempted to read his work, as a choice of one of your recommendations, as he seems to argue rather more philosophically from cosmology (from my first impressions). Thank you for your offer, but providing my library doesn’t get shut down because of the recession, I can usually find most books in there.
I do not rationalise away the possibility of God, I find it a very challenging subject, often with more questions than answers.
I feel that the AID’s crisis is something that he has ignored completely, yet is one of the most significant problems. Affecting millions in recent decades in Africa, this is another plight that he doesn’t so much as mention. This is not conflict in the sense of swords and guns, but a conflict of ideology and doctrine. This is a very real and massive problem, that is perhaps of more importance, as it is happening right now and is something that could be treated and stopped with the right attitudes from people such as the Pope and Catholicism.
Surely these events alone render Durston’s article redundant. ?
The Pope made a statement in an interview, which has now been widely quoted in the worldwide media. Immediately, the interviewer, Peter Seewald, posed this question: “Are you saying, then, that the Catholic Church is actually not opposed in principle to the use of condoms?”
The Pope clarified and expanded on his previous statement.
So let’s look at the two statements. (remember the statement was originally in German & misinterpretation were rife
After saying that “we cannot solve the problem [of AIDS] by distributing condoms…” and that “the sheer fixation on the condom implies a banalization of sexuality…” the Pope says: There may be a basis in the case of some individuals, as perhaps when a male prostitute uses a condom, where this can be a first step in the direction of a moralization, a first assumption of responsibility, on the way toward recovering an awareness that not everything is allowed and that one cannot do whatever one wants. But it is not really the way to deal with the evil of HIV infection. That can really lie only in a humanization of sexuality”
The Pope responded: “She [the Church] does not regard it as a real or moral solution, but, in this or that case, there can be nonetheless in the intention of reducing the risk of infection, a first step in a movement toward a different way, a more human way, of living sexuality”
In the first place a solution which is not “moral” cannot be “justified”. That is a contradiction and would mean that something in itself morally evil could be “justified” to achieve a good end. Note: the concept of the “lesser evil” is inapplicable here. One may tolerate a lesser evil; one cannot do something which is a lesser evil.
But the crucial distinction here is between the “intention” of the prostitute, viz. avoiding infecting his/her client, and the act itself, viz. using a condom. Since this distinction has been missed in almost every report I’ve read, it calls for some elaboration.
This distinction, in moral philosophy, is between the object of an act and the intent of an act. If a man steals in order to fornicate, the intent is to fornicate but the object is the act of theft. There is no necessary connection between stealing and fornicating.
In the case of the Pope’s remark, the intent is preventing infection and the object is use of a condom.
Here’s an example of this distinction that parallels what the Pope said. Muggers are using steel pipes to attack people and the injuries are severe. Some muggers use padded pipes to reduce the injuries, while still disabling the victim enough for the mugging. The Pope says that the intention of reducing injury (in the act of mugging) could be a first step toward greater moral responsibility. This would not justify the following headlines: “Pope Approves Padded Pipes for Mugging” “Pope Says Use of Padded Pipes Justified in Some Circumstances”, Pope Permits Use of Padded Pipes in Some Cases”.
Well, I’m not quite sure what you’re saying.
The Pope doesn’t have to condone sexual promiscuity and I doubt that he ever will, or will the Catholic Church. I’m not asking them to do that. They can preach abstinance and marital fidelity as much as they want. These things are fine and in Africa will surely help to fix the problem. I’m not demanding that they change these ideals, I would argue that these ideals are helpful in this battle.
I am simply saying that people are imperfect and human. They will have pre and extra marital sex, whether there are ideals or not. A major factor in the spread of the HIV problem is the sexual activity of people in Africa and their lack of education on the outcomes and the fact that the Pope and Catholicism preach such a hardline about contraception. An attitude that promotes contraception purely to protect against AID’s will have a dramatic effect on the spread of this disease.
Are you saying that the Pope has gone far enough? Are you saying that contraception is not the problem here? I’m not quite sure what you are saying.
Scott said ,
“This is a fair. The conflict between the Protestants and Catholic in Northern Ireland is a clear cut example of religious differences inciting killing.”
I would say that is not accurate at all. Do u think theyre arguing over when children should be baptised, if we’re saved by faith alone? If one looks at all the socalled religious wars, the main motivation is ego land, power, politics and greed. Religion is just an excuse used by some to say well God’s on my side so I must be right. Look at the war in Palistine. Do u think it is being fought over whose ideology is more divinely inspired, whose prophet was greater, Mohammand or Moses? Its all about the male ego’s lust for power & domination & no better way to show it is invade the land of a neighbour.
By the way, Scott has written a lot indirectly on how atheism or should I say a godless worldview has resulted in much genocide in the past 100yrs, it seems rather anticlimactic to be trying to defend Christianity so narrowly in terms of the use of condoms or lack there of. Why not a short essay on “Has atheism resulted in the world being condemned to finanical ruin?” (given that greed, dishonesty & corruption are endemic in a world that has taken on all the signs of morally bankruptcy)
I am just answering the question at the top of the page.
You have not answered my questions. Yes there are a great many problems and factors in conflicts besides religion. I’m not saying there aren’t. There have been many non-religious wars, the proportions of which probably outweigh the numbers of religious wars. I wasn’t making this comparison. I was answering the question at the top of the page with the crisis in Africa being one major example.
We are not talking about the wider effects of poverty or corruption which you raise. I was only talking about the AID’s situation in Africa. These other points are a separate issue. Catholic doctrine is severely aggravating the spread of this life ending and devastating disease in the poverty stricken regions of Africa.
Is it anticlimactic to talk about this problem? Is that a serious question? Should we just overlook this issue?
The reason that so many people campaign over this issue is because it is happening right now, today. It is happening as we speak. It is not a cancer or an illness that is beyond our abilities of prevention. This is an illness where a simple preventative course of action could have dramatically positive effects on the numbers who suffer, yet the Catholic Church opposes it. It is not a course of action beyond our capabilities, it could be implemented and broadcast tonight if the church saw fit. Measures could be taken tommorow and sent out before the new year.
Is it anticlimactic? There are currently 25-30 million people in Africa living with AID’s, almost 70% of the worlds AID’s sufferers. There have been over 2 million deaths since the crisis began and there will be many many more. There are something like 14 million AID’s orphans in Africa, who are children that have been oprhaned as a result of parents having AID’s. Is this anticlimactic? Should we just overlook this issue?
If the same issue was prevalent in the USA and the population living with AID’s was 20%, as in some parts of Africa, the number of sufferers in the US would be around 60 million people (I’m guessing you’re from America, although I could be very wrong). Imagine 60 million people suffering with this terminal disease in the US and the advice from the state or from the authorities was that condoms should be banned. In reality, will this inflame or quell the problem?
I’m not saying that religion is bad, I am just answering the question posed at the top of this page. I think that religion is good, but it deserves no less criticism than anything else when it is due on such consequential matters as these. Is such a level of suffering really anticlimactic or defensible?
Given the importance of this time of year, I must concede that I have not read many of the replies & comments on this particularly topic. I therefore apologize if i’ve missed some questions directed at me. But I would like to defend a couple of points I made earlier.
1) This is indeed a serious topic that should be discussed as might the topic that atheism(as the rejection of essential Christian values as described on the Sermon on the Mount) has brought the world to moral & financial bankruptcy. Atheism in the 20th century has also resulted in mass genocide not seen in other eras
2) Given the original topic can be approached then from many standpoints, the over preoccupation with one small (but important point) is to me non-productive, especially since its based on misinformation
3) the problem with AIDS in Africa is far bigger than condom usage and far bigger than Catholicism since it represents maybe 15% of the overall population.If 50% are true to their faith (and partners) then only 7-8% might be at risk. So any suggestion regarding condom usage would fall by a large majority, on deaf ears.
4) No one in the RC church and anyreasonable person for that matter, would hold that an infected person, male or female should not use a condom. Failing to do so would be both immoral & criminal. To suggest that the pope would refuse a couple the right to use a condom when one is infected is wrong. Read what he said!
5) Could he go further? certainly. Would it make any difference? I doubt it.
6) Consider the following analogy: a war is taking place between 2 countries, one population is about 20% of the JW religion. Since JWs dont believe in blood transfusions the death rate among them would likely be higher than normal. What is the major cause of this war, the lack of blood transfusions or the stupid ideology that brought on the crisis? If ~5-10% of the wounded were allowed their transfusions would that solve the problem?
Perhaps, the words of Fyodor Dostoyevsky might apply “If there is no immortality, then “without God all things are permitted.” In such a worldview, those who choose to ignore the dictates of conscience will always lead a life of gratuitous indulgence. Telling them otherwise will not make one iota of a difference.
I would just like to say, that with regards to some of your comments on this issue in Africa I would have to respectfully disagree. Given the time of year, perhaps I will leave it for a few days, as I’m sure that you are busy.
I’d like to say that I am not against religion, as I know that religions do so much positive work in the world. I just think that issues such as this are deserving of discussion, especially given the gravity of it. No authority or state in the world is perfect and we should all try our best to make things better when we can.
I wish you a Merry Christmas and hope that you are having a good festive period.
The writings of the New Atheists aim to put God, especially the God of Christianity, on trial for evil. Those who try to relate the use of condoms to religious cruelty are just using a diversionary tactic to draw attention away from their own view of the world so they are rarely forced to grapple with the gravity of the problem of evil on their terms.
A school near me was experiencing a lot of violence and the matter came to ahead when a student was knifed. The culprit tried to claim that many students carry them as a form of self defence. The school principal then made a concerted effort to change the sub-culture in which violence was never to be seen as a method of problem resolution. Anyone caught with a weapon of any description would result in instant dismissal.
According to some disingenuous respondents here, any students injured in a violent altercation would blame the principal for banning weapons for “defence”. The solution is simple in both cases, avoid behaviour which is immoral, soul-destroying, dangerous and life-threatening.
“you have heard an eye for an eye, but I say to you love your enemies, bless those who curse you, do good to those who hurt you”.
Gentlemen, we now have official evidence of unicorns.
It is surely only a matter of time before we have evidence that the invisible fairy in the sky decided to turn itself into a man in the ancient Middle East desert two thousand years ago for the ultimate purpose of allowing himself to be hung to a tree and savagely tortured to death by a superstitious bunch of ignorant peasants in the most disgusting manner possible as a blood atonement for the apparent sins of his own creation.
Let’s all take a moment and pray that this preposterous, idiotic, asinine, Neanderthal bunch of superstitious bullshit is actually true.
Praise Jebus. Praise his holy fucking name. Amen.
You might be surprised to learn that, far from being offended, I actually love it when atheists make comments like these. As a Christian, I certainly do not approve of your blasphemy, but that being said, comments such as yours actually play right into my hand. What do I mean by this?
Any intelligent viewer of your comment knows that caricature (“invisible fairy in the sky”, etc.) and strident rhetoric (“superstitious bunch of ignorant peasants”, etc.) are language devices that only people without a logically coherent counter argument (or rationally constructed rebuttal) must resort to. The tacit message that your comments communicate is: “I don’t have an effective counter-argument, and this makes me mad, so I am going to lash out in anger.” You are loudly advertising your inability to respond to the logical arguments I make in my essay for everyone to see. Further, you are advertising the emotional, rather than logical, basis for your views.
Just think about it…when Einstein was discussing his theory of relativity with people, did he need to say things like, “Anyone who disagrees with my theory is an idiotic, asinine, Neanderthal”? Of course not, and if he had said such things, it would have made people take him far less seriously.
[…] remotely resembling a consensus view as to exactly what “religion” is. (Please see my essay Doesn’t Religion Cause Killing? to explore this topic more […]