Now, before I begin. I would like to clarify that there are, without question, religions that have very abhorrent beliefs. Islam, in my opinion, is among these. But the questions you have to ask yourself is:
1. Does the religion itself advocate what my chief criticism of that religion is? Is the person I'm associating negatively with the religion acting on their own whim or what they've read?
2. Is it fair to eat a lime, deduce that you don't like it and subsequently deduce that because of this, all fruit are unpleasant to your taste buds? If not, then why link one religion with the worldwide collective?
Side note: I know you're thumbing through Leviticus and Deuteronomy, thinking that you're going to pull an "I got'cha" card out of your hat. Just note, You're doing so at your own peril. Read a little bit before you jump the gun on that.
Another side note: I know you're currently ready to catch me in a "contradiction" about how I said I believe Islam has an abhorrent belief system. Once again, do so at your own peril. And once again, read a little bit before you jump the gun on that.
I simply cannot take anyone seriously as an intellectual, who associates individual actions with a worldwide collective. Are all couples bank robbers because Bonnie and Clyde were? No, that's a retarded argument.
Now, if you can show how all of the biggest crises in history are a byproduct of one particular religion, I may concede that even if that belief system doesn't advocate atrocity, there is certainly a pattern to be observed. However, it seems the people who make this argument rely on citation of the Crusades, the Inquisition, and the Witch Trials. First off, I'm not saying that Christians haven't done their fair share of mayhem, but these are three invalid criticisms. Now, lets look at all three to see why:
1. The Crusades
The Crusades? You mean the delayed response to Islamic jihad? Please do yourself a favor and actually learn about the Crusades instead of getting your perspective from modern adaptions of Dante's Inferno.
Source 5 is a video series, for those of you with low attention spans.
2. The Spanish Inquisition
Probably the best argument of the three, but secularism can just as easily be criticized. The Inquisition only had jurisdiction over baptized Christians and it was typically in the hands of secular governments to pronounce sentencing.
3. The Witch Trials
How many people died during the Salem Witch Trials? How long did the Salem Witch Trials carry on? The Puritans are often looked upon with scorn as intolerant, closed-minded bigots, even though they were among the first abolitionists, were avid proponents in securing religious freedom for all, were the foundation of the early American colonies and were instrumental in ultimately bringing us into the Age of Enlightenment.
But somehow, these people are always remembered for the Salem Witch Trials. The answers to the first two questions I asked are 21-27 people and 3 to 6 months (and ten days, for the finicky.) And was ultimately ended by ministers, believe it or not.
Now, compare this to the European Witch Trials, wherein some 100,000 people were killed. By... ready for it: a mixture of both the religious institutions and secular governments.
Alright, so the three main objections are kind of hooey. But Christians have still done their fair share of wrong doings, which I whole-heartedly concede to. However, if you combine all three of those events, you'll get a body count of a few hundred thousand.
Sounds pretty nasty, right? Except when you consider that all three of these combined are a fraction of the body count left behind by, say... Genghis Khan, who left a death toll of over 40 million. We're talking one man's lifetime versus three separate events that (the Crusades were actually nine separate events), in some cases, spanned generations.
Here is a list of the five largest body counts in history prior to the 20th century.
Genghis Khan -- 40 million
British-induced famine of India -- 27 million
Fall of the Ming Dynasty - 25 million
Taiping Rebellion -- 20 million
Timur Lenk - 17 million
Have you ever even heard of most of these events? How many of these are the direct result of religion? The answer is a resounding 0. If you'd like, you can view a complete list here, which does have an argument you can make against religion in the form of the Muslim Conquest of India.
Side project: Check out some of the body counts recorded in the Chinese Population Crashes.
See, the nasty thing about this is: We often view past cultures as barbaric and bathed in blood, but some of the worst atrocities occurred in the last century. Our peaceful, enlightened secular society. And I'm not knocking secularism by any means, but when the facts show more deaths in this century -- the century of secularism -- it's a pretty piss-poor argument to claim Religion is the cause of suffering.
The three that should automatically come to mind when you hear the word "genocide" are Adolf Hitler, Josef Stalin, and Mao Zedong. The latter two were atheistic and staunch oppressors of Christianity. Hitler, who we seem to focus on, killed the least of the three (more on that topic), but was he a Christian?
You'll have to come to that conclusion by reading the words of Joseph Goebbels, Hitler's Minister of Propaganda. Fortunately, Wikipedia does my job for me on this point. My opinion? It's impossible to link him with any religion.
Anyway, Glenn Beck did a charming documentary, titled "The Revolutionary Holocaust: Live Free Or Die", on the atrocities committed by these three men, so I won't dwell on them. Links to the video in segments below:
Then of course, there's the fourth "great" dictator, Benito Mussolini, who killed less, but still quite a lot at 300,000. Staunch atheist, despite living in predominantly Catholic Italy. See here.
And of course, the less commonly known atheistic psychopath of Cambodia, Pol Pot. Almost two million (approximately one third of the population) dead puts him at the high end of the worst genocides of the 20th century. Oh, and just to save some ammunition, the executions were often carried out using hammers, axe handles, spades or sharpened bamboo sticks.
Beyond that, there's the largely-secular French Revolution that resulted in 40,000 executions.
If you aren't familiar with the Nanking Massacre during World War II, I most highly recommend you just read the Wikipedia article to get an idea of how terrible one human being can be to another. Here's an excerpt if you don't feel like reading the whole thing (though I most sincerely recommend you acquaint yourself with it):
"The International Military Tribunal for the Far East stated that 20,000 women were raped, their ages ranging from infants to the elderly (as old as 80). Rapes were often performed in public during the day, sometimes in front of spouses or family members that were tied up and forced to watch. A large number of them were systematized in a process where soldiers would search door-to-door for young girls, with many women taken captive and gang raped. The women were then killed immediately after the rape, often through mutilation, including breasts being cut off, or stabbing by bamboo (usually very long sticks), bayonet, butcher's knife and other objects into the vagina.
According to some testimonies, other women were forced into military prostitution as comfort women. There are even stories of Japanese troops forcing families to commit acts of incest. Sons were forced to rape their mothers, fathers were forced to rape daughters. One pregnant woman who was gang-raped by Japanese soldiers gave birth only a few hours later; the baby was perfectly healthy (Robert B. Edgerton, Warriors of the Rising Sun). Monks who had declared a life of celibacy were forced to rape women for the amusement of the Japanese.
Chinese men were forced into intercourse with corpses and infants, Chinese men were forced to have their penises cut off by bayonets for "humorous" reasons as detailed by some Japanese soldiers, and the testicles were as well, cut off (some men were forced to eat them), farmers were forced to commit zoophiliac acts with their livestock. Men were tied up by Japanese soldiers and hit in the crotch area with bamboo sticks. Any resistance would be met with summary executions. While the rape peaked immediately following the fall of the city, it continued for the duration of the Japanese occupation."
That's one particular reason Hiroshima and Nagasaki won't be mentioned in this article. Well, with the exception of right now.
And last, but not least, there's The Green Movement! Yes, the Green Movement. I'll give you two examples on why this belongs here:
1. The DDT Ban. (Here's some reading: 1, 2, 3.)
2. The War on Genetically Modified Food, which basically lets people in Third World Countries starve to death. (Click here.)
For you progressives out there, who believe Israel is committing genocide, have you ever read anything about the religious demographics of Israel? Click here (do note that the author is a bit of a snide prick, but otherwise, it's a good article.) And I like Israel, so don't feel like I'm picking on atheism in this article; this is an apologetic, not a polemic.
And if anyone's interested in an informational book about the topic, "The Black Book Of Communism" documents the absorbent amount of deaths caused as a result of trying to institute the ideology into society.
And if you don't want to spend money, but you'd like some reading material, there's a free e-book about democide (the word used to denote genocide by the government) and you can find it here.
I've seen a few elitist atheists on the internet list (see here and note that he tries to paint Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot as "secular-minded religious opportunists", which is a double logical fallacy in the form of a special plea which he certainly wouldn't allow for the religious to make and No True Scotsman) holy wars along with completely unrelated events (really, who thinks the Holocaust is a strike against religion, especially after what you learned above?) in order to make what appears on the surface as a solid argument. However, by listing holy wars, all you do is invalidate your own argument because you'd be hard-pressed to find two religious people, who have the same exact beliefs, which inevitably leads to events like the "English Civil War". It's self-contradictory to say that all religious people are the same, when showing how they disagree with one another.
I like to refer to the argument about Religion being the root of all evil as the "Chapter Black argument". If you've seen Yu Yu Hakusho, there's a particular tape called "Chapter Black", which shows humanity's worst misdeeds. Watching it can drive even the most normal person to hate humanity and look to destroy it. However, it's revealed later on in the anime that the tape is actually a part of a series and is not meant to be watched on its own because it doesn't show the good humanity does along with it.
An example: Religion is awfully lauded against because of slavery. But did you know that abolitionists were, on average, religious. Yeah, I bet they're hatemongers too, right? William Lloyd Garrison is a good example of a man who used Christianity to argue against slavery in his news column, The Liberator. Rev. Absalom Jones was quick to cite Exodus and Hebrews to illustrate the err of slavery.
And in fact, while the Judeo-Christian West were the primary candidates to eventually abolish the institution of slavery (at least in their home courts), it was atheists like Karl Marx, who advocated systems of government predicated on slavery to the government. It was atheists like George Bernard Shaw, who designed gas chambers and suggested every citizen be forced to come to a board and justify their existence (or be put into the aforementioned gas chambers.)
As well, members of the Society of Friends were responsible for prison reform in England during that eighteenth century. And here's an article discussing what Christianity has done for women. And I have to ask, how many atheistic orphanages, schools, hospitals, welfare agencies, relief agencies, or really any of the charity organizations that tend to be monopolized by Christianity? Of the organizations typically founded by atheists, they tend to fall into one category: societies designed to erase religion (see: the demand to remove the cross from the World Trade Center Museum, prayer in public bans, removal of Jesus from Christmas events, et cetera.)
Another book suggestion: "What Has Christianity Ever Done for Us?: How It Shaped the Modern World" by Jonathan Hill. And for just an article, in general, you can read this gem on what Christianity does for the world everyday.
If you're still of the commitment that Religion is the root of all evil, answer me this. How much do you really know about every religion to make such a claim? How much can you pin on Buddhism? Taoism? Zoroastrianism? Jainism? Ba'hai? Each denomination of the main Abrahamic religions (and believe me, amidst these, they vary greatly)? Each variant of Paganism?
I doubt you're well versed on the history of every one of them. And if you are, how many of them can you really say have been a detriment to society? Is it not true that some of these groups have experienced nothing, but suffering? Is it not true that virtually all long-standing religions have been oppressed at some point in time?
Oh, I can just sense the blood shooting out of your eyes as you scream, "BUT A LOT OF THOSE HAVEN'T HAD LARGE SOCIETIES TO HAVE A CHANCE TO DO THAT!"
To which I ask: Neither has atheism. And the few cases where they have... well, we've already seen in this article what happened.
And if that doesn't work as an argument for you, let me put this another way. If you advance this argument, you most likely believe that religion is man-made, yes? So, right off the bat, you're claiming that the problem is man because religion has no objective separation from man. In order to advance this argument, you have to recognize a spiritual distinction between man and religion that exists beyond metaphysical boundaries.
"If men are so wicked as we now see them with Religion, what would they be if without it?" -- Benjamin Franklin