Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Letters

Newspaper article The Christian Science Monitor

Letters

Article excerpt

Both religious and atheistic ideologies have motivated murder

In his Nov. 21 Opinion piece, "Atheism, not religion, is the real force behind the mass murders of history," Dinesh D'Souza claims that the death toll from history's greatest religious wars and persecutions "are minuscule compared with the death tolls produced by the atheist despotisms of the 20th century." But in making this claim, Mr. D'Souza mentions this fact only in passing: "[O]f course population levels were much lower" in earlier times. Yes, they were. The world population didn't reach a half billion until 1650. Today it is more than 6.5 billion. And modern mass murderers aren't limited to the swords and arrows of the past; the 20th century gave us weapons of mass destruction.

Also, D'Souza counts Adolf Hitler as an atheist. But raised a Roman Catholic, Hitler identified himself as Christian all his life and strongly maintained that Providence guided him in his cause. His followers felt likewise. Moreover, Hitler was able to recruit leading members of the German clergy as supporters. Thus traditional religion remains capable of mass murder - a fact of which 9/11 should serve as a reminder. Fred Edwords Director of Communications, American Humanist Association Washington

Dinesh D'Souza's Nov. 21 Opinion piece about atheism being the real force behind history's mass murders does a disservice to people, in general, and atheists, specifically. I've been an atheist all of my adult life. I've heard the old saw that religion has been the driving force behind history's murderous procession, but I've never really bought it.

Mr. D'Souza says that most carnage connected with religious causes has really been more about power and territory. I think it is self-serving to say that death and destruction instigated by atheist or nonreligious leaders of the 20th century is any different. Leaders such as Joseph Stalin, Adolf Hitler, and Mao Zedong persecuted religious groups, not in a bid to expand atheism, but as a way of focusing people's hatred on these groups to consolidate their own power. …

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