the role of religion
A recent quote made me want to pontificate again:
On the subject of religion, it was calmly and confidently stated that "No other cause in human history has resulted in as many killings."
To which I say, ballocks. I hear this all the time, and I've yet to see any statistics to back it up. It's like all the other things that float around in the national consciousness, unquestioned because we hear it so much. A couple hundred yrs ago a lot of white people were sure you couldn't hurt a black man by hitting him on the head -- it didn't matter that it was a phenominally ignorant idea -- stupid people just repeated it and believed it.
My point is this:
Yes, religion has been behind many killings -- I'm guessing millions of people have died in religious wars. But the claim that it is the biggest cause of killings requires some evidence, and I haven't seen it yet.
Stalin killed somewhere between 20-60 million. Pol Pot killed a million or two. Hitler killed 7 million (over 50 million died in WW2, 8 million in WW1, etc). Consider all the European wars, civil wars, the blatantly political wars of the last 1000 yrs. Consider race wars/tribal wars throughout human history. Consider all the killings done for the purposes of solidifying political power, for gaining territory, for the personal glory of some leader. Consider how many killings stem from simple greed, lust, anger, hunger, jealousy, simple cruelty, etc.
When you consider the above, the role of religion -- while not insignificant -- seems relatively small. And even when religion has been invoked, half the time it was just a wrapping around a quest for power, territory, or glory anyway.
I agree that religion is often used as a way to say "I'm good, you're bad." I agree that it is often divisive. But to blithely state that it's responsible for more killings than anything else is irresponsible and wrong.