In the British popular science magazine Focus, astronomer and author Bill Napier answers the question, ‘What is the most important book of all time?’ with the quip, ‘The Bible, to judge by the mayhem it has triggered down the ages.’1
Well, the first part of Bill’s answer is right. The Bible is indeed the most important book of all time, but not for the reason that Bill suggests. The Bible is God’s message to man on how to have peace with God and with our fellow man. Whenever its teachings (on repentance and faith to God and on loving our neighbour as ourselves) have been followed, ‘down the ages’, the Bible has achieved both of these objectives.
Skeptics often raise the spectre of religious wars and other alleged ‘fundamentalist atrocities’, implying that if only humanity were to grow up and face life without God, we would finally attain some peaceful utopia. However, it’s important to note that religion had nothing to do with the vast majority of wars, e.g. the Hutu-Tutsi war in Rwanda, the Falklands War, the Vietnam and Korean Wars, WW2, WW1, the Gran Chaco War in South America, the Russo-Japanese War, the Spanish-American War, the Franco-Prussian War, the Crimean War, the US Civil War, the Napoleonic wars, the Wars of the Roses, the Mongol wars, the Gallic War, the Punic wars, the Assyrian wars … etc.2
It is true that some Christians have used their own swords instead of the counsel of ‘the sword of the Spirit’ (i.e. the Word of God) to combat what they saw to be evil. However, the number of deaths in the 20th century alone due to evolution-based philosophies such as Nazism and Communism far outweigh those caused by ‘religion’ in all centuries combined. Furthermore, any professing Christians who murdered others were acting inconsistently with their professed faith, while Hitler and Stalin were acting consistently with theirs. (See also What good is Christianity?—Creation 29(4):6, 2007.)
Bible critics usually overlook the clear link between Hitler’s genocidal atrocities and the evolutionary (and definitely antibiblical) fervour that drove them, as well as his clear intent to exterminate Christianity. Not to mention the fact that the millions of people killed last century by anti-God régimes are so vast in number as to cause to pale into comparative insignificance the relative handful killed in things like Crusades, Inquisition, etc. (see also Christianity’s Real Record (off-site)).
The simple fact of history is that the greatest evil has always resulted from denial of God, not pursuit of Him. The 1991 Guinness Book of Records, category ‘Judicial’, sub-heading ‘Crime’, p. 216, reported that 26.3 million Chinese were killed during the regime of Mao Zedong between 1949 and May 1965. This accusation was further extended by the Walker Report published by the U.S. Senate Committee of the Judiciary in July 1971 which ‘placed the parameters of the total death toll within China since 1949 between 32.25 and 61.7 million’.
In the USSR, according to Guinness, ‘Nobel Prize winner Alexander Solzhenitsyn estimated the loss of life from state repression and terrorism from October 1917 to December 1959 under Lenin, Stalin and Khrushchev at 66,700,000.’
The worst genocide as a percentage of a nation’s total population happened in Cambodia under the Khmer Rouge. According to Guinness, ‘More than one third of the 8 million Khmers were killed between 17 Apr 1975 and January 1979.’
The greatest evil does not result from people zealous for God. It results when people are convinced there is no God to whom they must answer.
Actually, many historians are recognizing that the Crusades were a justified response to centuries of Islamic aggression, e.g. Robert Spencer: The Politically Incorrect Guide to Islam (and the Crusades) and Religion of Peace? Why Christianity Is — and Islam Isn’t.
The Muslims quickly conquered the Iberian Peninsula well before the Crusades. They probably would have almost certainly conquered Europe if the Frankish king Charles Martel’s infantry had not defeated the Muslim cavalry at the Battle of Tours/Poitiers in a brilliant defensive strategy.
Also, just think about the historic centres of Christianity such as Jerusalem, Antioch, Alexandria and the rest of North Africa—they are now Muslim lands, converted at the point of the sword. And after the crusades, the Muslim Turks conquered the ancient land of Asia Minor, the birthplace of the Apostle Paul, the site of many of his missionary journeys and home of the Seven Churches of the book of Revelation. Furthermore, when they conquered Constantinople (now Istanbul) in 1453, they turned Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), the world’s biggest church of its day and centre of Eastern Orthodoxy, into a mosque.
Note that a just war can still have atrocities without affecting the justness of the war itself. In the case of the Crusades, problems arose because many of the soldiers were biblically illiterate, and had justification-by-works mentality, thinking that they could earn salvation by going on the Crusade. However, biblical Christianity is not the cause but would have been a corrective if followed—salvation is by grace alone through faith alone, not by works, as shown by Paul’s citation of Genesis 15:6, ‘Abraham believed the LORD, and it was credited to him as righteousness’ (Romans 4:3, Galatians 3:6, cf. Eph. 2:8-9).