The Dartmouth Observer

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Friday, November 24, 2006
Atheism, religion, and mass murder

Dinesh D'Souza, who hasn't been mentioned in the pages of this blog for a loooong time, makes a reappearance in the public scene with this article on how atheism, as opposed to religion, is "the real force behind the mass murders of history." Citing Hitler, Stalin, and Mao, he writes that "Whatever the motives for atheist bloodthirstiness, the indisputable fact is that all the religions of the world put together have in 2,000 years not managed to kill as many people as have been killed in the name of atheism in the past few decades."

I'm a little confused by the article. On the one hand, D'Souza rightly points out that violence on a large scale takes place for all sorts of reasons that do not have to do with religion -- ethnicity, territory, etc. On the other hand, he states that atheism is responsible for all the killings under Hitler, Stalin, and Mao. Well sure, the three of them were almost certainly nonbelievers. But of what sort: atheists, agnostics, or something else? More importantly, why boil phenomena as complex as Nazism, Stalinism, and Maoism to one causal factor? D'Souza seems to be guilty of precisely what he accuses Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris of -- oversimplifying historical reality.