In his address to the National Prayer Breakfast last week, President Obama warned those assembled not to associate the terrible deeds being perpetrated in the name if Islam with the religion itself:
Unless we get on our high horse and think that this is unique to some other place, remember that during the Crusades and Inquisition, people committed terrible deeds in the name of Christ. In our home country, slavery and Jim Crow all too often was justified in the name of Christ. . . . So it is not unique to one group or one religion.
David Barton took issue with this. Who is he? According to Wikipedia, Barton is
an American evangelical Christian conservative political activist and author. He is the founder of WallBuilders, a Texas-based organization which promotes the view that it is a myth that the United States Constitution insists on separation of church and state. Barton is the former vice chair of the Republican Party of Texas. He has been described as a Christian nationalist and “one of the foremost Christian revisionist historians”; much of his work is devoted to advancing the idea, based upon research that many historians describe as flawed, that the United States was founded as an explicitly Christian nation.
In all my years as a Catholic, I can’t say that I’ve ever seen an evangelical protestant come to the defense of the Crusades or the Inquisition. But President Obama is, if nothing else, a man who gives rise to the unexpected. And Barton made a remarkable rebuttal at that. After citing the analysis of several contemporary commentators on the president’s remarks, Barton went on to quote several reputable historical sources on the despotic influence Islam has over civil governance.
And then he went in for the statistical kill:
Significantly, if one tabulates the loss of lives occasioned by so-called Christian governments over the 2,000 year history of Christianity (such as the Inquisition, and even the Crusades – which were largely Christian attempts to repel militant Muslim jihadist invasions made into Judeo-Christian regions), a very generous count of the total deaths that may be laid at the doorstep of Christianity is about five million. But the number of lives lost at the hands of secular, non-, and anti-Christian leaders and governments in just the 20th century alone is well over 100 million.
That includes the 1.5 million Christian Armenians massacred by Muslim Turks on just one occasion beginning in 1915; the 62 million killed by the secular Soviet Communists; the 35 million by the secular Chinese Communists; the 1.7 million by the secular Vietnamese Communists; the 1 million in the Polish Ethnic Cleansing; the 1 million in Yugoslavia; the 1.7 million in North Korea, and other non- or anti-Christian regimes.
And the number of deaths perpetrated by such leaders is enormous, including the murder of 42.7 million by Joseph Stalin; Mao Tse-tung, 37.8 million; Adolf Hitler, 20.9 million; Vladimir Lenin, 4 million; Tojo Hideki, 4 million; Pol Pot of the Khmer Rouge, 1 million; Yahya Khan, 1.5 million; and so forth. Thus the number of lives lost at the hands of anti-Christians in just the past century is more than 20 times greater than those lost at the hands of Christians in the entire previous twenty centuries.
And since the president mentioned the Inquisition, over its six century span, between 1,000 and 3,000 individuals were put to death, which averages from two to five deaths a year across that span. But last year alone (2014), Muslims executed 4,344 Christians thus killing more in one year than Christians did in six full centuries! Additionally, when including just the publicized incidents, Muslims have killed some 11,334 innocents in terrorist attacks since 1980, with thousands if not tens-of-thousands more dead as a result of the non-reported killings in Egypt, Libya, Syria, Afghanistan, and other countries as groups such as the Muslim Brotherhood, Al Qaeda, and Islamic State have attempted to take control in recent years.
And regarding the president’s specific allusion to Christianity and slavery, Jewish writer and national news editor Ben Shapiro correctly noted:
Christians obliterated slavery. Christians obliterated Jim Crow. Modern slavery is largely perpetrated by Muslims. Modern Jim Crow is certainly perpetrated by Muslims under Sharia law.
By the way, if the president’s defenders wish to invoke the American witch trials of 1692-1693 (which the president did not mention, but which American academics often do), then you can include 27 lost lives at the hands of Christians over that two-year span (but you must also note that it was Christian ministers who took the lead in bringing those trials to a close). Yet 27 American lives lost over two years is hardly an equivalent comparison to the 3,000 American lives lost on just one day in September 2001 at the hands of Muslim terrorists.
Sorry, Mr. President, but there is absolutely no moral equivalency with your comparison. You have failed to recognize the reality of history and its consistent lesson that the application and practice of the Bible and its teachings elevates a society and civilizes its institutions. By comparing modern Muslim terrorists with medieval Christians you have, once again, totally missed the mark.
I don’t know about you, but I’m tired of seeing Christianity maligned as a murderous religion – usually by secular atheists, whose ideology has proven to be the most bloodthirsty in history, but also by Muslim sympathizers, who seem to think Christianity and Islam are on par when it comes to putting the sword to our enemies.
There have certainly been those who have done evil in the name of our faith, but they do not represent us. There have been those who have fought just wars in the name of our faith, and insofar as they conducted themselves honorably, they do represent us. Christians may believe in “turning the other cheek,” but we are not inherently and exclusively pacifistic. Christ Himself said, “I came not to bring peace, but the sword.” But an understanding of divine justice, and the ways in which this concept is applied to war, is necessary to interpret the lawful actions taken in self-defense by Christians over the centuries.
G.K. Chesterton put it well:
Idolatry is committed, not merely by setting up false gods, but also by setting up false devils; by making men afraid of war or alcohol, or economic law, when they should be afraid of spiritual corruption and cowardice.
Spiritual corruption and cowardice is what we face from our leaders with increasing and aggravating frequency these days. With that in mind, I’d like to thank Mr. Barton for setting the record straight.
Steve Skojec is the Founding Publisher of OnePeterFive.com. He received his BA in Communications and Theology from Franciscan University of Steubenville in 2001. His commentary has appeared in The New York Times, USA Today, The Washington Post, The Washington Times, Crisis Magazine, EWTN, Huffington Post Live, The Fox News Channel, Foreign Policy, and the BBC. Steve and his wife Jamie have eight children. You can find more of his writing at his Substack, The Skojec File.
It is perhaps a measure of the spiritual importance of the pope and the spiritual unimportance of the president that everybody wants the pope to speak the truth and nobody expects the president to speak the truth.
Good article! I would disagree with his figure that Christianity has killed 5 million people. For me to believe it, he would need to explain it in further detail. Many wars were started and prosecuted by so-called Christians but they were political wars and in no way are related to Christianity. Unlike in Islam were everything is done at the behest of their “prophet” and their faith.
It sounds high to me as well. I think he was saying, “At MOST, if you add up even the most inflated accounts, you could say…” I’d love to see someone offer a more realistic number.
the big player is the 30 Year”s War. During the religious-war part of it (1618-1635) parts of modern-day Germany saw over 50% population reduction, and military and civilian casualties are estimated to be between 3-6 million during that phase.
So that was the Protestant’s fault.
Lol, do you ever tweak your back while lifting and moving those heavy goal posts, fred?
“Christians didn’t do ______.”
“Well, they did during period _______.”
“Well, that was the Protestants, Catholics are blameless.”
The 30 year war was not religious at all. Read the “Iron Kingdom”, which is a history of Prussia (Berlin).
The book’s own description seems to give support to the idea that the 30 Years’ War was indeed religious in scope. Besides that, Brandenburg-Prussia was nominally Protestant, supposedly stayed neutral (but was devastated by von Wallenstein, and then occupied by Sweden), and ended up Calvinist before the war’s end.
In all academic works, the 30 Years’ War is regarded as a religious war in its inception, but became decidedly less so in the 1630s, and by 1635 had conflagrated into a general war with the entrance of Catholic France on the side of the Protestants (in an effort to strike a blow at the Hapsburgs).
I didn’t read the description, but read the book, and in the book the author tells in detail about the history of Prussia from 1600 to around 1938. You should read the book to correct your misconceptions: religion played a very small part in the history of Prussia. It is a great book that gives an overview of the many contributions to the modern world (most are bad) that came out of Prussia during the 330 years covered by the book.
I don’t know which books you have read, but remember that most historians hate Christianity. The book I read before this one was written by an Englishman that hated Germany and was totally biased, but I didn’t find that out until I read other books.
‘Academic’ historians hate Mr. Barton. They will jump up and down and scream about inaccuracy, but the reality is that they hate Mr. Barton for two reasons. First, the truth does not support ‘academic’ historical conclusions which are Marxist. Second, Mr. Barton is a SUCCESSFUL historian. His writing (what historians do) sells. ‘Academic’ historians are mostly subsidized by the state or Marxist-elites. Their work sucks. For one, most people outside of ‘academia’ reject Marxism. Two, their history is full of inaccuracies, ironically. It is comparable to the picture of the Virgin Mary covered in human waste. ‘Artwork’, but putrid.
Best article on the Crusades I have ever read:
“Crusading was seen as an act of love—specifically the love of God and the love of neighbor.”
Truth is truth.
I consider Dennis Prager’s response to be the best one. Read it here: http://www.realclearpolitics.com/articles/2015/02/10/president_compares_islam_to_christianity_125542.html
Listening to anything BHO says is a complete waste of time and self-inflicted mind pollution. Before, BHO, I thought that the Boy-President Clinton was the master and standard of the profligate, professional, pathological, liar. How naive of me. Clinton is a rank amateur with a zipper problem compared to BHO. If BHO’s lips are moving, he’s lying. That’s all you need to know.
POTUS can have his own opinions, but not his own facts
To be fair to President Obama, he used those examples to make the point that evil deeds can be done in the name of God. The fact that he glosses over and oversimplifies things is a mistake that many in the public sphere make, pundits and politician alike. Before my Western Christian brothers and sisters get too overzealous in their defense of the Crusades….I would point out that we in the Christian East have a VERY different take on the Crusades.
Re-opening the Holy Land was only one goal of the Crusades….the other (and in our view more central) was to establish Western influence and dominance in the region….to break the back of Constantinople, as the Eastern Empire was seen as a rival and threat to Western territorial and temporal ambitions.
The legitimate bishops of the region had been deposed by the Muslim Wars, and the Latin Armies came in and installed their own bishops, rather than restore the rightful bishops of those various Sees. This is not the act of a friend, or a brother or sister in Christ. Chunks of territory were taken, and the weakness of the Empire was taken advantage of by Western Kingdoms under the mask of friendship and piety.
While I don’t agree with President Obama’s equivocation, I certainly won’t defend the Crusades either….
No reason for everyone to have the same take on the Crusades, but please read the article cited by Churchill4President: Inventing the Crusades. Again, not to get you to change your mind about the Crusades, but to help you to open your mind to other considerations.
I read the piece “Inventing the Crusades.” It is a whitewash of what happened. The idea that the West “restored Eastern Christianity” is ludicrous…..if by restored you mean installing Latin Bishops and imposing Roman Catholic hegemony. The Crusaders were perhaps pious individually…..but the rulers of Western Europe and the Papal Court saw the weakness of the Eastern Empire, and figured they would “kill two birds with one stone.”
The Empire never recovered from the Crusades, and it cemented the Great Schism, which was not a forgone conclusion before the Crusades (The conflict between Rome and Constantinople over St. Photius’ election the See of Constantinople was nasty, but reconciliation was at least possible then, as the Councils addressing that matter showed).
I reject the narrative of the Crusades as a bloodthirsty unprovoked campaign against the Muslim world.
I also reject the defense and revisionism about the Crusades put forth by Latin Catholic Traditionalists.
Thank you for reading the piece.
On June 4, 2009, at Cairo University, Mr. Obama promised , “And I consider it part of my responsibility as President of the United States to fight against negative stereotypes of Islam wherever they appear.”
But there was never any such promise to fight negative stereotypes of Catholicism, was there?
O, and, of course, it is strikingly insane that any POTUS – other than a Mahometan – would make such a public promise.
I was no doubt a strange Protestant, but I always favored the Crusades and the Reconquista. But forget Protestants; the strange thing is that most Catholics are ashamed of these wars, even if they support wars to support Chiquita Banana.
Fact is that nearly all of the individuals who went through the various Inqusitions (note “the plural,” Mr. President) “walked” at the end of the day. Ditto for most of those punished at the Salem trials, which, like the Inquisitions, were the result of a judicial sentence. It was the refusal of one to recant which could result in torture and/or death, and all violence was directed from one Christian to another. No one was forced to convert from one religion to a completely different one and no one was outright massacred for his/her religious beliefs, at least in the Inquisitions or at Salem.
Unfortunately the whole “atheist murders of the 20th century” argument is comparing apples and oranges.
Hitler, Lenin, Pol Pot, Stalin, Mao, and all the rest were not killing people for religious reasons. Period.
Hitler killed the Jews (and the Gypsies, Homosexuals, and the mentally infirm) because he thought they were a threat to the racial purity of the German populace–not because they prayed or prayed differently than Protestants. He perceived them as a threat to the state–and the killings were therefore political.
Same with Lenin and the others. They killed their political rivals–which sometime included professional clerics–but that doesn’t make them “religious based” killings.
And if you are going to talk about numbers alone you are talking about a combination of population growth and technology making those killings easier. It doesn’t mean that the 20th century political hit man was any more vehemently hateful–just that technology allowed him to be more efficient.
So, sorry. Apples and oranges.
Or we can take An Orthodox Christian’s view that the purpose of the Crusades was “to establish Western influence and dominance in the region” or we can take many atheists’ view that Hitler, Stalin, and others were in fact religious fanatics (no atheist would do what they did), and we are back to apples and apples. In any case, Mr. Barton was comparing the killings by “Christian governments” with those by “anti-Christian leaders and governments,” and we know both act from mixed motives.
As for population growth and technology, you have a point. Without those there might not have been 1-2 billion abortions worldwide in the last 40 years. Don’t know how many of these were for religious reasons.
“I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator.”
– Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Vol. 1 Chapter 2
And let’s not forget he was raised Catholic.
The Atheist Atrocities Fallacy – Hitler, Stalin & Pol Pot
I’m a poor arguer and no apologist. Here are some of my reactions (let any man take what he can) to Mr. Sherlock’s article:
“I will lend Hitler the most time, as the claim that he was an atheist represents a most egregious violation of the truth.”
This is like saying, “I will spend the most time beating the child, because the child is easy to beat.” But actually, Mr. Sherlock doesn’t spend much time on Hitler but on “Christian anti-Semitism (From the Beginning of the Christian Era)”. This is rather like “So’s your old man!” And Mr. Sherlock has written long books to prove it.
On Stalin, if only he had been a cradle atheist.
On Pol Pot—you mean the Buddhist?
Then a description of various logical fallacies which, pace Mr. Sherlock, some might still wish to employ in arguing against “The Religious Atrocities Fallacy.”
I do not wish to argue with Mr. Sherlock, since, as he writes, he is throwing just a few spears from a mighty arsenal, and also since, as I said, I am a poor arguer. Let others argue, because Mr. Sherlock knows he has proved nothing.
Mr. Sherlock is an honorable man. Like the Greeks after 10 years beneath the walls of Troy, he admits defeat, or at least, like other honorable atheists, grants that “the Christian apologist” could be correct:
I don’t suppose that, which is neither here nor there, because Mr. Sherlock, like wily Odysseus, like other honorable atheist apologists, has a Trojan horse: the problem of evil. Solve that! “For if the atheist admits defeat, they still leave the faithful with the dissonance of evil.” Catholics have been dealing with evil a long time, and have prayer and the sacraments—and saints. If when an atheist admits defeat, he stops shouting at God, he might hear a still small voice.
Let Mr. Sherlock have the last word: “That is a story for another time.”
Hitler was like obama; he lied to get what he wanted. No one that knows the history of Hitler would say he was a christian. His own private words show that he wasn’t a Christian and thought Christians were stupid.
So you’re under the impression that the atheism of these individuals — and all the worst killers in human history were atheists, so let’s be clear about that — had nothing to do with the value judgments they made about human life, whatever their other state aims?
Huh. That’s interesting.
Let’s also be clear about how many people these atheists personally killed, versus how many people (including oh so many Christians) they convinced to kill on their behalf…and the rhetoric they used to do so.
Wait, are you under the impression that the religions of the various leaders / generals of WWI had nothing to do with their value judgement re: human life, values that allowed them to send men to death by the thousands (sometimes well over tens of thousands in one day), year after bloody year?
Atheism has nothing to say on the topic of the value of human life. Atheists are free to place higher or lower value than their religious counterparts, according to whatever moral frameworks they subscribe to.
Sweeping generalizations with no basis in history or reality.
Sorry Stevie–I’m not interested in playing along tonight.
Killing for ideological reasons is apples – Mao’s famines, the Holodomor etc – whereas the English famine visited upon Ireland was religious oranges (pun)…SO?
If your point is that ideology is deadlier than religion, fine; make that obvious point, but it isn’t is it?
O, and the idea that all men would commit mass murder had they only the means to do so is an indefensible subtext – a sweeping generalization if you will – but men like you are above such “games.”
“Men like you”?
Communism and all the isms are a religion. If you don’t know that, then you don’t know the orgin of the isms. The core idea is for the state to replace God as the mover of history. Isms are the attempt to be God. That fact makes isms a religion.
This seems like a strange way to keep score. It seems to ignore changes in world populations, changes in the ability to inflict rapid / mass casualties, changes in the way nations mobilized for total war, and most importantly the general change in the relationship between church and state.
What, for example, would we consider constitutes a “Christian government” today? Does the US count as a Christian government? Do the casualties the US inflicted in WWII count towards the total for Christian governments, or secular ones? What about WWI? Are those mostly Christian governments doing the killing, or secular ones?
Again, this short article, written in 2009, may be profitably read, not as the final word, but as in introduction to thinking about the Crusades and their relationship to the present: Inventing the Crusades.
Even if, for the sake of argument, I granted that this was an accurate introduction to the Crusades, it doesn’t really get at the issues I raised.
That’s why I recommended it. McCabe isn’t keeping score. If President Obama had read the article, or read the book that was being reviewed, he would have known that his comment about the Crusades had no basis in fact. In an earlier article by McCabe quotes Christopher Tyerman: ““The Crusades can only be understood on their own terms, in their own time.” Crusaders and Historians. The issues you raised (thanks perhaps to the polemical article by Barton) are irrelevant to the President’s mistatement about the Crusades. President Obama also got the Inquisition wrong.
I mean, the OP is about the Barton article, why wouldn’t I be responding to that?
I’m not at all convinced that McCabe is accurately presenting the Crusades, as somebody else mentioned, it seems like so much white-washing.
I agree with you that the Barton article wasn’t the best. I suggested a better one. Like you, I’m not looking to blame but to get closer to the truth. McCabe’s two articles cite current research. Granting that history is endlessly controversial, who are the scholars (not popular writers) countering their findings? I’ll read anything of comparable length that you are willing to post.
obama knows the truth about the crusades; he uses any lie to make his point.
You wrote a good article Steve, but you don’t know squat about non-Catholic christians.