Tuesday, February 15, 2011

Religion and Death

Below is a very controversial debate on Facebook regarding religion. Of course, correlation does not equal causation. Remember that when you hear anyone call a particular religion violent or peaceful.

AC: In the last 250 years, has anyone who openly subscribed to a religion caused more deaths than the Christian-majority British, the Christian-majority Americans, or the Christian-majority Germans? And isn't it interesting that the only group that comes close to the number of killings as Christians are atheists?

Count 'em: African slaves, the Holocaust, Korean War, Vietnam, WWI, WWII, Sabra and Shatila, Iraq, Afghanistan, Rwandan genocide (the Hutus are primarily Christians), Iraq (again), Abu Ghraib, Pakistan, etc.

CB: Your whole hypothesis is one big logical fallacy. "correlation does not prove causation". You are saying that most wars in the 20th centuries involved Christian governments and therefore you state you are looking for reasons why "one particular religion has been so much more voluminous in killing people than other religions". That is a huge logical jump...you can't just make it and look for reasons. Who knows if there is even a connection. To say that Christianity "caused" WWII or WWI or the Vietnam war is absurd. Therefore to look for reasons why Christians "cause" more wars is just as absurd. Your argument might just as well be why do democracies cause more wars or why do white people cause more wars.

In addition, your history is all messed up on Afghanistan. You are flat wrong on the facts about why we attacked Afghanistan. The war started less than a month after 9/11 and way before any war with Iraq. The stated goal was to defeat Al Qaeda and to demand the Taliban stop allowing Al Qaeda use the country as a base for terrorist operations. It had everything to do with 9/11 and zero to do with Iraq. You must have missed the whole state of the Union when Bush demanded the Taliban stop letting Al Qaeda use their country for that.It was Again, it had zero to do with some kind of base for Iraq. And I'm "surprised' that you are "surprised" about me stating that. In any event, you missed the point of my argument. You argued that Afghanistan was a "Christian" war. That's silly on it's face given the circumstances that lead up to the war.

AC: 1) I never said any religion "caused" more deaths. I fully understand I was arguing correlation rather than causation. Thus, your entire argument involves knocking down something I never said. Let me leave you with the question you and everyone else continues to ignore:

"In any case, no one here has provided any evidence that Christian-majority countries or atheist-majority countries have not killed the most number of people compared to other religions in the last 250 years. Therefore, my original point stands."

The question is why is there such an unusual correlation. No one has been able to answer this question.

2) re: Afghanistan, you completely ignored the potential link between short-sighted Soviet-era policies and modern day problems in Afghanistan.

Even so, let's address the issue you raised: that "It [the war in Afghanistan] had everything to do with 9/11 and zero to do with Iraq." It depends on which part of the war we're discussing, and the answer depends on whether we're discussing the initial 2001 campaign, or the second, more extensive 2003 campaign.

First, we basically captured Kabul and Kandahar in the initial invasion. For whatever reason, we neglected to secure other parts of the country. That meant that two years later, in 2003, the Taliban had returned and continued to destabilize Afghanistan. 2003 was the same year we invaded Iraq. You're assuming that is a coincidence--I do not believe it is. Just like we used Cambodia to prevent further escalation within Vietnam (i.e., Operation Menu), we may have used Iraq in 2003 to prevent further escalation in Afghanistan. In other words, it's possible the accusation of WMDs in Iraq had secondary practical purposes, i.e., preventing further escalation within Afghanistan.

Second, I personally heard General Wesley Clark say that about two weeks after 9/11, he saw plans to invade mostly Muslim countries, including Iraq.

Third, to the extent I called Afghanistan a Christian/atheist war, you missed my point--I said the country destabilized after atheist-majority (USSR) and Christian-majority (U.S.) countries interfered with it decades ago. (I notice you never disputed the aforementioned statement.) My point was that it is possible that our failure to have a Marshall Plan in Afghanistan post-Cold War led to a power void that allowed terrorists to increase their power within a destabilized country. You never disputed that point, either.

In short, our military seems to rely on short-term strategies and alliances when faced with a greater potential perceived threat, and it's not clear if we understand the problems this strategy has caused long term. (By the way, we can apply the same line of questioning to our initial support for Saddam Hussein and then our eventual ouster of him.)

Fourth, we're back at square one, b/c you've ignored my original statement: "In any case, no one here has provided any evidence that Christian-majority countries or atheist-majority countries have not killed the most number of people compared to other religions in the last 250 years." The question is, "What is the reason for this high correlation?"

You should be able to figure out that I'm trying to teach you and everyone else a lesson so the next time you hear someone call Islam a violent religion, or, in your case, casually associate terrorism with "Islamic radicals," perhaps you'll think twice before associating religion with violence. Because it's quite clear which religion has the #1 death count, religiously-speaking, in the last 250 years.

We're left with my more interesting question: if, absent religious and racial similarities, history shows that power tends only to understand power, are smaller countries justified in seeking nuclear weapons? Should we stop worrying and learn to love the nuclear bomb, which will force everyone to cooperate by raising the stakes of war?

Bonus: "A controversial new history of the Indian Mutiny, which broke out 150 years ago and is acknowledged to have been the greatest challenge to any European power in the 19th century, claims that the British pursued a murderous decade-long campaign to wipe out millions of people who dared rise up against them." More here.

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