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Steve Pinker’s bogus statistics: A critique of The Better Angels of Our Nature (Part One)


About a year and a half ago I wrote a critique of Steve Pinker’s best-seller, The Better Angels of Our Nature, but I didn’t bother tidying it up. And then I forgot about it. I would like to thank Lar Tanner for jogging my memory, with a comment he made on Uncommon Descent yesterday.

Professor Steven Pinker’s book, The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined (Viking Adult, 2011) has attracted much attention in the press. But after having perused Professor Pinker’s book, as well as his online lecture, A History of Violence (27 September 2011), as well as his responses to Frequently Asked Questions about The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, I feel it is my duty to inform the public that Pinker’s brilliantly written, highly persuasive book on violence makes several false and misleading claims on historical events, and that the thesis it propounds is at odds with the views of experts in the field. The book’s central claims are that violence is declining over the course of time, and that its decline is driven by a set of ideas which find their best expression in secular humanism. However, leading experts on human atrocities, some of whom Professor Pinker (pictured above, courtesy of Rebecca Goldstein and Wikipedia) cites in his book, have publicly contradicted these claims. The book is also marred by a major omission: Pinker overlooks the vital role that the Abrahamic religions have played in the worldwide decline of violence against children over the past 3,000 years, saving hundreds of millions of lives in the process. This is a humanitarian advance which dwarfs all the others which Pinker writes about so eloquently in his book.

Let me begin by giving credit where credit is due. Professor Pinker’s 832-page magnum opus is a generally well-researched account of the history of human violence, the factors which contribute to it, and the most effective ways of preventing its recurrence in the future. Pinker has packaged his conclusions into a highly persuasive narrative, which will delight secular humanists. This book is destined to become a standard reference for skeptics looking for hard evidence that Christianity has done relatively little to help reduce violence, and that secular humanism deserves most of the credit for ridding the Western world of institutionalized forms of violence over the past 300 years. For the most part (barring a few significant exceptions), my quarrel is not with the facts which Pinker adduces in support of his case, but his misinterpretation of them, coupled with his lack of curiosity about the role of religion in inculcating beliefs which have deterred people from committing acts of violence.

The reason why I have had such a long-standing interest in atrocitology (the study of atrocities committed in the course of human history) is that it deals with three practical questions that concern me as a human being. First, are atrocities increasing, decreasing, constant or randomly fluctuating over the course of time? Second, are there any contributing factors which make these terrible acts more likely to occur, and if so, what are they? Third, how can we prevent these acts of violence from happening in the future? Professor Pinker’s answer to the first question is that violence is declining over time, if we look at the percentage of people killed in atrocities, and not the absolute numbers, which have grown mainly because the world’s population has grown. Second, Pinker contends that violence tends to arise under “regimes that were based on demonizing, utopian ideologies (including Marxism, Nazism, and militant religions)”. Finally, Pinker suggests a way of preventing the recurrence of acts of mass violence in the future: we need “secular liberal democracies that are based on the ideal of human rights.” He cites the work of Professor Rudolph Rummel, an expert on atrocities, who has demonstrated that “democracies are vastly less murderous than alternative forms of government.” Pinker credits “the Age of Reason and Enlightenment” for giving us a society founded on human rights, and not Christianity: “to say that Christianity has, overall, been a force for peace in history is factually inaccurate.”

Inconsistencies between Pinker’s view and those of his main sources of information

Unfortunately, Pinker’s thesis on the causes of human violence is a very fragile one, which he can only defend by a highly selective quotation of his principal sources on data relating to historical atrocities. What’s more, these sources do not even agree with one another.

Pinker is a fervent advocate of democracy, which, he says, is far less violent than other forms of government. Unfortunately, one of the key authorities cited by Professor Pinker in his book disagrees with him on this point. Pinker is a great admirer of the work of Matthew White, a self-taught history buff and indefatigable researcher who authored the recent best-seller, The Great Big Book of Horrible Things: The Definitive Chronicle of History’s 100 Worst Atrocities (W. W. Norton, 2011). In fact, Pinker even wrote a ringing foreword to White’s new book, praising him for compiling “the most comprehensive, disinterested and statistically nuanced estimates available” of deaths from atrocities down the ages. However, Matthew White doesn’t agree with Pinker’s thesis that democracies are less violent than other forms of government: in a recent interview with The New York Times (“Ranking History’s Atrocities by Counting the Corpses”, 8 November 2011, by Jennifer Schuessler, page 2), he declared that no one form of government is obviously more murderous than another.

Matthew White’s skeptical view: atrocities occur for no particular reason

White’s thesis is a simple one: bad people cause atrocities, and they do it because they are bad. Evil is inexplicable, and atrocities happen for no particular reason: people just do bad things from time to time. As White bluntly puts it in his response to the question, “Who is responsible for all these deaths?” on his FAQ page:

A: Beats the heck out of me. You know, I could probably score some good think-tank funding if I could only prove statistically that human cruelty is getting steadily worse, and it’s all someone’s fault. Unfortunately, it just looks like the numbers fluctuate randomly over time, and we fight wars and oppress the weak because that’s what we’re good at.

It is worth noting here that Matthew White’s explanation of the cause of atrocities flatly contradicts Professor Pinker’s. White says that “the numbers fluctuate randomly over time”; for him, there is no cause of violence outside evil agents. Pinker, on the other hand, contends that “regimes that were based on demonizing, utopian ideologies (including Marxism, Nazism, and militant religions)” are responsible for violence. Whom are we supposed to believe?

Professor Rudolph Rummel: his views on violence don’t tally with Pinker’s, either

To be fair, I should point out that Professor Rudolph Rummel, another leading expert on atrocities whom Pinker frequently cites in his book, has amassed a wealth of online statistical evidence (see also here) showing that “democracies are vastly less murderous than alternative forms of government.” But the fact that Pinker is willing to cite, in support of his key theses on the causes of violence, two experts with such wildly divergent interpretations of the data relating to violence down the ages, tends to undermine Pinker’s credibility on historical matters.

I should also point out that while Professor Pinker would have us believe that a genuinely liberal democracy must be a secular one, Professor Rudolph Rummel, who believes that the spread of democracy around the globe during the past 200 years marks the dawn of a new democratic age of peace, cordially detests secular governments, as he makes plain on his Democracy Q & A Webpage:

Q: Do you feel that countries with a secular government generally have a better way of life compared to countries ruled by religion?

A: Historically, secular governments have also been very repressive and murderous. All communist and fascist governments (Hitler, Mao, Stalin, etc) have been secular, and also murderous. The worst of all such governments have been atheistic and communist, and murdered overall around 110,000,000 people in the 20th Century.

Where did democracy come from?

Another big fact which Pinker fails to advert to is that modern democracy is a Calvinist invention, as writer John Snyder persuasively argues in his thought-provoking four-part essay, The Rise of Liberal Democracy (see here for Part 1, Part 2, Part 3 and Part 4). As Snyder puts it in Part 2 of his essay:

Of every brand and denomination of Christianity-the Calvinist holds the lowest opinion of human nature. … He did not trust democracy unconstrained without certain proofs of regeneration. He neither trusted communities or princes to rule him. What he wanted was order based on morally objective standards. In other words, he knew that only law, and particularly God’s law was a sufficient curb on the natural lawlessness of men, both humble and great. So why is this important to the question of liberal democracy? Remember that our idea of government will follow logically from our idea of human nature. More to the point, our idea of proper human government will follow as an inexorable corollary to what is “natural” for man. Why? Because without a correct answer to this question we cannot address the problem of what government ought to be or how it should be properly constructed. Christians and particularly Calvinists are operating on an entirely unique conception of human nature, one that is simultaneously pessimistic and unique. Consequently the Calvinist developed a distinctive approach to the problem of civil government based on a conception of man otherwise unknown in the history of the world. Remember what I said earlier. The classical Greeks believed that man was naturally good. Chinese culture believes that man is naturally good. The Muslim believes that man is naturally good. So in the history of philosophy and psychology and even world religions, the idea that man, left to himself, will only get himself into more trouble, is really a rather narrowly held idea and an unpopular one at that. So what must be understood here is this: what Christians and particularly Calvinists assert is strikingly different from the wisdom embraced by the world. Christians and particularly Calvinists are saying that something is “naturally” and fundamentally wrong with man. And considering the failures of human history, of classical Rome and Greece, the failures of Asian culture and Islamic culture and all other cultures to create democracies independent of Christian influence-one is obliged to consider the wisdom and insight of the Calvinist model of human nature and therefore, government. So how do we make a government of men, when men are degenerate, and especially if we believe that every human faculty is degraded by sin? Well, that’s the problem! And the solution to that problem is the gigantic intellectual accomplishment of Protestant thinkers. It is the story of the Puritan Revolution and the America Revolution which grew out of it…


In Part 3 of his 4-part essay, Snyder goes on to explain that it was the system of checks and balances, invented by the Puritans as a way of thwarting corrupt governments, that ensured the viability of modern democracy:

The reformers held to a Biblical standard that was hard to imagine: that civil government should be ordered by the mind of law and not the arbitrary will of men. But how could such a notion be converted into an actual political system? The Puritans solved this problem by doing something unique in the history of the world; they formed compacts and agreed to set themselves under the lawful rule of elected men. [2] And over time, as their children’s expertise grew by experience, they constructed, in this continent a government that was intentionally set against itself. They conceived a government made of opposite and contrary forces that would make it nearly impossible for any one man or coterie of men to gain power enough to dispense with the rule of law. They developed and put into effect “checks and balances” and forever discarded the idea that good government was perfectible or efficient. They insisted that men should “consent” to government and have the power to create or execute new laws only when many contrary forces were willing to agree to do so. It is difficult to fully comprehend the genius of this insight. Many of us today still want government to have lots of power. We are, in this way, holding to the failed pagan idea of human perfectibility through the leadership of the better educated and more virtuous. We are trusting in the idea that if we can just give enough power to someone or some group of people, they will solve the big problems for us. Our fallen nature rebels against any suggestion that the problem with human government is, in fact, “us” – that we ourselves should never be given too much power. Hence we live in a political culture dominated by perfectionist ideologies that blame the trouble with mankind on racism, class struggle, economics, anything but sinful man himself. Despite civic lessons about checks and balances, few understand why this is a truly revolutionary idea – most of us still entertain the idea that democracy, in itself, is a good thing. Nevertheless, the system of checks and balances invented by our Calvinist forbears, (it was enunciated best by the French thinker Montesquieu) [3] expressly defies the notion that there is implicit wisdom in a plebiscite. It rightly restricts the will of people to do whatever they want. And this idea, which is an intentional and deliberate check on the power of democracy, is an infinitely more revolutionary idea than anything that silly dreamers like Pol Pot, Fidel Castro, Marx, Robespierre or Mao ever dreamed up in their hyper-intellectual universes of nifty ideas. The Puritan Revolution, the revolution that gave rise to actual human freedom and liberal democracy, is arguably the only political solution in more than three millennia that can claim to have borne fruit. In short the Calvinists embarked on a terribly inefficient and troublesome political experiment. And that experiment became the most dynamic in history.

Snyder’s is an interesting thesis, and one which Professor Pinker regrettably fails to follow up.

For those who are interested in the connection between Calvinism and democracy, I’d also recommend John Calvin: One of the Fathers of Modern Democracy by Dr. W. Stanford Reid (1913-1996), a former Emeritus Professor of history at McGill University and the University of Guelph in Canada. Dr. Reid summarizes his thesis as follows:

In his thinking, all society is subject to the sovereign God and therefore to his law, whether expressed in the Old Testament and set forth by the church or in the sense of justice and equity given to all men. To achieve this end, God establishes states ruled by magistrates who have the duty of enforcing the divine laws in order to maintain justice and equity. Calvin believed, however, that magistrates who are elected are more likely to rule justly than those who take control by inheritance or force. Furthermore, the tyrannical heredity ruler, as well as the one who illegally seized power, could be resisted even to the point of removal by the duly constituted magistrates of the realm. Here was a political philosophy which was to have a major impact on the western world over the next few centuries.

Regarding the contribution of Calvinists to the American Revolution, Dr. Mark Nickens, whose doctorate is in church history, makes the following perceptive comment in a very short article entitled, John Calvin’s Influence on Democracy:

Many Presbyterians came to the developing American colonies. By the 1750s the Presbyterians formed one of the largest church groups in the colonies. These colonial Presbyterians were mistrustful of leadership by one person, whether a form of church government which involved a bishop, or a form of government which included a king. And so the colonial Presbyterians were ripe for a change in government from the monarchy of England to the representative government of the new United States of America and helped make it happen. Thus John Calvin influenced the form of government which many countries enjoy today and which other countries are struggling to develop.


If religion played a vital role in the origin of modern democracy, then it stands to reason that it might well play an essential part in its preservation as well – in which case a totally secular democracy may prove to be a short-lived one. This is a point which Pinker might do well to ponder.

Which is more to blame for atrocities: the left or the right?

Professor Rummel goes on to explain that totalitarianism can be a far-left or far-right phenomenon: “Under Stalin, the Soviet Union was thus totalitarian, as was Mao’s China, Pol Pot’s Cambodia, Hitler’s Germany, and U Ne Win’s Burma. Presently, North Korea is a prime example.” However, Rummel, unlike Pinker, blames the totalitarian far left much more than the far right for atrocities. In his own words:

Q: How did this study change you as person, if at all?

A: It made me far less tolerant of Marxists and the far left, which is responsible for most of the killing. Marxist governments alone have murdered about 110,000,000 people out of a total of about 170,000,000 for the whole world. It changed me from a mild pacifist to an interventionist — it made me come to accept humanitarian intervention, forcefully if need be, to prevent massive democide. The cost of such intervention in human lives is always much less than the day after day murder of people by a democidal government.

(Note: Professor Rummel revised his original estimates a few years ago. On his recently revised figures, Rummel would now have to say that Marxist governments had murdered about 150,000,000 out of 262,000,000 victims of democide in the 20th century, which is still a solid majority of the victims.)

Are Marxist totalitarian governments anti-religious?

I presume that Professor Pinker would (reluctantly) accept Rummel’s factual assertion that Marxist governments have tended to murder more people than other 20th century regimes. Strangely, however, Pinker is completely blind to the anti-religious bias of Marxist governments. Incredibly, he writes:

20th-century totalitarian movements were no more defined by a rejection of Judaeo-Christianity than they were defined by a rejection of astrology, alchemy, Confucianism, Scientology, or any of hundreds of other belief systems.

This is an utterly absurd piece of nonsense, as Rummel points out in his Democratic Peace Q & A page:

Q: Did Stalin repress the Christian religion, or just those Christians he saw as a threat to the state?

A: Stalin systematically attempted to destroy religion. Public and private Churches were torn down, clergy executed, and believers forbidden to worship on pain of gulag or death. It was forbidden to teach a religion to one’s children. In 1932 Stalin launched an “antireligion five-year plan” so that at the end of the five years “not a single house of prayer will be needed any longer in any territory of the Soviet Union, and the very notion of God will be expunged . . . .” Those who tried to practice their religion in their own home secretly ran the risk of being caught and punished. And one’s children were ordered at school to tell teachers if their parents were doing anti-Soviet things, like exercising some religion.

The picture that emerges from Rummel’s scholarly work is that avowedly anti-religious totalitarian regimes of the far left – especially the Soviet Union and Communist China – were responsible for the majority of atrocities committed in the 20th century. Professor Pinker really needs to face the facts here. Of course, it does not necessarily follow from the fact that Marxism is a force for evil in the world that religion is a force for good, and Pinker also points out that “The European Wars of Religion had death rates that were double that of World War I and that were in the range of World War II in Europe.” (Here he is undoubtedly referring to the Thirty Years’ War of 1618-1648, which is said to have killed 1.4% of the world’s population, compared to 2.6% that was killed by World War II.) However, in his blog article, ‘This is a bogus statistic’ (December 15, 2011), amateur historian Humphrey Clarke takes aim at Pinker’s claim that the Thirty Years’ War was proportionally about as bloody as World War II: “According to the detailed treatment given in Europe’s Tragedy by Peter H Wilson death records from towns appear to show few directly related to military violence and 30 years of warfare reaped around 450,000 military casualties.” That’s about 0.1% of the world’s population in the seventeenth century, not 1.4%. Big difference.

What Pinker also fails to tell his readers is that the Thirty Years’ War was a statistical outlier: no other religious atrocity in Europe was responsible for anything like that proportion of deaths, and the only religious atrocity which surpassed it was the Taiping Rebellion in China, which killed 1.7% of the world’s population between 1850 and 1864.

Religion is no longer a major cause of atrocities and was never the main cause.

If we look at the main causes of violence in history, religion ranks well down on the list. This fact becomes evident if we look at the figures provided by Matthew White, an author on human atrocities whom Pinker frequently cites in his book. If readers scroll down to the bottom of this chart from The New York Times (6 November 2011), which is based on Matthew White’s book, The Great Big Book of Horrible Things, they will find a list of the top ten atrocities, in terms of the percentage of the world’s population that was killed, excluding those atrocities that lasted for more than forty years (such as the slave trade). Here they are:

Genghis Khan (1206-1227)______________ 11.1%
An Lushan Rebellion (755-763) ____________5.9%
Xin Dynasty (9-24 A.D.)___________________5.9%
Timur (1370-1405)______________________ 4.7%
Fall of the Ming Dynasty (1635-1652)_______ 4.6%
Second World War (1939-1945)___________ 2.6%
Fall of the Yuan Dynasty (1340-70)_________ 2.1%
Taiping Rebellion (1850-64)_______________ 1.7%
Thirty Years’ War (1618-48)_______________ 1.4%
Mao Zedong (1949-76)___________________ 1.3%

If we add the percentages, we get 41.3%. If we add the percentages relating to religious wars, we get 1.7% + 1.4% = 3.1%. If we now divide 3.1% by 41.3%, we get about 7.5%, or less than a tenth. What does that tell us? Religion is not the main cause of war. Indeed, Matthew White says as much himself on his FAQ page:

Q: Is religion responsible for more more violent deaths than any other cause?

A: No, of course not — unless you define religion so broadly as to be meaningless. Just take the four deadliest events of the 20th Century — Two World Wars, Red China and the Soviet Union — no religious motivation there, unless you consider every belief system to be a religion.

Q: So, what you’re saying is that religion has never killed anyone.

A: Arrgh… You all-or-nothing people drive me crazy. There are many documented examples where members of one religion try to exterminate the members of another religion. Causation is always complex, but if the only difference between two warring groups is religion, then that certainly sounds like a religious conflict to me. Is it the number one cause of mass homicide in human history? No. Of the 22 worst episodes of mass killing, maybe four were primarily religious. Is that a lot? Well, it’s more than the number of wars fought over soccer, or sex (The Trojan and Sabine Wars don’t even make the list.), but less than the number fought over land, money, glory or prestige.

In my Index, I list 41 religious conflicts compared with 27 oppressions under “Communism”, 24 under Colonialism, 2 under “Railroads” and 2 under “Scapegoats”. Make of that what you will.

Professor Rummel agrees with White on this point. As he puts it on his Democratic Peace Q & A Web page:

Q: Is religious conflict the greatest source of wars?

A: Religion was a major cause of war in Europe and the Islamic Empire during the Middle Ages. But even then, wars were being fought elsewhere in the world for other reasons, such as in Asia. In recent centuries, religion has been simply one minor cause among others for some minor wars. Major causes of major wars have been conflict over territory, ethnic grievances, honor, greed, and power. There was no religious component to World Wars I and II, nor the Korean and Vietnam Wars. However, the current war on terror has a fundamentalist Islamic aspect to it, but it is not one religion pitted against another, but fundamentalist Islam against the freedom and values of democratic countries.

Is religion nearly as harmful as Communism?

One of the most astonishing claims that Professor Pinker tries to make in his book is that religion is nearly as dangerous to humanity as Communism. However, his argument provides a perfect example of how not to use statistics. He writes:

[A]ccording to the most recent compendium of history’s worst atrocities, Matthew White’s Great Big Book of Horrible Things (Norton, 2011), religions have been responsible for 13 of the 100 worst mass killings in history, resulting in 47 million deaths. Communism has been responsible for 6 mass killings and 67 million deaths. If defenders of religion want to crow, “We were only responsible for 47 million murders—Communism was worse!”, they are welcome to do so, but it is not an impressive argument.

I would like to point out here that Matthew White’s figures on deaths due to Communism in the 20th century are significantly underestimated, and that reading Professor Rudolph Rummel’s work provides a useful corrective. For instance, according to White, Stalin killed 20 million people, whereas Rummel puts the figure at 43 million. White favors the figure of 20 million, because it’s the median of the various historical estimates that he’s found in the scholarly literature. Rummel has responded that the estimate of 20 million victims, which is favored by many authors, is based on a figure from Robert Conquest’s book The Great Terror from 1968, and that Conquest’s qualifier that his estimate is “almost certainly too low” is usually forgotten. According to Rummel, Conquest’s calculations excluded several categories of deaths under Stalin. the Holodomor famine that killed 5 million in 1932-1934; labor camp deaths before 1936 and after 1950; executions from 1939-1953; the vast number of deaths of people from captive nations who were deported to labor camps, from 1939-1953; the massive number of deaths of people from ethnic minorities, who were deported within the Soviet Union between 1941 and 1944; and finally, people executed by the Soviet Red Army and secret police in Eastern Europe, after it was occupied by the Soviet Union in 1944-1945.

All in all, Rummel puts the total number of people murdered by the Soviet Union from 1917-1987 at 61,911,000.

White also underestimates deaths caused by Mao Zedong by a factor of two. White is willing to allow that Mao Zedong was responsible for about 40 million deaths in Communist China, whereas Rummel opts for the much higher figure of 77,000,000. Rummel himself once excluded the Great Leap Forward (which killed 38,000,000 people) from his democide calculations, arguing that it was a gigantic but unintentional blunder on Mao’s part, and hence not government-sponsored murder. He later changed his mind, after reading Wild Swans: Two Daughters of China by Jung Chang, and Mao: the Unknown Story, which she co-wrote with her husband, historian Jon Halliday.

The upshot of all this is that if you add Rummel’s figures for the total number of people killed by Communist regimes in the 20th century in major atrocities, you get about 144,000,000 people (62,000,000 from the Soviet Union plus 77,000,000 from China plus 2,000,000 from Cambodia and nearly as many from North Korea, plus 1,000,000 killed by Tito.)

Why is this important? Because it’s three times the figure quoted by Matthew White in his Great Big Book of Horrible Things for the number of people killed as a result of the 13 religious atrocities which he includes in the 100 worst mass killings in history. White claims that religious mass killing has resulted in 47 million deaths over the last 2,000 years, which is a pretty horrific figure, but as we’ve seen, Communism killed 144 million people in just 70 years, during a time period when religion killed very few. The obvious conclusion is that while religion was a significant cause of violence in the past, it certainly isn’t one now.

A factual critique of Pinker’s online answers to FAQ’s about his book

On his FAQ page, Frequently Asked Questions about The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined, Professor Pinker makes a number of claims about Christianity which are false or misleading. Let’s have a look at them.

Pinker’s Claim: “Jesus deserves credit for stigmatizing revenge, one of the main motives for violence over the course of human history.”

True or False? True as far as it goes. But Pinker really should know that hundreds of years before Jesus, the book of Leviticus had declared: “Do not seek revenge or bear a grudge against one of your people, but love your neighbor as yourself. I am the LORD” (Leviticus 19:18). In denouncing revenge, Jesus was not saying anything new. “Love your enemies”, on the other hand, was a new teaching.


Pinker’s Claim: But things started going downhill in 312 when Christianity became the official religion of the Roman Empire, and the historical facts are not consistent with the claim that Christianity since then has been a force for nonviolence.

True or False? False. Christianity didn’t become the official religion of the Roman Empire in 312 under Constantine the Great, but in 391, under Theodosius I. What Constantine did was to issue an Edict of Toleration in 313 (not 312). The Christian Church’s consistent prohibition of abortion, infanticide, suicide, gladiator sports and dueling over the last 2,000 years, make it a force for non-violence on a much larger scale than Pinker’s much-vaunted secular humanists. They may have saved millions of lives; but the Church saved hundreds of millions. I’ll say more about this in a future post.


Pinker’s Claim: The Crusaders perpetrated a century of genocides that murdered a million people, equivalent as a proportion of the world’s population at the time to the Nazi holocaust.

True or False? The figure of one million is accepted by the historian and atrocitologist Rudolph Rummel (see here), but this represents 0.22% of the world’s population at that time (about 450,000,000). The total number of people killed by the Nazis is estimated by historian Rudolph Rummel at 21,000,000, or about 0.84% of the population of humanity in World War II (which was approximately 2,500 million) – in other words, nearly four times bloodier then the Crusades. But even this comparison overlooks the fact that the Crusades lasted for two centuries (from 1095 to 1291), while the Nazi holocaust, which killed 6 million Jews and also involved the slaughter of 15 million other innocent human beings, lasted for about four years. To compare the violence of life under the Nazis with life under the Crusades, you need to compare the annual chance of being killed by both parties, for people living at the time. The period in which the Crusaders killed their victims was 50 times longer than the Nazi holocaust, which means that the proportion of humanity killed by the Nazis was nearly four times higher. That makes the annual risk of killed by the Nazis about 200 times higher than the risk under the Crusaders. This in no way excuses religious violence; but to place it in the same league as 20th century warfare is simply ridiculous.


Pinker’s Claim: Shortly afterwards, the Cathars of southern France were exterminated in another Crusader genocide because they had embraced the Albigensian heresy.

True or False? False. Amateur historian Humphrey Clarke, who is one of three contributors to the science, religion and history blog Quodlibeta, argues in a blog post titled, Pinker tackles the Albigensian Crusade (November 8, 2011) that Pinker got his facts badly wrong. In a footnote, he observes:

Actually the Albigensian crusade hardly touched the Cathars. As Languedoc was restored to southern French rule after 1218 the Cathars resumed the public practice of their faith and were as strong as before. The crusade – always something of a cynical land grab – was a failure that petered out after its leader Simon De Montfort was killed at Toulouse in 1218. The reason the Cathars got their come-uppance was because the French monarchy acquired the Languedoc region of southern France through an advantageous marriage and the inquisitors were allowed to operate there.

I should point out in passing that two of Pinker’s favorite experts disagree as to how many people the Albigensian Crusade killed. According to Matthew White, about one million people were killed over about forty years (1208-1249), making this Crusade five times bloodier, in annual terms, than all the other Crusades. Rummel, on the other hand, calculates 200,000 “democides,” or killings of defenseless innocent people. Humphrey Clarke continues:

Pinker claims that the infamous Albigensian Crusade (1209–1229) took the lives of 200,000 people, though in a footnote he approvingly cites White’s figure for the suppression of the Cathars – one million deaths.

The inquisition’s activities were more restrained than their reputation suggests though they conducted an unprecedented level of investigation and interrogation. Bernard of Caux, inquisitor of Toulouse appears to have sentenced 207 offenders between 12th of May and 22nd of July 1246 (the height of the inquisition’s activity)– burning none, sentencing 23 to imprisonment and ordering the rest to wear crosses. Later in the century some 8 to 9 percent of those sentenced were burned to death…

The Albigensian Crusade must rank as one of the nastiest of medieval wars, resulting in massacres, atrocities, guerrilla warfare and the breakdown of social order…

… Coming up with any sort of figure for death tolls appear futile. 1,000,000 deaths is clearly ridiculous, 200,000 – a 20% death rate for the region seems too high. 100,000 might be closer to the truth but given the paucity of evidence any estimate is going to be pure speculative ‘finger waving’.


Pinker’s Claim: The Inquisition, according to Rummel, killed 350,000 people.

True or False? The citation of Rummel is correct, but Rummel’s claim is simply false. Rummel is wrong here; he’s a political scientist, and not a specialist on the history of the Catholic Church. 10,000 would be a more accurate figure for the total number of people killed by the medieval, Spanish, Portuguese and Roman Inquisitions put together, and even that may be rather high. Rummel does not tell us how he arrived at his figure of 350,000, but he suggests that 125,000 people may have died of torture and privation in prison under the Inquisition. However, it turns out that his sole authority for this dubious figure is a book by Edmond Paris, entitled Genocide in Satellite Croatia, 1941-1945: A Record of Racial and Religious Persecutions and Massacres. Some source! In fact, the Spanish Inquisition tortured people far less often than other courts of its day: about 2% of the people brought before it were tortured, according to historian Thomas Madden, in his highly informative article, The Truth about the Spanish Inquisition. Moreover, the Inquisition’s prisons were widely considered to be the best in Europe. Indeed, there were even instances of criminals in Spain purposely blaspheming, in order to be transferred to the Inquisition’s prisons.

Rummel also cites a figure of 31,912 for the number of victims of the Spanish Inquisition from 1480 to 1808, based on the biased history of Juan Antonio Llorente, but Llorente’s figures are wildly inaccurate, as historians of the Inquisition acknowledge:

“Llorente, the ex-Secretary of the Holy Office who wrote a bitterly antagonistic account of it at the beginning of the 19th century, based on manuscript material which is no longer extant, states that all told, from its foundation down to 1808, the total number of heretics burned in person in Spain alone totalled 31,912… These figures are so enormous as to seem highly suspicious.” (Cecil Roth, The Spanish Inquisition,1937, page 123.)

“[Llorente] came up with the incredible figures of 31,912 relaxations [burnings – VJT] in person, 17,659 relaxations in effigy, and 291,450 penitents, a grand total of 341,021 victims. All the historical evidence has shown this greatly exaggerated figure to be without any foundation.” (Henry Kamen, The Spanish Inquisition, 1965, page 280-1.)

“Llorente put the total at nearly 32,000 [burned in person], but his method of calculation is fantastic and ridiculous.” (A.S. Turberville, The Spanish Inquisition, 1932, page 112.)

Readers can find out more about Llorente here and here.

The Spanish Inquisition was at its bloodiest from 1480 to 1530. The Spanish Marxist historian Henry Kamen writes in his work, The Spanish Inquisition (Yale University Press, 1998, pp. 60, 203), that, “Taking into account all the tribunals of Spain up to about 1530, it is unlikely that more than two thousand people were executed for heresy by the Inquisition….for most of its existence that Inquisition was far from being a juggernaut of death either in intention or in capability.” By Kamen’s estimate, “it would seem that during the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries fewer than three people a year were executed in the whole of the Spanish monarchy from Sicily to Peru, certainly a lower rate than in any provincial court of justice in Spain or anywhere else in Europe” (1998, p. 203). The Wikipedia article on the Spanish Inquisition cites the estimates of several historians, and argues for a figure of between 3,000 and 5,000 victims altogether.

Protestant author James Patrick Holding has a useful article about the Spanish Inquisition here.

There were other Inquisitions in additions to the Spanish Inquisition – the medieval, Portuguese and Roman Inquisitions – but these were far less bloody than the Spanish Inquisition. Thus an overall figure of 10,000 for the total number of victims of all the Inquisitions put together would appear to be a prudent one. Thus Rummel’s figure of 350,000 victims is inflated by a factor of at least 35.


Pinker’s Claim: Martin Luther’s rant against the Jews is barely distinguishable from the writings of Hitler.

True or False? More or less true. Luther did say some pretty vile things about the Jews (see here, and for a summary see here). However, historian Paul Halsall points out that the Nazis, unlike Luther, hated the Jews simply because of their race:

While there is little doubt that Christian anti-Semitism laid the social and cultural basis for modern anti-Semitism, modern anti-Semitism does differ in being based on pseudo-scientific notions of race. The Nazis imprisoned and killed Jews who had converted to Christianity: Luther would have welcomed their conversions.


Pinker’s Claim: The European Wars of Religion had death rates that were double that of World War I and that were in the range of World War II in Europe.

True or False? False. In his blog article, ‘This is a bogus statistic’ (December 15, 2011), amateur historian Humphrey Clarke takes aim at Pinker’s claim that the Thirty Years’ War was proportionally about as bloody as World War II:

Whether the Thirty Years War was more destructive than World War I and II is an interesting question; Germany and large parts of Central Europe undoubtedly suffered a demographic collapse in the 17th century (15-20% in the German States). However the overwhelming majority of deaths during the 30 Years’ War were caused by disease – specifically typhus, dysentery and bubonic plague. This situation was partially caused and exacerbated by the movement of the various armies through the German countryside – resulting in food shortages and the outbreak of epidemics. According to the detailed treatment given in Europe’s Tragedy by Peter H Wilson death records from towns appear to show few directly related to military violence and 30 years of warfare reaped around 450,000 military casualties.

It could be argued, in fact it should be argued that much of this mortality would not have happened were it not for the conflict – other areas of Europe suffered population declines in this period but not as precipitous as Germany’s – so there is a direct responsibility there and disease related deaths should be added to the tally. However if that is the case then you have to compare like with like. Close troop quarters and massive troop movements helped facilitate an influenza pandemic at the end of World War I – perhaps the greatest medical holocaust ever. Add these to the 15,000,000 slaughtered in World War and it becomes proportionally the deadliest conflict in world history…

450,000 military deaths is about about 0.1% of the world’s population in the seventeenth century, not 1.4%. Also, the deaths were spread over a period of 30 years, while the Nazi atrocities took place over four.


Pinker’s Claim:Christian conquistadors massacred and enslaved native Americans in vast numbers, and perhaps twenty million were killed in all (not counting unintentional epidemics) by the European settlement of the Americas.

True or False? Way too high, if he’s talking about intentional killings. Pinker gets this figure from White, who acknowledges that his figure is “a guess” which is near the median of four previous estimates. White also discusses the difficulty of distinguishing deaths from disease from violent deaths:

Since no one disputes the fact that most of the native deaths were caused by alien diseases to which they had never developed immunity, the simple question of categorization is vital.

Traditionally we add death by disease and famine into the total cost of wars and massacres (Anne Frank, after all, died of typhus, not Zyklon-B, but she’s still a victim of the Holocaust) so I don’t see any problem with doing the same with the American genocides, provided that the deaths occurred after their society had already been disrupted by direct European hostility. If a tribe was enslaved or driven off its lands, the associated increase in deaths by disease would definitely count toward the atrocity (The chain of events which reduced the Indian population of California from 85,000 in 1852 to 18,000 in 1890 certainly counts regardless of the exact agent of death, because by this time, the Indians were being hunted down from one end of California to another.); however, if a tribe was merely sneezed on by the wrong person at first contact, it should not count…

Think of it this way: if the Europeans had arrived with the most benign intentions and behaved like perfect guests, or for that matter, if Aztec sailors had been the ones to discover Europe instead of vice versa, then the Indians would still have been exposed to unfamiliar diseases and the population would still have been scythed by massive epidemics, but we’d just lump it into the same category as the Black Death, i.e. bad luck. (Curiously, the Black Death was brought to Europe by the Mongols. Should we blame them for it? And while we’re tossing blame around willy-nilly, aren’t the Native Americans responsible for introducing tobacco to the world — and for the 90 million deaths which followed?)


Pinker’s Claim: The three founders of Protestantism, Luther, Calvin, and Henry VIII, had thousands of heretics were burned at the stake, as they and their followers took Jesus literally when he said, “If a man abide not in me, he is cast forth as a branch, and is withered; and men gather them, and cast them into the fire, and they are burned.”

True or False? False on several counts. First, Pinker misquotes Scripture. In John 15:6, the phrase “men gather them,” although found in the King James Version of the Bible, is actually a mistranslation. Here is what Barnes’ Notes on the Bible (1834) says in its commentary on John 15:6:

Men gather them – The word “men” is not in the original, and should not have been in the translation. The Greek is “they gather them,” a form of expression denoting simply they are gathered, without specifying by whom it is done. From Matthew 13:40-42, it seems that it will be done by the angels. The expression means, as the withered and useless branches of trees are gathered for fuel, so shall it be with all hypocrites and false professors of religion.

Here’s how the New International Version (1984) translates the passage:

If anyone does not remain in me, he is like a branch that is thrown away and withers; such branches are picked up, thrown into the fire and burned.

Jesus is here referring to the Last Judgment, and not to the Inquisition.

For more on the meaning of this passage, the reader may like to check out this article: Exegetical Commentary on John 15.

The Church Fathers didn’t see this verse of Scripture as an endorsement of burning heretics either. Have a look at St. John Chrysostom’s commentary on John 15:6, and St. Augustine’s commentary on the same verse. It was not until 1184 that Pope Lucius III cited John 15:6 in support of the punishment of heretics, and even then, he was not referring to death by burning. It was only in the 13th century that we see bishops and theologians, for the first time, citing this verse to justify the burning of heretics, according to the Catholic Encyclopedia.

Wesley and Matthew Henry interpreted the verse spiritually.

Luther didn’t have any heretics burned at the stake, and actually declared that “The burning of heretics is contrary to the will of the Spirit” – a proposition which was condemned as an error by Pope Leo X in his encyclical Exsurge Domine (proposition 33). However, in later life, Luther became intolerant, and called for the death of the Anabaptists, whom he regarded as not only heretics but also a threat to the social order. Thousands of Anabaptists in Europe were slaughtered by Catholics and Protestants alike.

The only person whom Calvin could be accused of having put to death was Servetus, although the death sentence was actually pronounced by the Geneva city council, which sentenced him to be burned. Calvin actually requested that Servetus be beheaded instead of being burned, but his request was rejected. (See “Verdict and Sentence for Michael Servetus” (1533) in A Reformation Reader, eds. Denis R. Janz; 268–270.)

Henry VIII is commonly said to have had 72,000 people put to death in his reign, but this number referred not to heretics but to “great thieves, petty thieves, and rogues,” and the Wikipedia biography of Henry VIII regards it as an “inflated figure.” The number of people executed for heresy under Henry VII was just 81, according to an article titled, Tudor Heretics, by historian John Simkin. Simkin lists the number of people executed for heresy under the Tudor monarchs: 24 under Henry VII; 81 under Henry VIII; 2 under Edward VI; 280 under Mary; and 4 under Elizabeth I.

I might add that Henry VIII never saw himself as a Protestant, but as a Catholic who rejected Papal supremacy. Pinker is showing his historical ignorance when he describes Henry VIII as a “founder” of Protestantism. What’s more, Zwingli was just as much a “founder” of Protestantism as Luther and Calvin were. It is curious that Pinker omits to mention him, for he was actually the least tolerant of all the “founders” of Protestantism: as early as 1526, he decreed that Anabaptists should be drowned. (See here, here and here.)


Pinker’s Claim: Following the biblical injunction, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” Christians killed 60,000-100,000 accused witches in the European witchhunts.

True or False? True as far as the numbers are concerned. However, it omits to mention that for the first 900 years of Christianity, the Church taught that there were no longer any witches. According to Jenny Gibbons’ article, Recent Developments in the Study of the Great European Witch Hunt that the great witchcraft persecutions did not take place in the Middle Ages but in the early modern period (15th to 18th centuries). Gibbons writes that “the lethal crazes of the Great Hunt were actually the child of the ‘Age of Reason.'”

For those readers who are chronologically minded, here’s a brief excerpt from an article over at religioustolerance.org, titled, The Burning Times: The time line: the Dark Ages to now:

Prior to the 9th century CE: There was a widespread popular belief that evil Witches existed. They were seen as evil persons, primarily women, who devoted their lives to harming and killing others through black magic and evil sorcery. The Catholic church at the time officially taught that such Witches did not exist. It was a heresy to say that they were real. “For example, the 5th century Synod of St. Patrick ruled that ‘A Christian who believes that there is a vampire in the world, that is to say, a witch, is to be anathematized; whoever lays that reputation upon a living being shall not be received into the Church until he revokes with his own voice the crime that he has committed.’ A capitulary from Saxony (775-790 CE) blamed these stereotypes on pagan belief systems: ‘If anyone, deceived by the Devil, believes after the manner of the Pagans that any man or woman is a witch and eats men, and if on this account he burns [the alleged witch]… he shall be punished by capital sentence.”

906 CE: Regino of Prum, the Abbot of Treves, wote the Canon Episcopi. It reinforced the church’s teaching that Witches did not exist….

circa 1140: Gratian, an Italian monk, incorporated the Canon Episcopi into canon law.

According to the article, it was not until the 1330s that “[t]he popular concept of Witches as evil sorcerers is expanded to include belief that they swore allegiance to Satan, had sexual relations with the Devil, kidnapped and ate children.” And it was only in 1450 that “the first major witch hunts began in many western European countries.” Finally, we come to the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries:

Circa 1550 to 1650 CE: Trials and executions reached a peak during these ten decades, which are often referred to as the “burning times.”

Pinker evidently needs to do some more reading on the history of witchcraft.


Pinker’s Claim::World War I, as I recall, was a war fought mostly by Christians against Christians. As for World War II and its associated horrors, see my answer to the previous question.

True or False? Utterly irrelevant to the question of whether religion is a force for violence. Matthew White has this to say on the matter:

Q: Is religion responsible for more violent deaths than any other cause?

A: No, of course not — unless you define religion so broadly as to be meaningless. Just take the four deadliest events of the 20th Century — Two World Wars, Red China and the Soviet Union — no religious motivation there, unless you consider every belief system to be a religion.


Pinker also displays his ignorance of the abolitionist movement when he writes:

Certain Christian denominations, such as the Quakers, did indeed mobilize the abolitionist movement, but they came late to the party. Christianity had no problem with slavery for more than 1500 years, and agitation against the institution only took off with the writings of John Locke and other philosophers of the Age of Reason and Enlightenment, who found plenty of good secular reasons why slavery was abominable. The American abolitionists fought against a slaveholding South that was, of course, thoroughly Christian, including many ministers who defended slavery because it was approved in the Bible.

Evidently Pinker has not read Professor Rodney Stark’s informative essay, The Truth about the Catholic Church and Slavery. Stark also shows how the Catholic Church ended slavery in Europe during the Middle Ages. Rodney Stark, a sociologist of religion who has spent decades studying the growth of cults, has uncovered a wealth of archival material detailing the Popes’ opposition to slavery from the 15th century down to the present. The new material also shows how the Popes tried to put a stop to slavery in the New World, and how the kings of Spain and Portugal ruthlessly suppressed the publication of papal bulls prohibiting slavery. The problem wasn’t that the leadership was silent. It was that almost nobody listened to the popes – even Catholics ignored what they had to say.

Pinker would also do well to read this article in Wikipedia, which describes how Quakers, Baptists, Methodists, and certain prominent Anglicans brought about the abolition of slavery in the British Empire – an accomplishment which eventually led to the worldwide abolition of slavery, as Britain pressured other countries to follow suit. Finally, an article by Dr. Peter Hammond titled, The Scourge of Slavery, discusses the historical background of slavery and the Christian movement which led to the abolition of slavery.

In my next part, I’ll critique Pinker’s methodology and the assumptions underlying his book.

It was through the Catholic Church imposed its beliefs the world became more civilized : so for Christian influence in the 365 was banned convict prisoners being eaten by animals in the circus , Pope Damasus condemned the torture and cruel, heinous in the 382 , Pope Nicolas abolished torture in Bulgaria in 866 , Gregory VII banned the burning of witches in Denmark. On many occasions the clergy spoke with authority to prohibit the witch persecutions . These pontiffs and San Agobard Catholic saints , Archbishop of Lyon (who wrote "Against vulgi insulsam opinionem of grandine et tonitruis " (against the foolish beliefs of people about hail and lightning ) ( PL , CIV , 147) . Pope Gregory VII in 1080 wrote to King Harold of Denmark forbidding witches were sentenced to death . 936 : Pope Leo VII wrote to Archbishop Gerhard forcing you to instruct local authorities not to execute those accused of witchcraft. in his letter made specific mention of the fact that the new law under Christianity mercy sent while pagan law had ordered the death : Although by the Mosaic law, those people were sentenced to death , ecclesiastical law were spared for they can repent. Pope Urban VIII in a letter to his nuncio in Portugal from 1639 absolutely condemns slavery and threatened with excommunication , but referred to the Indians and was driven per Jesuit Reductions to the incursions of the Brazilian bandeirantes were raiding them for slaves. Clement XI in the early eighteenth century gives orders to the nuncio in Madrid and Lisbon acting for ending slavery. There was respuesta.Y unscrupulous people like Voltaire , still highly regarded in progressive circles , is rawhide with the slave . Hugh Thomas concludes : " These isolated reports allow the Catholic Church stand as a foreshadowing of the abolitionist movement more plausibility than is generally granted . Throughout the seventeenth century letters of protest on her subject of the slave trade continued to reach the Sacred Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith in Rome from cappuccinos , Jesuits and bishops . " Do you understand , because it is a disaster that civil Pinker repudiate the moral guardianship of the Church? Alfonso
Do I hear a squeaky voice: 'What's to reconcile?' Axel
A few assorted notes on 'truth': In the following video, at the 22:27 to the 29:50 minute mark, is a pretty neat little presentation of the Schrodinger Equation in answer to the question, 'Why does mathematics describe the universe?' The Professors: An after-hours conversation on Georgia Tech's hardest questions - veritas video http://www.youtube.com/watch?feature=player_detailpage&v=vBQ9uFOFLWM&t=1349 Around the 11:45 minute mark in the following video Pastor Joe Boot reflects on the self-defeating nature of the atheistic worldview in regards to absolute truth: Defending the Christian Faith – Pastor Joe Boot – video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqE5_ZOAnKo Comprehensibility of the world Excerpt: ,,,Bottom line: without an absolute Truth, (there would be) no logic, no mathematics, no beings, no knowledge by beings, no science, no comprehensibility of the world whatsoever. https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/mathematics/comprehensibility-of-the-world/ In Cambridge, Professor Steve Fuller discusses intelligent design - Video https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/news/in-cambridge-professor-steve-fuller-discusses-why-the-hypothesis-of-intelligent-design-is-not-more-popular-among-scientists-and-others/ At 17:34 minute mark of the video, Dr. Steve Fuller states: "So you think of physics in search of a "Grand Unified Theory of Everything", Why should we even think there is such a thing? Why should we think there is some ultimate level of resolution? Right? It is part, it is a consequence of believing in some kind of design. Right? And there is some sense in which that however mulrifarious and diverse the phenomena of nature are, they are ultimately unified by the minimal set of laws and principles possible. In so far as science continues to operate with that assumption, there is a presupposition of design that is motivating the scientific process. Because it would be perfectly easy,, to stop the pursuit of science at much lower levels. You know understand a certain range of phenomena in a way that is appropiate to deal with that phenomena and just stop there and not go any deeper or any farther.",,, You see, there is sense in which there is design at the ultimate level, the ultimate teleology you might say, which provides the ultimate closure,," But as Godel showed, if numbers are included, there cannot be a 'complete' mathematical theory of everything,, The nature and significance of Gödel’s incompleteness theorems - Princeton - 2006 Excerpt: ,,Stephen Hawking and Freeman Dyson, among others, have come to the conclusion that Gödel’s theorem implies that there can’t be a Theory of Everything.,, http://math.stanford.edu/~feferman/papers/Godel-IAS.pdf moreover,, BRUCE GORDON: Hawking’s irrational arguments – October 2010 Excerpt: Rather, the transcendent reality on which our universe depends must be something that can exhibit agency – a mind that can choose among the infinite variety of mathematical descriptions and bring into existence a reality that corresponds to a consistent subset of them. This is what “breathes fire into the equations and makes a universe for them to describe.” Anything else invokes random miracles as an explanatory principle and spells the end of scientific rationality.,,, Universes do not “spontaneously create” on the basis of abstract mathematical descriptions, nor does the fantasy of a limitless multiverse trump the explanatory power of transcendent intelligent design. What Mr. Hawking’s contrary assertions show is that mathematical savants can sometimes be metaphysical simpletons. Caveat emptor. http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2010/oct/1/hawking-irrational-arguments/ i.e. a 'theory of everything' must include a personal agent! i.e. God! As to a very credible 'theory of everything' that is completely missed by materialists/atheists: The God of the Mathematicians - Goldman Excerpt: As Gödel told Hao Wang, “Einstein’s religion [was] more abstract, like Spinoza and Indian philosophy. Spinoza’s god is less than a person; mine is more than a person; because God can play the role of a person.” - Kurt Gödel - (Gödel is considered one of the greatest logicians who ever existed) http://www.firstthings.com/article/2010/07/the-god-of-the-mathematicians The Center Of The Universe Is Life - General Relativity, Quantum Mechanics, Entropy and The Shroud Of Turin - video http://vimeo.com/34084462 Verse and Music: John 18:37 Therefore Pilate said to him, "Are you a king then?" And Jesus answered, "You say [rightly] that I am a king. To this end I was born, and for this reason I came into the world, that I should bear witness to the truth. Everyone who is of the truth hears my voice." Casting Crowns-Voice of Truth http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=0VkJ9fEWFjk bornagain77
Now LT, seeing as you are such a champion of truth, which is highly commendable, I have a little question for you. You see LT, you have dogmatically defended neo-Darwinian evolution as the truth for a long time on UD and elsewhere, yet recently it is found that all the main underlying assumptions under-girding the neo-Darwinian paradigm are false:
Modern Synthesis Of Neo-Darwinism Is False – Denis Nobel – video http://www.metacafe.com/w/10395212 Physiology moves back onto centre stage: a new synthesis with evolutionary biology – Denis Nobel – July 2013 – video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=MzD1daWq4ng Here is the paper that accompanies the preceding video: Physiology is rocking the foundations of evolutionary biology - Denis Noble - 17 MAY 2013 Excerpt: The ‘Modern Synthesis’ (Neo-Darwinism) is a mid-20th century gene-centric view of evolution, based on random mutations accumulating to produce gradual change through natural selection.,,, We now know that genetic change is far from random and often not gradual.,,, http://onlinelibrary.wiley.com/doi/10.1113/expphysiol.2012.071134/abstract “The genome is an ‘organ of the cell’, not its dictator” - Denis Nobel – President of the International Union of Physiological Sciences http://musicoflife.co.uk/
Thus my question for you LT is, seeing as you are such a champion for truth, how have you reconciled the fact that you have defended a lie for so many years? bornagain77
Now LT, I'm really trying to get this. You say you really don't care about an objective morality that I should adhere to and it is just a personal opinion on my part unless I take your car without your permission in which case you do care that I obey a objective morality of a law code? :) Consistency is not a big suit of yours eh? bornagain77
I am saying let your behavior be guided by your own morals. If your morals guide you to borrow another's car without permission, go for it. Just don't be surprised if the car owner and the state refer to the objective morality afforded by the law code. Now, do you think you've succeeded in covering your lies in this thread and covering over the deception perpetrated by Hedin? LarTanner
You are probably not employable, are you, BA77? LarTanner
So LT, you are saying I should tell the truth because you really don't care???? But why are you objecting if you REALLY don't care??? But since you really don't care about objective morals is it OK if I borrow your car and not return it? :) bornagain77
I am appealing to a factual basis, not a moral one. I have not said what you should or should not do, and I really don't care; hence, I have referred you to your own personal opinions and stated moral values. If lying for Jesus is OK in your book (after all, many Christians say it's fine), there you go. But if you think lying should be avoided, then you should re-evaluate your statements. LarTanner
LT, and exactly why do you care if the truth should be told, what offense have I committed against you if what I have done 'lying for Jesus' were actually true? What moral basis do you appeal to besides your personal opinion that I should have done otherwise? The Great Debate: Does God Exist? - Justin Holcomb - audio of the 1985 debate available on the site Excerpt: The transcendental proof for God’s existence is that without Him it is impossible to prove anything. The atheist worldview is irrational and cannot consistently provide the preconditions of intelligible experience, science, logic, or morality. The atheist worldview cannot allow for laws of logic, the uniformity of nature, the ability for the mind to understand the world, and moral absolutes. In that sense the atheist worldview cannot account for our debate tonight.,,, http://theresurgence.com/2012/01/17/the-great-debate-does-god-exist bornagain77
I have no gripe, and MLK's ontological views don't interest me. Again, you should worry more about violating your own supposedly objective morals (which really are just your personal opinions) and stated ethical commitments. LarTanner
LT: “The first principle of value that we need to rediscover is this: that all reality hinges on moral foundations. In other words, that this is a moral universe, and that there are moral laws of the universe just as abiding as the physical laws.” - Martin Luther King Jr., A Knock at Midnight: Inspiration from the Great Sermons of Reverend Martin Luther King, Jr. http://www.goodreads.com/quotes/118523-the-first-principle-of-value-that-we-need-to-rediscover bornagain77
LT, not, as usual, that anything that you have said is actually true, but supposing you had a legitimate gripe, what objective moral standard are you going to appeal to within your atheism to say I acted improperly towards you if I had done so? bornagain77
BA@22, Deflect and lie, that's your M.O. In comment 13 you try to avoid the substance my earlier comment with the "from where do you derive your sense of fairness," so in response I gave you comment 15--which gives you and me a way to test a sense of fairness and see whether BSU acted fairly (you seem not to want to talk about Hedin's deception. OK, I understand.). In 16 you indicate that you may have some concrete evidence to support a claim that BSU acted unfairly by not following their stated process and/or applying it (or parts of it) in a wildly inconsistent manner. Nothing beyond the indication, of course, because you are all bark and no bite. In comment 19 you try the usual attempt to deflect. You even seem to thing I'm making some objective moral claim or deriving some objective moral code. Bollocks. Through it all, as in your fawning over Mazur's faux-journalism--as bad as O'Leary's--you insist that peddling your personal biases and dreams as if they were really, really true is a serious position. But what happens whenever ID creationism gets into a court? It gets revealed for the belief-based, evidence-free, logic-defying claptrap that it is. Your comment 23 is useless. DonaldM's crying was as boring as it was wrongheaded. ********** Joe @ 25: Look whose getting all empirical! First, three Ball State students at the Rate My Professors site criticize Hedin for proselytizing a Christian viewpoint in his classes. These complaints go back to 2006. Take a look at one course syllabus of Hedin's, http://cms.bsu.edu/-/media/WWW/DepartmentalContent/Physics/PDFs/MasterSyllabi/Master%20Syllabus_ASTR151.pdf. You can see the many insinuations, especially in the course objective, to consider the implications of physics, life, and consciousness for “indications of the nature and existence of God.” The syllabus early shows intent to persuade that scientific phenomena provide evidence for God. In a science class! See also page 2, the course outline itself. Students are to discuss theistic evolution, intelligent design, irreducible complexity, and (holy crap!) “miracles and spirituality!” There’s also “Beauty, complex and specified information, and intelligent design: what the universe communicates about God.” Joe, does this syllabus sound like a dispassionate appraisal of scientific evidence? No, for bit above presupposes the existence of God. This class essentially teaches intelligent design creationism and includes many of the science-sounding buzzwords (“complex specified information,” “fine-tuning,” “no free lunch,” etc.). LarTanner
Hedin received a fair hearing for charges fairly made.
Prove it.
You may think it was cool for Hedin to name his science class misleadingly and to proselytize to students depending on him for a grade.
Please prove that he did any of that. Strange that the actual students who took that class do NOT share the same opinion of those who have only read about it. Joe
vj #17 Thanks for those links. The connection between Calvinism and democracy is an interesting idea and I will try to find time to read some of the other authors. John Snyder annoys me. He writes rather well but his views seem terribly oversimple and more like a political rant than a thoughtful evaluation. For example, it just isn't true that:
every civilization on earth has been governed by this principle of monarchy
Many of the Greek city states were not monarchies. Rome was a republic for centuries. And as I am sure you know there were many other examples. Most of all I find his jingoism in the final essay to be childish. The USA has achieved a lot but
How did this infant nation, founded neither on race nor class, ascend so swiftly to become the center of world cultural creativity, economic power and technology and also become the paradigm of human freedom around the world
Really? Mark Frank
LT, correction, DonaldM instead of Dr. Torley is the one I meant to reference in the previous post: Ball State Takes Stand for Philosophical Naturalism as Science – Embarrassing Us Alums August 1, 2013 Posted by DonaldM https://uncommondesc.wpengine.com/intelligent-design/ball-state-takes-stand-for-philosophical-naturalism-as-science-embarrassing-us-alums/ bornagain77
LT, I never claimed that Ball State acted outside their subjective stated and/or written 'moral' policies that enforce Philosophical Naturalism (Torley), you are the one who put that red herring out. But I do know it is morally wrong for atheists to suppress free speech of people who do not toe their Atheistic/Materialistic line, not because it is written on some sheet of paper somewhere, but because I feel it in my heart that it is objectively morally wrong for them to forcibly suppress any dissenting scientific evidence against materialism.,,, Such as this evidence,,,
Evidence for Creation now banned from UK religious education classes - July 2012 Excerpt: Recently, evolutionist Suzan Mazur published a book entitled, The Altenberg 16: An Exposé of the Evolution Industry.,, The Altenberg 16 is a group of top university academics who met together at a symposium held at Altenberg in Austria in 2008. According to Mazur, these leading evolutionary scientists ‘recognize that the theory of evolution which most practicing biologists accept and which is taught in classrooms today, is inadequate in explaining our existence.’ Some of the delegates would clearly go further. According to molecular biologist, Professor Antonio Lima-de-Faria, not only is the Darwinian paradigm wrong, but it ‘actually hinders discovery of the mechanism of evolution.’ Professor Massimo Piattelli-Palmarini spoke for a number in stating simply that natural selection ‘is not the way new species and new classes and new phyla originated.’ Professor Jerry Fodor confessed, ‘I don’t think anybody knows how evolution works.’ If scientists can’t point to a natural process that can drive evolution, why should evolution (by force of law) be taught as science, (as a fact), in school classrooms? http://creation.com/creation-religious-education
LT, are you in favor of suppressing those opinions? Moreover, if you read my posts before you falsely accused me of 'lying for Jesus', I merely questioned you as to what scientific tests can I perform on a rock so as to derive whether a particular matter may be morally right or morally wrong? or What law of physics can you point to that compels me to have compassion on the poor instead of judgement on them?? The only way I see for you to derive an objective moral code for yourself, as an atheist LT, is much in the same way you must believe Darwinian evolution to be true. i.e. You must constantly lie to yourself in order to believe it to be true! "Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved." Francis Crick of note: On the Fundamental Difference Between Darwin-Inspired and Intelligent Design-Inspired Lawsuits - September 2011 Excerpt: *Darwin lobby litigation: In every Darwin-inspired case listed above, the Darwin lobby sought to shut down free speech, stopping people from talking about non-evolutionary views, and seeking to restrict freedom of intellectual inquiry. *ID movement litigation: Seeks to expand intellectual inquiry and free speech rights to talk about non-evolutionary views. http://www.evolutionnews.org/2011/09/on_the_fundamental_difference_050451.html bornagain77
BA, You should worry whether lying is wrong according to theism. Forget about atheism. I'm not judging you, only pointing out how you are acting inconsistently with your stated values/principles. Meanwhile, maybe everyone will forget about the concrete evidence you don't have. Cue the link dump. LarTanner
Around the 12:00 minute mark of the following video Pastor Joe Boot reflects on the self-defeating nature of the atheistic worldview: Defending the Christian Faith – Pastor Joe Boot – video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=wqE5_ZOAnKo bornagain77
But why would lying, or being deceived, be objectively wrong in atheism LT if it helps an organism survive? You simply don't get how insane your position actually is do you? You want to make all these objective moral arguments and claim moral superiority but you simply have no basis to appeal to do as such! You have no foundation! Cruel Logic – video Description; A brilliant serial killer videotapes his debates with college faculty victims. The topic of his debate with his victim: His moral right to kill them. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=bq9A-c8bsjc Why No One (Can) Believe Atheism/Naturalism to be True - video Excerpt: "Since we are creatures of natural selection, we cannot totally trust our senses. Evolution only passes on traits that help a species survive, and not concerned with preserving traits that tell a species what is actually true about life." Richard Dawkins - quoted from "The God Delusion" http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=N4QFsKevTXs bornagain77
BA @ 16, Well, do you have concrete evidence to link to or can we just assume you are lying for Jesus -- it's OK to lie if it's for Jesus, after all -- like Hedin? LarTanner
Hi Mark Frank, The essay by John Snyder which I cited in my post was actually a four-part essay, not a two-part essay as I mistakenly wrote. I originally read Snyder's essay a few years ago, which is why my memory of it is a little hazy. I retained Snyder's insight that checks and balances, devised by the Puritans, were part of the genius of American democracy, but I completely forgot the fact that Snyder had explicitly argued this point in Part 3 of his essay. As you rightly pointed out, Part 2, which I cited in my original post, does not mention "checks and balances." I've updated my post with a more complete citation. I do apologize for your puzzlement as to where Snyder said anything about checks and balances, in his essay. Mea culpa. Snyder's Part 3 is here and his final part is here. As you can see from my updated post, Snyder is not alone in his thesis that Calvinism played an important part in the emergence of modern democracy. I also cited John Calvin: One of the Fathers of Modern Democracy by the late Dr. W. Stanford Reid, Emeritus Professor of history at McGill University and the University of Guelph in Canada, and a very brief article titled, John Calvin's Influence on Democracy by Dr. Mark Nickens, whose doctorate is in Church history. Loraine Boettner's essay, Calvinism and Representative Government is also well worth reading. It is of course true that the view that modern democracy is largely the product of Calvinism is a highly controversial one. But it is an historically respectable one: it was a very widespread belief in the nineteenth century. If you wish to follow up the matter further, you might like to have a look at these short essays here, which were compiled by Professor P. D. Steeves: Calvinism and the Political Order. See also this collection of brief quotes: Calvin and Calvinism: Sources of Democracy? Hope that helps. I'll be back later. vjtorley
LT, 15, EXACTLY! bornagain77
BA @ 13, Do you have concrete evidence that BSU violated their stated policies and procedures and/or applied them differently (and significantly so) in the specific case of Hedin? LarTanner
The biggest point overlooked is that a LARGE PROPORTION of those who claim the name of Christ neither truly love Him or obey Him. They act in accordance within their own flesh, and the convenient excuse of religion is waved about as a banner for their evil desires. Jesus teaches us that many will say, "Lord, Lord", but only a few will enter through the gates. OldArmy94
But LT, where do you derive your sense of moral fairness if there is no transcendent and objective moral code as you hold? i.e. What scientific tests can I perform on a rock so as to derive whether a particular matter may be morally right or morally wrong? What law of physics can you point to that compels me to have compassion on the poor instead of judgement on them?? The only way I see for you to derive an objective moral code for yourself as an atheist LT is much in the same way you believe Darwinian evolution to be true. i.e. You must constantly lie to yourself in order to believe it to be true! Biologists must constantly keep in mind that what they see was not designed, but rather evolved. Francis Crick Atheists admit evolution leads to atheism and nihilism - video http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sCwq09Enuvg bornagain77
Joe @ 11, You should be more specific about what you object to. The facts are that: Hedin received a fair hearing for charges fairly made. Hedin was not imprisoned. He was not subjected to torture. He was not threatened with violence or death. He was not ostracized. He was not made to utter statements against the truth or against his conscience. He was not denied advocacy. He was not fired (nor were people calling for his firing). His possessions were not confiscated. He was not fined. You may think it was cool for Hedin to name his science class misleadingly and to proselytize to students depending on him for a grade. OK, but my point is that the fair process he went through bears no resemblance to how Dominican friars conducted the inquisition or how the god-fearing folk of Europe and America went about trying accused witches. LarTanner
1) It reminds us of the difference between the imagined ‘persecution’ of some people (e.g, the professor at BSU who tried to use a science class to proselytize, got caught, and after a review of the situation was asked to stop it) ...
Only an ass would say something like that- and I thought you were better than that. My bad. Strange that the actual students who took that class do NOT share the same opinion of those who have only read about it. Joe
It should be helpful to recall why the comment that included the Pinker quotation was made. (1) It reminds us of the difference between the imagined 'persecution' of some people (e.g, the professor at BSU who tried to use a science class to proselytize, got caught, and after a review of the situation was asked to stop it) and the very real persecution that has often been conducted with religious motivation and/or sanction. Terms such as 'inquisition' and 'witch hunt' have specific meanings associated with ghastly historical events, and these events are thoroughly and undeniably tied to religious beliefs and thinking. (2) It reminds us that being a theist or subscribing to a set of religious beliefs does not make one more ethical. Christians behave as badly (or goodly) as everyone else, and they do so toward both their co-religionists and 'outsiders.' (3) It tells us that being an atheist or not subscribing to a set of religious beliefs does not make one less ethical. Atheists are not less moral, they are not morally deficient. They are not spiritually deficient, either, depending on how one defines 'spirit.' * * * As a medievalist, I can say with some authority that Christianity definitely could be a force for good in the medieval world. As were Islam and Judaism, incidentally. But a critical part of the cultural shift that led Western Europe to individual rights and liberties, scientific methods, and recognition of the importance of socioeconomic forces was the advance of secular, humanistic institutions and thinking. Religions such as Christianity and Islam have been able to incorporate some of the ideal of human rights. This ideal, Pinker argues, makes a key difference in the history of violence. Christianity and Islam, I say, continue to hold onto elements of demonization of others and utopian fantasy (pace, C.S. Lewis)--and these traits enable violence. LarTanner
vj #5
Still, the fact remains that when the United States of America declared independence in 1776, England was not yet a democracy, and the proportion of men who could vote in 1780 was a mere 3%.
True – but how is that evidence that British democracy based on Calvinism was the model for the only proper democracies? (Which appears to be Snyder’s thesis). In fact it would appear to suggest the opposite. It was the Scandinavian democracies, not mentioned by Snyder, that led the way in universal suffrage.
His argument, in a nutshell, was that the American political system was crafted in such a way as to make it virtually impossible for power to be centralized, and that the motivation underlying such a design was a deep-seated pessimism about human nature.
This must be in a bit I couldn’t find to read. It is certainly true that the American political system is designed so that power cannot be centralised (in fact it has to the stage where no one seems to have the power to do anything!). But this is unique to the US system. Plenty of other flourishing democracies allow greater concentrations of power – e.g. Britain.
3. You mentioned Hobbes and Voltaire. I don’t see how Hobbes helps your case: he supported absolutist government rather than democracy. As for Voltaire, it is worth noting that French democracy soon withered on the vine, while American democracy thrived. One has to ask why. Also, Voltaire was an Enlightenment thinker who believed in the future perfectibility of man. Somehow I can’t quite picture him designing a Constitution like America’s.
Snyder argues that it is uniquely Christian to have a pessimistic view of man. Here are two non-Christians who clearly had very pessimistic views of the state of man. I am not commenting on their ideas about political systems. Mark Frank
VJT: Well done, as usual. There will be the usual quibbles ans odd points, but important and informative. I note: 1 --> Fascism is a species of politically messianistic statism that uses a mass victim group as the pivot on which a Nietzschean superman deliverer figure rises to power. It is thus both fundamentally a left-wing ideology (a sort of revision to marxism as can be seen from the ideological roots of Mussolini) and a form of idolatrous anti-Christian cult. (And BTW, the repeated "personality cult" issue in Communism -- e.g. Lenin, much moreso Stalin, Mao, Castro, etc -- shows how easily it falls into the same pattern.) 2 --> This already serves to highlight problems with the overly broad term, religion. Ideology that is prone to totalitarianism or to unbalanced, unaccountable concentrations of power or to ignite the violent hate-driven madness of mobs, is more like what we need to stigmatise rather than "religion." 3 --> In the case of Nazi Germany, Darwinism and its racial-social overtones filtered through Haeckel et al were a definite factor. 4 --> It is not unrelated that Darwinism has also been the greatest engine of atheism and radical secularism as well as utterly blind scientism in history. Let us not forget that 1880 letter in which Darwin had much of this as an underlying intent. 5 --> There are many who, having been indoctrinated to see "religion" as the main menace to our civilisation, are utterly unwilling to be docile before mere historical, theological, philosophical and history of ideas facts. 6 --> But, your basic point on that line is true: the concept that men are radically flawed by sin and government must seek to restrain the tendency for evil to dominate is a key Christian insight. So is the concept that we are endowed by God with his image which makes us fundamentally of equal value. 7 --> Thence, the teaching of Moses, the prophets, Jesus and Paul, that the pivot of morality is to love one's neighbour as oneself. With Jesus' parable of the Good Samaritan a standing rebuke to those who put lesser things before a neighbour (including an enemy) in urgent need. Race and religion, too, are specifically identified as not good enough excuses -- all of which are bound up in the good neighbour being a Samaritan. 8 --> In this context, legitimate government has the task of defending the civil peace of justice, and governments must not make the blunder of the Medes and Persians, making rulings and laws proof against reform. (The incidents in Daniel and Esther make this an almost comically stupid blunder.) 9 --> It is no surprise to see that Christian, Biblical thought had a lot positively to do with the rise of modern liberty and democratic self government. But too many are utterly unwilling to give even an inch of recognition -- which in turn should trip a lot of warning flags. KF kairosfocus
Of related note to the superior secular humanist morality Pinker envisions without Christian influences: Australia Awards Infanticide Backer Peter Singer Its Highest Honor – 2012 Excerpt: Singer is best known for advocating the ethical propriety of infanticide. But that isn’t nearly the limit of his odious advocacy. Here is a partial list of some other notable Singer bon mots: - Singer supports using cognitively disabled people in medical experiments instead of animals that have a higher “quality of life.” - Singer does not believe humans reach “full moral status” until after the age of two. Singer supports non-voluntary euthanasia of human “non-persons.” - Singer has defended bestiality. - Singer started the “Great Ape Project” that would establish a “community of equals” among humans, gorillas, bonobos, chimpanzees, and orangutans. - Singer supports health-care rationing based on “quality of life.” – Singer has questioned whether “the continuance of our species is justifiable,” since it will result in suffering. – Singer believes “speciesism” — viewing humans as having greater value than animals — is akin to racism. http://www.lifenews.com/2012/06/12/australia-awards-infanticide-backer-peter-singer-its-highest-honor/ bornagain77
Thanks Dr. Torley, a timely and welcome addition to my notes on atheistic atrocities. bornagain77
Hi Mark Frank, Thank you for your post. I've only got time for a few quick comments right now. Very briefly: 1. I agree with you that the Romans, Italian city states, the feudal barons who authored the Magna Carta and the English parliament of the seventeenth century all made vital contributions towards the idea of democracy. Still, the fact remains that when the United States of America declared independence in 1776, England was not yet a democracy, and the proportion of men who could vote in 1780 was a mere 3%. 2. More importantly, the idea of the separation of powers (legislative, executive & judiciary) had not yet been properly realized at this stage. I think this is the point that Snyder is making in his piece. His argument, in a nutshell, was that the American political system was crafted in such a way as to make it virtually impossible for power to be centralized, and that the motivation underlying such a design was a deep-seated pessimism about human nature. 3. You mentioned Hobbes and Voltaire. I don't see how Hobbes helps your case: he supported absolutist government rather than democracy. As for Voltaire, it is worth noting that French democracy soon withered on the vine, while American democracy thrived. One has to ask why. Also, Voltaire was an Enlightenment thinker who believed in the future perfectibility of man. Somehow I can't quite picture him designing a Constitution like America's. That's all for now. vjtorley
VJ Now onto the main theme of your post. You write almost as though the main point of Pinker's book was that religion causes violence. This is just one theme in a large book which is more generally about the forces behind violence. Indeed wars and atrocities are only part of the violence he considers.  Nevertheless the question of to what extent religion causes violence is in the book and worth discussing. I think the body count game is incredibly hard to interpret. Here are a few considerations: -The data are uncertain. These things happen under confusing, often secretive and sometimes badly documented conditions There are wildly different estimates from different authorities on many of the most important atrocities. -It is unclear what to include - are we talking about violent deaths, predictable but not necessarily desired deaths, or all deaths resulting from policy whether intended or not? For example, the majority of the deaths under Mao were due to famine. It is unclear to what extent these were deliberate or just callousness in the face of what was seen as inevitable by-product of the revolution. -It only makes sense to talk about relative numbers of dead - no regime however awful can kill more people than there are available to kill - but relative to what? Pinker and many of the others use percentage of the world population. But that makes one regime worse than another simply because there were less people on the other side of the world. -What counts as one atrocity or event? Do we consider the Thirty Years War to be one event or many? Do we separate the Soviet killings in the aftermath of the war from the War itself? That’s on the effect side. There are similar problems when looking at causes: - What counts as a secular or religious state? Most European states prior to about 1700 were religious in the sense that religion played a large part in determining and justifying policy (I would guess that was true of most states globally).  The role of atheism in most Communist governments was much smaller than the role of religion in these states. On the other hand most Western democracies are secular in that religion plays a very small role in determining policy or providing justification (the USA may be a bit of an exception). -Which violent acts by a state do we ascribe to religion or atheism? All acts of violence on the grounds that their religion/atheism has sanctioned those acts, or only those which are specifically aimed at victims because of their religious beliefs? Although Stalin wanted to eliminate religion a very small proportion of his victims were killed for being religious. On the other hand a very large proportion of the victims of crusades and the religious wars of Europe were killed specifically because of their beliefs. -Most murdering states are limited by lack of resources and lack of victims -  not motive. Do you think the crusaders stopped massacring the inhabitants of Jerusalem because they their religion suddenly kicked in and told them they had been overdoing it?  They stopped because they were exhausted and had run out of victims. Is a state less culpable because it did not have the opportunity to kill as many people as another? The most important point that Pinker makes about atrocities is that violence tends to arise under “regimes that were based on demonizing, utopian ideologies (including Marxism, Nazism, and militant religions)”. I like Matthew White’s web site and style and I am surprised by his response to the FAQ. On the other hand he was responding to the question “who is to blame?”. Had he been asked whether Pinker was right he might well have responded differently. It seems obvious that if you add up all the atrocities from the sources Pinker includes they account for the overwhelming majority of intentional violent deaths.Once you combine a sufficiently strong belief that your end goal is so important it justifies massacring large numbers of people with a fear of people undermining that goal you have a recipe for an atrocity. Mark Frank
vj I  haven’t got time to do justice to your latest tome – but I was interested in the claim that religion played a vital role in the origin of modern democracy. As far as I can see you base this entirely on the one essay by someone called John Snyder. I could only find the first two parts of the essay, but from what I did read, while  it is quite entertaining, it really is a polemic with little intellectual worth. He appears to hate most academics (did he get turned down by a university at some stage in his career?).  He omits vast tracts of the history of the rise of democracy – some of which are covered on any undergraduate introduction to the subject or even just reading the Wikipedia page:  Roman Republicanism, Italian City States, Magna Carta and the creation of English parliament (to name just a few). His main thesis seems to be that only Christianity (and particularly Calvinism) recognises that man is not inherently good and this recognition gives rise to democracy. Has he not read Hobbes or Voltaire? Mark Frank
Dr Torley Thank you for this magnificent piece, I have used Both Dr Rummel's and White's work on many occasions to argue against the idea that religion is the cause of most deaths & suffering. There really is only three things that is the cause of human evil. 1. Greed 2. Power 3. Lust. Andre
Yes Calvinism was behind democracy beliefs. Puritanism or the name today of evangelical Christianity simply taught you can't just the few better then the many. Where this faith was prominent was where they wanted the bpeople moreso to get their way and government structure to do this. puritan Protestant Christianity was behind the peace movement of mankind. True christian values eventually prevailing. then the rest agreed. Pinker i understand is jewish and shows a hostility to Christianity and martin Luther. if Luther made accusations against the jews of his day well have a court case and see who's right. luther was right about everything and why he is the number one man responsible, as far as one man can be, for the modern world. Pinker shows me his hostility comes from his Jewish identity/nationalism/pride and this is the origin for conflicts between mankind. Then anger rises and punches are thrown. Accusing Luther of nazi stuff is just someone accusing someone falsely of evil which is what leads to punishment of the innocent by way of violoence. Pinker is a accuser and so part of the violence he documents. A malice and accusation to back up hostility to the good people . Mankind should of just constantly took mankind to court. that would of settled most problems. Robert Byers

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