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Historians estimate the total number of people executed in the name of Jesus is as high as 15 million (mostly Jews, “witches” and pagans). How does it feel knowing that Jesus is responsible for 3 times as many deaths as Hitler?

So often when we are hit with a statement like the one above, which is quickly followed by a question that presumes what they just said was truth, we are left speechless. I certainly have found myself in that kind of situation over the years since I work in a educational field, an environment not known to be conservative or religious in thoughts and beliefs.

Ever hear of the term ‘chaff’ in a conversation about aircraft combat? Chaff was first used in the 1930’s when radar was first being developed to spot enemy aircraft. Simply put, chaff is thousands of aluminum strips that are cut to 1/2 the wave length of the enemy radar systems, which result in the radar signals bouncing back and making it difficult, if not impossible, for radar operators to distinguish between aircraft and the chaff. During World War II, Lancaster’s and other aircraft would drop chaff to confuse enemy radar operators and allow large formations of bombers to arrive over their target with little or no enemy interference. The Royal Air Force, (RAF), Bomber Command in particular had success using chaff in night raids over Hamburg, Germany. Nowadays, chaff is used to break the lock enemy radar guided missiles have on fighters planes and other aircraft. Chaff can confuse or overwhelm missile systems so that the missile will not know what target to pursue, or simply explode within or near the chaff cloud.

In responding to a question or statement like the one above, one of our first reactions should be to ask what their source of information was. Be specific; ask them to name the historians, or name the book, magazine, or newspaper, where they read those numbers. You don’t need to be rude or angry about it, just ask them politely where you can find that information. So often people toss out statements that supposedly support their opinion, but they are just like chaff out the rear end of a fighter jet under missile attack. Nothing substantial, but just a diversion to what is really being stated. Everyone does it, even Christians, and if someone would just pause and reply back with a question, asking where they read or heard that information, quite often people are just repeating something they heard and actually have no idea how accurate or truthful the information is. They just repeat it because they have heard others repeat it, or it just sounded reasonable and they never gave it much consideration.

I looked at the above statement like this, the missile would be truth, and the chaff would be unsubstantiated statements or accusing questions that would steer truth away from striking at the heart of the lie. In this case, the lie is holding Jesus responsible for the death of millions. Just as important though, is to understand that they made a claim and it is their responsibility to back it up. They have to support the claim that as many as 15 million Jews, witches and pagans were executed in the name of Jesus. How do they know this? What evidence do they have? It is important to pay attention to the statements that people make about Christianity and ask them for their sources. More often than not, they will just be repeating some misinformation that nine out of ten people assume is true, and then it works its way around secular circles, much like a cold or flu will be passed at school.

Example of chaff in the above statement.
-Jesus is worse than Hitler.
-Jesus is responsible for people being executed.
-Fifteen million Jews, witches, and pagans killed because of Jesus.
-How can you worship a mass murder?
-Don’t you feel guilty for the crusades?
-Don’t you feel guilty for the Salem Witch trials?
-Christians have killed 3 times as many people as Hitler.

The list can go on, but you get the gist of the implications of such a statement. Jesus is no better than Hitler, if not worse, and those that follow him are really no better than the Nazi’s that followed Hitler’s orders.

Christopher Hitchens who is the author of God Is Not Great, says much the same thing. He points out how religion has caused violence in areas such as Belfast, Beirut, Bombay, Belgrade, and Baghdad. Timothy Keller in The Reason for God, says Hitchens’ point is fair, but he goes further to point out the cultures that have rejected God which have killed millions. For example, Communist Russia, Chinese, and Cambodian secular governments have all rejected God, but are guilty of the slaughter of millions of their own people. William Lane Craig touches this issue in Hard Questions Real Answers. He talks about the eight major Crusades between 1096 and 1274 that were to wrest the Holy Land from Islamic control. He pointed out how these Crusades resulted in the loss of thousands of lives and were organized by men with nothing but greed in their hearts for power, money, and influence. Craig went on to write, “But the most heinous of these expeditions was the so-called Children’s Crusade of 1212. In this ludicrous mission, thousands of children were recruited to form an army to liberate the Holy Land. But the children never got any farther than Marseille, France. There they were kidnapped and sold into slavery by the leaders of the Crusade.”

Leading apologists recognize and acknowledge the evils men have done to fellow men in the name of religion. Anyone who spends just a little bit of time researching the cost of human life in the name of religion cannot deny it, but to place that cost on Jesus is absurd. One only has to read the New Testament to see that was not what Christ was teaching. Greg Koukl addressed a similar statement to the one I posted above in his book Tactics, “More wars have been fought and more blood has been shed in the name of God than any other cause. Religion is the greatest source of evil in the world.” Koukl points out that oppression, slaughter, and mayhem are not religious duties for Christians, consequently violence done in the name of Jesus cannot be blamed on him. He also writes, “Grab an older copy of the Guinness Book of World Records…You’ll find that carnage of unimaginable proportions resulted not from religion, but from institutionalized atheism: over 66 million wiped out under Lenin, Stalin, and Khrushchev; between 32 and 61 million Chinese killed under Communist regimes since 1949; one third of the eight million Khmers – 2.7 million people – were killed between 1975 and 1979 under the communist Khmer Rouge.”

In 1992, Salem dedicated a Memorial Park in honor of those died in the Salem Witch Trials. Those killed in the trials did not number in the millions, thousands, or even hundreds. Including those who died in prison with those who were executed, you have 25 to 30 people.

How many died in the Crusades? I have seen atheists that put the numbers from five hundred thousand to as high as two million. Other more conservative estimates range from one hundred and fifty thousand to two hundred thousand killed. I assume the reference to Jews and Pagans in the above statement would be in reference to the Crusades. I could not find any reference by anyone, historian or otherwise, that goes as high as fifteen, or even ten, million. Maybe they are out there, but to place them in the range of credible would be ludicrous.

Finally, I should point out that this is not a straw man argument, that is, I did not just pick a number and make a statement that I could easily refute. The statement this piece addresses, and all the other questions I choose, can be found on multiple atheist web sites with a host of other questions that non-believers suggest Christians should be asked. It serves no purpose for us, as Christians, to refute statements that non-believers do NOT hold. That is akin to a common mistake teachers make when, after a lesson, they ask some questions to make sure the students understand what was taught. Some teachers just call on those who raise their hands, and those who raise their hands know the answers, or were at least listening to the lesson. Teachers who form such a habit receive a false confirmation that the lesson was successful. Apologists should look for real questions that are being asked by non-believers, not make up questions they feel skeptics have.

“The greatest evil has not come from people zealous for God. It has resulted when people are convinced there is no God they must answer to.” – Greg Koukl.

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