Lessons from the battlefields of Christianity, Islam and Communism


Samuel Huntington, author of The clash of civilizations, was right when he noted that “the West has won the world not by the superiority of its ideas, its values ​​or its religion…, but rather by its superiority in the application of organized violence. Westerners often forget this fact; non-westerners never do.

A 2009 monograph, titled Number of bodies, which covers the last 2000 years of history and written by Naveed S Sheikh (his Linked-In profile identifies him, among others, as editor-in-chief of the peer-reviewed journal Politics, religion and ideology, amply attests to this fact (read his bio here). The monograph was brought to my attention yesterday (November 8) via a Twitter account (Indian History, @arya_amsha). Painstakingly compiled by Sheikh, the monograph seeks to make a “quantitative examination of political violence across civilizations”, and was apparently motivated by Samuel Huntington’s definition of civilizations and the geographic boundaries he indicated for each of them. they.

There are problems in trying to compile political, racial, ethnic, or religious violence in civilizational terms, as civilizations have blurred geographic boundaries, and the same civilization might change color over the centuries. For example, most of the Middle East and North Africa was Christian before becoming Muslim, and the violence that occurred in the same geography cannot easily be labeled as belonging to Christian or Islamic civilization. because people are often of the same stock of origin. If the two civilizations seem to share the same basic ideology and the same imperialist tendencies, why call one Christian and the other Islamic?

Nevertheless, the study (you can download a PDF version here) which focuses on mass violence and genocide only from the common era to 2008 (CE 0 to CE 2008), offers extensive information on the most violent and least violent civilization. Cheikh mixes religious and non-religious civilizational descriptors to arrive at his conclusions.

The main findings of Sheikh’s monograph, which include violent deaths due to war, civil war, genocide and structural violence, are as follows:

A, Christian civilization was the most violent of all, with estimated deaths (low to high) of 119 to 236 million, giving us a midpoint of 177 million over two millennia.

Of them, Indian civilization is one of the least violent, with a low-high range of 1.3 to 3.4 million, and a midpoint of 2.3 million over two millennia. Less than 1% of mass violence can be attributed to Indian civilization.

For now, no surprises here.

But where the compilation gets intriguing is how much more violent Communist, Sinic, and Buddhist civilizations than Islamic civilization. In Sheikh’s compilation, the communist regimes (labeled as anti-theist) of the 20th century killed more people (125 million) than the Sinic (107 million) and Buddhist (87 million) regimes, with Islamic totals reaching a rather modest figure of 31 million. . The primitive indigenous civilizations, which include the ravages of Genghis Khan, numbered 45 million.

However, taking into account that Islam is only 1,400 years old, while Christendom is over 2,000, Islam’s score of 31 million murders (0.7% of the time available for Christianity) would amount to almost 44-45 million – on a par. with the so-called primitive-indigenous civilizations, including Genghis Khan.

While this may allow modern Islamists to claim Islam as the religion of peace, one explanation could be that events like World War II have been characterized as Christian-Buddhist violence (with 55-72 million casualties), by and large. partly due to Japan’s entry into the conflict, while communist regimes in China, the Soviet Union and elsewhere (Pol Pot, et al) were labeled as anti-theist, even though they might have Christian, Muslim, and Buddhist elements internally. Buddhism also comes into the picture through the Sino-Japanese and Russo-Japanese wars of the last century, which left many dead.

Since the author of the monograph blames the massacres on whoever started the conflict, Turkey’s entry into World War I alongside the Central Powers (led by Germany) has always been characterized as Christian war as the conflict began within Christendom. . It is more than likely that the Islamic role in the massacres and genocide is underestimated, since even the partition of India is jointly labeled as Islamic and Indian, while most of the killings were between Muslims and Sikhs driven out of the country. western Punjab. In the east (present-day Bangladesh), the genocide lasted for decades and the Hindu population has grown from 22% in 1951 to around 8-9% today.

More interesting is another table, which lists 30 major genocide events based on civilizational labels. Not surprisingly, 14 of them were Christians, nine Islamic, three Communists, two Sinic, and one each by Buddhists and early indigenous civilizations. Indian civilization marks a big zero. No genocide in the past 2000 years. The Sikh massacre of 1984 can theoretically be called genocide, but the study only looks at the number of deaths exceeding 10,000, and therefore neither 1984 nor 2002 finds a place.

Equally interesting is the large number of mass murder cases as opposed to their intensity. According to Sheikh’s study, of the 321 massacre events in CE history (0-2008), 166 were of Christian origin and 81 were Islamic. There were 19 Communist mass murder events. This suggests that 75-82% of massacre cases were of Abrahamic origin and content, especially if we also include communism as a Western (non-theistic) idea and an extension of Abrahamic ideology. If we can include the ideology of Nazi Germany as Christian, when Hitler openly valued Islam and had nothing but contempt for the pusillanimous church of his day, can communism be called a non-theistic form? Abrahamism?

Sheikh’s search, despite its flaws and perhaps a weak spot for Islamic violence, is proof that the truth doesn’t always triumph. Violence does, and the winner is whoever masters the killing technologies, and he or she can then decide what the truth is. Indian currency, Satyameve Jayete (Truth alone triumphs), should probably be reversed. Winning leads to the truth. Because what is truth if not collective belief? As the Zimbabwean saying goes, Until the lion tells his side of the story, the story of the hunt will always glorify the hunter. The problem is, even if the lion tells its story, once wiped out, its story will only be for the records. It makes no difference to the Hunter’s heirs, who will win anyway, albeit with some guilt attached.

This was perhaps the central message of the Gita. Winning is important, no matter if you sometimes have to use unfair means to do so.


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