Religion has done little to prevent war, famine, crime, oppression, misery, and unhappiness

By James Hervey Johnson | 1949
Positive Atheism

Catherine de Medici Gazing at Protestants Massacred in the Aftermath of the Massacre of St. Bartholomew, Edouard Debat-Ponsan (1880).

Each religion claims that its god or gods have supreme power. If their god or gods had any such power, they could wipe out all the unhappiness in one gesture. The truth is, of course, that there are no such gods and it is only the imagination of propagandists which originate such gods and such powers.

For ages men have been and still are, human slaves. In the United States of America as late as 1865, black men had little more freedom than dogs or horses. They were owned as chattels by white masters. The masters could and did make them work all their lives without any pay whatever. Every slave could be beaten, mauled, and mutilated or killed, and many have been so treated by drunken and cruel masters. The children of the slaves were sold like cattle and sheep. All of these things were done under legal authority. All of these terrible things were done under sanction of the Christian religion. Most American slave owners were religious Christians. The slaves themselves were supposed to be Christians.

Those who favored slavery quoted the Bible as authority for maintaining this cruel and inhuman practice. The Catholic Church and the Baptist church stood side by side in protecting the perpetrators of this inhumanity and oppression. When the Civil War took place, the Methodist Church in America divided on the question of slavery. The Methodist Church South and the Methodist Episcopal Church existed separately for generations. The Methodist Church South espoused the cause of slavery.

Men who owned slaves preferred to fight and kill or be killed rather than to give up their ownership of their human chattels. Even to this day Christian men, including priests and preachers, countenance and assist the whites of the South in keeping the Negroes there from voting and expressing their political views as all Americans are supposed to have the right to do.

Every office holder who takes an oath to support the Constitution of the United States winds up by saying, “so help me God” and then actually nullifies many of the rights the Constitution tries to guarantee.

There have been more wars since Christianity was established than there were before. Since the birth of Christ there have been only a few years in which there was not a war between Christian peoples. Cruel and tyrannical wars of extermination against the Indians of America were carried on by Christian people. With a Christian cross in one hand, a sword and gun in the other, the early Christian Spaniards conquered the Indians in North and South America. Murder, rape, torture, and enslavement, and in many cases positive extermination, followed in the bloody wars of the Spanish conquests under Pizarro and Cortez. The Catholic Church grew wealthy beyond its dreams as the result of this conquest. The Indians were Christianized under force of arms, but the new god they prayed to was as powerless as the old ones to protect them from the cruelty of and enslavement by their Christian conquerors.

In recent years the Italians under Mussolini, from the most Christian country on earth, coming from Rome, the seat of the Pope, ruthlessly murdered their way to ownership of the lands of Ethiopia, taking the Ethiopians’ lands and country in one of the most cold blooded robbing expeditions ever known. The Ethiopian king was only restored to his throne by a more powerful nation, still worshipping the same god as the others.

Did the Pope raise one word of protest? Did any Christian church or Christian country actually do anything to stop them? Did the Christian God that the poor Ethiopians pray to do anything to save them? Did even the same Christian God the Italians pray to deliver the land to them without a fight? No, the men with the strongest arms won in that war as they have in all other wars.

Why must people still remain befuddled and think that their gods control their fates when they see Christian nations murdering other Christian inhabitants of the world; each praying to the same God of “love and good will” to permit them to get their neighbors by the throat so they can slit it?

The Hindus have their gods, Buddha, Krishna, Siva, and a thousand others. Each one is supposed to be a protector of some class or group. Murder, misery, early death, depravity, oppression, serfdom and starvation are the daily lot of the Hindus, the most religious people on earth. The Christian Englishmen with money to buy rulers and guns and bombs to kill protectors told the religious Hindus what to do.

And so it has been from time immemorial, the strong oppressed the weak. The stronger, selfish races murdered those with less strength. The oppressors and aggressive fighters inherited the earth and control it today. Gods of clay, wood, brass, gold, and iron, gods of imagination such as the Christian, Mohammedan, and other gods have been prayed to in vain for ages by gullible fools, by priests, preachers, and rulers.

James Hervey Johnson (1901-1988) was an atheist and outspoken critic of organized religion. For nearly a quarter of a century he was owner/publisher and editor of The Truth Seeker from 1964 until his death in 1988. Through his efforts as an activist and benefactor, Johnson contributed significantly to freethought in the mid to late twentieth century.

Animated map shows how religion spread around the world

The Future of World Religion (in 2050)

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  1. Interesting article but he got several things wrong. For example there have not been more wars after Christianity than before Christianity as the archaeology does not support this. Also men with the strong arm do not always win; the Battle of Midway is just one example. To answer the question why do Christians murder Christians for the same reasons atheist murder atheist.

    • There have been more wars since christianity than any other religion all under the watchful loving eyes of god and his son jesus.i would hate to think that they are just the opposite of what and who they claim but as the man said you judge the tree according to the fruit it bears.don t believe a word of what a man(or god) says until you see his works

    • I suppose wholesale slaughter doesn't count as a war, then? Inquisition, pogroms, Holocaust: all attacks by Xianity on Jews that would never have happened without Xianity

    • Atheistic thoughts on suffering and evil fail to address the issue of free will ( libre arbitre) and man being responsible for his actions and inactions. Why blame the divine for man’s wickedness against man?

      • His point was that a "divine" whatever has exhibited no power at all. The blame is strictly on man. Further, please enlighten me on why atheism should address free will. To an atheist that's the air they breath.

      • 'Free will' is a control construct created by man to justify the crapfest that 'loving gods' have allowed since they were created to explain stuff that was unexplainable before science.

    • On the topic of slavery …. many races have been slaves… stop this thing that only blacks were slaves … white people were slaves to the arabs under terrible conditions too, way before the blacks, and many many many many other races had their turn… slavery has been a common thing for millenia and will be for millennia more

      • This oped is geared towards Christianity and the part it has played in slavery…not slavery under Arab potentates

  2. A hundred million killed in the 20 th century. Stalin 40 million Mao tse Tung another 40 to 50 million. Pol Pot Cambodia 8 million Hitler 6 million and that’s just the Jews Genocide in Africa. All this murder by atheists!!!

    • I don't think that's a valid argument. Atheism is nothing more than a rejection of the proposition that a god exists. I don't have tenets and doctrines like religion. So someone who killed millions of people who happen to be an atheist doesn't really have any relevance to the topic. It's like saying it's bad to be a painter because Leonardo da Vinci desecrated dead bodies to experiment with them for his studies with human anatomy. It just so happen that he was a painter and that his studies of human anatomy had a great contribution in his works but that doesn't make painting any less benign or any more perverse.

      • Sorry Gary, you just showing your prejudice. Hitler was a Catholic. So was Mussolini. Hitler was against communism. Your argument is very simplistic. Most wars in Europe were Christian against Christian. And many were Abrahamic religions against others. The usa has attacked many countries that are far far away, and it’s supposedly Christian, but blindly supports Israel, which is not. Religions are inherently divisive, and so are thier gods and scriptures.

    • Gary. An atheist does not believe in any god. No more, no less. Or alternatively anyone with a religion disbelieves about 3664 gods and atheists disbelieve about 3665. Ascribing other attributes to atheist is like ascribing shared attributes to non stamp collectors…

  3. The article writer knows pretty little about Hinduism. The only correct thing is the first pictograph showing the initial reach and the later shrinking of Hinduism. The spread od Buddhism post-Buddha or the spread of Hinduism to the far east due to conquest by the Tamil kings is not civered at all. The only right statement in the article is that neither gods of the native religions that were conquered nor adopting the gods of the conquerors had solved any meaningful part of human suffering. This is the most powerful and correct statement made in the article. And also right is the conclusion that Constitutions claiming to bring in equality haven’t succeeded in a big way either. So, great writers what is the purpose of this writing? To give a wake up call to whoever is still being peaceful in a world with the cruel onslaught of bigoted religions of the world.

    • Obviously this man knows nothing of Hinduism or Buddhism, even Christianity said: There will be wars and rumors of wars. In fact, Krishna (GOD) instructed Arjuna to kill his family. There is nothing in God's world by mistake. Not even the
      Smart-elect Athiest…


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