Atheists Charge: "What about the thousands who have been killed in the name of religion?"

by Ravi Zacharias (from his book "Can Man Live Without God")

One of the great blind spots of a philosophy that attempts to disavow God is its unwillingness to look into the face of the monster it has begotten and own up to being its creator. It is here that living without God meets its first insurmountable obstacle, the inability to escape the infinite reach of a moral law. Across scores of campuses in our world I have seen outraged students or faculty members waiting with predatorial glee to pounce upon religion, eager to make the oft-repeated but ill-understood charge: What about the thousands who have been killed in the name of religion?

The emotion-laden question is not nearly as troublesome to answer if the questioner first explains all the killing that has resulted from those who have lived without God, such as Hitler, Stalin, Mussolini, Mao, et al. The antitheist is quick to excoriate all religious belief by generically laying the blame at the door of all who claim to be religious, without distinction. By the same measure, why is there not an equal enthusiasm to distribute blame for violence engendered by some of the irreligious?

But the rub goes even deeper than that. The attackers of religion have forgotten that these large-scale slaughters at the hands of antitheists were the logical outworking of their God-denying philosophy. Contrastingly, the violence spawned by those who killed in the name of Christ would never have been sanctioned by the Christ of the Scriptures. Those who killed in the name of God were clearly self-serving politicizers of religion, an amalgam Christ ever resisted in His life and teaching. Their means and their message were in contradiction to the gospel. Atheism, on the other hand provides the logical basis for an autonomous, domineering will, expelling morality. Darwin himself predicted this slippery slope of violence if evolutionary theory were translated into a philosophy of life. Nietzche talked of the enshrouding darkness that had fallen over mankind--he saw its ramifications. The Russian novelist Fyodor Dostoevski repeatedly wrote of the hell that is let loose when man comes adrift from his Creators moorings and himself becomes god--he understood the consequences. Now, as proof positive, we witness our culture as a whole in a mindless drift toward lawlessness--we live with the inexorable result of autonomies in collision.

In case you fear that I am carrying this too far, I present the following for your consideration. It is not always easy in life to pinpoint moments that dramatically change you for the future. Sometimes, however, in retrospect we are able to look back upon such a moment and say, "For me, that was it." Let me introduce you to one such experience for me.

A few years ago when I was speaking in Poland I was taken to the Nazi death camps of Auschwitz and Birkenau. I shall never be the same. Many, many times in silence I have reflected upon my first visit there, where the words of Hitler envisioning a generation of young people without a conscience are aptly hung on a wall, grimly reminding the visitor of the hell unleashed when his goal was realized.
I freed Germany from the stupid and degrading fallacies of conscience and morality.... We will train young people before whom the world will tremble. I want young people capable of violence--imperious, relentless and cruel.

On display for all to behold are thousands of pounds of women's hair, retrieved and marketed as a commodity by the Nazi exterminators, architects of the final solution that sent multitudes to the gas ovens. The incredible reminders--from rooms filled with pictures of abused and castrated children to the toiletries and clothing that are stacked to the ceiling--cast an overwhelming pall of somberness upon the visitor.

That this was conceived and nurtured in the mind of the most educated nation at that time in history and brought forth on the soil that had also given birth to the Enlightenment almost defies belief. But it was atheism's legitimate offspring. Man was beginning to live without God.

"Can Man Live Without God" by Ravi Zacharias can be found in Christian book stores.

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-Zacharias, Ravi K., "Can Man Live Without God" Word Publishing (1994), p. 22-24.

Presented by Trinity Consulting