20 February 2007

Christian martyrs of the 20th century

There were probably more Christian martyrs during the 20th century than in all the previous centuries in which there were Christians in the world. In terms of the numbers killed, the persecutions of Decius and Diocletian were minor and shortlived.

Some years ago I visited the St Tikhon's Institute in Moscow and saw how they were collecting in a database information about all those who had been killed because of their Christian faith during the Bolshevik period. The process is quite a lot further advanced than it was then, and the database has been used to add martyrs to the calendar of the church.

The article The blood of martyrs is the life-giving seed of Christianity! gives information about the progress of the project. So far 1596 new martyrs have been canonised, but there are many more whose details are being recorded. Professor Nikolai Evgenievich Emelianov gives details of the project:
the database of Saint Tikhon’s Theological University collects information about ALL sufferers for Christ, including the ones who are not proposed for canonization. In short, one can say that it is a database or repressions against the Russian Orthodox Church in the 20th century. A monograph with more than 4000 biographical entries has been published on the basis of the database. As of January 1st 2007, there are 29 000 biographies on the University website.
One of the strange things I have noticed, in the light of this, is that I frequently see statements to the effect that "religion is the greatest cause of human suffering". If that were true, then one expect there to be far less of such suffering when the irreligious are in power. But instead, the record shows that when the irreligious are in power there is, if anything, more such suffering, and certainly not less. Atheists seem to be just as capable of cruelty as anyone else, and so the rather smug assertion that "religion is the greatest cause of human suffering" is not only untrue, but a dangerous delusion. I mention this because this delusion seems to be gaining ground in our day.

This is not to say that religious people are not also capable of great cruelty; events like the genocide in Rwanda show this clearly. But the notion that atheists are somehow exempt from this kind of behaviour needs to be shown to be false.


Sally said...

Good post Steve- I guess it is a case of not denying responsibility and yet not owning all of it, humankind is humankind and capable of great cruelty regardless of religious beliefs or none!

Pastor Phil said...


Thanks for this post. A nice responce ot guys like Sam Harris.

Steve Hayes said...


Who's Sam Harris? Is it someone i should know, or someone I should be glad I don't know?

BruceA said...

Sam Harris is an atheist who argues that "religion is the greatest cause of human suffering". He's become very vocal since 9/11, and has published two books.

Steve Hayes said...

Thanks Bruce, for the info.

I've encountered many atheists on line who get quite irrational about this. There was a fellow called Curtis Johnson, with whom
i had many interesting discussions on the RIME Religion conference, in a spirit of mutual respect and tolerence. But when in the Fidonet Holy Smoke conference someone came up with that argument, and I pointed out that if it were true, the atheistic regimes of the 20th century might have had a better human rights record, he went ballistic, and said I had made him so angry that he would never speak to me again. His reaction was quite an eye-opener.

When atheists referred to things like the crusades, the Inquisition, etc, they were utterly scornful of people who tried to argue that those who participated in such things weren't "True Christians". I myself thought it a rather weak argument, though of course there was mure to those things than purely religious motives.

But you could have knocked me down with a feather when the the boot was on the other foot, and atheists were claiming that Stalin, Enver Hoxha & Co weren't "True Atheists".

Agent X said...

This is a very thoughtful post. Even handed too. Well done. Thanks for sharing.

And thanks for visiting the Whats It Worth Dept. Glad to have you. And I responded to your comment there. Please come again...

Many blessings...


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