Blog post by US academic Juan Cole (sometimes linked to in twitter)

Text below

Twentieth Century Deaths in War and Political Violence by Religion

Total: 102 Million

Killed by Christians of European Heritage [very large slice]

Killed by Muslims [very small slice]

Text from the blog post:

I don’t figure that Muslims killed more than a 2 million people or so in political violence in the entire twentieth century, and that mainly in the Iran-Iraq War 1980-1988 and the Soviet and post-Soviet wars in Afghanistan, for which Europeans bear some blame.

Compare that to the Christian European tally of, oh, lets say 100 million (16 million in WW I, 60 million in WW II– though some of those were attributable to Buddhists in Asia– and millions more in colonial wars.)

In the comments section, the Armenian genocide, which wasn't mentioned by Cole in the blog post, is discussed:


Well bethought, but I think you should add the Armenian massacres at the hands of the Turks to Muslim side of equation. It doesn’t alter your main point, but adds a percentage point to the Muslim side of the equation.


The Iran-Iraq War killed about 250,000, the Afghanistan War 1 million, so there’s room for other things in the original estimate. But if it was 3 million it would not change my point.

Is the ratio of people killed by political violence by Christians compared to people killed by political violence by Muslims roughly thirty to fifty to one?

Whether or not Nazi Germany counts as political violence by Christians isn't my main point of concern - it's more whether he's sweeping under the carpet lesser known cases of political violence by Muslims, just like he initially didn't mention the Armenian genocide.

  • 46
    You may not think whether Hitler was Christian is unimportant, but the site you link obviously thinks so.nit has also laid at the door of Chrustianity the deaths carried out by Soviet Union, an explicitly atheist regime. – DJClayworth Jun 13 '16 at 1:18
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    What can also be misleading that the post explicitly centers on religion, and it's obvious that it's based on (or tries to anwer) the anti-Islamic sentiment regarding several recent terrorist attacks. However, it is not limited to religiously motivated killings, but it still makes itself look as if it was counting religiously motivated killings. Very few if any of the World War casualties were carried out in the name of Christianity, but the post still tries to generate a feeling that Christianity was the sole (or the main) factor. – vsz Jun 13 '16 at 6:17
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    @vsz: well, it explicitly makes the claim that all war and political killings are religiously motivated. Which I consider rubbish, but it's not a matter of just counting numbers. "Sometimes it is argued that they did not act in the name of religion but of nationalism. But, really, how naive. Religion and nationalism are closely intertwined". A Skeptics answer to that would have to avoid both the naivety of ignoring religion entirely, and the naivety of making the word "motivated" utterly meaningless by saying anything someone of Christian descent does is motivated by Christianity. – Steve Jessop Jun 13 '16 at 9:31
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    I'm flagging for closure as opinion based, the fundamental premise of the claim is flawed as has been mentioned. Not to mention Muslim countries and Muslims in non-Muslim countries were involved in the world wars. There is no feasible way to break the numbers out of this in an objective way because the criteria by which the comparison is being made is broken to start with. – Ryan Jun 15 '16 at 16:44
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    @Dawn, Experts, wouldn't touch this in the manner claimed in the first place. It's not "hard" it's nonsensical. The graph is trying to conflate 2 things that are not related and compare them. But just for giggles here are some quick numbers to show how poorly made the graph is. It's sighting 60 million deaths in WW2, well 20 million of those happened in China/Asia/Pacific and were related to imperial japan, not a "christian" country. Another 20 million of those happened in the Soviet Union, due largely to Soviet decision making, and Christianity was banned at the time. cont. – Ryan Jun 15 '16 at 17:52

No, the figures that were used to produce this graph are inaccurate, exaggerating the ratio.

The basic numbers being claimed are:

  1. Christian Europe killed 100 million in the 20th Century, consisting of:

    • 60 million in World War II
    • 16 million in World War I
    • millions more in colonial wars.
  2. Muslims killed more than a 2 million people or so in political violence in the entire 20th Century.

Look at those claims:

World World II Deaths

The overall death count estimate of 60 million is reasonable.

However, it is incorrect to attribute these deaths to Christian forces.

The responsibility for deaths in WW2 by country breaks down like this:

If we adopt the stance of the original blog post, where the dominant religion for a country is assumed, we can group the countries and their death counts by religion:

Christians: USA, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Others(for simplicity)

Those countries were responsible for about 20 - 24 million deaths. It is hard to be precise as it's hard to pin how many deaths in the USSR were caused by Germans.

Atheists: Soviet Union, China

These countries were responsible for 20+ million deaths.

China was mostly on the receiving end.

Buddhist/Shinto/Other: Japan

Japan was responsible for 20+ million deaths, mostly in China.

World War I Deaths

The estimate of 16 million deaths is low. 30-37 million is more accurate

9 million that died in Russia were in large part due to a civil war that broke out there which was led by socialists/atheists.

The Ottoman Empire was a large player in WW1 and suffered between 2.5 and 5 million casualties depending on the source, most of which were self-inflicted.

No clear conclusion can be drawn for exact numbers from WW1 but 16 million at the feet of Christian nations is clearly off.

Colonial War Deaths

Best I can tell about 4-5 million died. It is far short of the 23 million assumed to reach the total in the claim .

Muslim Deaths

A cursory glance at Wikipedia's list of modern conflicts in the Middle East and some addition of the numbers from 1900 to 1999 leaves us with a total of 4 million deaths, not counting the Armenian/Turkish genocide mentioned in the Ottoman Empire in WW1. Combine them and you have between 6.5 and 9 million deaths.

Some other conflicts of note are, the Partition of India in which an estimated 2 million people went missing (roughly split between Muslims and Hindu). And the Bangladeshi Genocide where a middle of the road estimate brings in other 1.5 million dead.

This is by no means an all-inclusive list.

My estimate then for Muslim caused deaths is 9.5 - 15 million deaths.

In summary, using the upper estimates from each category, the graphic should read total deaths of 116 million (only if it included non-Christians/non-Muslims).

Using no deeper categorisation than the country/party**, this should be broken down as:

Christian countries: 40-45 million
Muslim countries: 15 million
Other countries: 55-60 million

So in regards to the claim, Christian nations haven't killed 30-50 times as many people as Muslim nations. The ratio is closer to 3:1.

* By definition in claim.
** Bolshevik party in Russia

Finally: this is by no means an exhaustive list of any of the war categories and grossly oversimplifies something that Rudolph Rummel spends 300 pages writing about in his book, Statistics of Democide from which I pulled lots of this information.

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    It's a pity comments are closed on the original blog post, a link to this answer would have been nice to post there. Most of the reply on the blog post praise it for how "factual" it is. I guess non-conforming replies were deleted. – vsz Jun 16 '16 at 6:10
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    I think the important point is that whoever was in control of China, it wasn't Europeans and wasn't Muslims. – DJClayworth Jun 20 '16 at 13:28
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    What about Mao starving ~50 mil? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Great_Chinese_Famine and Russians starving Ukrainians? en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holodomor – Matas Vaitkevicius Sep 15 '16 at 15:12
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    @MatasVaitkevicius, as I indicated in my post this is by no means an exhaustive list. The 20th century was the bloodiest ever in human history. I could write a PhD or book or 4 on this topic and there's no way I can cover it all in one post. I merely set out to show how grossly wrong the claim in the OP was. – Ryan Sep 15 '16 at 16:46
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    @Sklivvz, really? They were only discussed in the context of WW2 where the original author of the claim ascribed those deaths to Christians. It was important to note that while the death toll described for WW2 was accurate how it was being portrayed was very inaccurate. – Ryan Jan 6 '17 at 18:04

Deaths by Christians

World War I Deaths.

According to World War I casualties (Wikipedia), 10-13 million deaths occured in Christian majority countries of which vast majority were inflicted by other Christians (Russian Empire was largely Christian then).

World War II Deaths.

According to Ryan's answer:

The overall death count estimate of 60 million is reasonable.

The responsibility for deaths in WW2 by country breaks down like this:

If we adopt the stance of the original blog post, where the dominant religion for a country is assumed, we can group the countries and their death counts by religion:

Christians: USA, UK, France, Germany, Italy, Others(for simplicity)

Those countries were responsible for about 20 - 24 million deaths. It is hard to be precise as it's hard to pin how many deaths in the USSR were caused by Germans.

Colonial Deaths.

Secondary Wars and Atrocities of the Twentieth Century gives us an estimate of around 4 to 5 million.

According to Churchill's Secret War, British scorched earth policy resulted in the death of around 3 million people.

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250,000 deaths in Philipine American war.

Vietnam War caused around 1.5-4 million deaths.

4.5 million deaths in Korean_War.

5 million children dead in Iraq due to political sanctions.

The US/ UN sanctions on Iraq of the 1990s, which interdicted chlorine for much of that decade and so made water purification impossible, are estimated to have killed another 500,000 Iraqis, mainly children. (Infants and toddlers die easily from diarrhea caused by gastroenteritis, which causes fatal dehydration). Ref

Deaths by Muslims

After the nationist, secularist and pan-Democratic Young Turks took over the Ottoman empire through the Young Turk Revolution (it was actually a coup), they turned it into a multi party Democracy. Soon these self proclaimed Muslims (who didn't promote any Islamic system nor were religious) launched multiple genocides: (I am saying this because the western press mostly associates these atrocities with Islam or ignores the fact that the perpetrators were secularist pan-Democractic nationalist Turks.)

Greek Genocide - 450,000–750,000

Armenian Genocide - 1.5 million

Assyrian Genocide - 150,000–300,000

List_of_modern_conflicts_in_the_Middle_East gives us an estimate of around 4 million deaths. These wars were largely faught between Muslims.

In the 1960s, a military general took over the government of Indonesia. He violently suppressed communist rebellion by killing around 500,000 - 1 million people. The youth wing of Indonesia's largest Islamist group supported him in that.

Around 200000 Algerians died in the Algerian_Civil_War which is a predominantly Muslim country.

Iran–Iraq War was responsible for the deaths of upto 1 million people.The war was initiated by Iraq's dictator Saddam Hossain who was supported by the United States. US helped Iraq get chemical weapons which increased the death toll. Both parties of the war were Muslim.

139,000–320,000 people died in the Iraqi-Kurdish conflict. One party of the war was supported by the USA and UK.

Subsequently, one month after the Gulf War in February 1991, United States President George H. W. Bush called on the Iraqi people to stage an uprising against Saddam Hussein. This was followed by a series of rebellions in many parts of the country, such as the south by Shi'ite groups such as SCIRI and the Islamic Da'awa Party. Meanwhile, the Kurds in the north staged their own uprising for autonomy, under the leadership of Massoud Barzani, leader of the Kurdistan Democratic Party, and Jalal Talabani, leader of the Patriotic Union of Kurdistan. -- Source

The North Yemen Civil_War resulted in 100,000–200,000 deaths. Its wiki entry says:

On the royalist side Jordan and Saudi Arabia supplied military aid, and Britain gave covert support, while the republicans were supported by Egypt and were supplied warplanes from the Soviet Union. -- Source

In the Bangladesh_Liberation_War, 3,000,000 people died according to Bangladesh's government. It was faught between nationist Pakis vs Nationalist Bengalis.

The article in question seems to have come up with the estimates based on whether the perpetrators were from a group deminated by either Muslims or Christians. Based on the same reasoning, deaths by Muslim dominated groups is around 8-11 million and deaths by Christian dominated one's is around 48.7-58.7 million. (The estimate may need to be improved. I would welcome all suggestions to improve this answer.)

I have entirely removed the deaths due to partition of India because it wasn't due to political violence. No political entities actually supported the violence. It was the result of extreme conditions people faced while travelling huge distances and other reasons.

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    Why do you attribute the partition of India a conflict between Muslims and Hindu to Cristians, and the Bengal famine of 1943 was not part of a war or an act of political violence, it was a failure of economic policy. Also, please address the fact that not all death in the 20th century were commited by either Muslims or Christians. – SIMEL Jan 6 '17 at 9:42
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    "Why do you attribute the partition of India a conflict between Muslims and Hindu to Cristians," The conflict was the result of Colonial British Divide and Rule Policy. jstor.org/stable/40400043?seq=6#page_scan_tab_contents They started the conflict. – Mohammad Sakib Arifin Jan 6 '17 at 10:26
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    @IlyaMelamed "Bengal famine of 1943 was not part of a war or an act of political violence" The British army deliberately destroyed the whole transportation system of Bengal to prevent a Japanese invasion. This caused the famine. May I know how that's not political violence? – Mohammad Sakib Arifin Jan 6 '17 at 10:58
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    Thanks. I think the answer would be better if it counted war deaths by who inflicted them instead of attributing them to the perceived cause. – Sklivvz Jan 6 '17 at 11:35
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    Your answer is pretty much the same as @Ryan's answer, and even uses it as a source, with the acception of the bengali famine and the strange comments about the Turkish leadership after WWI. How does it contribute? – SIMEL Jan 6 '17 at 17:16

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