In “The Irrational Atheist,” I conclusively demonstrated the falsehood of the common atheist calumny that religion is a primary cause of war. Any examination of either military history or military strategy will suffice to prove that while there have been a small number of religious wars throughout recorded history, most wars did not involve religion and most religions have not inspired military conflict. Indeed, to claim that religion causes war is tantamount to confessing one’s near-complete ignorance of the historical record.
While most literate individuals are aware of the atheism of mass murderers such as Josef Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao Zedong, they are not aware of how many other atheist leaders have been responsible for mass murder. In one of the book’s appendices, I provided a list of 49 other atheist leaders who had overseen the slaughter of at least 20,000 individuals; these 52 leaders represent the majority of atheists who have ever held supreme political power. This number is particularly striking when one considers the fact that the Christian king responsible for what was considered the worst crime in Christendom’s Wars of Religion, the Saint Bartholomew’s Day massacre, died regretting his role in the deaths of an estimated 10,000 French Huegenots.
And yet, the scale of King Charles IX’s crime is but a fraction of the great crimes of the 20th century anti-religious atheist zealots; it is also vastly overshadowed by history’s very first atheist-influenced regime. Although it has largely been whitewashed by a France that still reveres its Revolution and is therefore little known in comparison with the Revolutionary regime’s more notorious crimes, the story of the Committee for Public Safety’s decision to slaughter the Vendéean people, who dared to resist the ordered closure of their churches, is finally beginning to be told thanks to a bold French aristocrat.
In early 1794 – at the height of the Reign of Terror – French soldiers marched to the Atlantic Vendée, where peasants had risen up against the Revolutionary government in Paris. Twelve “infernal columns” commanded by Gen. Louis-Marie Turreau were ordered to kill everyone and everything they saw. Thousands of people – including women and children – were massacred in cold blood, and farms and villages torched. … “There was in the Revolution a clearly stated programme to wipe out the Vendéean race,” said Philippe de Villiers, European deputy and former presidential candidate for the right-wing traditionalist Movement for France, or MPF, Party. “Why did it take place? Because a people was chosen to be liquidated on account of their religious faith.”
– The Daily Telegraph, Dec. 26, 2008
Now, it must be kept in mind that the French Revolution was not a purely atheist enterprise; only two of the members of the Committee for Public Safety, d’Herbois and Billaud-Varenne, were confirmed atheists. It is also true that the massacres may not have been a genocide proper, but rather the vicious aftermath of a civil war triggered by religious oppression and persecution by the Revolutionary French regime. But both the Committee and the Revolution were avowedly anti-clerical, and there is no question that the Revolutionary slaughter of 170,000 Vendéeans was primarily driven by anti-religious sentiment. So, the war in Vendée not only demonstrates the falsehood of the “religion causes war” theme, but also underlines the tendency of anti-religious regimes to commit large-scale atrocities.
Atheists such as Richard Dawkins inevitably attempt to defend their non-faith, if not the actions of their historical predecessors, by claiming that historical actions such as the Vendée massacres were not committed in the name of atheism. But this is an absurd and inept attempt at a defense. Any thinking individual would laugh at a similarly illogical claim that Marlboro’s can’t cause cancer because no smoker lights up in the name of Marlboro. And no hand waving or philosophical floundering will ever lessen the horrifying impact of Gen. Francois Joseph Westermann’s letter to the infamous Committee.
“There is no more Vendée … According to the orders that you gave me, I crushed the children under the feet of the horses, massacred the women who, at least for these, will not give birth to any more brigands. I do not have a prisoner to reproach me. I have exterminated all. The roads are sown with corpses. At Savenay, brigands are arriving all the time claiming to surrender, and we are shooting them non-stop … Mercy is not a revolutionary sentiment.”