A young writer I sometimes encourage recently shared this attack on Christianity in social media. It contained enough easily disproved BS that I had to engage.
Since this apologetic is from a High School source, I will do the High School Essay format (which, after HS, one really should avoid like… well… a plague!)
This is a propaganda piece that incorporates a couple easily contested items. First, skewed numbers, second, ignoring both sides of a biological population exchange. Second, it claims that death from disease were slaughter. Third, it ignores the effects of Native American diseases on the European population. Fourth, its primary claim is an attack on Christianity as responsible for the genocide while ignoring actual, deliberate genocides by Communism.
First, let’s talk numbers. It’s highly doubtful that there were even 100 million people alive in the Americas in 1492. This photo uses the highest possible population estimate of around 112 million. The number is highly contested in scholarship!
William M. Denevan writes that, “The discovery of America was followed by possibly the greatest demographic disaster in the history of the world.” Research by some scholars provides population estimates of the pre-contact Americas to be as high as 112 million in 1492, while others estimate the population to have been as low as eight million. In any case, the native population declined to less than six million by 1650.
How do you get a 100 million people “slaughtered” if the other estimates (8 million is the low estimate, for example.) are true, or even the median of 52 million? Remember the context, from 1492 to 1650, a hundred and sixty years to kill that many, attribute every death to slaughter, not including disease and old age, and inter-tribal warfare, to those EEEEVIL Christians. For example, that 112 million figure counts the whole maximum population of the Yucatan peninsula, even though that complex of cities peaked in 900-1000 and was effectively deserted before Columbus ever thought of sailing west! Shoot, there is six to eight million of that estimate accidentally lost to a mere 500 years’ difference in crappy scholarship.
That also ignores the American-on-American genocides that went on during this period. It sucked to be Indian in Ohio when the Iroquois came to kill you all to take your land for economic exploitation in the Beaver Wars. But hey… 5 states’ worth of depopulation by Iroquois’s for better hunting ground was totally slaughter by Christians… somehow…
It also ignores wars between Native tribes, whether or not Europeans were present. When some 75,000 Native Americans rallied to the Conquistadors to help stop the Aztecs ripping out the hearts of 5,000 or more of their kids, let’s say that the couple hundred nominally Christian Spaniards were responsible for all the deaths as opposed to the dozens of thousands of Natives fighting beside them.
Squanto’s account of the American east coast is telling. In the space of a few years entire civilizations disappeared as disease wiped them out. But even though the Europeans knew crap about disease and germs, it was totally a deliberate slaughter by Christianity that diseases they didn’t understand killed people they hadn’t ever met in numbers they couldn’t document.
In order to keep the Christians are Evil and Always Wrong narrative up, we also have to ignore the deaths from disease that occurred in Europe (whose population was only about 70 million at the time two continents’ of biology clashed). Syphilis suddenly appeared in Europe in 1494 (Yes, if you dig you will find people who claim it had always been there without Europeans noticing, which puts them in the same group as those asserting that Christians were to blame for the depopulation of the Yucatan 500 years before they ever showed up. Europeans may have been clueless about germs, but they recorded illnesses thoroughly throughout their history.) and the only reason we didn’t lose 96 percent of our population was the fact that the New World plague was an STD and the Old World plague spread by casual contact. There is only so much of your population that one can fatally fornicate upon, after all. Also, being an STD’s the actual practicing Christians, who kept it in their pants until marriage, say, were completely passed by. No sex outside of marriage (for both people, no 1940’s double-standard) turns out to be a 100% effective preventative for STD’s.
There is no such thing as abstinence from Smallpox.
There was up until very recently some debate about whether or not syphilis was in fact a “New World” disease because there are over 50 skeletons that have been found with all the markings of syphilis being the cause of death and that were once thought to date to pre-Columbian times. However, advancements in dating technology and a recent (2011) comprehensive study published in the Yearbook of Physical Anthropology looking at all of the skeletons placed those people’s deaths after Columbus returned from the Americas.
The initial syphilis epidemic is thought to have killed upwards of a few million Euopeans as it made its rounds. Artist Albrecht Dürer remarked,
God save me from the French disease. I know of nothing of which I am so afraid … Nearly every man has it and it eats up so many that they die.
The disease continued to be a problem into the 20th century. It’s caused by bacteria Treponema pallidum, which can attack the nervous system, heart, brain, and internal organs, causing a variety of health problems and, sometimes, death. A cure wasn’t developed until the 1940s with the development of penicillin.
That being said, syphilis was the disease of note for hundreds of years. It dominates all other maladies in the art and literature of Europe in the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries. It was so closely linked to the new world that at one point the French Academy had to publicly announce that potatoes didn’t cause syphilis. Five hundred years of suffering isn’t the same as a quick 96% mortality rate, but I’m willing to bet that a few centuries have gone a long way towards catching up on numbers.
Finally let’s look at the claim of “The Greatest Genocide in Human History”. Our propagandist attributes a 150-year period to a single genocide. So, let’s start adding. My choice would be deaths due to Communism in the last century.
Joseph Stalin was in some sort of power from 1922-1952. The International Business Times has a great number on Stalin’s death toll.
An amoral psychopath and paranoid with a gangster’s mentality, Stalin eliminated anyone and everyone who was a threat to his power – including (and especially) former allies. He had absolutely no regard for the sanctity of human life.
But how many people is he responsible for killing?
In February 1989, two years before the fall of the Soviet Union, a research paper by Georgian historian Roy Aleksandrovich Medvedev published in the weekly tabloid Argumenti i Fakti estimated that the death toll directly attributable to Stalin’s rule amounted to some 20 million lives (on top of the estimated 20 million Soviet troops and civilians who perished in the Second World War), for a total tally of 40 million.
”It’s important that they published it, although the numbers themselves are horrible,” Medvedev told the New York Times at the time.
”Those numbers include my father.”
Chairman Mao of China was no piker, either. Rutgers sums it up:
The death toll amassed by Mao and his regime range from forty- to seventy-million, eclipsing the Jewish victims of Hitler’s Holocaust by a factor of six to eleven times. Nine years after seizing power, Mao instituted “The Great Leap Forward,” a socioeconomic plan designed to transform China’s agrarian socioeconomic culture towards an industrialized one. The program, which was grounded upon the Marxian prescription for the advancement of industrial technology, yielded the deaths of twenty to forty-three million.
Pol Pot killed 2,000,000 or 25% of his population in half a decade (1975-79) for the sake of his Communist ideals.
R. J. Rummel’s Statistics of Democide provide some deliberately moderate estimates of further Communist slaughters. My favorite quote is about the death toll the Communists inflicted on the region when America pulled out:
Finally, I can calculate the overall democide of Vietnam in the post-Vietnam War period (lines 762 to 764). This amounts to 346,000 to 2,438,000 Vietnamese, Cambodians, and Laotians, probably about 1,040,000….
In total 3,760,000 Vietnamese probably died of political violence during over forty-two years (line 831). Some 1,250,000, or over 33 percent of them were murdered. This does not count Laotians and Cambodians killed by Vietnamese governments, virtually all by Hanoi. When these are added and those Vietnamese killed by foreigners subtracted, the total democide by Vietnamese is 1,760,000 people (line 838).
That’s not counting the death tolls inflicted by the Communist regimes themselves when they revolted or invaded. We’re still at nearly 90 million deliberate deaths within an 80 year span compared to between 47 million deaths over 150 years by a mechanism the Europeans didn’t understand or control.
If you want to go for the BIG numbers because they’re shocking, let’s max out our stats. That puts Native American death at just under 100 million. With 40+ million for Stalin and 75+ million for Mao (which is still generous as I’ve heard 150 from more than one source), 2+ million for Pol Pot, 3.5+ million inflicted by Vietnamese Communists in the region, and completely North Korea. 120 million versus 100 million, Communism still wins with enough of a gap to swing the entire Nazi Holocaust through the space between them.
But even to do that you have to equate disease with Genocide, in which case the EEEVIL population of Sub-Saharan Africa is currently genociding innocent victims across the world with the AIDS virus.
That’s hideously unfair, and blatantly untrue, yes? Just as in the Columbian Exchange, the people at the source of the disease’s spread are suffering, too.
So, don’t tell me that the same smallpox virus responsible for such a hideous infant morality rate in Europe that in some centuries people couldn’t bear to name their children before they were 2 or 3 because they were probably just dead anyway, was some evil persecution of white Christians.
Every population migration in the history of the world is tragic, involves great loss of life and culture. Celts are still sorely upset because of the Germanic migrations around the fall of Rome. But the pains and suffering of the Native American people, while real and valid, are neither the greatest nor the most horrific ever to occur in human history.
A fun blurb for further reading: