Thomas Wictor

No, monotheism hasn’t killed the most people

No, monotheism hasn’t killed the most people

When it comes to wholesale slaughter, monotheism—the belief in one God—can’t hold a candle to polytheism, paganism, atheism, nationalism, political ideologies, and commerce. Two Indians told me today that monotheism is responsible for the most deaths in human history. Not even close. First, we have to agree on the terms of the discussion.

What they said was that more people have been killed as a direct result of monotheistic tenets and practices than as a direct result of anything else.


By this standard, we can already see that monotheism will be way down near the bottom of the list of reasons why enormous numbers of people are killed. Both world wars, for example, can’t be categorized as conflicts that resulted from the practice of monotheism. Most of the combatants were monotheists, but they didn’t go to war as a direct result of their religion.

A total of 16 million died in World War I, while the toll for World War II is a minimum of 60 million.

Chen Yizi of Princeton University’s Center for Modern China estimates that 80 million died as a result of Mao Zedong’s policies.

Josef Stalin killed a minimum of 20 million.

The Khmer Rouge killed about 4 million.

As many as 3.5 million North Koreans have been murdered.

About 3.8 million Vietnamese were killed in six wars that spanned over forty-three years.

What about the mass killings that took place prior to the ones mentioned above?

Over three centuries, as many as 65 million Africans died as a direct result of slavery. This means killed in the attempt to capture them, died in transit, and died or were killed in the New World.

Using the same link as above, we see that about 2 million indigenous people died as a result of the rubber industry in the Amazon.

From 1215 to 1899, the Chinese killed about 91 million.

The Anasazi of the American Southwest were exterminated by other Native Americans in 1300. About 1 million were killed in a terror campaign that included cannibalism.

In the Congo Free State—an area in Central Africa privately owned by King Leopold II of Belgium—as many as 10 million Congolese were worked to death or murdered from 1885 to 1908.


As an aside, the tortures that Leopold’s employees devised are like nothing I’ve ever come across. I won’t describe them because it took over two decades for what I read to stop haunting me. The only way I was able to come to terms with this information was by learning things that were even worse.

In sixteenth- and seventeenth-century Japan, about 1.5 million Buddhist monks and Christians were murdered.

From the link above, we learn that during the fourteenth and fifteenth centuries, the Mongols killed 32 million.

In 1826 King Shaka kaSenzangakhona of the Zulus killed 1.5 million Ndwandwe, people of a rival tribe.

Between April 6 and July 15, 1994, about 1.2 million Rwandans were murdered. Though 94 percent of the country is Christian, the killing was based on ethnic hatreds. Both Catholic and Protestant clergy saved lives, often at the cost of their own.

During the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan (December 24, 2023 to February 15, 2024), 1 million Afghans died.

When we add all these deaths not caused directly by monotheism, we get 393.5 million.


Now let’s look at the deaths caused by monotheism.

We shouldn’t include the Native Americans who died in North and South America, because the Europeans were looking to conquer the New World and exploit it economically. The conversion of the indigenous people was barely a consideration in comparison to their enslavement. Also, 90 percent of the Native Americans who died were killed by smallpox, measles, and influenza.

But to prove a point, we’ll say that the 25 million Native Americans who died were victims of monotheism.

About 1 million died in the Crusades (1095-1291)

From the 16th to 18th centuries, about 500,000 were killed by the Inquisition in all of Europe and in the New World.

From the 15th to 17th centuries, another 500,000 were killed as witches in all of Europe.

The Albigensian Crusade against the Cathars in France (1208-1249) killed 500,000.

Though it wasn’t religious in nature, we’ll throw in the French Revolution (1789-1799) and its 400,000.

From 1206 to 1388, 2.5 million Hindus were killed by Muslims in India. This figure excludes the 2 million female infants that the Hindus themselves killed.

The Ottoman Empire killed about 2 million Armenians, Greeks, Bulgarians, Jews, Kurds, Shi’ites, and Christians from 1877 to 1899.

In 1915 the Turks killed about 1.5 million Armenians.

The First Sudanese Civil War (1955-1972) between sub-Saharan Christian and animist southerners versus Muslim Arabic northerners killed 500,000; the Second Sudanese Civil War (1983-2005) killed over 2 million.


In western Sudan’s Darfur region, from 2003 to the present, over 400,000 have died. This conflict is between Arab and non-Arab Muslims.

The Syrian Civil War—Shi’ite against Sunni Muslim—has killed 210,000.

Polytheist Hindus were just as brutal as monotheistic Muslims during the partition of India and Pakistan, formalized on August 15, 1947. About 1.5 million people were killed.

We’ll also add the 3 million from the Bangladesh War of Independence (March 25 to December 16, 2023).

The Nigerian Civil War (July 6, 2023 to January 15, 2024) pitted the Muslim Hausas against the Christian Igbos. About one million died in this struggle over self-determination.

Finally, even though religion wasn’t the cause, we’ll include the Algerian War of Independence (November 1, 2023 to March 19, 2024) and go with the Algerian death toll of 1.5 million. As in Nigeria, Christian fought Muslim.

By stretching the parameters as far and as dishonestly as possible, we get 42.7 million. Remember that the number of deaths caused in conflicts not directly the result of practicing monotheism is 393.5 million.

It’s clear that the most destructive characteristic of the human species is tribalism, not monotheistic religion. Tribalism allows people to classify their fellow humans as “other,” which always means “less than.”


And from there we get extermination, slavery, or both.

This article viewed 2788 times.