Orwell once said, “We have now sunk to a depth at which the restatement of the obvious is the first duty of intelligent men.”
In that spirit, co-blogger Cylar asks a question: Where the hell does this come from?
Every single thing here is silly.
I got it from Rhymes with Cars and Girls. That blogger, the Crimson Reach, got it from Juan Cole. Who apparently just pulled it out of his ass. Behold the reasoning of — God help us –the Richard P. Mitchell Collegiate Professor of History at the University of Michigan.
Professor Cole argues that the violence inspired by Islam is small potatoes next to “the Christian European tally of, oh, lets [sic] 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.)”
Let’s leave aside for the moment the 24 million supposedly attributable to “colonial wars.” Let’s even grant for a sec the (highly problematic) notion that World War I’s 16 million dead were somehow related to Christianity. I’m truly fascinated by this claim, that 60 million people killed in World War II were directly linked to Christians of European origin.
Where does one begin with this nonsense? With the observation that, in Europe, the Nazis were the aggressors? The Nazis, whose relationship with Christianity is, ahem, a bit nuanced?
Many of the Nazi elite believed that their own party doctrine and Christianity shared common themes such as the opposition of good against evil, God against the devil and the struggle for national salvation from the Jews and Marxism. This positive Christianity enfolded both Catholicism and Protestantism, for the Nazis believed that confessional disunity presented the greatest challenge to national unity.
And that’s the jacket copy of a dissertation that “argues against the consensus that Nazism as a whole was either unrelated to Christianity or actively opposed to it” (my emphasis). N.b. to Professors Cole and Steigmann-Gall: “shared common themes” might cut it in a graduate seminar, but in the real world it’s pretty weak sauce. (By that logic, there’s not a dime’s worth of difference between Ann Coulter and Michael Moore, since their work shares the common theme of American politics).
“Since my fourteenth year I have felt liberated from the superstition that the priests used to teach.” — Adolf Hitler, “Table Talk,” 1942
That aside, there’s still the matter of putting attackers and defenders on the same tab. Sure, Poland in 1939 was a pretty Catholic place, but does Professor Cole seriously believe the Poles would’ve rolled out the welcome mat for Hitler had they been atheists? So, too, does every Luftwaffe pilot shot down by the RAF count against Christianity; every civilian casualty inflicted by American bombers; all the collateral damage caused by the Western Allies as they fought from North Africa to the Elbe. The Americans, British, and French were all Christians, right? Therefore all the killing, necessary and incidental, that went into defeating the Nazis also goes in the Jesus column on the great scoreboard in the sky.
And then there’s the USSR. It would come as quite the shock to ex-seminarian Josef Stalin to learn that Russia’s 20-odd million war dead were actually a bunch of onward Christian soldiers. Wiki:
The Soviet Union was the first state to have, as an ideological objective, the elimination of religion and its replacement with universal atheism. The communist regime confiscated religious property, ridiculed religion, harassed believers, and propagated atheism in schools.
Which is kinda what you’d expect from a regime based on the doctrines of Karl “opiate of the masses” Marx, no?
Let’s not forget the Buddhists, though, at whose feet “some” of World War II’s 60 million dead must be laid according to Professor Cole. The low-end figure for war losses in China is ten million; Japan lost 2.12 million in battle. That’s a lot of “some,” don’t you think? But even that’s ridiculous, since Buddhism had even less to do with the Japanese variant of fascism than Christianity did with Nazism (the religious tradition animating the Imperial Japanese Army’s “emperor worship” was Shinto, for the record). Chiang Kai-Shek was a Christian, it’s true, but as anyone who knows anything about Chinese history is aware, that belief hurt him considerably with his constituents (though it did net him a fair amount of Western aid); the idea that the GMD followed the cross into battle is ridiculous. And Mao was, of course, a communist.
Pictured: Not a Christian. Also not a Buddhist. Also not European.
Which brings us to the connection between nationalism, Christianity, and violence. Professor Cole wants us to believe that World War One was some kind of Crusade. He writes:
Sometimes it is argued that [European nations] did not act in the name of religion but of nationalism. But, really, how naive. Religion and nationalism are closely intertwined. The British monarch is the head of the Church of England, and that still meant something in the first half of the twentieth century, at least. The Swedish church is a national church.
Leaving aside that nonsense about Sweden (which hasn’t fought a war since the Napoleonic era), Professor Cole would have us believe that the British, at least, entered World War I for religious reasons. One could make the argument that Christianity, as a stand in for “civilization” more generally, was a part of the Britain’s motivation in that war (the victory medals were inscribed “The Great War for Civilization”), but the proximate cause for their participation was the violation of Belgium’s neutrality by Germany. I’m sure Professor Cole has a monograph on the Jesus-y origins of the Triple Entente, but while we’re waiting, we can review the ideology of the Black Hand and its role in the… oh, wait: They swore by God to serve the organization. Eureka!
(That they also swore “by the Sun which shineth upon me, by the Earth which feedeth me…by the blood of my forefathers, by my honour and by my life” seems kinda important, but since we’re lumping avowedly neopagan Nazis in with Christians, we’ll just ignore that. We’ll also ignore logic, which would seem to indicate that if the British were fighting for Christianity-as-civilization, then the Germans were necessarily on the other side. Oh well).
Which brings us, sigh, to colonialism. I’ve spared you the worst of Professor Cole’s sophistry thus far, but we can’t put it off any longer. Brace yourselves.
First up: Belgium, which apparently killed off 8 million Congolese in the name of religion. Problem is, the source he cites — The New York Times’ review of Adam Hochschild’s King Leopold’s Ghost — doesn’t mention religion. At all. According to Hochschild (according to reviewer Michiko Kakutani),
Some [of the 8 million] were beaten or whipped to death for failing to meet the rigid production quotas for ivory and rubber harvests, imposed by Leopold’s agents. Some were worked to death, forced to labor in slavelike conditions as porters, rubber gatherers or miners for little or no pay.
Some died of the diseases introduced to (and spread throughout) the Congo by Europeans. And still others died from the increasingly frequent famines that swept the Congo basin as Leopold’s army rampaged through the countryside, appropriating food and crops for its own use while destroying villages and fields.
As with the British in World War I, you’d have to take Belgium’s claim of a civilizing mission –”a kind of benevolent protectorship that would bring a civilizing influence to the continent,” as Kakutani puts it — as an unambiguous call for crusade to shoehorn Congolese casualties into that silly pie chart.
And the silliness has only begun. Apologies in advance for the length of this extract, which could be damaging to your IQ:
Or, between 1916-1930 Tsarist Russian and then Soviet forces — facing the revolt of Central Asians trying to throw off Christian (and then Marxist), European rule — Russian forces killed an estimated 1.5 million people. Two boys brought up in or born in one of those territories (Kyrgyzstan) just killed 4 people and wounded others critically. That is horrible, but no one, whether in Russia or in Europe or in North America has the slightest idea that Central Asians were mass-murdered during WW I and before and after, and looted of much of their wealth. Russia when it brutally conquered and ruled the Caucasus and Central Asia was an Eastern Orthodox, Christian empire (and seems to be reemerging as one!).
Since I took my history classes somewhere other than the University of Michigan, I actually was aware that “Central Asians were mass-murdered during WW I and before and after,” but maybe I’m the exception that proves the rule. So let’s leave that aside. But I do question the professionalism of any historian who would deliberately obfuscate a timeline like this. Let me put some dates to Professor Cole’s claims.
Russia when it brutally conquered and ruled the Caucasus and Central Asia was an Eastern Orthodox, Christian empire.
This is true enough, but it happened in the 16th through 19th centuries. Which is problematic for Professor Cole on two counts: 1) He’s getting on his moral high horse about the twentieth century; and 2) Much of that expansion took place at the expense of the Ottoman Empire, which was — ahem — an aggressively expansionist Muslim state. If we’re counting Kazakhs killed in the 16th-19th centuries against 20th century Christians, we really need to add Russians killed by the Turks in the same time period to Islam’s tally.
Or, between 1916-1930 Tsarist Russian and then Soviet forces — facing the revolt of Central Asians trying to throw off Christian (and then Marxist), European rule — Russian forces killed an estimated 1.5 million people.
Again, true enough, but notice the dates. In the period 1916-1930, Russia was under the rule of the (Eastern Orthodox) Romanovs for a grand total of fifteen months. They were ousted in March 1917, and Lenin and the boys — atheists all — took over in November. It’s also important to note that, according to Professor Cole’s own link, the “[m]illions of Central Asians…added to the empire’s population” under the Romanovs “is similar to the current demographic profile [of the successor states], due to Stalinist liquidations during which millions of Central Asians perished.” Ooops. Add a few more millions to atheism’s tab.
And, while we’re at it, add most any Russians killed by Turkmen to Islam’s tab. As well as most any French killed by Algerians. For if, as Professor Cole asserts, the “between half a million and a million Algerians [killed] in that country’s war of independence from France, 1954-1962″ count against Christianity, then French casualties count against Islam, as he has already stipulated that nationalist movements are really religious movements.
And that’s just Christian / Muslim violence. Apparently colonialism transmutes Jewish terrorism into Christian killings. How else to explain this nonsense?
Zionists in British Mandate Palestine were active terrorists in the 1940s, from a British point of view, and in the period 1965-1980, the FBI considered the Jewish Defense League among the most active US terrorist groups….Even more recently, it is difficult for me to see much of a difference between Tamerlan Tsarnaev and Baruch Goldstein, perpetrator of the Hebron massacre.
Hindus go on the Christian tab too, I guess, as do Buddhists (but not the same “Buddhists” who attacked Pearl Harbor):
Or there was the cold-blooded bombing of the Ajmer shrine in India by Bhavesh Patel and a gang of Hindu nationalists….Buddhists have committed a lot of terrorism and other violence as well. Many in the Zen orders in Japan supported militarism in the first half of the twentieth century, for which their leaders later apologized. And, you had Inoue Shiro’s assassination campaign in 1930s Japan. Nowadays militant Buddhist monks in Burma/ Myanmar are urging on an ethnic cleansing campaign against the Rohingya.
I think he means the “League of Blood” (Nissho Inoue was born Inoue Shiro), the popular press term for the movement which resulted when “Inoue became convinced that national reform could be achieved only through violent confrontation with what he saw as the forces of evil: pro-Western liberal politicians and zaibatsu business interests,” but forget it, he’s rolling. Point is, says Professor Cole, “Terrorism is a tactic of extremists within each religion, and within secular religions of Marxism or nationalism. No religion, including Islam, preaches indiscriminate violence against innocents.”
Which would be fine, I guess, except that all of these instances of terrorism are subsumed into “killed by Christians of European heritage” in his silly little pie chart. And — more to the point — it leaves open a huge, glaring question:
Are Professor Cole, and the knuckleheads who cut and paste his utterly tendentious chart on Facebook, ok with discriminate violence?
Because while neither Islam nor any other religion, sacred or secular, preaches indiscriminate violence, that’s not what terrorists like the Tsarnevs are doing. There are no “innocents” in the Wahhabi version of Islam that animates Al Qaeda and other Islamist terrorist groups. One is either in the Dar al-Islam or the Dar al-Harb, the “House of War,” against which any and all aggression is permitted.
It’s the same all the way down the line. There are no innocents in Marxism, either — the Revolution preached by Marx and so eagerly embraced by Lenin, Stalin, Mao, and others is explicitly violent; it ends with the elimination of the bourgeoisie. If colonialists — the targets of nationalist violence — were innocent, much of Professor Cole’s argument would lose its force (and he, along with a huge chunk of the historical profession, would be out of a job). The Crusades and the Inquisition, rightly maligned for their violence, weren’t targeted at innocents either — Muslims, Jews, and heretics were viewed as agents of evil actively attempting the overthrow of Christendom and the arrival of the Antichrist.
In other words: None of the violence Professor Cole details is “indiscriminate.” In the minds of its perpetrators, it’s all directed at legitimate targets.
The ideologies that “legitimate” these actions are what decent people call into question. And to those questions, Professor Cole, and those who throw his chart around, provide no answer.