Extremists are Extreme


An atheist friend on facebook linked to this cartoon on his wall (*warning: potty language nearby*) from The Oatmeal. If you’d like to avoid adding to the pageviews for a mildly offensive cartoon, I’ll transcribe:

(1st scene, entitled “Islamic Extremists”): Guy #1: “Hey, let’s go bomb an embassy!” Guy #2: “Well okay then!”

(2nd scene, entitled “Christian Extremists”): Guy #1: “Hey, let’s go bomb an abortion clinic!” Guy #2: “Well okay then!”

(3rd scene, entitled “Atheist Extremists”): Guy #1: “Hey, let’s go drink microbrews and talk about OUTER SPACE!” Guy #2: “Well okay then!”

I’ll wait until you’re done laughing… Oh, you’re back. that was fast.

Perhaps I shouldn’t expect a cartoonist to adhere to statistical rigor, but it isn’t hard to make your case when you paint the bad guys according to their worst behavior but the good guys according to their most benign behavior. We might, of course, interview any of the billions of Muslims and Christians who aren’t violent at all and who publicly condemn any violence perpetrated in the name of Islam or Christianity.

I’ll leave it to others with better sources to uncover data on Islam. Data from the National Abortion Federation (again, feel free not to click), show the total number of murders against abortion providers in the U.S. and Canada from 1977 through 2011 is eight, with only three happening since 1995. The total number of bombings from 1977-2011 is 41 with 12 since 1995, and attempted bombings is 100 with 36 since 1995. The total number of violent incidents from 1977-2011 is 6,461; this includes incidents that are awful but don’t seem to be life threatening like invasion, vandalism, trespassing, burglary, and stalking (subtracting these yields 1,719 violent incidents from 1977-2011). A caveat: the NAF indicates “All numbers represent incidents reported to or obtained by NAF. Actual incidents are likely much higher.” However, given that the NAF would have little reason to attempt to understate such numbers, it’s hard to make the case that these numbers are inaccurate because of ideological bias.

Any act of violence committed against an innocent person is morally grave:

The deliberate murder of an innocent person is gravely contrary to the dignity of the human being, to the golden rule, and to the holiness of the Creator. The law forbidding it is universally valid: it obliges each and everyone, always and everywhere. CCC 2261.

Thus, Catholics rightly condemn every single act of violence committed against abortionists or those involved with them. But we can put the NAF numbers in some perspective. Pew finds 78.4% of Americans were Christian in 2007, which would be about 148 million people aged 18 to 64 (what I consider “clinic-bombing age”). Even using the 6,461 NAF number that runs through 2011, this yields about 4.35 (update: that’s four-point-three-five. The CV font doesn’t show the decimal clearly) violent incidents per 100,000 Christian adult non-seniors. This statistic is only meaningful for our cartoonist above if you make the strong assumption that every violent incident against an abortion provider is Christian. For comparison, in 2009 there were 1,318,000 violent crimes just in the U.S. which, divided by the total 18 to 64 (not just Christian) population, yields about 696 violent crimes per 100,000 adult non-seniors. I wouldn’t submit the above data as-is to academic peer-review, but it certainly indicates that the violence committed against abortion clinics is tiny compared to all violent crime.

Communist_heart.svg at wikimedia commons

Communist_heart.svg at wikimedia commons

Again, the above is in no way meant to excuse violence against abortionists or their supporters; those who would commit such offenses have no right at all to be engaging in pro-life or Christian work. It is, however, to give some perspective as to the magnitude of Christian anti-abortion violence. But we might also dig a little deeper into political regimes that officially adopted a position of atheism, such as the Soviet Union, and see whether drinking microbrews and gabbing about asteroids was the worst that they did.

Radio Free Europe and Radio Liberty have an online project called “The Fall – Twenty Years After the Collapse of the U.S.S.R.” It includes great information on what life was like under an officially atheistic regime. Particularly relevant is the video in the “Age of Delirium” section called “God versus Lenin.” When atheism is adopted as official state policy, the humanitarian consequences have hardly been benign.

Of course data here will be hotly debated, but will any serious scholar deny that the death toll under Stalin, Lenin, Mao Tse Tung, Pol Pot, and Castro, all officially atheist regimes, numbered at least in the millions?

This is not a scholarly treatise, and critics will claim that I am looking only at crimes by private individuals in the abortion bombings but state-sanctioned killings by atheist regimes. They will ask why I don’t look at, say, the deaths under George W. Bush from his wars since he was Christian. My intent, though, was to point out how disingenuous it is to continue the “Christians are abortion clinic bombers and atheists are pacifists” meme. If atheists are going to use the worst of Christian behavior to point out how bad Christianity is, they should be ready to confront data about the worst of atheist behavior as implemented by governments. Especially when they push for passage of atheist policies in government.

The victims of atheist atrocities, like those in the former U.S.S.R., won’t forget that atheist extremists are more interested in getting drunk on power than on microbrews.

The views expressed here are those of the author, and do not necessarily represent the views of CatholicVote.org


About Author

Tim Shaughnessy is a cradle Catholic living in Shreveport, Louisiana with undergraduate degrees in economics and political science from Kalamazoo College, and a Master’s and Ph.D. in economics from Florida State University. He teaches economics at the undergraduate and graduate level, and is a faculty advisor for the campus Catholic student organization. He has worked at the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty and was the first managing editor for the Journal of Markets & Morality while an undergraduate. He also worked for Representative Harold Voorhees in the Michigan state legislature. He serves the parish RCIA program as a sponsor and lecturer, and is active in parish and diocesan pro-life activities.

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