One of the recurring themes of evangelical Christianity is that atheism means people have no reason to look after each other, supporting the allegation that it led the deaths of millions during the 20th century. Disregarding for a moment the reality that wars are caused by elite power conflicts and generally have little to do with religious belief or a lack thereof, I thought I'd check out who led some of the more famous wars and genocides in history...
Starting with the most famous of all:
Deaths: Between 11 and 17 million people
Unfortunately, this is a bad start for the religious, Hitler was a devout Catholic who drew on his religion as a justification for what became the Holocaust.
In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders.
Hitler to General Gerhard Engel, 1941
I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so.
Leader: Théodore Sindikubwabo
Oops, another loser for the men of the cross. Theodore, who memorably told his fellow Hutus to "get working" (ie. kill more Tutsis), was not only a Catholic and backed by the powerful Rwandan Catholic church (left over from Belgium's christian-led occupation of the country), he claimed divine inspiration was behind the massacre, saying God would help the Hutus against the "enemy."
Colonising of the Americas
Leaders: Colombus, the European Monarchs, the easrly US presidents
Deaths: Anywhere between 8.4 million and 100 million people (due to lack of records)
Oh dear. Originally found and gutted by a man who cited God every time he opened his mouth (try Howard Zinn for more), followed by a succession of very religious monarchs and religious types who jumped the boats to get away from Europe's restrictions on them, who deliberately introduced massive disease into the native population of an entire continent. Not looking good this. It's paralleled by similar events in Australia.
Cromwell's Irish campaign
Leader: Oliver Cromwell
He may have killed a king, but Old Ironsides was also a puritan who ordered or condoned the killing, torture and deportation of tens of thousands of Irish people.
The Irish famine
Leader: Lord John Russell
Casualties: 4 million
Good old CoE our John, this holds true incidentally for a number of different leaders of British atrocities, from Rhodesia to China and the Americas.
Leaders: Nguyen Van Thieu (Catholic), Lyndon Johnson, Richard Nixon (Protestant, Quaker), Ho Chi Minh (Atheist)
Casualties: approx 3.5 million
Bit of a no-score draw, they were all arseholes who killed many innocents, the US significantly more than the rest but only because they had better weapons.
Soviet war/post-war repression
Leader: Joseph Stalin
Deaths: 10-20 million
Yep, caught the atheists cold there, Uncle Joe was a stone cold killer and a hard-headed atheist.
Right, got to get back to work, but I might follow this up a little more later (people are more than welcome to chime in btw), there's a list of some of the most famous genocides on Wikipedia here.