Tuesday, November 2, 2010

Iraqi Christian Massacre Shows Sickening Western Hypocrisy

A tragic story is illustrating the hypocritical and immoral nonchalance America has for the mass deaths of non-Christians.

All the news services are headlining the tragic murder of 58 Christians in Our Lady of Salvation Christian church of Baghdad. Al-Qaida-linked militants burst into the church during services and killed the priest and nearly everyone in the front row. They demanded that someone call the Pope to arrange for the release of Muslim women they claimed were being held captive by Coptic Christians in Egypt. Iraqi forces invaded the church, the militants blew themselves up, and 58 people ended up dead with 78 others wounded.

It was a terrible tragedy, and everyone from the Pope to presidents has been condemning it, as they should.

But where where the cries of outrage when America started our bombing campaign on Iraq? Over 150,000 Iraqi civilians have been killed by American bombs (even the U.S. Government admits this), mostly women and children. That's 2,586 times as many people as were killed this weekend in the Christian church.

You would have to blow up 58 people 365 days a year for the next seven years to equal the death toll that America has inflicted on Iraqi women, children and old men.

My fiancé and I had the pleasure of hearing Sam Harris talk last week. He described an interesting experiment. If you show a group of people a photo of one hungry child and ask them to help, it brings out the best: they donate a lot. Show another group a picture of two hungry children and ... surprise! They donate less. Show a third group a picture of a room full of hungry children, they donate very little. Show them a whole country, and you get little or no response at all.

We seem to be congenitally incapable of feeling sympathy for large groups. We are genetically programmed to empathize with the individual. When one little girl falls into a well, we get 24/7 live coverage. When a few dozen miners get stuck in a cave in Chile, over a thousand news reporters descend. But when 800,000 were killed in Rwanda, it barely made the news and the documentary Hotel Rwanda was only seen by a small minority of Americans. And when 150,000 Iraqis were killed by American bombs, well, too bad.

But it's outrage everywhere when militants blow up 58 Christians.

Atheists and Humanists ask, "Can't we do better?" We all agree that a room full of starving children is a greater tragedy than a single starving child. So shouldn't we try to act accordingly? Why can't we evolve our society to a higher moral standard? Why can't we see death and suffering in rational, logical terms and strive to minimize it?

Why can't we treat 150,000 dead Iraqis as a much greater tragedy than 58 Christians?

Could it be because our morality is still stuck in books that were written thousands of years ago, and is defended by people who don't believe in progress? Could it be that our morality is in the hands of the same people who didn't protest when 150,000 Iraqis were killed but were outraged when 58 Christians were murdered by terrorists?

Could it be that religious anti-rationalism prevents us from seeing that it would take 2,586 blown-up Christian churches to equal one Iraq war?

I don't know the answers to these questions. I have many Christian friends who are as horrified as I am at these numbers, and who do hope that as a society we have some hope of moral evolution. But when I look at the big picture, at people like the Pope and George Bush, I don't know what to think.


  1. What a dumbass comment. So a civilian casualty of war is less tragic than a victim of terrorism? The fact that we're desensitized to (innocent civilian!) casualties during war doesn't make those deaths any less important. The author of the blog post is right. The media focusing more on the deaths of a small number simply because they are "like us" than they do a large number of "others" is hypocritical. And the sooner such dangerous black and white, us vs. them notions often encouraged by religious certainty go away, the sooner we'll be able to more clearly recognize such hypocrisy and work to change it.

  2. Craig-"Could it be because our morality is still stuck in books that were written thousands of years ago"
    this comment seems out of place in this article

    "Could it be that religious anti-rationalism prevents us from seeing that it would take 2,586 blown-up Christian churches to equal one Iraq war?"
    am i missing something? i thought that the anti-rationalist group were social outcast that only influenc other anti-rationalist. i dont recall the mainstream media being to anti-rationalist.

    anonymous #2- "black and white, us vs. them notions often encouraged by religious" your ignorant. now of course some radical religions may teach this, but to put us all in the same boat is such a typical and ignorant thing for an atheist to do

  3. Honestly, i have to agree with the first person, this article is as studid as hell, but not really for the same reasons. Yes, casualties are a part of war, however, that doesn't justify their deaths. They died becuse the US decided to declare a war on "terrorism" when there were really no terrorists in iraq because they were all controlled by Saddam and no one would really hurt someone unless that person hurt them. So the Christians who minded their own business were safe and unhurt in Saddams regime. Now however, there are TERRORIST groups who are all MUSLIMS who kill the poor INNOCENT CHRISTIANS who are still trying to mind their own business. And another thing, the CHRISTIANS KILLED by MUSLIMS in iraq don't get enough media attention at all. I heard about it because i know people that had relatives that were affected by the tragedy and then decided to research the topic myself. I could not find the information in any newspaper i did not hear it on any radio stations or see it on tv. And any videos that i found on the net reporting the inccident were a few secons long.

    If something had happend to a muslim it would be all over the place, or to an american everyone would know, but TWO priest are killed, a newborn 6 week old baby is murdered and a four year old girl is taken to the alter and slain as a sacrifice (HER HEAD WAS CUT OFF USING A KNIFE)Along with many others that were abused and then killed. Although it is reported that 58 died, many witnesses say that the number of massacred christians was closer to 100 that were killed, and many others injured or in critial condition. Only a handful survived physically untouched by the situation and they are the witnesses to the tradegy. May the Lord Jesus Christ strengthen them, for many saw their loved ones shot, slain, executed, or bombed befre their eyes. To sya such a tradedy does not deserve more attentin than it recieved is ludicrous.

    1. I wonder why there are terrorists running around Iraq now, but there were none before we went in... Oh, I know, because we killed 150,000 civilians, destroyed the country's infrastructure and psychologically devastated the entire population. That might make a few people angry enough to associate Christians with the west, especially when there was no justification for starting the war in the first place. Their actions are morally reprehensible despite the tragedies they've endured, but you're missing the whole point. If you don't look at the root cause then we'll just keep creating more terrorists and wondering why they hate us so much. I see this lack of understanding everywhere and I'm at a loss as to why people fail to make this connection, unless the propaganda machine in the US is powerful enough to discourage independent thought even in the face of overwhelming evidence. Putting aside the religious issues and antagonism, we've been meddling, mostly unwanted, in this region for decades. It should come as no surprise that we've made our share of enemies. If we don't take a more enlightened approach to our policies in the Middle East our aggression will certainly destabilize the region even more and we will pay the price once again.

  4. I'm rather surprised to hear about a Humanist/ Atheist believing that our society should evolve to care more for the poor and needy. If the scientific world view for Humanism and Atheism is evolution, then you should be applauding the survival of the fittest and allowing the poor and needy to die off as unworthy of your attention. The more you give them the less you have yourself and you end up less fit and less likely to survive.

    On the other hand you could operate on the basis of those ancient books that encourage caring for the poor and needy and being willing to sacrifice yourself if need be. Not very evolutionary/ Atheisic/ Humanistic, but much more in line with the main thrust of your article!

    Check out Canon Andrew White, the Vicar of Baghdad and see how those ancient books are inspiring him.

  5. Simon – If Humanist/Atheist morals surprise you, you need to do more homework. You're assuming that because someone understands evolution, they also believe that whatever evolution brings is moral and desirable. Nothing could be farther from the truth.

    Rather than basing our morals on two-thousand-year-old books, we actually think about right and wrong, and make conscious choices. It goes back 2,500 years to Plato and Aristotle's original thinking on what true morality is, but unlike religious ethics, Humanist ethics are a dynamic, living thing.

    You are confusing evolution (which is nothing more than a scientific observation about how things actually work) with Humanism, which is a philosophical approach to ethics and morality. They are not the same thing. Humanists recognize evolution as merely a scientific fact, just like planetary mechanics and geology. Just because planetary mechanics dictate that an asteroid might hit us doesn't mean we have to like it. And just because evolution is harsh doesn't mean we can't try to make the world a bit less harsh through medicine and social change.

  6. So people shouldn't be outraged by genocide in the middle east because there's a war going on??? I'm not sure I follow that logic. I think your hatred of religion clouds your judgment and colors your opinion.

    Secular atheists love to point out atrocities committed by religious groups - while ignoring atrocities committed by secular atheists. North Korea, the Soviet Union, Pol Pot - all secular atheists who abhorred religion as much as you do.

    If I were to follow your train of thought, then I could reasonably conclude that the atheist "virus" has murdered, tortured, and mutilated more than 100 million people worldwide. So why should I follow that philosophy???

    Was MLK part of the religion virus? Gandhi? They must be - they were religious. But Stalin? Now, he was good atheist right?

    I think it's fair to say that good people who take morals and ethics seriously exist in all groups. Your contention that somehow, absent religion, all of these people would be good upstanding citizens is a little shallow and simplistic.

    I've got an idea. Instead of tearing others down, why don't you sell people on why humanism is a great idea? Christianity is built on the "love of Christ." That's how it's marketed at least, but atheists seem only concerned with a hatred of Christianity first, and other religions second.

    Why not have a positive vision - instead of peddling all this negativity, vitriol, and divisiveness??? Why not try to be the MLK of atheists? Hatred is hard to get rid of, especially when so much of your identity is wrapped up in belittling others, but if you try - I'm sure you can overcome...

  7. By the way, the track back where you claim the US government admits that "US Bombs" have killed 150,000 - only links back to another post you made. In that post, there is no link to a US government report, but rather a left wing anti-war website.

    Even if you accept the number of casualties as 150,000. This number includes ALL deaths. So your claim that these are all women and children is either ignorant or malicious.

    The majority of people killed in Iraq have not been killed by US bombs, but rather by sectarian violence and car bombs. If you're against the war fine - but you should first tell the truth, then give your opinion.

    This story isn't just about 57 more Christians dead. It's connected to the 2 million refugees who've fled the middle east in the past 20 years. More than 50% of Iraq's Christians have fled the country in the dead of night over the past 10 years. There have been thousands if not tens of thousands of Christians murdered for their religion in the Middle East - so it's not about an isolated incident.

  8. Anon – your comment is baffling. If you followed that link from my other blog, you'd have discovered that it was a summary of reports, with LOTS of links you could have followed to reputable sources. Your criticism is dishonest.

    For example, the Lancet report said, " at least 100,000 Iraqi civilians had died in the previous 18 months" and Tony Blair himself said, "in our view the [Lancet report is] most accurate survey there is." Yet the Lancet Report has been discredited as a gross underestimate of the casualties.

    New reports from Wikileaks show without a doubt that the United States Government has recorded over 100,000 deaths. And Wikipedia has an excellent summary of resources ... if you'd just take the time to click your mouse a few times.

    We'll never know the true body count. Nobody will. But whether it's 100,000 or 600,000, I stand by my blog. The hypocrisy is sickening.

    And if you want to expand from the one story of 57 Christians to the entire world, I'll do the same. We can look at every war and skirmish in the world, and count up the millions of dead.

    I'm not saying persecution of Christians is trivial – it's not, and it's inexcusable everywhere. But 57 Christians deaths make the headlines and the news media skim over a tragedy that is at least 1000 times greater. It makes me sick.

    I can't understand why you or anyone would object or try to deny the facts. Do you care about the dead Iraqis, or do you think their lives are just less important than Christian lives?

  9. For one thing, the news media has reported on the number of deaths of innocent civilians during the Iraq war. In fact, many of the blogs wrote posts almost daily during the height of the war during the time of George Bush's presidency. Did you not listen to talk radio when the war and it's innocent victims were being discussed? Did you not watch opinion programs on cable TV or the Sunday talk shows? Did you even pick up a newspaper?

    Trying to compare the victims in a war to those Christians in Baghdad is ridiculous.

    For one thing, the United States did not go to Iraq or anywhere else in the Middle East to kill anyone because of their religion. In the case of those who killed the Christians, they did it specifically because of their religion.

    It's equally sad when innocent people die, but to say that those who died because of religious persecution don't deserve to be in the news is crazy. But I guess if you are an atheist, you have to find some way to marginalize the deaths of Christians.

  10. Ellen – You completely missed the point. First, nowhere did I say the Christian deaths didn't matter. In fact, the fact that we're so horrified by those 58 deaths means we should be VASTLY more horrified at 100,000 deaths.

    And do you really think killing someone for religion is worse than killing them for their oil? They're DEAD. They don't care why.

    And finally, you say we didn't go to "kill anyone because of their religion." That's just wrong. It's mostly about oil, but religion played a huge part in why the United States was able to convince its citizens to let it kill 100,000 of the Iraqis, with virtually no protests of any significance.

  11. craig-

    Again, YOU are missing the point and totally wrong regarding the remark you made about how religion played a part in the Iraq war.

    And I still wonder where in the world you've been in the last ten years. You didn't see any protests over the war? You didn't see the thousands of people marching in D.C. and other cities? Honestly, you need another source of information besides atheist blogs.

    Religion played absolutely NO part in the US going to Iraq. Did you forget President Bush's speech after 9/11 calling on Americans NOT to retaliate against Muslims or those who practice the Islam religion?

    I do agree, that war had everything to do with oil, there is no doubt about that and I never supported that war. In fact, the Pope also denounced the war in Iraq as did Pope Benedict who has made continued remarks that he was never in support of the war in Afghanistan.

    There are no measurements in how horrified one is over deaths of innocents. How do YOU measure that? If you measure it by how much is it discussed in the news, then the Iraq war casualties had a LOT more news coverage than what is being covered with the deaths of Christians in Egypt. In fact there has been absolutely nothing in the main stream media or on any liberal blogs concerning the constant killings of Christians by Muslims in Iraq. There are few Christians left in Iraq due to the attacks, kidnappings, and murders they have endured in the last 6 years.

    So...your effort to marginalize the deaths of the Christians killed in Egypt by trying to compare it to the amount of deaths due to war...just doesn't cut it.

    Oh, and please tell me where you get your information that the US went to war with Iraq for religious reasons.


Dear readers -- I am no longer blogging and after leaving these blogs open for two years have finally stopped accepting comments due to spammers. Thanks for your interest. If you'd like to write to me, click on the "Contact" link at the top. Thanks! -- CJ.

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