Hi Bahram, Maya, all:
I’ve been researching the history of secularism and its relationship to science for some time now, and conclude that secular political philosophies – nationalism, communism, fascism – were closely allied with strongly anti-religious agenda, atheism being one of them.
The thrust of history in these regards is the emergence of the European nation-state. At first, nation-builders worked to co-opt and control religion in their borders (remember, religion is transnational, and was closely allied with ancien regimes, also transnational). Then, with the French revolution, and subsequent to that, the Napoleonic “world wars”, religion itself became the enemy (with Catholic churchmen being hunted down and killed, etc.) Science (or more accurately, philosophical interpretations of science - science itself is agnostic) became religion’s replacement in the metaphysical sphere, with anthropology and linguistics first playing a major role, and evolution a secondary role. Since the 1960’s, evolution has moved into the forefront, doing the “heavy-lifting”, so to speak.
Communism, of German and French origins, is very much a result of anti-religion sentiment – as religion had increasingly come to be seen as the enemy of progress. So, Lenin, Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot, and others are very much a product of European secularism where atheism, antireligion, and scientism were shaken together to make a particularly lethal cocktail.
Interestingly, the “millions of people killed in the name of religion” is mainly a made-up fact. The 30 years war back in the 17th century did involve the death of millions, but of course that was a much political as it was religion. Since then, the carnage has overwhelmingly been on the western secular side – Stalin and Mao being ruthlessly effective in this regards. I’ve compiled the numbers from Wikipedia. See for more details at http://www.commongroundgroup.net/2011/09/07/the-validity-of-religion-and-belief-in-the-age-of-science-22-western-casualties-and-the-religious-question/.
Here is a summary. Of the estimated 272 million deaths caused by war, famine, and genocides since 1800, 213 million have western ideological causes – either nationalism, colonialism, ethnic cleansing, or western political ideologies such a Communism (as in the case of the great Chinese famine of 1959-1961). Of the remainder, 46 million are due to wars or famines in 19th century China, and the remaining 12 million are due to ethnic conflicts. Religious conflicts are barely a blip, with the biggest being the ongoing Sunni/Shiite conflict in Iraq and the partition of India in 1947, both at the levels of several hundred thousands of deaths. (Note: both were a result of western actions.) I’ve not counted deaths in the European slave trade, or in several other categories.
I conclude that western European secularism and nationalism – with its heavy dosing of atheism and anti-religious rhetoric – is much more lethal – we are talking more than 100x – than religion. How folks like Dawkins manage to sweep this under the rug is beyond my comprehension.