Imagine for a second that an insane bloodthirsty maniac decides he is going to kill the entire population of the Earth. He’s a whiz at computers and breaks into the US Defense Department’s computers and gains access to the United States’ vast nuclear arsenal (hey, if Matthew Broderick can do it in WarGames , so can he).
To be thorough (and dramatic), our madman decides to start at the bottom of the list of countries in the world and work his way up one-by-one. (He uses Wikipedia’s list of countries and self-governing territories as a source because like many computer-savvy people, he’s a huge fan of Wikipedia.) He is able to launch nuclear weapons against the 41 least populous places in the world before he is found and his killing spree is stopped. The entire populations of these countries and territories either die immediately or in short order due to the nuclear blasts he launched.
Now, who do you think will have killed more people: this crazy mass-murderer, or the God of the Bible? If you said the insane madman, you’d be wrong. According to Wikipedia (as of Jan 5 2009), the 41 least populous countries or self-governed states have a combined population of 2,211,501 people. That’s a lot of people. But according to the Bible, God killed at least 2,301,417 people . Steve Wells, the author of the Skeptics Annotated Bible , did the calculations in his blog Dwindling in Unbelief , but the numbers come directly from the Bible itself. The figure includes people that God killed personally, plus ones he commanded or sanctioned the death of in the Bible. It only includes incidents for which death totals are given in the Bible. So God outdoes our fictional mass-murderer by almost 100,000 people!
But wait, you protest. The nuclear fallout from our imaginary madman would certainly kill millions more, so he still is the top killer. Well, it turns out that God has also killed millions more. The 2,301,417 people Steve Wells includes in his total of God killings are just the ones for which figures are given in the Bible. If we include estimates for all the times God kills or sanctions a killing when the Bible doesn’t even bother to tally the dead, Steve arrives at a much larger figure : 33,280,237 . Our fictional madman would have to kill the inhabitants of Wikipedia ‘s 80 least populous places in the world to match this total (either by nuclear bomb, or some other ingenious scheme).
You may argue with some of the estimates Steve gives (who besides God would know how many people actually died in the Flood, for example), but since the Bible doesn’t think it’s important enough to mention how many people died in these massacres, Steve had to come up with his own estimates. He gives his reasons behind the numbers if you follow the links. Some are more exact estimates than others. But even if he’s a few million off, that’s still an amazing amount of killing for an entity many Christians believe is a loving God who is the source of all morality.
To get an idea of just how many people the Bible says God killed, according to the conservative total (2.3 million), the following 41 countries or self-governing territories could all have their inhabitants wiped off the face of the Earth and still not equal the killings God is credited with in the Bible : São Tomé and Príncipe, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, U.S. Virgin Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Grenada, Aruba, Tonga, Kiribati, Jersey, Seychelles, Antigua and Barbuda, Northern Mariana Islands, Andorra, Isle of Man, Dominica, American Samoa, Guernsey, Bermuda, Marshall Islands, Greenland, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Faroe Islands, Cayman Islands, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino, Gibraltar, Turks and Caicos Islands, British Virgin Islands, Cook Islands, Palau, Anguilla, Tuvalu, Nauru, Saint Helena, Montserrat, Falkland Islands, Niue, Tokelau, Vatican City, Pitcairn Islands.
If we take Steve Well’s estimated total of over 33 million, here’s the list of places that could all have their entire populations slaughtered without reaching God’s glorious total : Slovenia, Lesotho, Botswana, Gambia, Guinea-Bissau, Estonia, Trinidad and Tobago, Gabon, Mauritius, East Timor, Swaziland, Qatar, Djibouti, Fiji, Cyprus, Bahrain, Guyana, Comoros, Bhutan, Montenegro, Cape Verde, Equatorial Guinea, Solomon Islands, Luxembourg, Western Sahara, Suriname, Malta, Brunei, Bahamas, Iceland, Maldives, Barbados, Belize, Vanuatu, Netherlands Antilles, Samoa, Guam, Saint Lucia, São Tomé and Príncipe, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, U.S. Virgin Islands, Federated States of Micronesia, Grenada, Aruba, Tonga, Kiribati, Jersey, Seychelles, Antigua and Barbuda, Northern Mariana Islands, Andorra, Isle of Man, Dominica, American Samoa, Guernsey, Bermuda, Marshall Islands, Greenland, Saint Kitts and Nevis, Faroe Islands, Cayman Islands, Liechtenstein, Monaco, San Marino, Gibraltar, Turks and Caicos Islands, British Virgin Islands, Cook Islands, Palau, Anguilla, Tuvalu, Nauru, Saint Helena, Montserrat, Falkland Islands, Niue, Tokelau, Vatican City, Pitcairn Islands
Sure, if you’re like me and most people, you probably don’t recognize or know a lot about some of these places, but certainly you recognize a good number of them. But in case a list of random countries don’t hit home, maybe a few other examples might help:
• The entire region/continent of Oceania has around 30 million people, according to Wikipedia. If our crazy murderer could just make Australia, New Zealand, and the population of most of the Pacific Islands die overnight, that would still be less than how many lives God took in the Bible.
• The top 20 cities in the US could have their entire population croak on the spot (32.4 million people in all), and God’s total would still be almost 1 million more.
• According to Wikipedia , 185 countries/territories out of the 221 (about 4 out of 5) in the world have a population of less than 33 million people. If our madman could randomly take any one of these countries and just kill all of its inhabitants with a snap, he would likely have killed less people than the biblical God killed.
• With those odds, he could even just pick to destroy any one country in the world at random and he’d have about a 4 out of 5 chance of killing less people than God did in the Bible.
• The Bible was written (primarily) in Hebrew and Greek. God has killed more than the current populations of Israel and Greece combined (plus you can easily throw a country like Cuba or Belgium in for good measure).
• The Beach Boys (or what’s left of them) could go butcher all the inhabitants of the places they mention in the song Kokomo , and it would only add up to around 4.7 million people. They could also go ahead and easily bump off any tourists who might be there at the time, too, and still fall far shy of God’s 33+ million estimated deaths.
I could go on and on, but you get the idea. The Bible depicts a God with the blood of millions of people on his hands. Is this a good model for us or our children?
Fortunately, I have good news. Besides being mass-murders, our insane bloodthirsty maniac and our insane bloodthirsty God have one other thing in common: they’re both fictional. Unfortunately, at least some of the people in the Bible probably did die because people thought God wanted them to do it. Not to mention the Crusades, the Inquisition, witch-burning, and countless other cases where people have killed in the name of God. Or other deaths some people have recently attributed to God (Katrina, etc.). Or all the future deaths certainly still to committed in God’s name.
Couldn’t an all-powerful, all-knowing God and his followers think of a better way to get things done than death? Instead of thinking of all this senseless killing, wouldn’t it be nice to imagine a world without God? Just imagine…