God’s Lunatics Giveaway June 1, 2010

God’s Lunatics Giveaway

Michael Largo is the author of God’s Lunatics, a book being published by Harper Paperbacks later this month.

What is the book about?

[It] chronicles history’s vast and colorful cast of true believers — from the hidden side of the Bible’s eccentric characters to today’s street-corner doomsayers, and from extraterrestrial communicators, levitating hermits, and flagellating ascetics to self-serving preachers of overindulgence who believed money, sex, and drugs were the keys to the portal to divine understanding. In addition to the firewalkers, serpent handlers, cultists, terrorists, and alleged time travelers, God’s Lunatics also reveals the dubious foundations of the world’s major faiths and the many religious customs and laws that continue to influence governments and society, whether you are a believer or not.

His publishers are giving away three free copies of the book to readers of this site!

All you have to do is provide an answer to the following question:

Name the historical figure who, in the name of religion, caused the most harm to humanity.

The most interesting (or entertaining) answers, as selected by me, will receive a copy of the book. The contest ends in two weeks and it’s only open to people living in the U.S. (Sorry!)

Feel free to “vote” for your favorites in the comments, too 🙂

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  • Greg

    Only for those in the US? 🙁

    You xenophobes! 😛

    I suppose I can’t even answer the question, then, either? (Might take away some more privileged person’s answer! :))

  • Grimalkin

    Wow, that’s a tough one! I’d say I’m caught between Muhammad and Paul, not for anything they personally did (although Muhammad would definitely be a contender on that front as well), but because of the snowballs they got rolling.

    If I absolutely have to pick one, I would go for Paul, just because of 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 (“As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”).

    Not only has this one little paragraph been used as an excuse to oppress women for two thousand years, I also can’t help but wonder how many atrocities might have been avoided if half the congregation were able to speak out and say “hey wait a minute, I think that might be a bad idea!” Imagine how much more temperate the Vatican might have been had women been welcomed in as active participants!

  • maddogdelta

    Wow…. we can only choose one?

    We can start with Saul of Tarsus, who got the whole christianity ball rolling, with a lot of really awful baggage

    Or Pope Urban II who instituted in christianity the idea of killing for christ.

    Mohammed \o/ <- Mohammed swimming… who started a religion with the tenet of "kill all the unbelievers"

    Oliver Cromwell…Adolph Hitler…

    Or people who started cults around themselves, raising themselves to a god like status, and killing people who didn't buy into the cult, like Stalin, Paul Pot, or Mao…

    How about if I just go with Saul of Tarsus (saint paul)…

  • Bob

    Okay, it’s not quite a person, but my vote is for the Council of Nicaea, which gave us the modern-day interpretation of Jesus Christ, as well as the assembled-by-committee Bible.

  • DGKnipfer

    With so many people voting for Saul I think I’ll put Christopher Columbus into the ring. He brought us to the “New World” in his quest for Eden. Everything we, as European descendants, have done here leads right back to his little boating excursion.

  • Chase

    Wow, only one? That is like asking what is the worst illness. Do you pick the most common, or hardest to cure, or most painful. My answer would have to be Eve. Though not real, her character has been at least partially responsible for the subjugation of women for millenniums. That is pretty harmful in my opinion.

  • Hybrid

    Name the historical figure who, in the name of religion, caused the most harm to humanity.

    Muhammad gets my vote.

  • Kate Morgan

    My vote is for Tomas de Torquemada, leader of the Spanish Inquisition.

  • Matt

    I am going to have to say a Hitler. As I won’t vote for mighty mu, jesus or any other potentially fictional characters.

  • littlejohn

    I think a strong case can be made for a man who isn’t even thought of primarily as a religious figure, but rather a politician: George W. Bush.
    He was arguably the worst president in American history who, despite being utterly unqualified for the job, ran for the presidency because he was convinced god wanted him to. This is a matter of public record.
    He proceeded to wreck the economy, first with completely selfish tax cuts exclusively for the extremely wealthy (his friends and family) and then by lying the country into a major war against a country (Iraq) the did not attack or threaten us.
    He permitted his vice president to hold a private meeting with oil company executives for the purpose of allowing them to write our energy policies, including safety procedures for offshore drilling. We are now paying for that meeting with a disaster in the Gulf of Mexico.
    America’s standing in the eyes of the world plummeted.
    Bush is a science-hater who doubts evolution and blocked stem-cell research. He could not have been worse for his country or the world. And all because god told him to run for president.

  • David Capito

    I think the clear answer here is God Himself. Having allowed murder to exist in the first place surely must count, right?

    They do say God is an angry god…

  • WetMogwai

    Saul of Tarsus. Hands down.

    He made monotheism into something that could spread beyond the tribe it started in without conquest. That makes Christianity much more dangerous than Islam because Islam can be checked militarily. Only social wellbeing and education can check the spread of a peaceful religion and we all know how popular and common those ideas are.

    Mohammed and Constantine are runners up.

  • Perhaps Constantine (the Roman emperor who converted to Christianity). Without his conversion, Christianity may have just been another wacky set of beliefs among many at that time in history and never really taken off.

  • Jerry Falwell
    …for founding the Moral Majority which lead to the Religious Right. That Religious Right has been so destructive to America, which started as one of the greatest, free civilization ever founded. What our founding fathers created in making our United States Constitution was so great, such an example for the whole world and I think the Religious Right inserting themselves into politics has weakened that freedom and the example it had provided to the whole world.

    (Bot sure if he qualifies as “historical”, but he is dead.)

  • Steven O.

    George W. Bush.
    Enough said.

  • beckster

    I have no idea. Guess you better give me one of the books so I can educate myself.

  • Saint Augustine for promoting the abuse of Jews, including the idea that Crusaders should leave a few families of Jews left in a village after slaughtering to serve as witnesses. This same idea is held by Zionists who have no problem with Jews in Jerusalem but they are only there to serve as witnesses to the Truth.

  • The most obvious choice, I would have thought, would be Jesus, for being the foundation of the religions that spawned so many wars, witch hunts, the inquisition, and continues today to spread hate, violence and intolerance in the name of “the God of Love”.

    I’m not sure we can qualify Jesus as a “historical figure” as we have no proof of any individual Jesus… so perhaps this entry is automatically disqualified, and I’ll have to think of another, of which, I’m sure, there are plenty.

  • Bob


    I have to say, I’m impressed with the depth of knowledge from the non-theist crowd, when we’ve had everyone from Saul of Tarsus to Constantine and Torquemada nominated for honors, a depth of historical and religious facts that I don’t necessarily see in Christianity (especially when they’re trying to disappear Thomas Jefferson).

  • Justin

    Martin Luther.

    First, He rejected the idea that good works can help people achieve salvation. If you’re gonna hang Heaven and Hell over people’s heads, you could at least scare them into helping some orphans while you’re at it.

    Second, he encouraged the laity to read the Bible and translated it into the vernacular. Now any half-literate jackass can interpret scripture in a way that confirms his/her prejudices.

  • KDavidT

    The weak-willed Adam…
    Instead of following his heart and making a go of it with ‘Steve’, he had to prove how “normal” he was by hooking up with the conniving “Here, you need more fiber” Eve, which brought about the need for this whole Christianity thing to begin with.

  • tlawren

    John, the writer of the Book of Revelation. His work has been used as a source for harm for centuries. For example, when children are told stories about hell just to scare them into belief, it is child abuse. When one man “purifies” another man, because he fears for that man’s soul, it can be either murder or sick torture depending upon what the actual “purification” was. In general, when unjustified fear is used to get people to do things, it is harmful, and what better fear for the church to use than the fear of eternal damnation. Also, what better source for this fear than the one from your holy text?

  • Darwin’s Dagger

    If I absolutely have to pick one, I would go for Paul, just because of 1 Corinthians 14:33-35 (“As in all the congregations of the saints, women should remain silent in the churches. They are not allowed to speak, but must be in submission, as the Law says. If they want to inquire about something, they should ask their own husbands at home; for it is disgraceful for a woman to speak in the church.”).

    Except that its pretty well been established that Paul didn’t write that particular line, that it was inserted later by some misogynistic copy editor who wanted to place his own notions into the manuscript. So I nominate all of the anonymous copiers of sacred texts who have taken it upon themselves to make bad ideas even worse.

  • Mej

    Clearly, the correct answer is God. Even holding aside his general responsibility for everything (troublesome or otherwise), there’s plenty of damning evidence against him: countless wars have been fought in his name. He has a long history of spreading propaganda against women, gays, atheists, and countless other groups. He’s commanded genocides, murders, and torture. He seems to delight in providing contradictory information and promises to different people, obfuscating religion and often attempting to attack scientific fact. To top it all off, he’s responsible for creating all of the other persons suggested thus far and countless more not mentioned.

    Unfortunately, he’s not answerable to any court (not that we’d want him in one). No law restricts him, no office directs him, and no people elects him. If there were ever an abuse of power, clearly it was God’s.

  • Sheridan

    My vote would go to Paul. You see, he took some guy he had never met, a dead guy at that, and went around convincing people that this guy was the one and only savior of the world. Paul get my vote as the greatest salesman who ever existed. Even Karl Rove can’t match the accomplishments of Paul.

  • Saul of motherfuckin’ Tarsus (aka “saint” Paul), no contest!

  • JulietEcho

    Assuming one exists (as so many people do!) I’m going to blame any god or gods out there. I mean, if they (or He or She) exist, then they’ve screwed us over BIG TIME by not revealing themselves clearly and consistently. These disagreements and claimed revelations and violent doctrines could all have been prevented if a god (or group of them) simply introduced themselves honestly and in-person, so humanity would know (a) that they exist and (b) what they WANT.

    If god/s DO exist, then they must either lack the power to show themselves (but they’d better be working on that problem!) or enjoy (or not care about) all the people who’ve died and continue to die in the name of various religions.

  • PinoyHeathen


  • While there are dozens of people who come to mind when I try to consider who has perpetrated the most horrific religious offense, there is one figure who has had a part in every single religious atrocity through history: the common wo/man.

    While religious figures like Muhammed, Torquemada, and various Popes have been at the helm of the darkest hours of history, they would’ve been nothing more than impotent lunatics if it hadn’t been for the individual who, without thought or reason, accepted the lunacy espoused by these figures.

    If the common wo/man would take the time to rationally evaluate the claims of the nuts, I believe that the majority of religious disasters could’ve been averted. After all, a leader requires followers for success.

  • I’m going to qualify my answer because I do believe that religion has done a lot of good things, so a vote for Jesus or Paul, or even Mohamed, simply for founding a religion, would not be the same as causing harm in the name of religion.

    My first thought is Urban II. He made it part of Christian ideals that one could achieve salvation by killing those who didn’t agree with you (first the Muslims, but later even “heretical” branches of Christianity like the Cathars in France).
    Not only is that a harm with no commensurate benefit, but it has directly lead to the deep divide we now feel between the Muslim countries and the rest of the world.

    I’ll give a second vote if I can to someone’s mentioning of Martin Luther. His 1543 book, “On the Jews and Their Lies” tied together German nationalism and antisemitism and lead causally to WWII and the Holocaust. He was the true inventor of the “final solution” by stating “[w]e are at fault in not slaying [the Jews]” (and other similar sentiments).

  • Jim Jones: It’s his fault the phrase “drinking the Kool-Aid” has negative connotations. I like Kool-Aid, gosh darnit.

  • Brian E

    Jehovah! There, I said it! * ducking from rocks *

  • littlejohn

    I don’t think we should go with people who probably didn’t exist (Jesus, Moses) or who may have existed but almost certainly didn’t say or write the things attributed to them (Paul, Mohammad, John of Revelation, etc.). After all, we’re looking for historical figures. I take that to mean real people that we actually know something about: Martin Luther, Hitler, and my pick, George W. Bush.

  • Jay

    King James.
    That’s just a completely uneducated guess. Didn’t see his name, so threw it out there. Thanks to all who’ve posted with actual reasons. I’ve learned something new today.

  • Sarah TX.

    Well, if we’re talking the most harm to modern humanity (I mean, all of humanity is a really big target), then I’m going to go with C.I. Scofield for popularizing dispensationalism amongst the sort of people who could pick up an abusive theology and really run with it.

    I mean, sure, the Left Behind series should be enough evidence that Scofield has done serious damage to the US, but given that our foreign policy in the 2000s was dictated by a man who believed in all that end-times mumbo jumbo proves that Scofield’s nefarious influence has been truly harmful on a worldwide scale.

  • Although I am not an American, I am out of the contest. But academically I vote for Muhammed. He killed scores of innocent people in his lifetime and the Muslims have been killing people since seventh century till today. Christian violence has stopped long ago.

  • revyloution

    Im going with Constantine. He above all others taught us how to use religion as a political weapon. By removing the competition of other religions, he was a like a theological gardener. He allowed Christianity to flourish and grow where it would have otherwise had to fight to stay alive. He also helped to codify the Bible, which helped keep the entire faith unified.

    With a strong, single religion in Europe, Islam had to unify or die. The best way to win converts is an ‘Us vs Them’ situation. At the time of the Crusades, Islam was a relatively moderate religion. The crusades taught the Muslims that Christianity is against them. Many of the roots of todays Jihadism started in that religious war.

    By using the power of the government to create an official state sponsored dogma, Constantine has done more to harm humanity in the name of religion.

  • AJ

    Unfortunately, I can only give the same answer a few others gave: Hitler. Hitler absolutely used religion both to get elected and as a justification for the Holocaust. That’s my only answer.

  • Andrew Lovley

    Pope Benedict XVI (Joseph Alois Ratzinger)

    For refusing to defrock priests who admitted to or were known to have molested children, refusing in an effort to protect the institution of the church at the expense of the dignity and life-satisfaction of its members.

    Sure similar actions have been taken throughout the history of the church, however it is particularly despicable to perpetuate this immorality in today’s socio-moral context.

    Because of Pope Benedict XVI, potentially hundreds or thousands of children have been abused in unspeakable ways, and many will probably be unable to fully move on and live ‘good’ lives because of it.

    Pope Benedict XVI has had the opportunity to act on conscience but instead chose to protect the face of the institution. Go figure this happens on behalf of a religious institution that espouses the highest morality.

  • Sesoron

    I’ll have to second Justin’s nod to Martin Luther. On top of anti-semitic writings (which I’m sure had [sarcasm]nothing[/sarcasm] to do with the Holocaust, even if Hitler was Catholic), he was an avowed enemy of reason. It’s hard to say whether Protestants or Catholics have had, on the whole, a worse effect on the world today; it seems that Catholicism is full of gross neglect (child rape, opposition to condom use in Africa, etc.), but much of the most active harm and hatred seems to be coming from Protestant evangelicals, for which Luther is ultimately responsible.

    Side note: I realize that I did it too, but I’d like to observe that it took us only 3 posts to Godwin.

  • DemetriusOfPharos

    Joseph Smith, so-called “prophet” of the Mormon religion.

    The man could not live on his fraud activities alone, so he decided to start a new religion with himself at the center of it. Oh, and he was someone who was very horny, to put it mildly, so he decided that in his religion it would be quite ok to sleep with as many women as possible – his wives, other people’s wives, family members, etc.

    To this day in Utah (I live here) the state government is made up almost entirely of people from his oppressive sect: people who have been taught to never question authority, never look beyond the easy answers, and to be sickeningly sweet to people’s faces while talking crap behind their backs. It is a direct result of Joseph Smith’s misogyny that the vast majority of women here are vacuous, unoriginal, uninteresting half-wits.

  • Recorder JOe

    Pontius Pilate- If this man had decided against crucifixion of Jesus we would have allowed a burgeoning lunacy to take it’s natural course, a slow death as people lose interest. With death there came a martyr, something to rally around, something more interesting than “one of those guys that claims to be the son of some god”.
    Without all the attention this fools proclamations would have achieved the slow death of indifference that they should have. Unfortunately with this crucifixion we get all the nut-job frothing fervor that the world has seen take hold of millions, and kill millions more…AND one of the most disgusting symbols of ‘love’ I can possibly imagine.
    Thank god he wasn’t beheaded and eviscerated, that would have made for a slightly more distasteful piece of jewelry.

  • codemenkey

    i would say torquemada. after all, you can’t torquemada anything!

  • Roxane

    I’d like to put in a “good” word for St. Jerome, who is best known for his translation of the Vulgate.

    As a misogynist, he’s up there with Paul. He believed in the superiority of celibacy to marriage, and encouraged such an extreme form of asceticism for women that one of the young women who followed it actually died–whereupon he criticized her mother for mourning too much. He had quite a following among women, and had to leave Rome after an investigation into whether he had an affair with his patroness–who also happened to be the mother of the dead girl. In a sense, he helped invent the sexual hypocrisy that televangelists have developed into a fine art.

    He also wrote that anyone who “misinterpreted” scripture or departed from orthodoxy in any way was in league with the Antichrist–a belief that, given his status as a church father, could only contribute to the burning of heretics.

    In general, he just seems to have been a thoroughly twisted individual with a very strong sense of his own righteousness. He spent a lot of time wandering around the catacombs in Rome to remind himself of Hell and psych himself up. He quit reading classical literature because it was evil. He attacked the secular clergy (that is, the clergy who actively ministered to people) and insisted on the superiority of hermits–the more extreme, the better. Eventually this kind of fanaticism would get so out of hand that St. Benedict would find it necessary to write the Benedictine Rule, partly to protect monks from the physical damage that resulted from extreme asceticism.

  • Julia

    Ratzinger, obviously. Condoms help to spread aids? Really?

  • Julia

    Or could it be…


  • Haley

    I wish I could say the Roman Catholic Church as a whole for sponsoring acts of antisemitism throughout history, covering up pedophilia, using religion to restrain people from acquiring any of the knowledge available to them through the Greeks and Romans (and very likely destroying a bit of it) until the Renaissance, and allowing itself to be used–and even encouraging European monarchs to use it–as a means to advance their political goals.

    But if entities aren’t allowed, I’ll go with Satan, despite his non-existence. Without the idea of Satan, Christians might not be able to attribute all evil in the world to the devil and could even realize that their god isn’t all that good. Slim chance, but hey, you never know.

  • Eddie

    I would like to cast a vote for the original author(s) of the book of exodus. The line, ” you shall not suffer a witch to live” has lead to the cruel murder of innocent women and children, which still continues.

  • TychaBrahe

    My vote goes to Pope Gregory IX, who in 1233 declared that cats were agents of the devil, encouraging good Christians to kill them all.

    Without cats to keep them in check, the rodent population skyrocketed, resulting in The Black Death. I think being responsible for the death of 1/3 to 1/2 of all Europeans (between 75 and 100 million people) puts one in the running.

  • bigjohn756

    Well, I got here way too late. I nominate Paul of Tarsus for the honor with Constantine as a close second. Both deserve the recognition because of their dissemination of Christianity without which the world would be a much better place.

  • Abraham’s wife, Sarah. If, when Abraham went to make Isaac a blood sacrifice for God, Sarah had stepped in and just said “What do you think you’re doing, you crazy bastard?!?! Are you mental?” instead of letting him go off and do it, we might not have ever had the three religions that dominate much of the world and news today.

    On a more serious note, for a real historical figure, I’d probably say Sennacherib, King of Assyria, who laid siege to Jerusalem in 701 B.C.E.. If he had not lifted his siege of the city, he may very well have wiped Judaism off of the map, as he did many other local gods when shipping the inhabitants of conquered cities off into slavery. But because he did lift the siege (Jerusalem had fresh water available to it while the Assyrians were suffering from disease outbreak in their camp), Judaism was able to take greater hold on the psyche of the Jews and did not disappear to assimilation during the Babylonian exile, like the deities of other enslaved people. Thus, we now have Christianity and Islam creating problems in the world today, all because a small religion managed to survive 2700 years ago.

    I guess these weren’t done in the name of religion, but at least they’ll probably be unique!

  • TheRealistMom/Spamamander

    This one will probably be pretty unpopular, but as Saul and Martin Luther were already taken 😉 I’m going to nominate… Mother Theresa.

    Her entire lifetime was spent pushing the idea that poverty and pain were ideals, and that forced birth and the death of the ill were god’s will. At the same time there was unimaginable hypocrisy as she traveled the world speaking to the leaders of nations, withholding charitable donations from the actual people in care at the Calcutta facilities. In all of this, her name has become synonymous with “charity” and “empathy”. Being anti-birth control and anti-abortion is held up as saintly in great part because of her influence, and people are dying from it.

  • Steve

    Gandhi? Was it Gandhi? I’m pretty sure he was bad, right?

  • Jolly

    The Emperor Constantine, who created the Catholic Church which lead to all Christianity and mixed politics with a state sponsored religion. By getting overly involved in the politics of religion, Constantine ‘proved’ to the faithful that it was the ‘one true religion’ which encouraged them to take more and more power proving that power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely.

  • Thomas

    Santa, because he brought me the wrong version of Pokemon. I will never forgive him for that.

  • CarolAnn :)

    Since this is limited to the US I’m going to limit my answer to the US. I vote for the conservative religious wing of the American population. Every time something socially stupid comes along you can pretty well trace it back to them. Everything from killing all the native people in the name of Manifest Destiny to justifying slavery to our wonderful “missions to convert the natives” to McCarthyism to the current “war against terror” (and more) have been put forth in the name of god by the religious (read primarily Christian) portion of the American population.

    Of course, the Crusades, etc…, have also taken place, but it always amazes me how much damage American religious conservatives have wreaked in just a little over 200 years.

  • Jesse

    Can’t keep voting for the same people I guess so I’ll instead give a vote to L. Ron Hubbard. A science fiction author who started a completely made up religion just to make money. A belief system that forbids the use of mental health and has caused countless people and parents to refuse treatment for their children’s mental health issues. A religion that requires money to “learn” and intimidates and physically harms critics.

  • Hitch

    Abraham, if he is to be considered a historical figure. He codified the notion of human sacrifice being noble with respect to all three Abrahamic religions.

    Even today the problem of piety trumping value of human lives is one of the core issues that faiths help keep alive.

    Alas, there is massive doubt that he is a historical figure, but I’m happy to disqualify.

  • Hitch

    I’d second the council of nicea, mostly because it actually linked church and state and brought up the christian-centric notion of state-persecution of blasphemy and apostesy. Before it excommunication/expulsion was the worst that could happen to you. Arius and his followers were the first to receive state mandated exile for daring to have a non-canonical view of christianity.

    From a religious perspective, the dark ages started with the council of nicea and ruled for over a thousand years over Europe.

  • anon

    Jonathan Cruse says it best:

    “While religious figures like Muhammed, Torquemada, and various Popes have been at the helm of the darkest hours of history, they would’ve been nothing more than impotent lunatics if it hadn’t been for the individual who, without thought or reason, accepted the lunacy espoused by these figures.

    If the common wo/man would take the time to rationally evaluate the claims of the nuts, I believe that the majority of religious disasters could’ve been averted. After all, a leader requires followers for success.”

  • Parse

    A rather unorthodox choice, but I would nominate Theophilus of Alexandria. Though he wasn’t exclusively responsible, and the majority of it had already been previously plundered or burnt, it was he that annihilated the remains of the Library of Alexandria.

    A person can harm humanity not only by killing others, but by destroying knowledge and history, which is what Theophilus did.

  • Siamang

    Thomas Kinkade.

    I know, I know, some people will say Torquemada, some will say Pope Innocent IV.

    But could either of those men paint? Not that history recalls. If they could, then perhaps their crimes could reach the horror of a Kinkade.

    Until such time that we come upon a painting of a charming country lane by lamplight, rendered in the waning moments of the gloaming by Innocent IV, or a delightful cottage with glowing windows which speak of a cozy hearth somewhere within, as brought to dreamlike life by the Grand Inquisitor, we are left agape at the horrors of Kinkade.

    May we never find worse.

  • Alt+3

    As a Canadian I’m not eligible, but screw it.

    As far as who’s had the most bad influence over the ages, I’d say Saul of Tarsus, Constantine, Muhammad, or Martin Luther. Luther would be my front runner because he was apparently unable to put pen to paper without being responsible for the deaths of millions. I’ve read “On the Jews And Their Lies” and it’s pretty apparent the Holocaust was his wet dream. He also actively acknowledged the conflict of reason and faith and had the balls to say reason was the problem. He distilled the worst parts of Christianity and promoted them as virtue. He is personally responsible for centuries of moral and scientific retardation.

    As far as people who actually oversaw and specifically commissioned their atrocities I’m going to nominate Hitler, Mother Theresa, and Torquemada. Mother Theresa wins by just a hair because she had the balls to turn around and say that her victims should rejoice in the horrors she visited upon them. At least Hitler didn’t expect the jews to be gassed with a smile.

    Joseph Smith gets an honorable mention for making a religion in which it’s adherents must be clinically retarded to accept its claims. Also, the polygamy thing.

  • Gabriel

    I’d say Martin Luther. His anti-semitism (such as his book “Of the Jews and their lies” exemplifies) set the stage for Jewish persecution by Christians, and had a direct role in setting the stage for the atrocities of Adolph Hitler.

  • “Name the historical figure who, in the name of religion, caused the most harm to humanity.”

    Since we’re talkin’ historical figure, I’m assuming you want someone who actually existed. I would say Adolph Hitler. He was a christian. He used the idea that the Jews killed Jesus to justify killing as many of them as he could find.

    I could be wrong about this. I’ll need to read the book to know for sure. 😉

  • I vote for (St.)Augustine who gave us
    sexual repression and all that goes with it.
    Both the Catholics and the Protestants love his writings and show it.

  • You’ll have to forgive me if my history is off, but from what I remember, it was the Emporer Constantine that wanted the Christian canon bound together into one solid book. If this is the case, by him ordering the creation of the bible, he has single handedly invented the document that most bigots use to justify their actions. The bible is now, solidly “the word of God” and is taken as truth — which has been used as an excuse to burn women at the stake, torture, prevent equal rights for gays and women and the list goes on and on.

    So there is my vote: Mr. Constantine.

    (but holy shmoly can there be so many other good answers! :-P)

  • Jezier

    Me myself, I really resent those good people who are believers. Well, you know, with bad guys it’s quite easy – they are bad, they are religious… everything goes fine. And then you meet these really decent folks who are believers too. And the case is made of them as an example of a Christian, or some other denomination. It is all their fault, I think, that religion still muddle people’s minds.

  • jp

    This one is rather easy: Abraham, or else the man who invented his story.

    We have in this story a founding figure and key tenets of the majority by population of the world’s religions. Damaging doctrines include the assignment of a land to the people through a divine covenant, granting absolute right to the people to conquer, and etc.

    A second nominee would be a group: the Hasidim who, mostly on the basis of pork-eating and circumcision, build the foundations of the ultra-orthodox form of Judaism. But for them, one could not reasonably expect the survival of Judaism, Christianity, and as a consequence, Islam.

    In both this person and this group, we have the rejection of henotheism and early forms of religious toleration, the emphasis on nationalism and exclusivity, and etc.

    Yeah, the obvious problems follow.

  • Revyloution

    We have quite a few nominations for Constantine (including mine), and I think they all make a good case for his contributions. But it was Siamang’s nomination for Thomas Kincaid had me laughing my arse off.

  • spink

    Martin Luther, for the same reasons as Gabriel said.

  • Hitch

    I think if we want to talk sexual repression, Augustine didn’t do the initial damage, it really was Paul in an attempt to paint Roman culture as immoral while at the same time painting them as largely not cuplable for the crucifixions, rather huge mental gymnastics there, but it both is the source of christian anti-semitism and sexual intolerance and hostility.

    Martin Luther was a raging anti-semite, but his fodder too came from Paul.

    So in terms of total damage, I think Paul must bear more blame than Martin Luther.

  • I didn’t know that about Gregory IX and the cats. He gets my vote. Although I get to experience the legacy of the misogyny of Saul, Augustine, et al. on a regular basis, I gotta go with the cats.

  • TheRealistMom/Spamamander

    Oh! I know I already posted once but I wanted to add to the Joseph Smith entry. Joseph Smith created Mormonism and Mormonism created Stephanie Meyer. We ALL know the hell on earth Twilight has created.

  • Oh and honestly — VeggieTales. I had to become vegan so I had a bigger excuse to murder them all.

  • Moroni

    Joseph Smith

  • CH

    (The question imposes no requirement that the harm be 100% intentional.)

  • She might not count as a historical figure, but Tammy Faye Bakker’s crimes against makeup are unforgivable.

  • Whether or not a religious leader or person was historically real doesn’t matter if people believe that they did and act on those beliefs.
    This being said I have to go with Moses. Abraham may be the grand patriarch of monotheism but without the person/myth of Moses he probably would have been lost to time. Moses codified the evil, gave it form and a lasting heritage and cultural context on which everything else was built the Jewish occupation of the middle east, the legal tenants of the ‘Law’, the systematic alienation of all outsiders… it all goes back to Moses.
    The horrors of the old testament, Jesus’ teachings, Paul’s ravings, the Inquisition, Islam (to a very large extent), the Catholic Church and it multi-millennial predations; everything can be laid ultimately at Moses’ feet. Without his contribution the hundreds of millions of people tortured and murdered in the name of a make believe god may not have been so… humanity being what it is, another evil would have surely been invented.

    (It takes a very narrow view of history to thing G W Bush will have any long term affect that remotely compares to Moses, Paul, Jesus, Mohamed, Constantine etc… he is a piss ant who follows a narrow interpretation of the crap spewed by many worse men before him)

  • I’m going to look outside the Western and Middle Eastern contexts and vote for Confucius, on the grounds that he helped create a totalitarian ideology that unifies the conduct of the individual, the society, the state, and the divine into a great moral clockwork that justified for thousands of years (and still justifies for many) the maintenance of an eternal despotic police state to govern a vast population.

  • L. Foster

    Realist Mom/Spamander:

    I’ll see your Stephanie Meyer and raise you Mitt Romney.

  • Michael

    I think I have to go with the First Vatican Council, if a group can count as a figure. In 1870, they established the infallability of the Pope, as well as declaring outright that anyone who does not hold the same ideals as the Catholic Church is damned for all eternity. The holders of the office of the Pope have caused so much suffering and misery because of their archaic world views, especially to the poorer peoples of the world, and this group in particular bears a large part of the burden for increasing the empowerment of the office entering the 20th century.

  • Tina

    I nominate the Theist(s), historical and present. The Woo Leaders would have no sway upon civilization if the individuals burst into laughter instead of obeying. They are the ones to carry the true blame.

  • sarah

    Wow, great history lesson I had reading these entries. 🙂

  • I’m going to go a little strange here, since Saul and Mo have been taken, and go with Henry VIII. Directly and indirectly responsible for many religious deaths perpetrated by himself and his heirs, against Catholics and Protestants alike. Turned protestantism into a legitimate state religion, rather than a rebellion within the catholic church. And is pretty much responsible for the state of affairs that sent the pilgrims to plymouth rock. And I like to blame them for modern born-agains.

  • Claudia

    Not eligible because I don’t live in the US, but I think my vote would have to go to Pope John Paul II. Though there have been far more henious figures in the history of religion, I’m hard-pressed to think of a single individual who did harm to a greater number of people. The Catholic prohibition on condoms partly caused the African explosion of AIDS that continues to ravage the continent. Yes Ratzi has continued the awful policy, but John Paul bears the chief responsibility for the exponential rise of the disease in what is already the poorest and least healthy continent on Earth. Next to that Torquemada is a third-rater.

  • Denis Robert

    In Canada, so I’m participating just for the sale of it. Emperor Constantine. No contest.

  • Jacob Duckett

    The very first person to ever believe in God.
    We’ll call him Joe. Joe has been the source of more mayhem and destruction than anyone would ever think one man would be capable of.

  • Ben

    It almost certainly has to be Pope Urban II. He started the Crusades – the most deadly, bloody war of its time – and went around proclaiming the the Christians were the “noble race” and that every good Christian should join the army and help take Jerusalem back from the Muslims. The Crusaders essentially killed everyone who did not look like them or follow their religious beliefs. There’s another person in history who did essentially the same thing, though he didn’t justify it with God. His name was Adolf Hitler.

  • JulietEcho

    Wow, the cats thing was news to me too. I still stand by my original answer, but that’s an obvious second. Also: Siaming, you crack me up. I hate Thomas Kinkade with the heat of 10,000 suns.

  • Jim H

    Coming to the party late, I’ve seen lots of strong cases made for Constantine, Luther and Gregory IX (the anti-cat pope). I’m going to take a different tack:

    John Calvin and the tenets of predestination certainly intends (eternal) harm to the vast majority of humanity. (On the bright side, at least Calvinists don’t try to convert anyone they believe is already damned…)

  • Alice

    John Calvin, for the abominable doctrine of Calvinism. It is abbreviated in the ‘TULIP’ acronym standing for Total Depravity (you’re a terrible evil bad person because you’re human), Unconditional Election (who you are as a person doesn’t matter because you serve an arbitrary god who just picks people to be saved on a whim, isn’t he grand?) Limited Atonement (yeah, you’re safe but there’s no hope for your heathen friends and family) Irresistible grace (blah blah the elect can not resist god’s love or something, this one actually seems pretty benign) and Perseverance of the saints (can’t lose your salvation- leads to the ‘you were never a Christian’ defense against apostates that is very hurtful to many). I have seen this doctrine ruin the potentials of several close friends, otherwise intelligent people with interest in math and science and helping their fellow man who just wanted to follow what they believed to be true with their whole heart and instead found guilt and servitude and an inability to pursue their talents because they’re too busy praising a tyrant for being tyrannical.

    Otherwise, James Kennedy, founder of Evangelism Explosion. You know when Baptists come to your house at night and make you listen to an hour long presentation trying to convert you, they don’t venture into any kind of dialogue with you, they just talk for hours and leave you with those bothersome tracts that aren’t even interestingly illustrated? That’s his fault.

  • bobby

    besides the obvious choices like jesus and muhammad, and the many good names already listed, my vote would be for CS Lewis. his Deepak-Chopra-like verbosity and word density has given a false sense of rationality and justification to the whole of Christianity, that is accepted by a very large amount of moderate Christians.

    This style of feel-good, god-is-love religion is easily swallowed by people that dont have nearly the same social inhibitions as the fundies and evangelicals, but their numbers help fill out the ranks and give christianity the power that is abused by the dobsons and the AFA types.

    Overall, CS Lewis blurs the line between the Radical Right and rational thinking. given a choice between just extreme right wing religion, or atheism/agnosticism/Humanism, there would be a lot less christians in the world. But Lewis’ writings have given a happy middle ground for people to remain a Christian and give tacit approval and strength in numbers to the worst that religion has to offer

  • faustfire

    I would say John Travolta.

    Two words…Battlefield Earth!

  • Angie

    “Jehovah! There, I said it! * ducking from rocks * ” – Brian E.

    Was that halibut good enough for Jehovah?

    (Puts on fake beard)

  • Angie

    “Christian violence has stopped long ago.” – Pranati Banerjee

    I wish! Abortion clinic bombings, the murder of Dr. George Tiller, the arrests of Hutaree militia members, and proposed legislation in Uganda mandating the death penalty for gays are all evidence to the contrary.

  • matt

    Samson (well, the guy who made up the story). Inspiration for all suicide attacks.

  • Jeff Ciaccio

    This would have to be Emperor Constantine because of his paving the road for others to truly incorporate religion into the government. He paved the way not only for Christianity but others as well. He also made sure that honest skeptics could not hold be elected to office in the year 2010. Why he chose to torture us in 2010 is beyond me, but I’m sure that’s what he had in mind.

  • Ryan

    I’m going to have to go with the father of all modern western religions, Abraham. Fictional or not without this figure monotheism as we know it today would not exist, nor would all the wars, tragedies, etc. that it brought with it.

  • Kristin

    I’d have to say Martin Luther.

    He helped make Christianity more accessible to a large majority of the populance, without which Catholicism could have possibly lessened its’ hold simply because of how strict it is. He basically offered the masses a get-out-of-hell free card- way more attractive than paying for sins.

    He also was a fierce anti-Semitic. Need I add more?

  • christopher

    Bush would have been THE answer of all answers, except it is truly Mr. and Mrs. SaltoftheEarth Conservative Christian U.S. Citizen who elected the F-tard TWICE! ‘nough said. No.2 Lying Bible Scribes. No.3 Ayatollah Khomeini

  • JB Tait

    While I was tempted to name a figure from the Inquisition because they refined and advanced terrorism as a religious tool, or L Ron because he did it on purpose and as a joke, I have chosen, instead, to blame Moses for being too weak or too lazy to also carry down the third tablet. That was the one from which we would have received the Carlin commandments.

    I would like to add one more:
    Thou shalt not live in obscene luxury while the taxpayers or your religious adherents pour money into your otherwise failed endeavor and then claim the outrageous recompense is necessary to retain top talent.

  • I would have to say Jack Chick, hands down. He’s converted millions to the most sadistic version of Christianity possible.

  • Oh, and I think we’ve left off Ayatollah Khomeini. Implemented Sharia Law in Iran and murdered thousands of people who disagreed with him (up to 30,000 in the 1988 massacre alone). He was responsible for the Iran Hostage crisis and issued the fatwa against Rushdie, which led to attempts on the lives of three translators of the book, one of whom died. He’s forced all of the women in Iran into religious subjugation and separation, which was much less extreme before his time.

    He basically founded radical Islam. Who knows how much of the current state of extreme muslim terrorists can be traced back to Khomeini? Osama Bin Laden owes a great deal to the radicalization of Islam that Khomeini ushered in. Last summer we saw the green movement, there are people still being murdered and executed because they don’t toe the line Khomeini drew 30 years ago.

    “Let the American president know that he is the most repulsive member of the human race today, because of the injustice he has imposed on the Muslim nation. Today the Koran has become his enemy.” – Khomeini


  • Alex

    The greatest poster boy of Christianity. Pat Robertson, with his devilish grin and witty comments reflecting the best of american fundamentalism.

  • Stagamancer

    Well, I’m having a hard time deciding between the following:

    Jars of Clay
    Sixpence None the Richer
    These people assaulted the ear drums of America throughout the 90s and legitimized so called christian “rock”. Music is better when left to the devil.

  • Emily

    Rupert Murdoch/Roger Ailes, founders of Faux News, the propaganda machine that: a) spreads willful ignorance in an environment where education and correct information are easily accessible, b) gives a platform to such religious fundamentalists as Glenn Beck and Sarah Palin, and c) causes any reasonable person to curl into the fetal position and cry if watched for too long.

  • In an attempt to be different, I’ll vote for whoever wrote Hebrews 11:1, “Now faith is the substance of things hoped for, the evidence of things not seen” or whoever thought up that idea in the first place.

    The first part of the sentence may have been interpreted in a good way (encouraging people to have hope) but it is the last half that really ruins it.

    Because of this idea, people who want their religion in government think that religious belief is, in and of itself, evidence that can be used in an argument.

  • Noodly1

    The Pope!

    Pick one. It really doesn’t matter–they’re all the same, they just have different names.

  • President George W. Bush

    His administration has been compared to the infamous European Dark Ages when discussing the harm to science and education caused by his initiatives and directives in the first decade of the 21st century.

    At the same time he helped enact legislation which significantly erodes many fundamental freedoms of our society, he destroyed the economy with egregious financial deregulation, and he retarded global diplomatic relations to the level of school yard bullying.

    All while engaging in a self professed “Crusade” against his sect of Christianity’s historical enemies in the Middle East.

  • Lynne

    I’d have to say Abraham. As the father of all three Abrahamic religions, he is truly the root of all evil.

  • Andrew

    Stephen Baldwin. I don’t believe that any explanation is necessary.

  • Vas

    My vote is for Jack T. Chick, the most published comic book author in the world, and not even approved by the comic code authority! Over 200 tract titles and 20 full comic books translated into over 100 languages and over 750 copies sold and distributed worldwide. Spreading fear and haltered in the name of God since 1970. Way to go Jack, some here may have passed you over for more notable, famous and historical hate mongers, but I got your back Jack. With titles like “The Death Cookie” and “Going Down” you gotta love him. My personal fav has to be “This Was Your Life” I particularly like the awesome portrait of God sitting all faceless on his throne with all the tiny humans at the base of the stairs waiting to be judged. Yep Jack has poisoned a great many minds and promoted hate on an unprecedented scale.
    Come everybody vote for Jack T. Chick or a demon will eat your face up you poor little fish!

  • Vas

    Um correction Jack Chick has sold over 750 MILLION comics,(not 750) in fact I heard he recently hit the billion mark, Keep up the “good” work Jack… My hero.

  • Brian Westley

    I’ll take a chance with Johannes Gutenberg for printing so many bibles in the 15th century, which allowed common people to actually read it, leading to the great schism and the protestant movement, and all the fun wars that resulted. Extra points for still being used to print pictures of Mohammed and causing riots in the 21st century. That’s some staying power.

  • Christopher

    The Evil Lord Xenu

  • Dan W

    Not sure if he’s historical, but my first choice would be Moses.

    If he doesn’t count, I’d go with Saul of Tarsus.

  • FK

    It was Nero, because he didn’t kill all the christians back than, saving the world! :))

  • Wow, 2l2r, but I’ma agree with Constantine. If he hadn’t supported Christianity, it probably would’ve died out, and without Christianity Islam probably wouldn’t have developed. So right there you take out to two most vile forces in all of human history.

  • A lot of good choices are already taken, so I will go with George McCready Price, author of the 1923 college “textbook” The New Geology. This book laid the foundation for the “Creation Science” movement that inspired Henry Morris and later Kent Hovind and Ken Ham. The book’s arguments were no more valid in 1923 than they are today, but they sounded just academic enough to provide cover for “educators” and parents who prefer to deny science. Modern homeschool and Christian school books still seem to be based primarily on his work.

    Honorable mention goes to Aimee Semple McPhereson, who proved that not even faking one’s own kidnapping is enough to turn away True Believers. Her scandal seems to have paved the way for countless imitations, not the least of which was Oral Roberts, who claimed to need $8,000,000 to avoid being called “home.” Yes, God held his life for ransom. If McPhereson could pull off an imaginary abduction, why not try a potential one, by God no less?

  • colin

    you. yes YOU !

    filthy atheist !

    *just kidding*

  • Scotty D

    Joseph, without question.

    A liar with a soft heart who protected an impure woman. Had he not stuck with Mary and backed up her “God did it” claims, then this false idol Jesus would have been not a man of note, nor more than the illegitimate son of a carpenter.

    The atrocities committed in the name of God / Jesus and his glorious salvation would never have been. No crusades, no Lutherans (though at least they don’t worship the clergy like the cat-licks), no holocaust et. al.

  • Tim Carroll

    Constantine. No question in my mind.
    This looks like an interesting book.

  • Hitch

    Gutenberg? I assume that was a joke. Gutenberg has actually enabled the departure from the dark ages. The protestant movement was bloody, but not because of interest, but because of necessity to free from catholic oppression.

    I think it’s fair to say that we wouldn’t be here if it wasn’t for Gutenberg, the enabling of archiving and distributing scientific theories, the able of the masses to read form themselves the things that until they were told by clerical authority (often in foreign language!)

    For all that’s wrong with Martin Luther, he also had positive aspects in pushing for a public’s faith which ultimately is still the core of the Jefferson/Madison view of separation of church and state.

    Printing cartoons does not incite violence either. I think we should start denouncing as strongly as possible this whole “incite violence” narrative. As if the people who actually act violently have no choice in their actions.

  • A Portlander

    Easy: Papa Joe Stalin. He used the Orthodox Church’s aura of authority to legitimize his image as he slaughtered millions, simultaneously becoming the ultimate accusatory rebuttal to atheism for the non-thinker. He, his cult, and his reign of terror stand for everything we despise, and to many theists he’s our avatar, dispelling any possibility that our message might penetrate their reactive, defensive little minds. His spectre sullies by association all the virtues we align ourselves with: reason, science, secular rule, and dogma-free education.

  • cypressgreen

    K’, I haven’t read all 100+ comments yet…but I put in Pope Gregory 9th, cause he made the Inquisition formal, causing Spain to pick up on the idea, too.

    Besides executions, the Inquisition fostered just plain hate, suspicion, prejudice and misery all over.

    And the new Pope was head of the current version, and I think they still have a bad influence.

  • sil-chan

    Long long ago, possibly millions of years ago, somewhere in Africa, some person looked up at the stars and wondered why we were here. He and/or she then innocently made some shit up and got the ball rolling on religion. I nominate that unknown and unnamed person.

  • OneHandClapping

    There are some very VERY good answers here, and some fantastic arguments supporting them. I think, however, they miss the mark. You see every one of the nominees that I have seen so far can lay their very existence in history at the feet of one person. This person has done the most to cause misery and destruction across the millenia. They are solely responsible for every travesty of justice, every wrong committed in the name of *insert deity here* and each crime against humanity perpetrated in his/her/it’s name. Without this person, each of these equally bizarre religions would never have existed but in the mind of a single addled human mind.

    This person?

    The believer.

  • Mohammed through Genghis Kahn. Until Baghdad was sacked by the Mongols, Islam was on its way to being peaceful despite its origins. Things really got nasty after that, and they’ve never gotten better.

    In the past century, I’d have to say it was Hitler, as tempting as it is to say Karl Rove.

  • Vas

    Hitch said…
    “Printing cartoons does not incite violence either. I think we should start denouncing as strongly as possible this whole “incite violence” narrative. As if the people who actually act violently have no choice in their actions.”
    Really you think cartoons are not capable of inciting violence? Nazi propaganda, (often in cartoon form) did not incite violence, KKK cartoons of “coons” hung up by the neck did not incite violence? The fact that a person may be incited to violence does nothing to absolve the person who committed the violence act itself but it does indicate that there was some one else egging them on. People who already have a predilection can be incited to act where they may otherwise “just sit this one out” you seem to think incitement does not exist and never happens. Why do you suppose we even have such a word as incite or laws that forbid inciting to violence. Do you suppose that people such as Charles Manson or Robert Shelton or Jim Jones or Rick Warren should be let off the hook because they didn’t actually commit violent acts, but merely spoke out or published materials that incited others to kill? Will you refuse to acknowledge crowd psychology and insist that you alone among all humanity are immune to it’s effects? Do you claim that no crowd has been incited to riot or no worker has ever been incited to strike or is it just that cartoons are so impotent that they can never be sufficient to the task?

    I think we should all start denouncing as strongly as possible all “Buzz Kill” postings. As if the posters who just want to shit on others, (particularly in light hearted fun posts) have no choice in their actions.

    Give me a break man you attempted to incite people on this site to denounce the entire “incite violence” narrative.

    My nomination stands
    Jack T. Chick is in the business of inciting via cartoons, that is what he does and he does it well, a billion strong and growing.

  • Hitch

    Vas, I’m not sure who lacks humor here ;).

    And no, a smiling stick figure (a right, freedom of expression, freedom to criticize religion) should not incite violence. And yes Charles Manson did incite, namely murder (a crime). See the difference?

    I’m sick and tired of people who say that Rushdie, Hirsi Ali, Hitchens, Westergaard, Vilks, Taslima Nasrin incite violence and equate them with Manson, KKK and so forth.

    Perhaps we can humor that situation.

  • Skeptuckian

    I nominate “ANONYMOUS.” For the first time in human history, someone, somewhere, a long time ago, found comfort or provided comfort to others by making up a myth or a story. Conversely, said person could have used the story or myth to frighten people into docility or action.

    From Wikianswers: “Archaeologists have discovered what seems to be remains of the world’s earliest religious worship site in the remote Ngamiland region of Botswana. Here, our ancestors performed advanced rituals, worshiping the python some 70,000 years ago.”

    I find it curious that a snake was involved…where have I heard that before.

  • staceyjw

    I would say Mohammad because his influence has been long lasting, oppressing people even into today’s world. As a woman, the religion he spawned is true evil. The fact that it’s still 7th century, and has not evolved ANY (like Judiasm, most xtians, etc), makes him the worst of the worst.

    I want a book!

  • staceyjw

    I think “onehandclapping” has a great point- the believer is the root of all problems. You can’t have people kiling for imaginary gods when no one believes in them.

  • cathy

    I’m going with Emperor Justinian of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman) Empire. This is the man who first linked gays with Sodom and instituted one of the first sodomy laws in recorded history, with death and banishment as punishment and the bible as his excuse. It was also this man’s historic influence that led to the resurgence of Christian homophobia in the late middle ages. This guy’s still doing damage and he’s been dead for centuries.

  • Vas

    Hirsi Ali, Hitchens, Westergaard, Vilks, Taslima Nasrin?!? I thought you were talking about Jack Chick! Chick is a cartoonist of some renown who makes his living inciting Christians against non Christians, not to violence but to contempt and proselytizing. However cartoons are often used to incite to violence. I was siting Charles Manson, Robert Shelton (KKK), Nazis, Jim Jones and Rick Warren as examples of people or organizations who do incite to violence and in the case of the KKK and Nazis as examples of the use of cartoons to incite. I was not comparing them to your above named group but instead as examples of the validity of the concept of incitement and also the use of cartoons to incite. Cartoons can and do incite to violence and a cartoon of Mohammad can has and will for the foreseeable future incite violence. There is a difference as far as intent goes as in one case the cartoons are designed to incite violent action against a group, (KKK and Nazi cartoons) and in an other they are designed to incite contempt for a group (Jyllands-Posten, Jack Chick cartoons) and at still other times as a protest against those incited by cartoons meant to defame them. Lets face it ideas matter and cartoons can and do convey ideas in a very powerful way. When a cartoon pisses you off and you take violent action against the cartoonist it’s kind of a stretch to say the cartoonist incited violence against himself, however when a cartoon is designed to inspire violent action against a third party the cartoonist bears a certain responsibility if and when that action is carried out. Cartoons can and do incite people to buy certain cereals, or to kill subhuman scum, or to harass people with difference beliefs they theirs. Jack is effective and I find it hard to believe that a billion comics designed to incite have not affected the readership.

  • Hitch

    No, I’m not talking about Jack Chick. I responded to the preposterous claim that Gutenburg is the historical figure who, in the name of religion, caused the most harm to humanity. And the frivolous link that Gutenberg’s work is responsible for any supposed cartoon incitements in the 21st century.

    And yes, the people I named are charged with inciting violence for engaging in speech. This is exactly the problem with incitement rhetoric. Everything we dislike we can label incitement, and everything we like we cheer on. It has a strong political motivation in virtually all cases that are of interest to me.

    I would strongly contest that the Jyllands-Posten was designed to create contempt against a group.

    Let me cite Rushdie who I fully agree with:


    Do you know what actually happened? The two danish imams who toured the Islamic world with 2 fake pictures added to the ones actually published, depicting a pig face and a praying person being molested by a dog? Both never having appeared in the newspaper? Did you know that there was no motion to protest in many countries until heads of state got convinced by these imams? If you want to argue what incited violence, I’m happy to argue that, but we should be doing that in another place and another forum.

    My issue with your style of arguing is that you throw apples and oranges in a pot and give it all the same, giving at least one part of it hence an inappropriate label without understanding the actual respective situations.

    I will not defend Chick’s content, in fact I very much denounce it, but I will defend his right of free expression. Not for him alone, but for all of us.

    On incitement. There may be material intent to incite. This never abnegates our own responsibility to not follow inciting intent. The murderers Charles Manson incited were still convicted as murderers and rightfully so because they are fully culpable. The incitement should have found no action. Glenn Beck incites against socialism and progressivism every day, that gives noone the agency or apology that they just got incited by him and hence acted. We are responsible for how we respond. That’s all I will say in this thread on the topic.

  • Vas

    Hitch alright I’ll leave it alone on this thread after this as well. Sure Chick has a right to do what he does, it still incites discontent by use of cartoons. The imams who toured with the “fake” cartoons used them to incite and that was the purpose the cartoons where created for. It appears to me that the original “real” cartoon was meant incite others against Muslims, not to violence but rather the first step down that road namely to reinforce the notion of Muslims as dangerous “others”, James Dobson does this with sermons and radio shows rather than cartoons with the “others” in his case being homosexuals and they are all perfectly free to do so. But in the end Dobsons actions have incited others to shun and/or shame/harass family members who are gay, sometimes, (sadly often) these familiar discords have been a significant factor in the suicides of gay teens. Bill O’Riley raves unabated for months about the monstrous Dr. Tillman and Tillman winds up murdered and yet Bill O is off the hook because… Why exactly? Even though we now know that his influence played an inciting role he never said bluntly that some one should go shoot him. Fine so he and everyone else has a right to incite to violence provided they are cleaver enough to dance around a topic while still making their intent clear.
    All I’m really saying is that the concept of a person or organization being able to incite others to violence or any number of other behaviors is a valid and demonstrable concept. Sure I give many examples of incitement but I also acknowledge the differences in these examples. To the extent that there has been apples and oranges it has been the fact that for the first half of our discussion you were talking about apples and I was talking about oranges. When I refuted the statement “I think we should start denouncing as strongly as possible this whole “incite violence” narrative.” I had no idea you were talking about the Danish Muhammad cartoons narrative, I thought you were denouncing the concept that people can and do incite violence in others. Sorry it seems I lost the plot on that one I thought you meant cartoons can not incite violence, that specifically Jack could not incite anything with his dumb cartoon tracts. I think that Jacks tract such as “Allah had no son” and “is Allah like you” do push people down that road of hatred of Muslims just as the danish cartoons do. Come on now admit that a cartoon of Mohammad with a bomb in his turban is an inflammatory image and not meant to paint Muslims in a kind light, or don’t, it seems we disagree on that point.
    I’m not even saying it is wrong to incite, simply that it is possible and happens a lot and I won’t denounce the concept and I don’t think others should denounce it either.
    Jack is up to some nasty business, even you acknowledge that. I thought your bit about cartoons was a response to my nomination of Jack just a few posts upstream. Like I said it seems somewhere along the thread I lost the plot.

  • plutosdad

    It appears to me that the original “real” cartoon was meant incite others against Muslims,

    No, just the opposite in fact. The original cartoons were made because author Kåre Bluitgen complained he could find no one brave enough to illustrate his book on the life of Mohammed (which was non insulting). This was the culmination of a series of events (in 2004 a Danish teacher was attacked for merely reading from the Koran)

    Jyllands-Posten responded to this by issuing a challenge to artists to draw comics. Almost every single one was non insulting, most didn’t even include Mohammed. For instance one was of Mohammed with a sword protecting his flock, a typical image of a shepherd protecting those who depend on him. Not inciting, but just the opposite: to prove people were still brave enough to stand up to threats, without being insulting. And look what happened.

    And yet people keep repeating the falsehood that the orignal cartoon’s purpose was to incite anger towards muslims. Journalists and editors keep only printing the one most offensive comic (bomb turban), instead of printing all 12. People keep making statements like yours without doing 5 minutes of research.

    If cartoons can incite anger, spreading false information can as well.

  • Vas

    “to prove people were still brave enough to stand up to threats, without being insulting.”
    Nothing insulting about Muhammad with a bomb, clearly it was meant to paint Muslims in a good light, my mistake.

    Just because I disagree does not mean I don’t know what I’m talking about, screw you and your 5 minutes of research snipe.

  • voltar

    I’m split between Saint Constantine and al-Ghaz?l?. Constantine basically cemented Christianity and gave it the base it needed to survive for millennia.

    al-Ghazali started a philosophical movement in the Islamic world in the 1100s that basically caused the whole Islamic world to turn into super fundies, freeze in time, and stay stuck in the middle ages even to this day. Before this the Islamic world was in a golden age of scientific discovery. Imagine if he didn’t come along, the Arab countries today might have been just as advanced and modern as the western world (maybe even more so).

  • brian sheehan

    I would personally say Abraham. If not for him, the three most destructive religions of the world would not even exist. Maybe something else would have replaced them but before them it seems that that people didn’t destroy each other based on their patron mythological invisible daddy.

  • CJ

    My first thought was Savonarola for his destruction of most of the Renaissance art works in Florence during his “brief” reign there.

    Having been raised in the Calvinist church, I will also nominate John Calvin for having created the most depressing version of Christianity I can imagine. Pre-destination and saved by grace had me an atheist by my late teens.

  • Someone Sane

    Okay, this is another attempt at an entry I tried to submit about 36 hours ago that seems to have been eaten. 😉


    I nominate Moses, the fictional representation of the conflation of hundreds of years of anonymous authors of the Torah/Pentateuch, the first five books of the Bible.

    The Torah/Pentateuch provides the foundational justifications for Judaism, Christianity (and its ridiculous amount of branches, from Catholicism to Pentecostalism to Mormonism), and Islam. They all tacked on massive amounts of additional garbage, but most particularly without the backing of the Genesis creation story(ies), the Adam & Eve original sin story, and the Ten Commandments, I think they would have collapsed long ago.

    Genesis includes the creation stories that inspire or demand a blatant disregard for science, persisting even among millions of modern-day dangerous fools. It includes the Adam & Eve stories that provide the foundational justifications for misogyny. Women are deemed inferior to men both because Eve was created after/from Adam, and because Eve was fooled into getting humanity cursed. Christianity’s mythos revolves around the ‘original sin’ established in the Adam & Eve story, without which the whole Jesus sacrifice storyline would be irrelevant. Genesis also establishes the pattern of God having no qualms arbitrarily slaughtering massive amounts of people and his followers celebrating it for millennia to come, with Noah’s Ark. And it puts Abraham’s blind unquestioning faith on a pedestal, applauding his willingness to murder his son at the decree of a voice in his head.

    Exodus establishes the myth of Moses, the supposed author of all these atrocities. It includes the formation of an actual holy day celebrating abritrary slaughter for the sake of religion, Passover. And it establishes the Ten Commandments, which have been used as one of the major infiltrations of religion into government, by liars and fools who claim that all laws and moral principles spring from the Ten Commandments, so surely they deserve to be enshrined in our courthouses. Exodus also enshrines many additional laws, most notably the infamous “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live,” which continues to inspire murders even today.

    Leviticus includes more of the massive amounts of dictated ‘laws’ that Christians have long loved to pick and choose from to justify a myriad of bigotries, whether putting ‘undesirables’ to death in earlier times, or just mistreating ‘undesirables’ while wishing they could put them (us) to death in modern times. It provides foundational justifications for hatred of gays, blasphemers, insufficiently-subservient children, insufficiently-subservient women, and more.

    Numbers includes more demonstrations of God’s murderous whims and absurd threats, praises the killing of interracial couples, instructs that sick people be abandonded, and other beautiful examples of inspirational literature.

    Deuteronomy includes one of the most explicit commands from God to commit genocide against people with different beliefs. It also lays out the Deuteronomic Code, more of the same harsh tripe as Exodus and Leviticus, including killing insufficiently-subservient children, killing women who can’t prove virginity when wed, killing witches, approving slavery, and so forth.

  • Frink

    Abraham, for making up all this “God” business as an excuse for a poorly conceived April fools joke some 4,000 years ago.

  • nocommentatthistime

    I would have to go with Larry Norman. Yes, that’s right, as in:
    “Why does the devil get all the good music?”
    The founder of the whole Christian “rock” genre, who endured oppression from fellow Christians in order to open the door for such musical atrocities as Jars of Clay, the Newsboys, plus any band claiming that they play Christian punk, goth, deathmetal, etc,but with the loving message of Jesus Christ, oh yeah and then their was that whole ska incident from the late 90’s, eek!
    I only make fun because I participated….

  • abadidea

    Having read all of the comments, i’d like to add an honorable mention for Thomas Aquinas, who had some good ideas but I can never remember them because of his anti-female views, namely that a daughter can only be born as the result of a sin of the father, and if the father was in right standing with God he would have only sons. Since he was taken VERY seriously by the Catholic church, this was a big blow to womans’ rights.

  • Revyloution

    So, who won?

  • @Revyloution — The winners have been notified!

  • OneHandClapping

    Booooooo:( full disclosure! I’m curious as to which choices and arguments won.

  • The ones which stood out to me and won the prizes are:




    Congrats to them!

  • Hitch

    Well done. Fun thread this with lots of good history.

  • Revyloution

    Nice, good choices. Im surprised you passed up on Thomas Kincaid tho…

    This was a fun thread. I enjoyed it throughly.

  • Bat-Man

    Satan, no contest.

    Everyone else who has done any harm is just practice.

  • squirrley shirley and pete

    michael, michael, michael…after reading several posts (most all good, very insightful and very, very interesting)…we can only say…its impossible to name just one…impossible!!…the posts are clever, well thought out, historically correct (for the most part) and intelligently written surprisingly…i expected some real back lash from the usual ‘beliver ideology types’, but the responses were refreshing…i guess that’s not an answer to the question, but there is/have been way to many ‘religious’ folks that have contributed to the harm of mankind/society to pick just one…(the only question, how long do we have to wait to be notified that we have won…:)…i want to run out and get your book, but knowing we will win, i’ll wait a bit…)

  • Jim Annesser

    It has to be Abraham, who fathered the line from which Judiasm,Christianity and Islam arose. Three of the most violent religions in the world.

  • toddfergie

    The anti~christ hands down.

  • John klimenok, Kr

    It does not appear that anyone selected the most heinous “historical figure” that I think is the most obvious — Yahweh/God. That such a fanciful creature that doesn’t even exist should create such hatred and bigotry around the world to this day is my choice.

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