The Most Violent Century of Human History

Each war is different, each war is the same by kevindooley

The progress made in the 20th century is staggering. Advancements in science, medicine and technology alone have brought incalculable benefits to humanity.

Yet a darker side of the 20th century cannot be ignored. For all the progress, the 20th century was the most violent of human history.

Over 100 million people were killed in two world wars. Many smaller wars claimed hundreds of thousands of lives.

An estimated 170 million civilians were murdered by their own governments. Places like Afghanistan, Rwanda, Kuwait, Bosnia, Kosovo, Yugoslavia, Chechnya, along with others, experienced unimaginable violence and bloodshed.

The 20th century made common words like holocaust, genocide, abortion, terrorism, and mass suicide.

In the later portion of the 20th century, America witnessed a dramatic increase in violence. From 1960 to1993, violent crime increased by 560 percent. In 1987, the Department of Justice estimated that eight out of ten people will be victims of violent crimes at least once in their lives. Even more alarming violent crimes committed by children ages 10 to 17 increased 400 percent.

Frightening turns in violence

The nature of violent crime also took some frightening turns. Gangs, serial killers, city riots and drive-by shootings continued, but large scale terrorist activities — most notably the bombings of the World Trade Center and the Oklahoma City federal office building — became ominous examples of what many believe to be a future pattern of violence. The nation was also shocked by extreme violence in schools from upper-middle class districts like the Columbine High School.

“In looking back at the past 100 years, one thing stands out: Man’s capacity for cruelty seems fairly constant … As the millennium closes, it seems there are more and more random assaults on the anchors of American life: offices, schools, post offices. Some fear terrorism too, is the wave of the future — the targeting of American fortresses by crazed militia groups or by international madmen seeking redress with powerful bombs. Crime experts worry that someday we might see the frightening brand of overseas terrorism that has so far eluded us: suicidal fanatics bent on destruction” ( Angie Cannon, U.S. News & World Report, Dec. 6, 1999).

With this history of violence, one of our most alarming concerns should be the proliferation of nuclear weapons. The potential of a nuclear holocaust looms largely over the human race. It is simply unrealistic to think that humans will not use such power for evil.

Other kinds of violence

Violence in our own nation must include reference to the torture and killing of more than 50 million unborn babies in the last 37 years of the twentieth century. There is no way to sanitize the hideous procedures of poisoning or dismembering tiny human bodies and dumping them in the garbage or “donating” their parts in the name of fetal tissue research. This is a horrible violence that grieves and angers the heart of God.

The violence of the past century compares with an earlier time in history — the days of Noah. During that period, “the earth was corrupt in God’s sight and was full of violence” (Genesis 6:11). Our Creator, “was grieved that he had made man on the earth, and his heart was filled with pain. So the Lord said, “I will wipe mankind whom I have created from the face of the earth …” (Genesis 6:6-7).

Enter Jesus’ words: “As it was in the days of Noah, so it will be at the coming of the son of man” (Matthew 24:37).

Considering the amount of violence that filled the earth in the last century and continues to this day, we could be moving closer to the Lord’s return. Are you ready to face your creator? Although God must be deeply grieved when he observes this violence, his love and salvation are still available.

The most well known verses of scripture remind us that “God so loved the world that he gave his one and only son, that whoever believes in him shall not perish but have eternal life. Whoever believes in him is not condemned, but whoever does not believe stands condemned already because he has not believed in the name of God’s one and only son” (John 3:16, 18).

We need to do everything possible to bring peace to a violent world. In scripture, we are commanded to pray for those in authority so that we can have peaceful lives. Jesus taught his followers to live by an ethic of nonviolence and to be peacemakers.

But Scripture also teaches that the God-ordained function of government is to punish evil doers so that we can have a more orderly and peaceful society.

The pattern of violence continues into the 21st century as we face ongoing acts of terrorism. As we pursue peace, we must remain realistic about the potential for violence beyond what this world has ever witnessed. We must also be prepared to meet God. He has made a way for people to have peace with himself (Romans 5:1). This is a peace that can never be taken away.

See: Blaming Religion for the violence 

Steve Cornell

About Wisdomforlife

Just another worker in God's field.
This entry was posted in Evil in the world, History, Problem of evil, Progressive?, Violence and tagged , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

14 Responses to The Most Violent Century of Human History

  1. Pingback: Key to ministry in postmodern times « A Time to Think

  2. Steve, A lot of anthropologists and archeologists point out that life was more violent in primitive times than today. They conclude that inter-tribal warfare killed more people per capita than 20th century World Wars.

    The 13th century was probably the worst time to live in Europe, wars and plagues galore.

    Even during what some call Europe’s first World War, The Thirty Years War, the toll per capita may have been greater than during the 20th century due to the famine and disease that followed.

    The wars between England and France left enormous numbers of people injured and killed, per capita, if only because of lack of antbiotics, blood transfusions, etc.

    More U.S. soldiers died during the Civil War than in both World Wars plus Korea and Nam.

    And there are few statistics on murders, assaults, and thefts in pre-1800s Europe, or other places on earth. I also suspect that not having regular police rounds, nor lampposts, must have made the night more fearsome than it is today. As for abortion in the past, women were lucky just to live through childbirth in the good old days.

    Human populations only grew enormously after the 1850s when humanity reached its first billion mark. So one must also consider deaths “per capita.”

    I will say this about the rise of fascism and communism in the 20th century, they were both belligerant ideologies sworn to destroy each other. Moreover, Christianized Europeans with plenty of churches and prayers were destroying each other with the most advanced weapons at their disposal during World War 1, including firing poison gas shells at each other, and the Russian revolution succeeded during the last year of World War 1 while Europe was busy gassing itself. And Chinese communism arose in reaction to China having been exploited by foreign powers for centuries, and then invaded by Japan. Sadly that’s how history works. Communism was an idealogue driven system that even invites comparison to a religion since it promised a worker’s paradise, and replaced the devil with the bourgeousie, and had a holy manifesto in Russia, and a holy little red book in China.
    The Good Old Days?

    See Also

    Do You Fear What Might Happen If The World Believed In Evolution?
    Long For A Return to “The Good Old Days?”


    • thinkpoint says:

      Thank you for the thoughtful response. I was dealing strictly with human violence not disease related deaths. What you point to affirms that a constant of human history is violence. Why? To suggest that religion is the primary cause would be silly. One cause, yes. But religion has also been a force for more good in the world than other influences. This is always conveniently overlooked by many atheists (which gives away the irrational bias). As to evolution, I am not sure what you mean? Micro-evolution is a fact of science. Using biological evolution to talk about ultimate origins is a departure from science into philosophy. Actually fear of religion, particularly in the Academy is a much bigger problem. see: Theophobia: Fear of religion at the Academy:


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  4. Pingback: Blaming Religion for violence | A Time to Think

  5. Gloria says:

    Irregardless of disease Edwards point still stands. This is actually quite the least violent period of time known to exist. Disease is also potential a violent act. Unless you wish to discredit the disappearance of most of the America’s cultures.
    As for religion, being Atheist myself I do not think anything is inherently wrong or immoral including religion… But religion has too often become just an act of repeating outdated social standards…religiously. It scares me that there is a large part of America who fully supports this war singularly on their religious beliefs… While true the war is really about money, if it didn’t have it’s right wing anti Muslim backers, would it really be happening? That is something we will never really know. This fear does not make me want to go kill Christians, or to have a military go kill Christians, or Muslims… But there are a lot of Christians here who are so afraid of Muslims and their religion that they do want a military to go kill all Muslims. Everything from the holocaust to the inquisition had to do with religious in some way, but also other motivations. But I wonder, situations like the inquisition, what would be the case of situations like that if people were self educated and had a much more complex idea of what life is and it’s value than giving it up all of life’s tough and moral decisions to men who claim they are more capable then me and some guy I have never seen or met. And in what ways does the church (general) currently try to separate itself completely from that behavior… Not just separating themselves from the historical circumstance, but to keep a keen eye on blind following or not. I honestly wouldn’t say they are doing much…
    As for the article that is a perspective of one academic atheist who seems to sit on a bridge of the possibility of god or not, and probably would best be not described as an Atheist, cause he acknowledges a possibility. The things that he probably fears about gods existence are probably the basis that Atheists have for knowing, that god does not exist, as apposed to hoping he doesn’t.


  6. Gloria says:

    I guess the question with religion, is that we have seen that religion can be ugly, especially due to it’s unaccountability. Are we in a period of time where religion holds itself accountable or a period of time when others hold religions accountable. Or are we in neither. Sorry for all the typos bad grammar..


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  9. jordan says:

    Way to turn a decent article into a religious rambling, religion is the cause of most of the violence we see today, and believing your religion is better than every other religion is the main cause, and after all, the bible was and is a story, maybe one day people will worship red riding hood too… idiot


  10. Wally says:

    There are more people now than ever, you ignore the research that shows per capita, the 20th Century is not the most violent period of humankind. You are so bent on positioning the book of Revalations as a reference to our time, that you skew your argument. The truth is that Christians have thought JC was coming back in their lifetimes since Roman days. Sadly it is those with minds trapped as religious prisoners, who are keen the make this all a self-fulfilling prophecy. I am sure that was the plan of those behind George W, when they started a war with the armies of the world, between the Tigris and the Euphrates. Now with ISIL as the prime target, they can have a second chance at it.


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