Yes, mkluther, you have understood my point.
I wasn’t responding only to you, but also to John Dalton, who insinuated that Christianity had something to answer for in the matter. So it was necessary to qualify things, to say in what respect Christians and/or Christianity were blameworthy, and in what sense blameless. However, the way you jumped in, your objection seemed dual to me; on the one hand you seemed to be making the more limited point you state above, but on the other you seemed to be defending his position against mine – hence my response to some of your statements.
Regarding your more limited claim, i.e., that atheism was no more guilty than Christianity, I already answered that: the level of violence and the targeting of particular races, classes, etc. was greatly ramped up in the 20th century, under atheist regimes, and it certainly appears that the very atheism of these regimes helped to remove traditional inhibitions to evils of that kind. I gave the example of differing treatments of the Jews in Europe under pre-Nazi Christianity and under Nazi rule. In the former case, Jews were treated very badly; in the latter case, they were almost exterminated from Europe (and the extermination would have been completed had Hitler won the war). No one who believed in the God of the Bible would have carried out such a program. Similarly, regimes shaped by the influence of Marx (a Jew who had repudiated his own Judaism and even his own people, as his writings show) rejected the God of the Bible as nonexistent and hence irrelevant to moral and political decision-making, and we know how many political murders those regimes were willing to commit. Believing that there exists a God who is looking over your shoulder and measuring your behavior by a standard he has clearly announced has an inhibiting effect.
Of course, there have always been rulers and large numbers of people in societies who nominally accept the existence of a God and pay lip service to that God’s morality, but do not in their heart of hearts believe any of it. We see the difference between such people and those who really believe in God, when we read the stories of those Christians who risked their lives or freedom to harbor Jews in homes (as they harbored the Frank family), or to speak out against the Nazi regime (Bonhoeffer, spitefully executed by the Nazis even after they knew the war was lost, just to get in one last act of hatred against Christians who dared to resist them). Real belief in Christian principles, as opposed to purely formal assent, seems to make people more ethical and more willing to oppose murder, genocide, torture, deprival of rights, etc. The track record of 20th-century regimes animated by anti-Christian or atheistic ideologies is nowhere near so good.
I have not said that all atheists go around murdering people or depriving them of their rights. I haven’t even said that atheism logically requires that. But atheism, historically speaking, did contribute to the removal of deep cultural restraints. This is concealed from us because here in North America, and even in Britain, atheism is a genteel affair, and atheists here generally accept the civilized standards of freedom of speech, limited state power, etc. Our atheists tend be at worst Bertrand Russells, and at best lovable pussycats like Carl Sagan. That was not the case in Continental and Asian atheism in the 20th century. It was an ugly movement filled with much hatred of past culture and past religion, and it had a much more political, less private flavor. To fail to understand this is to fail to understand much of the 20th century.