If God is so good, why has there been so much persecution in the name of religion?
“Of all tyrannies, a tyranny sincerely exercised for the good of its victims may be the most oppressive. It would be better to live under robber barons than under omnipotent moral busybodies. The robber baron's cruelty may sometimes sleep, his cupidity may at some point be satiated; but those who torment us for our own good will torment us without end for they do so with the approval of their own conscience." -C.S. Lewis
Sadly, many Christian leaders are ignoring the plight of the persecuted church (see Kidnapped in Iraq: A Christian Humanitarian Tells His Story). Some are even silencing those who would speak up for the persecuted. See Persecuted and Silenced. Others are ignoring the plight of the persecuted for the sake of money. (E.g. Many businesses and politicians in the west, and the east, ignore the plight of Chinese prisoners, whose organs are used and their bodies disposed if they are a match for someone needing a transplant. If you wish to deal in China you must not say anything against the CCP (Chinese Communist Party), see here. Many of these prisoners have done nothing more than displease the party. See here.) But I think most Christians don’t speak up for their persecuted brothers and sisters because of a misunderstanding.
'Some Christians refuse to engage with the persecuted church on the misunderstanding that persecution is good for church growth.606 “The blood of the martyrs is the seed of the church,” they say, quoting Tertullian as they back away, not wanting to interfere. If truth be told, Tertullian’s words have not only caused a good deal of confusion, they have also been exploited to justify inaction.
While there certainly was persecution in Carthage (Tunis) at Tertullian’s time (around AD 200), it was nothing compared to what would come from the seventh century with the armies of Muhammad and the arrival of Islam. Had Tertullian been right, then with all that martyrs’ blood poured out in Carthage, churches should have sprung up like mushrooms. But that is not what happened. In fact, the church in Carthage was essentially annihilated, and the blood of the martyrs simply sank into the sands.
In truth, Tertullian might not have thought through his statement. For as Jesus makes clear in his parable of the sower, the seed of the church is the gospel—the word of God—and we are called to scatter that seed.607
As a passionate gardener with half an acre of terraced cottage gardens, I can assure you that no amount of labor, “Blood and Bone” (fertilizer), and irrigation will make poppies grow if you fail to scatter the seed.
I believe “the blood of the martyrs” works very much like “Blood and Bone”, and the sweat of the laborers and the tears of the intercessors work very much like irrigation: they prepare the soil.
As the blood of the martyrs is poured out across the Middle East, might it not be reasonable to expect that the God of the cross, the God who is there, might be keen to subvert this evil and redeem it for good by making hearts receptive to the gospel? What we need is more sweat and more tears: more sacrificial giving, more intelligent strategic advocacy, more passionate intercessory prayer, and of course, more urgent and intentional scattering of the seed.' (Kendal, Elizabeth. After Saturday Comes Sunday: Understanding the Christian Crisis in the Middle East (pp. 237-238). Resource Publications, an Imprint of Wipf and Stock Publishers. Kindle Edition. )
"But," you might say, "What about when it's the church doing the persecuting?"
There are doctrines within many religions that lead to persecution. Particular doctrines are the problem, not religion itself. The following is a chapter from Thomas Talbott's book, The Inescapable Love of God, which looks at a particular doctrine within Christianity which led to much persecution in Europe. A Legacy of Fear and Persecution . (If you'd like to look into this doctrine more deeply I highly recommend Talbott's book and All You Want To Know About Hell by Steve Gregg; particularly the section entitled "Preliminary Considerations.")
Some say that believing that there is only one way to God is dangerous; it can lead to violence and persecution of non-believers and heretics.
They are right. It can. But it will not lead to ill treatment of unbelievers and heretics if those who believe there is only one way to God also believe that God loves their enemies—and that they should love those who disagree with them—and that unbelievers should be allowed to express their opinions in public.
Does thinking there is no God lead to persecution and violence? Not if those who think that also believe that those who disagree with them should be allowed to express their views in public.
Is believing that all roads lead to God a problem for society? It can be, if that belief is accompanied by the view that those who say there is only one way to God, should not be allowed to express that belief in public.
In a free society, people have a right to be wrong.
All views can lead to persecution, when the proponents of the view do not believe that those who disagree with them should be allowed to express such views in public.