Sam is not arguing that faith causes violence, per se, or that no avowedly atheistic government can be violent (you are correct that the former USSR was violent, and claimed to be atheistic). What is claimed, however, is that belief is important, and it informs a person’s actions.
When a person believes that there are two afterlives that any given person can go to, one being bad and the other being good, and that the actions and beliefs of one’s life determines which afterlife one will go to, that is bound to have an effect on how that person lives. If the basis of this belief has rational flaws, then it is likely that, at some point, their belief system will collide with reality. When this collision occurs, a choice must be made, and that presents the person with a few options:
1. Believe in mutually contradictory things - This is actually how many people seem to deal with this issue much of the time. I know many people who are conservative, religious right types, but who still “live in sin”, drink, etc.
2. Refuse to believe that reality does not conform to the cherished belief system - This is, in my opinion (perhaps someone more academically inclined can weigh in on this), very dangerous, as it leads a person down a delusional path. I suspect that, given enough time, some people might be able to convince themselves that they see a tunnel in the middle of a brick wall. No matter how well formed such a tunnel becomes, however, they will never be able to walk through it.
3. Acknowledge the discrepancy, and alter and/or abandon the belief system accordingly - This is what I obviously believe to be the most rational approach, and reflects what eventually happened in my own personal case.
So, back to faith and violence. War and physical assault are the most obvious forms of violence, but I submit that any harm to a person’s body could be considered violent. Thus, when the Christians (some of them, I’m not trying to lump them all together) attempt to deny young women a life saving vaccine because of their faith based morality, they are, in fact, engaging in a form of violence. When people opt not to worry about global resource management because “the end of days is around the corner anyway”, they are engaging in a form of violence against the planet that is based on faith. When an entire generation of potential biologists is lost due to a rigid stance on creation vs. evolution, the lost potential is a form of violence against the future. I could go on, but I think that the point is clear. What people believe is important. It informs their actions. Some of those beliefs are demonstrably wrong and demonstrably harmful. Why should I tolerate them?