Could I see quotations about the history of violence? Buddhism has by far the lowest score of violence of all five big religions of the world. Not to mention that when that violence did happen (zen priests blessing kamikazes during WW2, myanmar riots these days...) it has been condemned as explicitly not-buddhist by the wider Buddhist world (for violence has no place in the Buddha's thought).
As for it being a religion, well yes it is, however it is not a theistical religion that explicitly asks you to believe in a vengeful, retributing god.
The Buddha describes how reality works (karma - from a certain action an appropriate consequence will follow, and there's nothing fixed or permanent, just conditions giving rise to other conditions) with the important corollary that if you want to be happy, then do actions that are ethical because "good" consequences will follow from those. This is what we call a "philosophy" in western thought.
It only becomes a "religion" when one believes that one too, could be like the Buddha, becoming something that's much higher than what one is right now.
One doesn't have to believe this bit however, one could very well follow the Buddha's teachings (and meditation, which is an integral part of) just to become a happier human being.
Satan and Jesus are walking down the street. They see man in front of them picking up small piece of truth. Jesus says "Satan! That man has realized the Truth! There is nothing you can to do to stop him now!" Satan smiles cunningly at Jesus "Yes, he has realized the Truth. And now I am going to help him organize the Truth!" As a secular Buddhist the key issue for me is that whenever Buddhism becomes popular main religion, it will will more or less dilute into something very different.
In Zen Buddhist tradition there are many autobiographies and stories from over thousand years of Zen Buddhism. They tell the story of constant struggle between community/authority and actual praxis. Either authorities want to embrace Buddhism and dilute and disfigure it into common religious formula, or they prosecute it. Buddhism as a religion seems to be in the state constant decay and needs periodic reforms to get back into basics.
The history of Thai Forest Tradition is good example of how there was need for reform in Buddhist monastic tradition in a country where Buddhism is everywhere in well organized and accepted form.
Buddhism is mostly peaceful, but there is currently a buddhist army (The DBKA) and 2 buddhist terrorist groups (the 969 movement, and Bodu Bala Sena)
Here's a news report of buddhist violence: http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-25866350
> for violence has no place in the Buddha's thought).
There are plenty of buddhist leaders who've said that violence is acceptable.
This wikipedia article starts by listing many of the buddhist doctrines against violence, and then gives examples of many times when buddhists have turned to violence.
Wikipedia has a light page on the topic.
Not mentioned in the above link is the Tibetan serfdom controversy.
Regarding you second point, I am not sure I see the value of saying "Buddhism is not a religion if you ignore the religious bits"... you might well say that about any religion. There are plenty of secular Muslims and secular Jews for example, but that does not make Islam or Judaism any less of a religion.
Key difference is, the founders and leaders of Judaism and Islam claim to have believed in God. The Buddha did not. A lot of us identify a deity as being core to the idea of being a religion.
That's not to say that sects haven't developed and diverged from the initial beliefs, perhaps in order to build their own communities (or empires). But these are later developments than the teachings set forth by Siddhartha Gautama.
if you read even just a bit of 2000 years history of Christianity, you'll see that violence in the name of God and Church and toward the infidels/heretics/etc. has all this time been considered a virtue of a good Christian. Not that Christianity is any special here. The base of any religion is division between "good" and "bad" and fostering the feeling of superiority in "good" and hatred toward the "bad". In particular "<Religion> of peace" for any value of <Religion> is an oxymoron the same way as "white black".
I want to address this comment because it's a key objection from Buddhist Apologists.
Every small religion is going to score low on the "violence meter." That's because Buddhism wasn't politically successful. China went Communist and took over Tibet, and Buddhism lost in India.
And for those that condemn violent actions - OF COURSE! Everyone does that! Muslims overwhelmingly condemn ISIS, American Christians condemn wars and domestic terror, and many Jews condemn Israel's military behavior.
Many of the popular religions can be interpreted to be peaceful or violent. Blame the people, not the religion.
1) Most of Buddhist scripture is not translated to modern languages
2) There is so much of it. Which Buddhist scriptures? Zen? Theravada? Tibetan? Tantric? It's hard to say which text is representative of Buddhism as a whole. Some people say all of them are (except when they disagree).
I'd encourage you to wonder if that's the right question to ask. In terms of International war and politics, do the words themselves matter more than how they're used?
In most cases, Buddhists kill others in the name of compassion. It is compassionate to kill a misguided (or Muslim) person and give them the chance to reincarnate as a Buddhist. To me, that's more fucked up than justifying murder by twisting the definition of something like Jihad.
I believe the core tenets of buddhism to be more about hacking your mind and body with certain lifestyle and practice (meditation etc) and living without infringing on others. The fairytales are extra baggage.
The difference between for example islam is that there are some seriously bad ideas (by socially liberal western live-and-let-live standards) in that scripture. Islam is an inseparable part of the culture in muslim majority countries hence it is bound to influence actions and attitudes to some degree.
How is the fourth largest religion in the world a "small religion"?