In debates it’s common for atheists to obsess over certain past crimes committed by Christians. When one mentions that far greater crimes committed by atheists, the debater responds with some version “those don’t matter”. I think they matter quite a bit. Further, this looks to me like a severe double standard. I’d like to address the common justifications for it.
Some insist that Stalin, Mao, Hitler, et al were actually religious. Even though they didn’t believe in God and despised those who did, the theory goes, their systems of beliefs were basically religion without the God.
This is simply the age-old tactic of trying to win by changing the definitions of words. If the non-religious do things far more horrible than the religious, just change the definition of “religious” and the problem is solved. This, of course, is a silly and dishonest tactic. In truth, Marxist teaching (and all the horrible atheist teachings) were entirely based on science and reason, while ruling out any use of spirituality; the precise opposite of religion in other words.
2. Argument two is that atheists have done horrible things in past, sure, but they’ll only do good things in the future.
This is a complete rejection of human reason. In order to know the future, study the past and present. To ignore the events of the past is not just irrational, but sometimes close to suicidal. (That, and many of the atheist criminals against humanity are still alive today.)
3. Argument three is that atheist atrocities don’t count because the people who do them aren’t doing them out of atheism.
This, too, arises from a lack of knowledge. The strong and necessary relationship between atheism and communism may not be obvious to some debaters on the SDMB, but it was (and still is) certainly obvious to the communists. That’s why the Stalinists made the elimination of Christianity in Russia a primary goal from the start.
To sum up, atheists want to tilt the palying field severely without justification. By doing so, as I see it, they admit that they can’t win this debate on a level playing field.
But stuff like “The Spanish Inquisition/Jerry Falwell/HateFulMotherfucker wasn’t really Christian because they [blah blah bullshit etc]” doesn’t happen? I could have sworn I’d seen that in threads before.
This is the argument I stand behind, so I’ll respond to this one.
First of all, there is undoubtedly a strong historical correlation between atheism and Communism, but there is no necessary relationship, as you claim. It is quite possible to be both a theist and a Communist. Not that this matters much, I just wanted to clear it up.
I do claim that Stalin’s crimes, to use one example, were done out of Communism (or, more likely, simple megalomaniacal egotism), not out of atheism. He did not perform purges or send people to gulags because he was an atheist, he did it either because he was a powerhungry madman or because he felt it was the best or only way to form the society he wanted.
ITR Champion, I think what you are missing is that most atheists don’t claim that being an atheist makes you a more moral person, and therefore will happily admit that atheists do bad things.
Some, possibly many, religious people claim that their religion, or religious people in general, hold close to a monopoly on moral behavior. Central to the religious belief of many is that they have found the true way. The faults of proponents of that religion are therefore relevant to test that claim.
The fact remains that Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot and others firmly and sincerely believed that an explicitly atheistic political theory justified the greatest massacres in human history. The OP maintains that some atheists are hypocritical when they use crimes committed by theists as evidence that condemns theism, while insisting at the same time that even greater atrocities committed by atheists are somehow not significant or important. He’s right, but I don’t envy him the job of explaining that to fools.
The difference is religious people use religion as an excuse to do terrible things. Atheists don’t typically use atheism as an excuse to do terrible things. As soon as the atheist crusades or atheist inquisitions start, let me know.
I agree with you on your points about arguments 1 and 2. 2 especially is nonsensical and I’m sure we can both agree to cross that off the list. I will let someone more knowledgeable argue the finer points of 1, I’ll be apt to butcher it with ignorance of the facts. However, I disagree with you on point 3, and i guess I’ll just expand on the example you’ve given. The link between communism and atheism is a strong one, but you have used faulty reasoning in your point. The only reason why “Stalinists made the elimination of Christianity in Russia a primary goal” is because the new government could not afford for the loyalties of the country to be split. In other words, it was not some crazy atheist dogmatism that drove them against Christians, but the fact that 1. the new government had to show the old order who was boss, and 2. the church was extremely rich.
It’s the very first unspoken tenant of atheism to resist dogma and other such craziness with constant skepticism–NOT to violently oppose the church.
There are a couple of atheists out there who point out the evil acts committed in the name of religion as relevant, and they will do it every time, but most do not. I’m an atheist who doesn’t, mainly because it just doesn’t matter. It has no bearing on the existence of a deity. I also don’t get that involved in religion threads because, well, I don’t give a rat’s ass what you believe as long as you don’t seek to control other people as a result.
Look, if worshippers of Zeus were the kindest, most loving, most charitable people in the history of the world, would that have any bearing on the existence of Zeus? I think not. So why would the fact that religious people have committed barbaric acts in the name of religion have any bearing on the existence of whatever deity they propose to support?
Yes, Catholics burned Jews and heretics, and built Cathedrals with gold stolen from native peoples. Muslims have committed act of violence in support of Islam. The treatment of Palestinians by Israel is nothing short of shameful. So what? None of it has any bearing on the central tenet of atheism, which is that there are no gods. If none of these incidents had occurred, there would still be no gods.
The ironic part is that most religious people are almost all of the way there. There are thousands of gods you don’t believe in, and one you do. Atheists don’t believe in those gods either, and they disbelieve in one more.
Now, if you wanted to get into a discussion on the benefits of religion, it might be relevant, but as far as evidence either for or against a deity, it’s a red herring.
I don’t know that it really is. It’s certainly possible to be a theist and agree with a lot of the ends of Communism. But Communism is a materialist philosophy that says that only the physical world exists, and there’s no such thing as God or the supermatural. (In fact, Communism goes further than that, and says that religions and the idea of God were created by the state as a way to control the lower class). So, being both a theist and a Communist would be difficult at best. You’d have to both believe in God and believe at the same time that God was a myth created by the state as a tool of repression.
As an atheist I never use the “religion is evil” argument because it actually has no bearing on the central point of atheism: The existence or nonexistence of a god or gods.
It doesn’t matter which side is nicer. Unless, of course, you’re arguing over the UTILITY of religion: “It doesn’t matter if there is a God or not … religious belief serves a useful social purpose.” Most theist/atheist arguments aren’t of that nature though.
My personal favorite argument against God is this: There are hundreds of religions and they contradict either other all over the place. Clearly most religions are wrong about most of the things they teach. Therefore religious teachings are a very poor way to understand the truth about the universe. Barring some sort of empirical evidence to sort the wheat from the chaff, you’re better off just assuming that ALL religious teachings are wrong.
Not quite. Marx theorized that religion arose as a response to the injustice and suffering caused by the class structure of society, that it was an understandable, if desperate, attempt by the masses themselves to compensate for the unfairness and brutishness of this world. This is what he really meant by his “religion is the opiate of the masses” remark.
I don’t think you can dismiss Stalin doing what he did because it was not out of athiesm. It is possible an atheist will do horrible things to people and not be concerned because he is an atheist. I think that is where the OP is coming from.
A murderous athiest isn’t going to do something specifically because he is an athiest, unlike a religious fanatic that will shout that he is doing his murder for the glory of God. An athist isn’t going to shout BECAUSE THERE IS NO GOD when he murders people.
Also, Soviet society did look at the church as competition (somewhat) and did try to downplay it, right? If so, this gives it an atheist feel.
However, I do think that religious killing vastly dwarfs atheist killing over time (even on a per-capita basis).
Also, Hitler not religious? That wasn’t my recollection. Athiesm may have to claim Stalin, but not Hitler. Religion doesn’t have to claim Hitler either, IMO, as his killing wasn’t for religion…(or was it?)
Exactly. Atheism can’t motivate anyone to do anything, because it’s just a single belief in the nonexistence of God. It doesn’t even say if the nonexistence of God is a good or bad thing, or if one should or shouldn’t believe in a God anyway, or care if someone else does. The reason that atheists aren’t much for organization is because it’s such a small, limited thing to agree on. People don’t kill for atheism any more than they kill for pure theism; the sole belief that there is a God and nothing else about it or what it wants.
Stalin and Mao killed for Communism, of which atheism was a small part. Communism is, for all practical purposes, a religion that doesn’t happen to have a God. It’s an ideological system based on faith, that describes the world, tells people how to behave, and ignores reality; that’s a religion. Communism is atheistic for the same reason that Christianity is atheistic towards all gods but one; it’s a reason to eliminate rival religions.
If the argument ITR Champion opposes is the one you’re outlining here, then I agree with him. When I use the argument, it’s about atrocities committed by theists because they’re theists, not just atrocities committed by theists.
Thanks. I thoroughly enjoy being referred to as a fool when I’m trying to honestly engage in debate.