When I discuss the harm done in religion's name with my sister, who is Moslem, she inevitably brings up the harm done in atheism's name, including Stalin in the process.  I am not sufficiently well informed about history to know whether or not she is right that harm has been done in atheism's name.  (I know that Marx thought that religious belief would simply vanish once people ceased to live under oppressive economic conditions, so that he didn't see the need to actively combat religious belief, but I also know that the USSR was an officially atheist state.)  What sort of reply would you give to someone who contended that while harm has been done in the name religion, it has also been done in the name of atheism, so that the look-at-the-harm-religious-belief-does argument isn't effective?

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I would say that harm can be done by anyone independant of their religion or belief system; the issue is not whether religion does harm but whether a religion is true.  That said, I really don't know anything about the Koran but I'm guessing God must ask people to go out and do some pretty violent things like he does in the Bible. Atheists don't have a holy book, so they have to work out from human experience what is right and wrong i.e. its probably not a good thing to go round murdering people if you want to live in a peaceful society.  The problem with religion, particularly if it has incidents of violence instructed "by God" in a book, is that God has at some point officially stated "its okay to kill", this then leaves it up to the discrepancy of the individual to decide which parts of the holy book they are going to live their life by.  And unfortuantely, the option is there to do things like slaughter, rape and slavery because God has condoned it himself; people can definitely use the Bible to justify these things, like I said I don't know the Koran well enough.
Very well said, Becky. Despite the occasional bon mots in the bible and the positive effects of atheism on the bible religions beyond the bible itself, believers in those religions can pick and choose whatever they want for "God's" sanction -including all manner of horror. It's as though the bible is a mood-book -like a mood-ring. Atheists do not have such a handbook. Atheism relies on the fact that civil competition and cooperation are phenomena of biological and cultural evolution.

"Holy" books generally include gods sanctioning murder and genocide.  If you believe those gods are real, immortal, omnipotent, and omniscient, and that you know what they want humans to do, you are then capable of committing any action, whether for good or evil.  "Holy" books are sometimes explicit, but often vague.  The Old Testament tells the Hebrews to kill men who engage in homosexual activities.  (The Koran says they should be forgiven if they mend their ways.)  Pretty explicit.  The OT also sanctions genocide against specific groups of idolaters.  Yet there is not a word in the Bible about abortion, which is probably the number one issue for modern evangelicals.  So their top issue comes not from the word of God, but from an interpretation of a few vague allusions.

 

I was reading a book called The End of Christianity the other night.  One of the essayists put forward an argument that I found utterly compelling.  If we read "holy" books as human artifacts embodying tribal cultural values from thousands of years ago, we see immediately that those values reflect complete and utter ignorance of the sciences.  "Sacred" texts are the codification of the prejudices, superstitions, and fears of primitive peoples.  The problem arises when people accept these values as eternal because they come from the mind of a supreme being, a mind mere humans cannot begin to understand.  But the essayist points out that God in the Old Testament is every bit as primitive and ignorant as His followers ancient and modern.  God believes, in Genesis, that He created the universe in six days, and that the sky is a solid dome separating an ocean in space from earthly oceans.  Just about everything God says that is testable has been disproved by science.  If humans of 3,000 or so years ago wrote the Bible, it's clearly fallible.  If God wrote it, then God is a raving lunatic.

I need to read that book. Along these lines, Dawkins' reason for not debating William Craig is that  he would not share a stage with someone who says harmful things like this:

 

Moreover, if we believe, as I do, that God's grace is extended to those who die in infancy or as small children, the death of these children was actually their salvation. We are so wedded to an earthly, naturalistic perspective that we forget that those who die are happy to quit this earth for heaven's incomparable joy.  Therefore, God does these children no wrong in taking their lives."  link

I wouldn't look at it in terms of the belief (or lack thereof) doing harm. People do harm. What religion does is condition its people to almost blindly accept marching orders to carry out reprehensible deeds. Religion is a conduit through which people can be manipulated to do irrational things.

 

Lack of religion (athiesm) is not the same as religion in the same manner as not having a car is the not just a different model of vehicle.

Atheism itself does not harm, because the basics for making people fight is to defend something, in the case, religion.
Stalin and many other politicians and systems used the atheism as PART of the philosophy, but their beliefs were not based in the non existence of god or gods, but that there are NO superior force than them.
Budism is an atheist religion.
So, mixing politics with religion is dangerous (watch the islamic countries ruled by religious), using the atheism as an excuse to force people to one system is also dangerous.
Pure atheists have their own political beliefs, but tends to be more free thinkers and open than blind religious people.

I don't recall much about high school history classes, but I'm pretty sure that Stalin, Pol Pot, etc. did not rise to power just so they could tell everyone to quit believing in God. Their rise to power was fueled by greed, ambition, and massive egotism, and abolishing religion was simply another way of gaining control over the masses. Churches are a socializing network, a place where like-minded people meet--and if those people are against you, they could start plotting your overthrow. If you have taken over a country, it just makes good sense to abolish the religion that gives your conquered subjects a sense of unity and replace it with something more to your liking.

 

This has been going on for thousands of years all over the world, and not just by godless heathen unbelievers. Atheists are fairly new to the scene, at least in terms of being a large enough group to have a voice and make their opinions known. For the most part, the world's cultures have been ruled by the religious, because religion in the past was not regarded as a separate thing that you did only on Sundays, but as an integral part of daily life. It was a given that the powerful king who had just invaded your land, ravaged your cities, and taken over your tribe, was going to force you to convert all your temples to the worship of his own gods.

 

By comparison, there have been only a very few regimes that can be said to have been led by atheist leaders. On balance, it is easy to see that religious regimes have done far more harm over the course of human history, simply because there have been--and continue to be--far more of them. Religion will always be one of the main driving forces behind the human tendency to destroy and conquer each other. It is hard for people to get behind the notion of killing their neighbors just to get more land, but if you throw God into the mix, then people will rally behind you without hesitation. After all, people are stupid, gullible, and easily impressed by anyone who throws the word "God" around.

over time, as has been beautifully stated, religion and dogma will be so clearly wrong and foolish and stupid that we will (without the aid of any false god) stand up, see each other compassionately and honestly, with all of our strengths and flaws, and realize that the civilization each of us helps create is the only reality we have.

You sound like a Transhuman.

 

The more I live, the more I realize that each human has much in common
I'm also of this opinion.
Transtribal
Is this your invention?
It's great. It could be a great word to describe the intermediate stage between humans and transhumans. Or the first step in becoming a transhuman.

I think it's more corporate corrupt big(insert biz here) post-modern-monarchy-like battle(s) going on... influence battles indeed. the atheism the newest of influence; the most evolved imho... no pun.

check this out: http://www.linktv.org/programs/the-war-you-dont-see
I was taken aback. indeed.

religion is obsolete and everyone knows.. they just wanna be raptured which is crap. cop out.
tired of the lies. how about YOU?

To me we cannot win that battle on the big picture because as you stated there is no way of knowing with certainty the motive behind others actions. The key here is to make it personal to your sister focus on what her particular religion teaches her as a woman is her place according to that teaching. Is she equal to the man? Does it give her true self worth or is her value based only in as long as she is a part of the faith? Another suggestion is to ask a simple question. With all the different beliefs about God How does she know that her belief is the correct one? It may take time but the key is to get her to think, to do so you must understand what she believes and then appeal to her emotion and logic. In short you must see her as an individual and in truth show her she has value as a person. All religions take away the individuals Identity and replace it with a group mentality. Show her she is an individual with value.
Christians (and apparently Muslims) like to throw out Stalin, and other atheist rulers as "evidence" of the horrors committed in the name of atheism.  But none of them committed their acts in the name of atheism.  Nobody ever committed a crime in the name of no-gods or to further the cause of atheism. They did so for their political agendas.  Atheism was but a tool for them, not their motivation.  They demanded absolute loyalty to the State.  People who worshiped any god(s) would naturally be problems as "one cannot worship both god and mammon".   Accordingly religion was suppressed to ensure complete obedience to the State.

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