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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Hi Tara,

 

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.

 

I've participated in this thread quite a bit, and I've heard many people utter similar arguments. I have to say I still do not find them convincing. Frankly I think it's some very thin semantical veneer that's being built here.

 

Let me put it like this: suppose you were talking about the Albigensian crusade with a Christian, and he brought up that -really- the reason the Pope sought to exterminate the cathars was because they didn't want to agree with edicts the Pope had made. And since the Pope demanded absolute loyalty to himself as part of his political agenda, the people who died in this Crusade are to be put on the tally of ambition and imperialism, not on religion.

Or what if someone characterised the witch craze as the persecution of individuals who were thought to be harmful to the community at large and had to be removed. Would you then buy that this really had nothing to do with religion but was simply scape-goating on the part of a community?

Would you tell these people that they are (a) making perfect sense or (b) playing semantical games with you?

 

The fact is, Stalin and other communist leaders were atheists. And they did want to spread atheism; they saw it as a frame of mind that was holding humanity back, and to destroy it would make people more aware and pay more attention to the world they were living in - and these enlightened people would then unshackle themselves from the bourgeois etcetera...

Now we can bicker about whether or not atheism was their primary goal, yes or no, but the fact is that it was one of their goals, and lots of people died for it. 

 

These are deaths in the name of atheism and spreading atheism. To skate around that point is dishonest.

 

Kind regards,

 

Matt

I'm not entirely sure you can use Stalin as an example of an evil atheist, simply because no one's 100% sure what his own beliefs on the matter were.  He came into power in an officially atheist state, I know, but he was known for quoting the bible, something that I've seen very few atheists do.  I'll admit, I don't much about the USSR, but I do remember reading something where someone suggested that Stalin would most likely have been a Deist.

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