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 am puzzled by your declaration that religion should be used to get people to be good. The problem with "good" is that it is defined differently from person to person. How do you define "good"? In Nazi Germany, killing Jews was considered "good". Even if we could agree on a definition of "good", I cannot agree that it is ever proper to use religion to control the thinking and behavior of a population. I firmly believe that children should be taught to reason and think critically for themselves so that they can make their own choices intelligently as adults.

I am also going to have to disagree that religion's biggest problem is it's exploitation of it's followers. That's a problem definitely, but no larger a problem than the fact that it brow beats people into abandoning reason in favor of faith. How faster to hamstring a democracy than to cripple the population's ability to make rational decisions in favor of blindly voting for whatever is declared favorable to their god's way of doing things?

I think the golden rule is a good place to start for a definition of good.

 

(and not the one that says he who has the gold makes the rules)

 

I agree that religion should not be forced on children, but that is a tough nut to crack as far as enforcement.

Which brings us back to why we dislike religion: the religious cant help but to try and force their beliefs on others.

 

as for exploitation, well  what you described is a perfect example of exploitation.

 

 

Fair enough.

Traditionally, the Golden Rule is to treat others as you would wish to be treated. 

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Golden_Rule

 

Eloquently put, Ashleigh!
The regimes established by the likes of Pol Pot and Stalin acted like religious cults. Their doctrines/dogmas enforced worship on that particular leader. They are/were depicted as the savior of their people. You don't need anything but to believe in that leader. As an example, more recently, humanitarian aide sent to North Korea were explained to the people as 'offerings' to Kim Jong. None of these 'leaders' were atheists, they were/are God. In Soviet Russia, communism itself was portrayed as devine.

I think this quote sums it up:

 

"With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion." - Steve Weinberg

 

Religion (a complete system of ideologies) can persuade people to blow themselves up in order to kill others. Atheism simply, by definition, CAN'T. political movements can, Atheist individuals can, Atheism as a belief system (a non-belief system technically) CAN'T.

 

The main difference between politics and religion in this specific case is a deity that justifies its actions. The pope can condemn Christians in Africa to die of aids (by insisting they don't use condoms) and thats fine because he is backed by God, Whereas Stalin's actions are not.

 

Basically the pope (and other religion endorsed leaders throughout history - Saudi Arabia for a start if we are talking Moslem, the woman who got raped and then was stoned to death for sex out of wedlock... is that justice??) defers responsibility of his actions to a higher power. The fact that so much of Humanity is fine with this concept makes me physically sick.

youtube.com/guitarzeroh
I don't think there really is such a thing as "generic theism". Wouldn't that then be deism? As I understand the distinction, theist refers to belief in a certain god and that deism is the word for belief is any generic god. I make this point because,I think, plenty of wars have been fought so as to advance the cause of belief in specific gods, theism.

Stalin studied for the priesthood, and it was in the seminary that he became an atheist.  He was also a published poet and an accomplished bank robber who provided the Party with a lot of stolen money over the years.  At first he supported the Revolution and the Party, but then worked only to amass and consolidate his own power.  Pol Pot's ideology was the restoration of a Cambodian golden age, with what he understood as traditional, RURAL Cambodian values.  Mao was an atheist, yes, but in a sense his god was the revolution.  Hitler, as everyone should know by now, was a Catholic, and most of his cadre were followers of the state church in Germany, Lutheranism.  All of these mass murderers were devoted to anti-humanist ideologies as powerful as religions.

 

Theists often say that without fear of divine punishment, humans are free to commit atrocities, but the flip side is that with the belief that they are doing God's will comes the same sort of license.

Dialectical materialism is not an "atheist creed" because atheism is simply a lack of religious belief.  I think God is imaginary, too, so he isn't responsible for anything at all--not atrocities or natural disasters, and not cures for disease or even the food we eat.  Organized religion is a curse because the organization puts someone or a number of someones--fallible human beings all-- in power over life and death.  Yes, Stalin tried to stamp out the church in the Soviet Union, but he tried to stamp out all competition, and the church was his biggest rival.  Pope Urban II sent the Crusaders off with the promise that all past and future sins would be forgiven provided they killed Muslims.  The promise of paradise worked just as well on Christians in the Middle Ages as it does on Islamic extremists today.  The Vatican sent its armies against the Cathars, who were heretical Catholics, in 1231, and religious leaders told the armies to kill everyone without worrying if they were ALL heretics.  "God will recognize his own," they said.  That was the beginning of an Inquisition that lasted 600 years, with the last auto da fe conducted in Mexico in 1864.  The power of God, which wasn't at all imaginary to those who took it upon themselves, has left mounds of real corpses all through history.  It is simply too much perceived power to put in human hands.  Any ideology with enough believers can become a conflagration.  Atheism hasn't.  Humanism hasn't.  I'll stick with them.

I don’t think any atheist would commit a crime for the sake of atheism. That goes well with religion when it comes to dominance of the turf. Atheists don’t have to win lands or minds in the name of god or something else. As far as Stalin or other despots are concerned it was politics of power that made monsters of them, not atheism.

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