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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People don't do anything in the name of atheism because atheism is a belief in the non-existence of something. If it's not there, you can't do anything in its name. Now, does that mean that atheists never do anything terrible, even comparable to what theists do? No. I'm sure many of us have done terrible things. I know I have. But I never did them in the name of atheism because there's nothing there to which I could devote my actions. It's the whole idea of NOT devoting my actions to something that I call "atheism" in the first place.

 

I had this argument with people for a while too. Perhaps surprisingly, it was fellow atheists with whom I debated it the most, because I heard so many of them demonizing religion for being the inspiration of horrible acts of all kinds, and claiming that if we do away with religion, we will be doing away with a great many evils in the world. As if things like rape and murder and starvation did not exist before religions were invented. That's just silly, to me. Horrible things are done by people, in the name of themselves, not by religion or by atheism. Religion is not a physical entity that can cause things to happen, nor is atheism, so this argument is really misdirected.

 

All I can say to atheists, or theists, who are wont to engage in this debate, is stop wasting your breath trying to blame each other for everything. I'll even draw on a biblical idea: let he who is without sin cast the first stone. I don't believe any god inspired those words, but that does mean they aren't sage words. Blame yourself for your bad shit before you go blaming other people for theirs. You're not perfect, neither am I, and neither are our religious brothers and sisters. Get over it.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Just responding to the OP, Keith, monsters are monsters and whether or not they are faithful is beside the point. Jeffrey Dahmer struggled with his sexuality and those struggles manifested in his crimes. But faith wasn't the cause. He was simply a psychopath. He would have probably done the same things if he was a Hindu or atheist. His story just would have been slightly different.

In any event a lack of faith didn't guide Stalin. Atheism wasn't a motivator in his actions. His paranoia and lust for eternal power led him to order the executions and edicts that he did.

I mean, generally speaking, atheists are typically the ones that have given deep thought to morality and ethics and arrived at their beliefs. The faithful take instruction. It's no wonder most atheists treasure life of all kinds while the faithful use numerous logical fallacies to justify murder or the mistreatment of women.
The fact is that the actions of Stalin and the likes were not done "because of atheism" they were done despite of their atheism. I will leave you a quote from the great American physicist and Nobel Peace Prize winner Steven Weinberg: "With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and bad people doing evil things, but for good people to do evil things, it takes religion"

Sorry Sassan, but that's just sophistic hair-splitting of the same kind that we condemn theistic apologists for doing. You're far from the only doing this, but that doesn't make it any more right.

 

The fact is: the ideal of atheism is an integral part of communism. And the reason was that Marx said that religion tended to cloud people's judgement, and distracted them from the real problems in the world. That's why they thought atheism had to be propagated because it would lead to communism and to a better state of the world. And so they killed priests and nuns and any number of religious figures to try to spread atheism.

You can build any number of semantical constructions and sophistic arguments to dodge the implications of this, but you can't get around the fact that these people were killing to spread atheism. End of story.

 

To pretend that people who don't believe in God couldn't possibly commit atrocities because they wanted other people to stop believing in God, is absurd. And it has clearly happened.

 

We need to deal with that, not dance around it.

You are ignorant of the historical facts of Christianity and it's open hostility to progressive values and movements. The Clergy jointly operated (with the aristocracy and monarchy and later plutocracy) a system of control over people in France that led to the French Revolution. The anti-clerical stance of many revolutionaries was in reaction to hundreds of years of Clerical exploitation and control and hostility to their desire for freedom. The clergy had it coming to them just as the monarchy and aristocracy did. When Socialist thinkers developed Socialist philosophy, of course the Churches (or the clear majority of them) were immediately hostile towards those ideas. Churches were openly hostile to Socialism and its offshoots and any state or bureaucracy founded on socialist values or at the very least threatened by the churches would need to defend themselves from such a powerful institution dedicated to the systematic destruction of their way of life, their freedom from religious control, and their very lives. the destruction of traditional organized religions didn't need to be a part of communist policy - but those religions were a major threat to them. I disagree with their methods but I think it would have been the height of stupidity to just let the churches organize counter-revolutions back to the Theocratic/Aristocratic/Capitalist societies that they had escaped. Unfortunately Those Communist societies were founded on Communist values and not on Democratic and Humanist values.

"You are ignorant of the historical facts of Christianity and it's open hostility to progressive values and movements."

 

People usually tell me that when I tell them uncomfortable things.

Unfortunately, nowhere in your reply did you get anywhere near to demonstrating my supposed ignorance. What I said still stands: communism had an ideal of atheism and they were prepared to kill to achieve that.

 

Your value judgements of whether or not the Church "had it coming" or deserved it, do nothing to dispute that fact.

The Communist consolidation of power after the death of Lenin was accomplished by eliminating competition or "counterrevolutionaries."  Stalin's rule from Lenin's passing until his own death in 1953 included an attempt to eliminate the Church, yes, but it was the power of the Church that was the main target.  Marx, Engels, and Lenin had recognized that the Church had long hindered progress and that freedom from the Church would be a great leap forward.  Stalin wasn't a particularly good Communist.  He had been a bank robber and a murderer before and after joining the Party and most likely saw the Party as a path to power.  A classic sociopath, he cared about few people in his life, and though he had become an atheist as a seminary student, cared even less about people's religious beliefs.  The Church was a political rival, and like all of Stalin's political rivals, suffered ruthless attacks and looting.  (The church had more money than the banks.)   He relocated entire populations  with disastrous results, killing millions.  He took over command of his army in WWII and ordered entire divisions to death and capture.  He imprisoned returning veterans so they wouldn't be able to tell Soviet citizens about the much higher standard of living they had seen in Europe.  He created the Gulag system of secret prisons.  He bought the Lysenko agricultural scheme, which made the insane promise of two crops per year in Russia and the Ukraine, hook, line, and sinker, bringing about the deaths of millions and decades of shortages and starvation.  The Church, remember, was in league with the Tsars, just as the Church is always in league with secular power in order to protect its assets.  Tsarism and the Church were enemies of the Revolution and obstacles in Stalin's path and had to be destroyed.  None of his actions were taken in the name of atheism, but in the name of the Revolution.

Guys, I appreciate all the lessons in elementary Russian history but to be honest, after reading several books on communism in general and a friggin' biography of Stalin, I think I'm pretty up to speed considering those basic facts.

 

As you say, the philosophy of communism involved the idea that religious belief clouded man's judgement about his circumstances and so adopting atheism was the first step towards the communist utopia (it wasn't therefore just "the power" of the Church that bothered them, it was actually more religious belief in general).

Look, you can tell me five more epistles about all the nasty things that happened in communism, but the fact is that the ideal of atheism was central to communist philosophy (both as an end and in and of itself). To then see Mao executing Buddhist nuns and the Russians rounding up thousands of priests and putting them in the Gulag, and keep arguing "This isn't being done for the ideal of atheism!! It's the ideal of communism!"

 

This is silly. The ideal of atheism was central to communism and lots of people died for it. To not recognise that these people were killing priests and nuns to achieve their ideal of atheism, is dancing around the facts.

An entire biography of Stalin?  Wow!  That is sooo impressive . . . .  Did you notice in all that reading that the Party rounded up intellectuals, writers, professors, teachers, and journalists?  They were obviously trying to spread stupidity.  Or were they getting rid of as many "subversives" as they could to protect the revolution?

"An entire biography of Stalin?  Wow!  That is sooo impressive"

 

It certainly seems to have stopped the lessons in elementary Russian history, so it had the effect I wanted.

 

"Did you notice in all that reading that the Party rounded up intellectuals, writers, professors, teachers, and journalists?  They were obviously trying to spread stupidity.  Or were they getting rid of as many "subversives" as they could to protect the revolution?"

 

False analogy.

 

The idea that stupidity had to be spread was not central to the ideology of communism. The idea that atheism had to be spread in order for people to become more aware and more in tune with the real world, clearly was.

 

Spot the difference.

Bo one has killed another because of atheism. To claim so is absurd. It has never been a primary mover.

Primary mover or not, in their quest of achieving atheism, communists were "moved" to kill all kinds of people.

 

Again we can quibble about primary motivations until the cows come home, but surely we can agree that sometimes, people feel that there's something so special and profound about some of their beliefs that it's worth killing for.

 

To say that atheists couldn't possibly do that, that's absurd.

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