"Atheist Crimes" of the last century - The Responses

Since atheists are often accused, unfairly of course, of causing the biggest genocides of the last century, I wrote a detailed article on how to respond to the charges. The strategy takes into account the fact that many religious people are not really aware of how cause and effect works. Nevertheless, the approach to this problem differs from individual to individual.

I have listed 6 possible answers that could be used, sometimes in combinations of two or more, to debate any religious zealots who are intent on redefining history with a lie. You can see my original post here:
http://nirmukta.com/2009/02/03/responding-to-the-atheist-crimes-of-the-20th-century/

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Tags: atheist, crimes, hitler, response, stalin

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Comment by Ajita Kamal on February 10, 2009 at 2:48pm
Purely out of self-preservation, Asa. Search engines penalize blogs with duplicate content, so I prefer to post the article once. I write regularly at nirmukta.com. But I thought this particular subject would be useful to atheists here, therefore the cross-posting. Next time I will be careful to add a clickable hyperlink to the original post.
Comment by Asa Watcher on February 10, 2009 at 2:42pm
Being new to A/N, your answer to this question will probably be evident to me, but why didn't you post "ATHEIST CRIMES" OF THE LAST CENTURY - THE RESPONSES as a blog here on A/N?
Comment by Ajita Kamal on February 10, 2009 at 6:21am
Point noted, thanks. I wrote this particular article for atheists who are looking for ways to refute the theist's arguments. In any case, most religious people strongly believe that Hitler was an atheist. If you spend time trying to debate this (which I also mention under the Numbers argument), that still gives them Stalin, Mussolini, Pol Pot, Lenin, Mao Tse Tung and others, and their central argument will still stand. SO it is a waste of your resources and debate time, and meanwhile the other person is more convinced of the "evil of atheism". The numbers argument can be expanded to talk about every single dictator or politician the religious people use, but it always leads away from the central argument. The religious folk will just cast away all the numbers, because of their preconceived notions.
That's why logic is a better weapon than detailed analysis of the record. Religions are particularly good at muddling up a story, we need to use logic to cut through the BS.
Comment by Фелч Гроган on February 10, 2009 at 5:44am
OK - you did. You just didn't refute it strongly enough for a plank-head like me. So its not going to get noticed by any theists that stumble onto your article either.
Comment by Ajita Kamal on February 10, 2009 at 4:56am
Actually I never said he was an atheist. I said religious people often say that he was. I also mention in the second point, that it can be addressed by looking at Hitler's links to the Church and his justification of his genocidal actions using religion.

Maybe next time you should actually read the article.
Comment by Фелч Гроган on February 10, 2009 at 4:08am
Don't fall for the "Hitler was an atheist" slur. You did in your blog. He was not -

http://nobeliefs.com/Hitler1.htm
Comment by Ajita Kamal on February 10, 2009 at 12:32am
Your assessment that superstition is mainly about mixing up correlation and causation is very true, Bill. Also, the short synthesis you suggest may be the best comeback considering the inadequate attention span and logical capabilities of most of those who do not get the difference between correlation and causation.
Comment by Bill E on February 9, 2009 at 11:57pm
I know what you mean about correlation and causation--people don't seem to get it except in some familiar contexts. In fact, superstition is all about mixing up the two, isn't it? I think your answers are pretty good. I like the mustache analogy. I'd probably just synthesize several of them and say that people aren't killed "in the name of atheism" or to spread atheism, since atheism is not a belief system. I think it's Sam Harris (or was it Hitchens or Dawkins) who pointed out that communism and fascism functioned like religion (in terms of being a sort of fanatical belief system), but I somehow doubt that an adherent to an organized religion would ever admit that.
Comment by Ajita Kamal on February 9, 2009 at 11:41pm
Hi Daniel,
Thanks for your comment. I agree with the points you make, with some trepidation.
1. I personally would prefer to believe in what's correct rather than in some idealized reality. So, I'm happy knowing the truth even if reason shows that atheism causes more suffering than religion. However, I'm not so sure about others. You are asking me to make a moral choice at this stage. In the article I was only concerned with the argument at hand.
I was forced to answer, I would choose the solution that leads to less suffering. However, that is not to say that religion is preferable. I think the question does not do justice to the possibilities. For example, religion may be essential now to pacify people, but who's to say that reason will NEVER find alternative pacifiers to give us the best of both worlds- truth and the good life. Anyway, I'm glad this is just a hypothetical, because I truly believe that reason is better for humanity than religion.

2. Actually many atheists argue for the utilitarian value of religion, for example David Sloan Wilson, the evolutionary biologist who practically invented the field of sociobiology. I don't agree with him in general, but he does make some important points like the social value of religion in less economically advanced cultures. I think the problem is that humans cultures have evolved with rules similar to religious rules for a long time. These rules hold many aspects of society together and cannot be removed and not replaced. People like Wilson will argue that there are aspects of religion that your argument ignores- important aspects that increase social cohesion and promote healthy life. My take on this is that we must find secular alternatives to those essential aspects of religion so that we can replace the mumbo jumbo that causes suffering with a common system based on secular values and an empirical understanding of reality.
Comment by Daniel W on February 9, 2009 at 10:25pm
Ajita,
Your arguments are well reasoned and insightful. Thank you for posting the link.

I am not as logical, but I have 2 questions - they may reflect or overlap your discussions.

1. Assuming that someone could tally up deaths in wars that were caused by religious fervor, religious expansionism, or religious justification, vs. deaths in wars that were caused by an atheistic ideology, and found that one mindset results in more killing than the other, would that be a reason to choose or reject a mindset? To my mind, the reason to choose a mindset is whether it seems most correct, and is independent of which caused the most slaughter.

2. One of the big arguments in favor of religions, is that they promote peace. This is a utilitarian approach to religion - doesnt matter if the religion is true, if it is useful in promoting human well being. But - even if an atheistic megalomaniac killed millions, if in countless separate situations, the truly religious also slaughtered millions in aggressive wars and pogroms, then religion can not be said to be a source of peace regardless of whether atheism is. Religion does beget mass violence, so there is no utilitarian moral justification for religion. To me that is a separate issue from whether atheist individuals or atheist factions also cause violence. I can think of many examples in which thousands or millions were killed to spread religion, or killed because it was "OK" to destroy people who were not of the aggressors' faith. Even if stalin, pol pot, and mao were atheists, i dont think that their murderous systems were designed to spread atheism - they were designed to expand their regimes. That's not the same thing.

Im not sure if this is coherent, but them's my thoughts.

Thanks again for posting your arguments, you are more coherent than I am.

Daniel

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