Sunday, January 29, 2012

Atheism, the gate way drug to Communism, Pedophilia, Murder, and anything else bad that can be thought of. Part 2

Now, another common accusation towards atheism is that it leads to communism or that, more generally, that it is responsible for the many terrible genocides of the 20th century.   I have heard this attack from many people over the years but one of the more recent examples I have seen was in this video where Matt Dillahunty debates father Hans Jacobse, who despite being fairly liberal religious leader still believes this slanderous lie.

There are many more cases of this but rather than just start going through all of them if you doubt that this McCarthy era argument is alive an well just take a look at this Google search.

Of course most will admit that bad things have been done in the name of religion but, they will say, Hitler, Marx, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao Zedong were all atheists and they killed more than any of religion ever killed throughout history.  First I’ll point out that this argument, even if correct, is an affirmation of consequence and thus does nothing to prove god actually exists.  Arguing that god must exist because not believing in him might make us violent is not even an argument worth refuting.  However, this argument is flawed; indeed it is flawed in so many ways I am not even sure where to begin in refuting it.  

Bullshit at it's best.

First, since Hitler was the only member of this group who was not communist, at the risk of invoking Godwin’s law, I will speak about him shortly.  There is basically no evidence that Hitler was an atheist, though I will not claim to know exactly what his religious beliefs were he never once said that he did not believe in some kind of god.  First it needs to be mentioned that no matter was his religious beliefs were all of Europe had been steeped in an antisemitism based upon Christianity for well more than a thousand years.   Martin Luther, the German reformer, wrote a book entitled “On Jews and their Lies” in 1543, nearly 4 centuries before the Third Reich, and his views were hardly uncommon.  

Good Christian literature in the 16th century.

Hitler’s speeches were peppered with religious symbolism.  You can easily dig up many quotes from him on the internet, but just one will do for the purposes of this article.

"I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator. By warding off the Jews I am fighting for the Lord's work."   [Adolph Hitler, Speech, Reichstag, 1936]
Of course it is not possible to know how much of it he actually believed and how much was used just to manipulate the German populace, but to argue he was clearly atheist is entirely contrary to the facts we have available.

Perhaps by lord he meant the flying spaghetti monster?  Oh wait FSM doesn't condone this sort of shit.

Communism is something quite a bit different of course in that it is atheistic, or at least very anti-religious.  Of course we can look back into the history of communism and see the thinking in the famous quote by Karl Marx

"Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people."
"The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo"
One will noticed that Marx speaks about religion not god, but clearly he was no friend of religious beliefs and certainly many communist regimes seem to mandate a lack of religion
I could get bogged down in a debate about the history of Marxism here, but quite frankly this is a blog post not a graduate dissertation, so I will simply stipulate that the most if not all communist governments have mandated atheism.  

One exception I must note.  I personally think that North Korea may well be an exception as they believe that the current leader is a reincarnation of his grandfather Kim Il Sung, which strikes me as, if not a religious claim, then something rather like such a claim.  In any case I do not think communism's support of atheism says anything about the modern atheist movement in America.

Though we might want to check under the bed just in case.

There are two reasons that the argument that atheism is to blame for the atrocities of the 20th century fails, one is a factual problem and the other a philosophical one.  

First, there these communist countries forced atheism on people, this is not only ethically wrong it is entirely contrary to the goals of the modern atheist movement.  While I will not hide the fact that I think the world would be a better place if it were less religious, (not perfect, just better) how one reaches the conclusion of atheism is actually more important than the conclusion itself.  I happen to believe that the world would be a better place without religion because religion is not rational or evidence based and it is far better to believe in something for rational reasons.  However, forcing a belief using political or physical force does not make anyone more rational.  

Many societies other can communists ones have forced a belief onto its people such as many Middle Eastern countries where many governments are Islamic theocracies or Europe in the middle ages being controlled by Catholicism in many ways.  None of these are examples of humans behaving rationally, and forcing any view onto a populace using political force is not something that leads to more rational people.

On second thought maybe I should reconsider Catholicism.

There is a further philosophical problem with ALL of these claims.  It must be asked if atheism is both necessary and sufficient to justify the atrocities of these totalitarian regimes.  “Necessary and sufficient” is a phrase in logic used to define the two elements needed to prove causality.  

One must ask if atheism is necessary, meaning that totalitarian regimes, and the atrocities they commit are necessarily atheistic.  Second, one must ask if atheism is sufficient, meaning that the mere lack of belief in a god is sufficient to justify the atrocities.

Of course there is no argument that manages to prove either necessity or sufficiency.  In fact, plenty of empirical data exists to show that atheism is hardly necessary.  There are plenty of examples totalitarian regimes and human rights violations from a variety of cultures and religions.  

Now when it comes specifically to communism I could grant that atheism is necessary for it, except that there are quite a few theists these days that support Communism.  Liberation theology for instance seems to be rather chummy with a lot of communist ideals. 

Now, as to atheism's sufficiency, even if you take the most extreme definition of atheism where it is defined as a total rejection of even the possibility of any god existing, (no atheist I have ever met would go this far) one could not state that such a claim could, on its own, justify genocide, eugenics, communism, or totalitarianism.  Each one of these ideas are completely irrational, there is no empirical support for them and there is no valid reason to assert that just because atheism is sometimes mixed up in these things that it is integral to why they all went so wrong.

This argument is made more out of fear and prejudice than anything else, the cure for those prejudices is for us to be out and letting people know that these are not the sorts of things we believe in.  Preachers and other religious leaders may keep attacking us with all the prejudice and bigotry that they can muster, but more and more people will realize that the things they say just do not mesh with reality, and that we atheists are not the bogeyman that religion makes us out to be.   

I believe that the idea that atheists do not care about ethics and that we turn a blind eye to human suffering will become increasingly laughable, and that the views of the bigots who say such things will eventually be ignored by most people in the same way people ignore the KKK today.  Indeed it is quite the opposite, many atheists think this way precisely because we do care and we see the harm religion does to people and societies.  As long as religion is used as a tool to hurt our fellow humans beings we will be here calling out the religious for their bull shit.

Sunday, January 22, 2012

Atheism, the gate way drug to Communism, Pedophilia, Murder, and anything else bad that can be thought of. Part 1

Continuing the discussion on accusations/questions that are often leveled at atheists, these particular accusations come from theists of all sorts of backgrounds.  Fundamentalist Christians are probably the most common of course, but I have head the same accusations from Jews, Muslims, liberal Christian’s and even the occasional pagan.  

 This article may end up a bit long because I want to tackle several of the most common arguments as well as the historical and philosophical problems with these arguments.  I've decided to break this up into a few separate posts, I'll start with the topic of pedophilia because I just ran across an article which argues this.

Moshi Averick pictured. Smug bigotry was unavailable for photo.
I recently ran across this article online written by a Jewish Rabbi, Moshi Averick arguing that the moral framework of “atheist philosophy” which makes it completely rational to be a pedophile.  Of course there are many problems with his argument, first he acts as if there is a singular moral philosophy from the atheist view point.  He takes his views from atheist philosophers such as Michael Ruse, even though Ruse’s ideas are generally not shared by much of the modern atheist movement.  Of course, since they align with Averick’s ideas about atheism he assumes they must be the correct ones.

Averick dismisses any atheistic moral philosophies that are not nihilistic in nature as being irrational and then proceeds to dismantle nihilistic philosophy as if it were the sum total of all atheistic thinking.  The reason for this, I think, is that theism and nihilism actually agree on several key points that are key to the type of argument Averick is making.   

Well, at least one person seems happy about it.
You see, nihilism and theism both agree that any real valuation of anything requires that in continue to exist for eternity.  Theists generally argue that something, namely us, will exist for eternity in some form, the nihilist says we will not, and thus because any action we take will eventually be rendered useless by the passage of time it is effectively useless now.  To me this sounds rather more like an opinion than a philosophical argument.  Sure my actions may essentially average out to basically nothing a in a billion years, but what rational reason can one give that eternity is a more valid context to judge actions in than the here an now?

Further I would point out that history does not bear out the claim Averick is making.  To be fair, he does not argue that there are more pedophiles among modern atheists than there are among theists, which is good since the facts don’t support such a claim.  Though to me this exemplifies the most basic problem with such arguments, Averick, and those who argue like him, do their best to posit an argument which is built entirely around bare deduction without reference to reality.  They are careful to not allow the argument to make any claims about the real world results we should expect to see if their arguments were correct.  

Of course he says that atheism should lead to pedophilia but he is careful to posit this as some portent of future danger rather than actually make a testable claim.  This, of course, has all the same hallmarks of pseudo-science.  If you design your claim to be untestable the no one can ever refute it.  

Personally I think this place has far more to do with pedophilia than atheists.
Of course when we look at the evidence the trend we actually see is exactly the opposite, in ancient civilizations as well as many modern third world countries relationships and marriages that would be considered to be pedophilia in the modern United States have been common faire, and by and large these civilizations have been far more religious than we are, or ever have been in this country.  Indeed in recent years several groups have been uncovered even here in the U.S. that were engaging in pedophilia, and every one of these groups were not only religious, but the pedophilia was being protected, sanctioned or even commanded by the religion in these communities. 

Now,  I do not want to suggest that religion is a cause pedophilia either, one has to be clear that correlation does not always amount to causation and I don’t necessarily think religion is to blame for pedophilia, it is often just a convenient cover for it.  However, to argue, given the facts, that any sort of theism is going to be a cure for this problem or that a lack of theism will cause it to get worse is just laughable.

I don't really need a caption here, it pretty much speaks for itself.
Next up is a discussion about totalitarian regimes and the attempts that have been made to associate atheism with them.