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Useless Idiots
I'm twisting the term for Soviet sympathizers, although I know ants will surely crawl out of the woodwork claiming Stalin's evil was inspired by atheism. Wrong. Atheism isn't a movement, it's an evidence-based orientation to life. Here's Mano Singham on religion's role in life on Machines Like Us:

I cannot think of a single benefit that is claimed for religion that could not be provided by other institutions. Meanwhile, the negatives of religion are unique to it. We see this in the murderous rampages that have been carried out over thousands of years by religious fanatics in dutiful obedience to what they thought was the will of god. I am not saying that getting rid of religion will get rid of all evil. But it will definitely remove one important source of it. The French philosopher and author Voltaire (1694-1778) had little doubt that religion was a negative influence and that we would be better off without it. He said: "Which is more dangerous: fanaticism or atheism? Fanaticism is certainly a thousand times more deadly; for atheism inspires no bloody passion whereas fanaticism does; atheism is opposed to crime and fanaticism causes crimes to be committed."

While the evils done in the name of religion are often dismissed as aberrations by religious apologists, they actually arise quite naturally from the very basis of religion. When you believe that god exists and has a plan for you, the natural next step is to wonder what that plan is, what god wants you to do. To answer this, most people look to religious leaders and texts for guidance. As political and religious leaders discovered long ago, it is very easy to persuade people to believe that god expects them to do things that, without the sanction of religion, would be considered outrageously evil or simply crazy. (As an example of the latter, recall the thirty nine members of the Heaven's Gate sect who were persuaded to commit suicide so that their souls could get a ride on the spaceship carrying Jesus that was behind the Hale-Bopp comet that passed by the Earth in 1997.)

...Just recently, certain Islamic groups have called for the death of a Swedish cartoonist who is supposed to have drawn a cartoon disrespectful to Islam. This is yet another example of how religion seems to destroy people's basic reasoning skills because for some religious people, it seems perfectly reasonable that they have to fight and kill to defend their god's honor.

The obvious response to this call to avenge god by killing the cartoonist is to point out how absurd it is that humans think they have to protect their god's interests by fighting and killing people. Do such believers think that god is some kind of mobster boss who has to have goons to carry out his wishes? Pointing this out would reveal the impotence of god and ultimately the absurdity of the idea of god. After all, any rational person should be able to see that if their god has the abilities they ascribe to him, he should be quite capable of taking care of himself. He can not only kill the offending cartoonist but even wipe the entire country of Sweden off the map to drive the lesson home that he will not be trifled with.

But our 'respect for religion' attitude prevents us from pointing out such an obvious truth, because it gets too uncomfortably close to revealing the absurdity of the underlying premise of religion. So instead what happens is some theologian is trotted out who argues that what their religious book is 'really' saying is that it is wrong to kill, despite the existence of other passages in the same religious books that have been used to argue to the contrary. And so we end up with yet another dreary debate between the so-called 'moderates' and 'extremists' about what god is 'really' like and what he 'really' wants from us.

Posted by aalkon at October 9, 2007 4:44 AM


Sorry. But he's wrong. Very wrong. The organization of civilization would not have been possible without the manipulative force of religion.

And so was Voltaire. Certainly, the religious fanatic has done damage. But the atheist fanatic has done far more, if for no other reason than he came along at a more technologically advanced age.

Statist ideologies have killed more humans than all religions combined.

Can you look at the harm inflicted in the name of godlessness by the likes of Mao and Stalin, and say that religion is worse? Hell, compared to Stalin, the Islamists are pikers.

Posted by: brian at October 9, 2007 6:30 AM

If some have been driven to violence by religion, I submit that at least an equal, and probably greater, number have been driven away from violence by religion.

I'm not going to invoke Stalin and Mao, but I would be curious to see a measurement of criminality among atheists and the religious.

Posted by: doombuggy at October 9, 2007 7:27 AM

You both make a common mistake in reasoning:

There is no atheist credo. Tying atheists together as some sort of group with goals is like tying together people who like green. I simply don't believe in anything without evidence. Thinking this way is not being part of a movement (although atheists can be Republicans or Democrats or any number of other things); it's simply not being an idiot.

Also, Roman Genn argues that there absolutely was a religion in Russia. About claims that it was atheistic, he writes:

It most certainly was not. “Jesuits without Jesus,”( in Churchill’s words) certainly, but not without gods. The whole system was undoubtedly structured as a religion — the cult of Lenin and his gang, the Inquisition, the commissars in the army, and consistent extermination of nonbelievers and doubters (committed to mental institutions or expelled from the Motherland during the more vegetarian periods). Soviet Communism was no more than traditional Russian imperialism, draped in the red flag for the consumption of the useful macacas around the globe. Thus, the easy transition into newly founded “spirituality” — the former first secretaries and KGB colonels crossing themselves fervently, with laughable tales about secret baptisms by their babushkas.

It is true that genuine believers are scarce (there’s not one prostitute or a thug in Moscow who doesn’t wear a religious adornment on her/his neck) but who do exist tend to be rabidly anti-Western, anti-American, and anti-Catholic, as the Russian Orthodox Church is the source of the paranoia and hatred of liberal Western values. We will be fooling ourselves if we are to believe that, having exchanged the “Short Course of the History of the Communist Party” for the Bible, the Russians will become civilized.

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 9, 2007 7:32 AM

brian/whomever else - a lack of religion does not actually encourage people to murder, act in a corrupt way or hold intense hatred for others.

People who are bad may not "believe in anything" but when they act badly, it is of their own inherent evilness and their own doing. It isn't a lack of belief in god which drives them into psychotic killing frenzies.

Many people who kill are fucked in the head - end of story. People who kill are either mentally unsound (in a biological sense), have been driven into a state of mental unsoundness (find your daughter dead w/ some guy standing over her w/ a knife, see what you do...) or have been influenced by external factors (gangs...).

Religion on the other hand, in MANY cases, *IS* the impetus for persons acting in an "evil" way: killing "on behalf of" their god is their justification. They think god will be pleased if they kill.

I agree w/ Singham: if god is this almighty force in the sky, then god can take care of itself - killing is inherently against sound moral judgment so it seems very obviously flawed to use god as justification to kill.

Posted by: Gretchen at October 9, 2007 7:50 AM

**Tying atheists together as some sort of group with goals is like tying together people who like green.**

Aw come on, if they can't do that then I don't get to remind them that Hitler was a Christian.

Posted by: Gog_Magog_Carpet_Reclaimers at October 9, 2007 8:28 AM

Gog - Hitler was not a Christian. He was an occultist.

And Amy - if you're going to take the tack that Genn does, and equate communism with religion to make your point, you've kinda conceded the argument.

Gretchen - Lack of religion may not be causative of negative behaviour, but religion is certainly associated with positive behaviour. You'll find for every Catholic that thinks it's OK to kill, a thousand (or a thousand thousand) more who believe fervently that it is not.

Atheists have no basis for morality whatsoever. Any atheist who claims to have found a logical reason to not kill another human being is riding on the coat-tails of religion and the moral code it provided.

Absent eternal divine retribution, humans have no logical reason to behave in any way that benefits the weak.

Posted by: brian at October 9, 2007 8:58 AM

"You'll find for every Catholic that thinks it's OK to kill, a thousand (or a thousand thousand) more who believe fervently that it is not.

Atheists have no basis for morality whatsoever."

That is incredibly...well, dumb. While religion may dictate many parts of "morality" (like, have sex before you're married and you'll go to hell). However, it is possible to arrive at "killing is wrong" w/o religion in any way. See, killing is what some like to call an "infringement" upon the right of another person alive. I do not ascribe to any religion but I recognize that killing is wrong - that is how I was brought up.

"Absent eternal divine retribution, humans have no logical reason to behave in any way that benefits the weak."

Huh? If a terrorist takes down 100 people ("for allah") these people probably had little or no chance of 1) knowing what was about to happen 2) flee in enough time. That doesn't make them weak - that is a situation of imperfect knowledge. If they knew they were about to die they might have been able to do something about it and change the course or events - you ever hear of "September 11th." Two planes went into these big buildings. Some people on another plane figured out what was happening and brought the plane down before it could reach a big city called Washington D.C. Were the people on the other planes "weak"? No - they just didn't know what was happening.

Murder is not inherently beneficial to the murderer - absent divine REWARD. If someone rapes me I'd probably kill him/her given the chance. There is a perceived benefit there. However, shooting a random person on the street has no benefit to me in any way - an I'll go to jail...on the other hand, people use religion as a way to justify murder b/c of an "inherent benefit" - 72 virgins in paradise, anyone??

I'd also like to point out that believing in god(s) can, in many cases, has NOTHING to do with religion. Religion is a social construct - if people weren't alive religion wouldn't exist, nor would fiat money or the Supreme Court. On the other hand, a person may argue that **if god exists** god would exist regardless of the existence of humans.

Posted by: Gretchen at October 9, 2007 10:02 AM

I should proof read after I make an amendment to a sentence.

Posted by: Gretchen at October 9, 2007 10:12 AM

The true reasoning behind charity is that by helping those that are weaker than ourselves we get the feeling that if we were in a similiar situation others would do the same for us.

People like to believe in religion for several reasons. Morality, entitlement, fear of oblivion. I think the main one is justification of why they are having such a shit time at life.

Posted by: PurplePen at October 9, 2007 10:13 AM

Brian, with all due respect, check your history. God is with us on the belt buckles was not an occult thing nor was his close ties to the Catholic church or the Pope's support of the Third Reich. Does this make every Christian or Catholic as evil as Hitler? Of course not. It doesn't even make the majority of them so. But either Hitler believed (and there's really no evidence that he didn't believe what he said he did) or he used others beliefs to get them to do his bloody bidding. Neither is a good reflection on a God belief. Have bad, nasty, homicidal manics that disbelieve also existed? Of course. Likewise, it doesn't make the Atheist what they are. And civilization was born out of the necessity of banding together to survive -- not religion. Without religion, it would still have been formed. Obviously, we're still trying to learn to live together instead of killing each other. Despite thousands of years of religion. Maybe because of religion being used as such a handy excuse for killing each other.

Posted by: Donna at October 9, 2007 10:20 AM

Numerous factors, other than human agendas, can and will degrade facts and ideas as they pass among people. Our world is proof that people are not immune, and seem drawn, to bad thinking.

When Muslims hate on us, we dismiss them as barbarians. Beating them into enlightenment is no more likely to succeed than them terrorizing us into Belief. Washington, Decider Central is merely playing whack-a-mole in Iraq.

Posted by: DaveG at October 9, 2007 12:29 PM

DaveG - You have another suggestion, perhaps?

We defeated Soviet Communism by making them spend more than they made on defense against a weapons system we never developed.

The Islamists aren't likely to do that.

Posted by: brian at October 9, 2007 2:13 PM

You're right brian we wont spend money on defense system, wh are however spending billions on a useless war aginst an enemy whos only stated goal is to make us leave. Check out how big the national deficit is - seems like they are doing a great job bankrupting us

Posted by: lujlp at October 9, 2007 2:19 PM

"If someone rapes me I'd probably kill him/her given the chance." You either believe in a after life and hell or you are a far kinder soul then I am. Dead people don't feel pain and thus are not suffering. To kill absolves him/her of their responsibilities as a human being. This grants them that release.

Wow with a few line I have used logic combined with a thirst for vengeance to justify not killing someone. So no you do not need morality to know not to kill. Ethics and logic make just as convincing arguments. Morality springs from religion, which is little more then some guys coming up with a code of behavior hundreds or thousands of years ago. If you resort to "This old dead guy once said.." to define your life you are taking the easy way out.

Posted by: vlad at October 9, 2007 2:27 PM

lujlp -

Do you consider the possibility that there is any relation to the Islamists in the middle east and the ones that took down the WTC?

If not, then I can understand your position on Iraq. Of course you wouldn't be willing to accept the fact that our enemy does NOT have as its only stated goal to make us leave.

However, if you think there might be a link, then you should understand that the ultimate goal of the Islamist movement (ideologically spearheaded by the Muslim Brotherhood, militantly pursued by their comrades in Al Qaeda, Hamas, Fatah, Islamic Jihad, etc) is the conversion, enslavement, or death of all non-muslims, and the death of all Jews.

If you have a better idea on how to solve that little issue aside from putting a sheet over your sister and killing your dog, I'm all ears.

Posted by: brian at October 9, 2007 2:40 PM

"The National Government will regard it as its first and foremost duty to revive in the nation the spirit of unity and cooperation. It will preserve and defend those basic principles on which our nation has been built. It regards Christianity as the foundation of our national morality, and the family as the basis of national life."
'My New Order', Adolf Hitler, Proclamation to the German Nation at Berlin, February 1, 1933.

Posted by: Gog_Magog_Carpet_Reclaimers at October 9, 2007 3:59 PM

So has the Madman's time finally come, at long last? I wonder.

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at October 9, 2007 5:09 PM

Atheists are not really a collective at all; they are simply thinking individuals who do not share a common belief in god. The word "individuals" is the key here, because it means that while religious believers base their reason for existence and subsequent behavior on what others have told them, atheists chart their own path. If they find meaning in their lives, it is because they created that meaning themselves.

I cannot speak for every atheist, but many cherish life all the more for their certainty that there is no other; they value the gifts of friendship and family because they have but one chance to do so. Morality does not have its roots in religion, but rather in a child's trust in the benevolence of its parent.

None of us are born with religion; we are all "religious virgins" at birth. All religious propaganda is imposed upon us by others as we mature, and is used to steer our behavior for various nefarious purposes by those with agenda's separate from our own. We must stop, think, and chart our own path if we are to live distinct, full, meaningful lives -- instead of lives by proxy.

Posted by: Norm Nason at October 9, 2007 5:57 PM

brian -

We should destroy their culture of hate. Take complete control of their country. Forcibly educate them to act like civilized humans. Eliminate polygyny and theocracy.

Posted by: DaveG at October 9, 2007 6:43 PM

Dave -

And you propose we do this without invading, how? Cause, I'm just not seeing it.

And the whole forcibly educating people to act like civilized humans? When you can show me some success on that here at home, then maybe we can export it.

All I want is for those nations to have a vested interest in leaving us the fuck alone. If they get TV, and jeans, and XBoxes, and porn, and we can convince them to put their women in Wicked Weasel instead of Burqini, then I don't care if they have polygyny and theocracy. As long as they don't wanna blow people up any more.

Posted by: brian at October 9, 2007 7:56 PM

vlad - I would argue that religion(for most) springs out of a desire to define innate morality, not the other way around.

brian - there is a relation in regards to the terrorists who took out the towers and the mulsims in Iraq. It is the same relationship between people like Timothy McVeigh, John Wayne Gasey, Ted Bundy and people like you and me. We are from the same continent and grew up within 4 or 5 thousand miles of each other.

That being said I am well aware of the violence caused worldwide by mulisms and other religious nuts who find it too hard to think things thru(bush)

The soultion is simple - stop giving them money, stop getting in the way of their centuries old ideoligical war, let them kill each other, and for those who flee to western countries impose strict restrictions on the way they practice their religion - if a religious value is at odds with secular law then the law wins out. How hard is that?

Posted by: lujlp at October 9, 2007 8:30 PM

Incedentally for all you christians, if you look at it rationlly there is no hell - according to the bible god promised to forgive any who ask, since he promised he cant back out as lying would invalidate his very existance.

Therefore everyone goes to heaven - murderes, rapists, child molesters, islamists, everyone. Hardly seems fair does it?

Posted by: lujlp at October 9, 2007 8:34 PM

The soultion is simple - stop giving them money, stop getting in the way of their centuries old ideoligical war, let them kill each other, and for those who flee to western countries impose strict restrictions on the way they practice their religion - if a religious value is at odds with secular law then the law wins out. How hard is that?

You make that sound so easy. Except that they have used our laws against us to make it illegal to stop them practicing their organized hate.

Although you've essentially just advocated for my 'second option' of quarantine, that has already been determined to be logistically impossible.

After all, I'm told we can't deport all those illegal aliens because it's racist. Certainly, we won't deport Ibrahim Hooper and his buddies at CAIR. After all, that wouldn't be nice.

Posted by: brian at October 10, 2007 4:28 AM


> "What after all are these
> churches now if they are
> not the tombs and sepulchers
> of God?"

Did anyone ever say Nietzsche was fun, except for the guy who answered the scribble on the bathroom wall?

| God is Dead. - Nietzsche
| Nietzsche is Dead. - God

In his summer beach book, Hitchens casually sends us to this, which seems (?) to cover a lot of the same territory without being all Sturmy Drangish

Posted by: Crid at October 10, 2007 9:10 AM

In the spirit of gleefully beating this dead horse, here's our friend Christopher Hitchens again:

"Hitchens is especially good on the idiotic challenge 'Stalin and Hitler were atheists, what d’you say to that?' – doubtless after plenty of practice. Stalin, Hitler and the others may not have been religious themselves, but they understood the ingrained religiosity of their subjects, and exploited it gratefully...[in Hitchens' words] For hundreds of years, millions of Russians had been told the head of state should be a man close to God, the Czar, who was head of the Russian Orthodox Church as well as absolute despot. If you’re Stalin, you shouldn’t be in the dictatorship business if you can’t exploit the pool of servility and docility that’s ready-made for you. The task of atheists is to raise people above that level of servility and credulity."

Posted by: Rebecca at October 10, 2007 9:26 AM

"Cull the living flower," they call that.

Posted by: Crid at October 10, 2007 11:25 AM

Ah, Nietzsche is fucking hilarious! As with Jesus and the Beatles, the problem is his fan club. And sis sure didn't help things. But for those who will never get the chance to read him, I offer one last gem to recite aloud with perfect diction whilst being spanked by your dominatrix girlfriend.

Posted by: Paul Hrissikopoulos at October 10, 2007 5:06 PM

"Jesus and the Beatles"

Ha! I KNEW there was a Fifth Beatle!

Posted by: Gog_Magog_Carpet_Reclaimers at October 11, 2007 8:29 AM

Hitler was not a Christian. He was an occultist.

There's a difference?

Posted by: lurker1 at October 16, 2007 7:06 AM

I like you, Lurker.

Hitler's Christianity here:

Posted by: Amy Alkon at October 16, 2007 8:14 AM

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