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Fearless Philosophy For Free Minds: Atheist Atrocities? (Part 2 of 3)

Thursday, December 13, 2007

Atheist Atrocities? (Part 2 of 3)

In the first post on this topic of “atheist atrocities,” I gave some historical context to the Reign of Terror at the peak of the French Revolution. I admitted that perhaps Skeptic Antidote can accurately claim that atheists who had control of the levers of power killed some 6,000 Christians in the name of atheism. Other than the Reign of Terror, the remaining atrocities cannot be attributed to atheists killing in an effort to promote atheism.

At the very beginning of his video he makes the claim “No one has killed more human beings than atheists.” Before I move on, I think there needs to be some clarification because I am convinced that most people who are terrified of atheists do not even know what an atheist is. An atheist is someone who does not believe in gods. That’s it. That’s all. If I am introduced to a stranger and all he tells me is that he is an atheist, that doesn’t tell me a whole lot about what kind of person he is. I don’t know anything about his values, if he is honest, if he gives to charity, what his interests are, or if he is an intelligent person. I certainly wouldn’t know anything about his political beliefs; he could be a Democrat, a Republican, a Libertarian, an Objectivist, a Socialist, a Communist, or any number of other things. I can no more tell what kind of person he is than if all I knew was that he was a theist.

Skeptic Antidote seems to assume that atheism is equal to Communism; certainly he is not the first to draw this conclusion. In fact, the placement of the phrase “In God We Trust” was placed on all American currency as a response to the “godless commies” during the Cold War.

So how did atheism become synonymous with Communism to so many? As the Communists gained political power in Russia, the Russian Orthodox Church became illegal (here again the church was an integral part of the state) and churches throughout the country were being closed and reopened as museums. Atheist propaganda was being spread by the government to this end. The leaders of the new government believed that churches would threaten its authority. Atheism was not the reason for the subjugation of the religious, but a means to an end (the end being complete Communist control of the country).

The other Communist countries mentioned in Skeptic Antidote’s video followed a similar pattern as the Russians. While many tyrannical regimes used religion to their advantage, the Communists decided to use a different strategy. Karl Marx, the principle founder of Communism, once called religion “the opiate of the masses.” Like opium, religion has a way of comforting the user with a sense of euphoria while simultaneously impairing the user’s ability to reason. Marx and his intellectual heirs must have realized that this “opiate” phenomenon could be used to found a new religion which would replace the worship of a god to the worship of an all powerful state. Communism would be a religion in of itself (and like most religions, the Communists did not like to deal with competing religions).

Marx did not create the religion of Communism out of whole cloth, however. Many of the principle tenets of Communism are similar to those of Christianity. Perhaps the most common theme of both religions is this notion of sacrifice for the sake of the common good at the expense of the individual. Neither religion places much if any value on the rights of the individual. The Bible is full of examples where individuals were sacrificed for the good of a people (the most extreme example of course is Jesus’ death on the cross to save all of humanity). The Communists believed much the same thing.

Among the atrocities listed in Skeptic Antidote’s video is how many people were killed under Communist regimes (though he substitutes the word “Communist” with “Atheist”). The citizens who lived under the boot of these regimes were repeatedly asked and expected to sacrifice for the common good of their countries. Many times, the government asked citizens to sacrifice their very lives. Because Russia had fallen behind most of the industrialized world due to its agricultural based economy, the leadership believed the country needed to change quickly to encourage growth in manufacturing. The industrial population centers of the country were suffering. The solution? Go to the rural areas of the country, steal the grain from the farmers, and take over the farms. The Communists saw that the starving of a few million people was worth preserving the well being of the majority of citizens (as even tyrants understand, you have to keep the majority of the citizens happy or you risk revolution against your rule).

As Skeptic Antidote points out, most if not all of these Communist dictators were atheists. Therefore, what? If an atheist is trusted in a position of power s/he will commit similar atrocities because s/he values the common good over the individual? This is where his argument falls apart.

Next post: the conclusion of this 3 part series.


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