Atheist Atrocities? (Part 3 of 3)
As I watched the video, two individuals who are about as far from Communism as one could get came to the front of my mind: Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman. Both valued Capitalism and the sovereignty of the individual. Both found the idea of sacrifice for the benefit others not as a moral good but as a moral wrong. Both believed that the only purpose of the state was to aid in helping the individual preserve his rights of life, liberty, and property. A state which violates these rights has no right or reason to exist at all.
Ayn Rand escaped the tyranny of Soviet Russia when she was young. From a very young age she understood the immorality of collectivism. She was an atheist who went on to develop a philosophy known as Objectivism. Objectivism is based on four core principles: objective reality (“facts are facts, independent of man's feelings, wishes, hopes or fears”), Reason (“the faculty which identifies and integrates the material provided by man's senses”), Selfishness (or rational self-interest; man exists for his own sake rather than the sake of others), and capitalism (the economic system she believed to be the most moral of all economic systems). Here are a few of my favorite Ayn Rand quotes which embody her philosophy of Objectivism:
“I swear, by my life and my love of it, that I will never live for the sake of another man, nor ask another man to live for mine.”
“It only stands to reason that where there's sacrifice, there's someone collecting the sacrificial offerings. Where there's service, there is someone being served. The man who speaks to you of sacrifice is speaking of slaves and masters, and intends to be the master.”
“Individual rights are not subject to a public vote; a majority has no right to vote away the rights of a minority; the political function of rights is precisely to protect minorities from oppression by majorities (and the smallest minority on earth is the individual).”
Milton Friedman was also an unapologetic defender of liberty and Capitalism. In 1976, Friedman won the Nobel Prize in Economic Sciences. Perhaps Friedman’s most famous works are his 1962 book Capitalism and Freedom and his 1982 book and PBS television series Free to Choose (I cannot recommend the Free to Choose television series highly enough. Watch the entire series here). Friedman also influenced Barry Goldwater (served as the economic advisor to Goldwater’s presidential campaign), was an advisor to Richard Nixon (though Friedman complained that Nixon often did not take his advice), and Ronald Reagan (a true believer in many of Friedman’s economic theories; Reagan’s “trickle down economic policy” reflected that).
Milton Friedman was almost universally praised by fiscal conservatives and libertarians of all stripes. Many supply side economists consider him to be their hero. The Cato Institute, a libertarian think tank, even has an award called “The Milton Friedman Award for Advancing Liberty” which is awarded every other year to an individual “who has made a significant contribution to the advance of human freedom.”
Did I mention that Milton Friedman was an agnostic? Unless asked, neither did he. While Ayn Rand was very outspoken about her negative views about religion, Friedman had very little interest in the topic of religion at all. Perhaps this is why conservatives who normally wouldn’t give an agnostic/atheist the time of day made an exception for Milton Friedman.
Certainly, Ayn Rand and Milton Friedman are not the only ones skeptical of religion who happened to also believe in free markets and free minds. In my own experience I have run into a number of libertarians who happened to also be atheist or agnostic. Objectivists are by their nature also atheists. I doubt seriously that even Skeptic Antidote could truly believe that had Ayn Rand, Milton Friedman, or others of a similar philosophy taken over control of any government such a leader would resort to committing atrocities against humanity. After all, if the rights of the individual are respected above the rights of the group, how can such a policy lead to killing various classes of people?
When it comes to choosing our leaders, we must look beyond his or her religious beliefs or lack thereof. In order to guard against someone who would commit atrocities, we should select leaders who do not call for the sacrifice of the individual but instead recognizes the Lockean individual rights of life, liberty, and property.
If Skeptic Antidote's position is that a few bad people who happened to be atheists killed more human beings than anyone else, then fine...I can’t argue against that. If, however, he contends that these despots were despots because of their atheism and/or that the end goal was to promote atheism (rather than a means to an end), he has failed miserably to make the case.
But why not give him another chance? My challenge to Skeptic Antidote (or anyone else for that matter): find me one example of an atrocity committed by an atheist individual, group, or government in the past 100 years which had the end goal of rooting out religion in favor of atheism as an end in itself (as many religious zealots have done to kill in the name of their religion in an effort to further their religion by force). I will be waiting with pregnant anticipation.