Tuesday, November 21, 2006

Pointing Fingers

A friend of mine recently reminded me of my rage by sending along this editorial:

Atheism, not religion, is the real force behind the mass murders of history

Now, I will concede a good number of the points that the author makes regarding conflicts being political, and not religious:

"Moreover, many of the conflicts that are counted as "religious wars" were not fought over religion. They were mainly fought over rival claims to territory and power. Can the wars between England and France be called religious wars because the English were Protestants and the French were Catholics? Hardly."

Lumping the Israel/Palestine conflict in with this group I agree with a bit less, because the conflict is focused on ground that is considered "holy" by both sides.

Another group of points that I will concede focus on the amount of death caused by these conflicts/events:

"The problem with this critique is that it exaggerates the crimes attributed to religion, while ignoring the greater crimes of secular fanaticism. The best example of religious persecution in America is the Salem witch trials. How many people were killed in those trials? Thousands? Hundreds? Actually, fewer than 25. Yet the event still haunts the liberal imagination.
It is strange to witness the passion with which some secular figures rail against the misdeeds of the Crusaders and Inquisitors more than 500 years ago. The number sentenced to death by the Spanish Inquisition appears to be about 10,000. Some historians contend that an additional 100,000 died in jail due to malnutrition or illness."

It is true that atheists will exaggerate these numbers. I used to do the same, but have been corrected, and agree with the statements made by this editorialist.

Now that I've been nice and agreeable, I must point out the blindness with which the article was written.

"But even so, they are minuscule compared with the death tolls produced by the atheist despotisms of the 20th century. In the name of creating their version of a religion-free utopia, Adolf Hitler, Joseph Stalin, and Mao Zedong produced the kind of mass slaughter that no Inquisitor could possibly match. Collectively these atheist tyrants murdered more than 100 million people."

First, Hitler was not an atheist. There are a great many accounts of his belief in god, just not the christian mythology. Just because he did not follow the religion does not mean that he was an atheist.

Second, while the author goes through efforts to point out the political nature of the great many deaths caused by conflicts between religions, he completely ignores the very same point with regards to the deaths caused by atheists. Stalin and Zedong did not kill because of religion. They killed because they wanted political power. In other words, it is not atheism that motivated them to kill, it was politics. It was the same form of politics that prompted Saddam to kill.

This is the key difference between communist tyrannies and religious wars. Religious wars are fought because one religion believes that destroying another religion will elevate them in the eyes of god. Tyrannical mass murder of religious worshippers is performed because one man does not want religion to interfere with his rule over the people. And this has nothing to do with atheism.

Then the writer goes where every church going non-thinker has gone before: Ethics

'The crimes of atheism have generally been perpetrated through a hubristic ideology that sees man, not God, as the creator of values. Using the latest techniques of science and technology, man seeks to displace God and create a secular utopia here on earth. Of course if some people - the Jews, the landowners, the unfit, or the handicapped - have to be eliminated in order to achieve this utopia, this is a price the atheist tyrants and their apologists have shown themselves quite willing to pay. Thus they confirm the truth of Fyodor Dostoyevsky's dictum, "If God is not, everything is permitted." '

First, I think it is important to point out that the author is currently living in a secular state (the U.S.A.) and employing the freedoms of thought and voice that has been instantiated and maintained by that secular state. The horror. The horror.

Next, he claims that the history of atheism has proven Dostoyevsky's dictum. However, this is a very easy way to ignore the advances that have been brought in the absence of religion. The first that comes to mind is Socrates. Then there is Confucius. I'm not particularly a fan of Confucius, but you can't deny that he had morals. There are more modern examples, but these two are outstanding because they established firm philosophical stances in societies that had not exposed them to religion. In other words, they had morals before the idea of monotheism existed.

"Whatever the motives for atheist bloodthirstiness, the indisputable fact is that all the religions of the world put together have in 2,000 years not managed to kill as many people as have been killed in the name of atheism in the past few decades."

What the writer has done is taken the actions of two atheists (TWO!!!), and assaulted the moral standing of approximately 10% of the world population. Is that not exactly how Hitler got started? These two (TWO!!) atheists were very very very bad people. But I would like the writer to take a count of the theists that can be counted as bad people. Go through history and tally the number of religious people that have committed mass murder. Remember, this is not counting the number of deaths! This is counting the number of murderers. Counting the number of murderers gives a better idea of how many evil men a theological position will create.

Oh, and don't forget to include child molesters in that count. I understand the church has produced a couple of those in recent decades.

To use his own words against him, what D'Souza has done is taken the responsibility for man's actions and made them about religion. What he is taking away is that man's actions are man's responsibility. The good that man does is not dependent on god or religion. Nor is the bad. The ability for man to view a world through moral eyes is man's ability, not god's. If a man has no morals or ethics, it is not because of his religion or lack thereof, it is because of the man.

And if you start judging religions based on the people they create, every religion (or lack thereof) has a lot of apologizing to do. And has a lot of thanks coming to them. Really, the only commonality of all human action throughout history is the human. To ignore this is blindness.