Friday, 16 September 2011

Atheist Atrocities

Sigh. Once again, what was a relatively sensible and civil discussion between a couple of believers and a couple of atheists has been disrupted and sidelined by an embarrassing attempt to attribute some of the worst atrocities of the twentieth century - including the holocaust, of course - to atheism. Honestly, even believers are embarrassed by this one. There are several reasons this is complete rubbish, so let me lay out a few of the basics:

1: Hitler was a Roman Catholic. No, really - look it up. He made several references to his faith in Mein Kampf, and the first international treaty of the Nazi Party, the Reichskonkordat, was with the Vatican - the details can be seen here: Even if Hitler himself had not been a believer, most of his followers were; their lifelong conditioning to hate Jews as the killers of Christ was instrumental in creating backing for Hitler's party and policies. So let's drop the whole "Hitler was an atheist" thing, shall we?

2: Niceness does not determine correctness, nor does being nasty make one wrong. It would not matter if every atheist on the planet was an absolute arsehole; that would not in itself make us wrong.

3: Do you reeeeeaaally want to get into a slagging match about crimes committed by believers versus crimes committed by atheists anyway?  Really?

4: This is the point that even  many atheists seem to miss; it is not logical or even possible to commit crimes in the name of an UNbelief.  If you want to tell me that I as a non-believer in gods am a bad person because Stalin was also a non-believer in gods, it is perfectly reasonable for me to reply using the same logic that YOU are a bad person as a non-believer in dragons because Stalin was also a non-believer in dragons.  Stalin didn't believe in the Easter Bunny, therefore aEasterBunnyism is responsible for his regime.  Mao didn't believe in Santa Claus, therefore aKrisKringlism has killed millions. Kim Jong-il doesn't believe in an invisible squid monster called Bob circling Alpha Centauri, therefore you, as a fellow aBobist, are evil too.  Getting the point?

And for anyone reading this who wants to bleat "OK, so those evil men didn't do what they did in the name of atheism, but if they'd believed in gods they'd've had morals and they wouldn't have done it"... pick up a history book, I'm begging you.


  1. I wish i could write something just like this,.=)

    - @ivchoc

  2. "Niceness does not determine correctness, nor does being nasty make one wrong. It would not matter if every atheist on the planet was an absolute arsehole; that would not in itself make us wrong"

    Nor does the fact that some religious people are arseholes automatically make them wrong

    1. Well, no. That was kind of my point. Fortunately there are more reliable indicators of wrongness, such as the fact that one's beliefs are batshit crazy.

  3. Even if they'd had morals, they would have done the same nonetheless. It's obvious. Just look at the religious nuts in the Arabic world - they clam to have peaceful attitude towards life but their actions scream "hypocrisy!".

  4. I still don't understand why people who believe in an Invisible Unprovable Something have to be treated as MORE trustworthy and credible rather than being locked up for being delusional.

  5. know I am going to use that every chance I get :)

  6. It is not where we start that is important but what we become. Hitler was born a catholic and Christ a Jew, however your understanding of the rise of Nazism in Germany is fatuous to say the least. Hitler used the Jewish bankers to fund his movement and then discarded them. He took treasures from catholic churches for his own ends and told the clergy he was running things not the Vatican. If anything he, Stalin and Mao shared the God-delusion - they were invincible and never wrong. Atheism is a belief system as any other ' I do not believe in thee existence of God. There is no scientific proof either to support the existence or non-existence of God. The true position of science in such conditions has to be agnostic. The Higgs particle seemingly creates matter out of nothing - far stranger than anything you can read in the Bible and 80 years ago Einstein believed that the existence of such a particle was also delusional. what we know about our own Galaxy is less than 3 per cent and the rest of the Universe even more marginal. Quantum theory tells us that a single electron can be in two places at once - here and the opposite end of the Universe if we ever could get there. Isn't it claimed that Christ did something similar with five loaves and three fishes? No that's delusional.

    1. Sigh... Right. Where do we start?


      Nazism is a political movement centered around biological racism and antisemitism. In other words, it is a political movement centered around the hatred of a specific religious group and the preference of one "super race" above all others. This remains true even if the Nazi Party initially used the former to finance their endeavors.

      Atheism is NOT a belief system, it is the LACK OF a belief system.

      All atheists AND believers are agnostic to some degree specifically because of the lack of evidence FOR the existence of the supernatural. You are religious because you CHOOSE to subscribe to one of the MANY religions out there. You are atheist BY DEFAULT if you do not subscribe to any of them. NOT thinking something is NOT a thought, it is the LACK OF a thought.

      The Higgs Boson does not "create matter out of nothing", it gives particles MASS.

      Einstein was not a proponent of such a particle because in the early 1900's the field of Quantum Mechanics was in its infancy, and the particle itself was only specifically postulated in 1964 (Einstein passed away in 1955)

      Nothing in quantum mechanics specifically suggests that an electron can be in two places at the same time. It is a poorly worded explanation of the results of a double slit experiment (wave particle duality). No-one has ever observed an electron being in two places at once, and nothing in the mathematics suggests that it can be in two places at once.

      The five loaves and three fishes story still sounds a little iffy to me because it would either require singular particles to be in multiple places at the same time, or the creation of matter out of thin air. The first being somewhat impossible and the other requiring ridonculous amounts of energy.

      Aaand exhale...

      Lol.. But really Flashdance, SoggyMog has a point... Blaming somone's lack of belief in something for their actions is more than just a little ridiculous.

    2. Re. "Blaming somone's lack of belief in something for their actions is more than just a little ridiculous."

      I can't agree with that. A lack of belief in a moral absolute for example, may inspire some people to believe they can define their own morality - for themselves! Apply this to a powerful leader like Stalin and you might be able to argue that his atheism did indeed inform his actions.

      Just a thought...

    3. Also, a "lack of belief" in the veracity of religion could lead to the persecution of religious believers, as was the case in Mao's persecution of Tibet (throughout which his slogan was 'religion is a poison').

      I'm not trying to argue that this means the veracity of religion should not be questioned, simply that such atrocities are a product of a destructive human impulse, to which neither religious spiritualists nor scientific realists are immune.

    4. Point conceded @concretesneakers and @unhill. I agree... to an extent anyway. The lack of belief in a moral absolute may well open the door to warped ideas and actions. But in either case I think it would not be the lack of morals itself that would spur such actions, but the introduction of something in its place. Whether it be a warped sense of personal power, or the notion that violence and bigotry are justified/acceptable.

      There is certainly a marked difference between simply not subscribing to religion (atheist) and being opposed to it - perhaps violently so (anti-theist), is there not? I don't think it's accurate to describe the absence of one thing as equal to the want of another. Persecuting a specific religion probably has more to do with an active hatred towards it than it does with simply not subscribing to it. (Religions have persecuted each other with the same fervor, only the justifications differed.)

      It's the same with morals. Adopting a self-defined moral framework (likely based on personal wants and needs) is not the same as not having one at all.

  7. I think the point of bringing Stalin and Hitler into the argument is to show that *not* believing in god doesn't solve anything. Crazy ruthless people will always find a reason to kill, god is just one of those. So maybe attacking religion is right in the scientific sense, but pointless in solving genocide.

  8. In agreement with the above comment; your assertions about Hitler and anti-semitism in Germany are extremely misinformed.

    Hitler was raised as Catholic but was vehemently opposed to Christianity or organised religion of any kind (and as hinted at in the above comment, heavily persecuted Christian churches in the realms he conquered). In fact, the only kind of religions he had any interest in were Buddhism and Occultism, both non-theistic movements.

    As for the assertion that the reason Nazi followers had a natural disposition towards disliking Jews because of a Catholic 'Christ killer' mentality, this is totally wrong. Most Germans, particularly at the time, were Lutherans - the movement started by Martin Luther, a man who wrote a book entitled "On the Jews And Their Lies". This is perhaps a more probable cause of their disposition towards anti-semitism.

    Poorly informed article.

    1. I always find the references to Hitler only being a spiritualist (as opposed to atheist) intriguing. Especially in the face of his own assertion that he believes in God (It's strange how people will completely discount the man's own opinion on his beliefs in favor of supporting an outside view of him. Einstein suffered the same, but in the other direction). Don't you find such an assertion by a man who supposedly is only interested in non-theistic movements a little contradictory?

      You are correct on the Lutheran angle though. Hitler most likely capitalized on an already existent dislike of Jews among the Germans. Clearly it was an effective rallying cry. Though there is little to suggest that he himself did not share that dislike.

    2. The truth behind what Hitler actually believed is murky and contradictory. My main point was that he was definitely opposed to large religious organisations, and it would therefore be highly unlikely that he gave any credence to the Christian doctrine he was raised with.

    3. unihill:

      "Hitler ... was vehemently opposed to Christianity or organised religion of any kind (and as hinted at in the above comment, heavily persecuted Christian churches in the realms he conquered)."

      None of that is true, Hitler supported Christianity, though was highly critical of it and saw himself as a Christian reformer. The Nazis founded their own brand of Christianity (the "Deutsche Christen" with their own theological institutes trying to prove that Jesus was an Aryan). Hitler's theological ideas abound in Mein Kampf and formed the basis for his antipathy to the Jews. Also, claims of "persecution" of churches are highly exaggerated. For all this read Nazi racial ideology was religious, creationist and opposed to Darwinism.

    4. It was only before WWII that Hitler promoted a brand of Christianity ("Positive Christianity" as it was coined). As his power grew the party line became increasingly secular. And although publicly he supported Christianity, Goebbels and Albert Speer are both quoted as saying that Hitler was deeply anti-Chirstian, and felt a Japanese or Islamic philosophy would have been much more suited to the Nazi cause.

      Regarding the persecution of Churches, there are documents chronicling Hitlers aim of systematically reducing the Church's influence, using force if it became necessary. Although this was not entirely put into practice during his dictatorship, the intention was clear.

      Also, the article you have linked makes some interesting points. I would never have regarded Hitler's philosophy as Darwinian (perhaps he took influence from Darwin, but only in the same warped manner from which he took influence from Neitzche). However I would also not regard Hitler's philosophy as religious in any sense. It was monstrous and nothing more, regardless of the religious or scientific justifications he may have given to various audiences.

  9. All you've succeeded in proving is that whether you throw a religious cloak on it or not, no one has a monopoly on bad behaviour. Well, we kinda know that already.

    Just on your point 4 though; 'It is not logical to commit crimes in the name of unbelief'. What do you mean by that? Do you mean it is not a crime unless it's judged against a moral absolute? Do you mean unbelief holds no implication about what is acceptable or what is not. Would unbelief not imply moral relativism, which is a pretty clear worldview in itself. That may be able to inspire certain behaviour traits.

    So I just don't think it's all that straighforward.

  10. Well, maybe not all of them were atheists, but all of them were socialists.

  11. I agree with most of your post and with the fact that this argument is aggravatingly common. I do however have to nitpick about the impossibility for unbelief to drive murder, in that I think it is possible (not that it did happen in the cases in question, mind you) that a person or people could be driven to kill people for the fact that they had beliefs as opposed to their unbelief. One might imagine an atheist fed up with the theist hegemony and driven to use violence against theists. It never happened as far as I know, but it doesn't make it impossible.

  12. i'm so gonna traslate this to spanish and let my contemporarys learn something new XD of course i'll give you all the credit and the link to this blog entry :)

  13. i think the name/label 'unbelief' is wrong, unbelief kinda suggest you dont have any kind of thoughts on the subject, as in you dont care. you dont care if you get ill or die, as you only a die anyhows, and you just stop being once you do, so who cares?.
    I think humanism/humanist is probable a better description surely, to the opposite of religion
    the religious promote there god as the all and wunderful that should be cared for and thought of etc...
    the opposite of that would surely be a humansit, that instead of an imaginary thoughts/people, lets look after US, WE are the ones responsible for US !!!
    as atheists we are pro US, than pro God ...

  14. "Regarding the persecution of Churches, there are documents chronicling Hitlers aim of systematically reducing the Church's influence ...".

    That's very different from saying that Hitler "heavily persecuted Christian churches", which didn't happen, and is basically Christian propaganda (trying to disassociate themselves from Nazism).

    We can only speculate on what might have happened had Hitler won the war, but yes, he was very critical of many of the church attitudes, which he saw as weak, and, yes, he likely would have imposed a reformed and Nazified "Positive Christianity" on the churches.

    And rather than saying he was against "organised religion of any kind", it's fairer to say he was against organised anything that wasn't under Nazi control.