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I Don't Understand This Atheist Vs. Religion Argument - Page 2

post #16 of 28
Thread Starter 
I was going to write what I thought a good answer was to my original question but I just found this and it'll be much less work to post it...

Link

Quote:
Myth:
How many people in Communist Russia and China have been killed because of atheism and secularism?

Response:
None, probably.

How can that be? After all, millions and millions of people died in Russia and China under communist governments "” and those governments were both secular and atheistic, right? So weren't all of those people killed because of atheism "” indeed, in the name of atheism and secularism?

No, that conclusion does not follow. Atheism itself isn't a principle, cause, philosophy, or belief system which people fight, die, or kill for. Being killed by an atheist is no more being killed in the name of atheism than being killed by a tall person is being killed in the name of tallness.

People were killed in communist nations for a lot of different reasons. Some were communists who disagreed with those in power and were killed because of that. Some were anti-communists opposed the government and were killed for that. Some were simply in the way or inconvenient and were killed for that. These are political disagreements that people were being killed over, not murder in the name of atheism.

But weren't a lot of people killed because they were Christian? Certainly "” but not simply because they were Christian. Communists typically regarded religious organizations as a hinderance towards the creation of a worker's paradise. Some religious groups also opposed the communists. Once again, we are generally looking at political issues, not a question of atheism.

Even if some people were killed simply because they followed a religion, it does not follow that they were killed in the name of atheism. Why? Because atheism is not inherently opposed to religion: it is possible to be both an atheist and religious and some religions are themselves atheistic. Atheism also isn't a belief system or ideology which can, by itself, inspire people to do things "” good or bad.

To understand this better, consider times in the past when religion has been involved with violence "” the Inquisition would be good. How many people were killed during the Inquisition in the name of theism? None. Those doing the killing acted not because of theism, but rather because of Christian doctrines. The belief system is what inspired people to act (sometimes for good, sometimes for ill). The single belief of theism, however, did not.

Similarly, communism certainly inspired people to act and gave them motivations to do certain things, but atheism "” which is the absence of a belief and not even a belief itself "” did not. The assumption that people in Russia and China were killed merely on account of atheism is based upon two other myths: first, that atheism is itself some sort of philosophy or belief system which can motivate people, and second that atheism is somehow interchangeable with the actual belief system of communism. It also pretends that all the various elements of communist totalitarianism were irrelevant to what happened "” which is utter nonsense.

The aforementioned parallel explains why this response is not one which religious theists can use to deny their religion's responsibility for violence in the past. Atheism and theism may not themselves be sufficient to justify violence and murder (or good behavior, for that matter), but belief systems which incorporate them are more than sufficient. Communism (or at least certain forms of it) can be blamed for communist violence; Christianity (or at least certain forms of it) can also be blamed for Christian violence. As a belief system with specific doctrines that were openly held up as justifying or sanctioning violence, religion must be held responsible for the violence committed in its name.

Whether theism can be slightly more culpable than atheism is a matter of dispute. Not being any belief at all, atheism can't motivate anyone in any direction to do anything. Theism is a belief, however, so at least the potential for some sort of motivation in some direction exists. It's been argued, for example, that monotheism is inherently more prone to violence because of the way it tends to be exclusivist "” unlike polytheism, which tends to be more tolerant of cultural and religious differences.

It's difficult to say, though, how many of these problems are really inherent in the type of theism and how many are cultural products of the religious belief systems that incorporate them. Whatever culpability theism itself might have, it's likely small enough to dismiss, allowing us to treat it and atheism as functionally equal in this context.
post #17 of 28
Surprisingly even-handed. Still, it's pretty much impossible to draw a straight line from a person's beliefs to their actions, or to determine at what level the corrupting influence exists (i.e. whatever influence religion had on the Salem witch trials, there's nothing vaguely approaching an instruction to burn witches in the Bible, and every instruction not to kill.)

Instead of arguing morality from what is instructed by a belief system, one could also argue from what is not forbidden; say, the absence of an absolute moral authority allows atheists to behave immorally.

BTW, "witch" is a very difficult word for me to type, apparently.
post #18 of 28
So the above basically says that in the absence of a system of morality based on religion, the aforementioned "atheist" states/groupes were just acting( without any system of moral values)..

Problem is, removing any set of values from society will leave a void to fill. And that void will allways have to be filled, because perhaps all of us are not ready yet to define whats good and bad without a convenient carrier (story/system).


sorry, need at least two more coffee's to get a coherent strain of thought on this subject.
post #19 of 28
For me its simple, I dont believe in a god, I do believe that there are religions which are harmful, and dangerous. I feel that the world might be better without them. Unlike Dawkins though, I dont consider myself a militant atheist. I have my beliefs and if someone asks I'll share them, but I'm not going to go out of my way to convince someone of their erroneous and foolish ways. It's not that serious to me.
post #20 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by nootje View Post
So the above basically says that in the absence of a system of morality based on religion, the aforementioned "atheist" states/groupes were just acting( without any system of moral values.
Moral values are social constructs -- whether you choose to believe they came from God, or that they emerged in response to the various pressures early civilization and agriculture placed upon a people who, after hundreds of thousands of years of cave dwelling, cannibalism, hunting, and gathering, moved into permanent or semi-permanent settlements in close proximity. Early villages and cities needed rules, obviously. And new technological developments led to even more new social systems and developments, which in turn led to more rules. The point is that people aren't acting "without any system of moral values" if they reject belief in divinely-granted morality. They're acting on largely the same moral values that believers are using. Those values have been with us, in one form or another, for tens of thousands of years. All that really changes is the rationale for them. Monotheists basically claim "We need to behave ourselves because we're accountable to God." Rationalists/humanists say "We need to behave ourselves because we're accountable to each other, and/or responsible for each other." Other breeds of atheist make various claims along various spectra of accountability. And then you have nihilists and such, who say nobody is technically accountable to anything; we're just behaving ourselves because it's convenient.
post #21 of 28
Malaria. Throughout history, it has killed more people than religion and atheism combined. Even today, it kills nearly 1 million people each year. And its something we all unite against.
post #22 of 28
seriously it doesn't even matter.
post #23 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by AlmostFullBenefits View Post
Malaria. Throughout history, it has killed more people than religion and atheism combined. Even today, it kills nearly 1 million people each year. And its something we all unite against.

But... but... I can't fight malaria from my computer!
post #24 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gibonius View Post
Dawkins is deliberately inflammatory, just gets his name out there so people will buy his books. I doubt he really believes the level of rhetoric he spews, he's basically a real life troll who sells books. I wouldn't think too much about it beyond that.

Most of the atheists online who spout that type of rhetoric are just angry about their religious upbringing and are trying to find ways to justify their angry after the fact. If you came to your atheism through a reasoned process, rather than anger, there's really no reason to go attacking religion. It won't accomplish anything.

Really it's a stupid "debate" from both sides, and fairly few rational atheists would indulge in it. The religious side is basically trying to discredit atheism, but they're speaking only to a religious audience.

post #25 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Tck13 View Post
The argument by theists or creationists always seems to be that Pol Pot, Stalin, etc... have done more damage in the name of Atheism.

As pointed out before, this is an unsound argument, since atheism is not an ideology or belief system. Thus, it cannot be argued that people do much anything in the "name" of atheism.

A potentially working argument could be that the absence of religion as a shaping force for morality in a society necessarily or likely gives rise to a system of morals inferior to one derived from religion.
post #26 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by imageWIS View Post

Why thou throw wtf? Do we actually think any theists are going to be convinced that God doesn't exist by an atheist ranting and raving about the evils of religion?
post #27 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Gibonius View Post
[...] there's really no reason to go attacking religion. It won't accomplish anything.

Gibonius, people attack religion because they believe it to be a harmful ideology. Whether or not these attacks accomplish anything, the rhetorical struggle between different believe systems should be familiar to you.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Gibonius View Post
Why thou throw wtf? Do we actually think any theists are going to be convinced that God doesn't exist by an atheist ranting and raving about the evils of religion?

An atheist discussing the “evils” of religion is part of the discourse mentioned above. I don’t think you can necessarily assume that the purpose of criticizing religion is to convince theists of the non-existence of a god. Obviously, one has nothing to do with the other.

On the other hand, I think it plausible that some atheists, who also happen to be anti-religious, believe that convincing people of the non-existence of a god, may help limit the influence of religion.
post #28 of 28
Quote:
Originally Posted by Mr. Clean View Post
Gibonius, people attack religion because they believe it to be a harmful ideology. Whether or not these attacks accomplish anything, the rhetorical struggle between different believe systems should be familiar to you.
Certainly I'm familiar with it. That familiarity has informed my idea that such discussions are really rather useless. There are productive religion/atheism discussions, I don't think that is one of them.
Quote:
An atheist discussing the “evils” of religion is part of the discourse mentioned above. I don’t think you can necessarily assume that the purpose of criticizing religion is to convince theists of the non-existence of a god. Obviously, one has nothing to do with the other.
Well, you're not going to convince religious people of either the danger/evil of religion or the non-existence of God by that argument track. It's just a total dead end, religious people might agree that some form of some religion has done bad in the past, but they're pretty much never going to extrapolate that to "my religion today is a harmful force."
Quote:
On the other hand, I think it plausible that some atheists, who also happen to be anti-religious, believe that convincing people of the non-existence of a god, may help limit the influence of religion.
I agree that some atheists may want to help limit the influence of religion. I'm just saying that trying to convince people of the historical damage caused by religion is extraordinarily unlikely to advance that cause. Focusing on fundamental issues of public secular education, Constitutionality, etc, are much more likely to result in some sort of productive debate. Now for people who just want to bash their head against a wall in online "debate" forums, they may not care about having a productive discussion. Their choice, I suppose.
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