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Putting the sins of atheism in perspective

With Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, et al. on a rampage against religion, its worth putting the sins of atheism in perspective:

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

By Dinesh D’Souza

RANCHO SANTA FE, CALIF. – In recent months, a spate of atheist books have
argued that religion represents, as “End of Faith” author Sam Harris puts
it, “the most potent source of human conflict, past and present.”

Columnist Robert Kuttner gives the familiar litany. “The Crusades
slaughtered millions in the name of Jesus. The Inquisition brought the
torture and murder of millions more. After Martin Luther, Christians did
bloody battle with other Christians for another three centuries.”

In his bestseller “The God Delusion,” Richard Dawkins contends that most of
the world’s recent conflicts – in the Middle East, in the Balkans, in
Northern Ireland, in Kashmir, and in Sri Lanka – show the vitality
of religion’s murderous impulse.

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.

These figures are tragic, and of course population levels were much lower
at the time. 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.

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.

The same is true today. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is not, at its
core, a religious one. It arises out of a dispute over self-determination
and land. Hamas and the extreme orthodox parties in Israel may
advance theological claims – “God gave us this land” and so forth – but the
conflict would remain essentially the same even without these religious
motives. Ethnic rivalry, not religion, is the source of the tension in
Northern Ireland and the Balkans.

Yet today’s atheists insist on making religion the culprit. Consider Mr.
Harris’s analysis of the conflict in Sri Lanka. “While the motivations of
the Tamil Tigers are not explicitly religious,” he informs us, “they are
Hindus who undoubtedly believe many improbable things about the nature of
life and death.” In other words, while the Tigers see themselves as
combatants in a secular political struggle, Harris detects a religious
motive because these people happen to be Hindu and surely there must be
some underlying religious craziness that explains their fanaticism.

Harris can go on forever in this vein. Seeking to exonerate secularism and
atheism from the horrors perpetrated in their name, he argues that
Stalinism and Maoism were in reality “little more than a political
religion.” As for Nazism, “while the hatred of Jews in Germany expressed
itself in a predominantly secular way, it was a direct inheritance from
medieval Christianity.” Indeed, “The holocaust marked the culmination of
… two thousand years of Christian fulminating against the Jews.”

One finds the same inanities in Mr. Dawkins’s work. Don’t be fooled by this
rhetorical legerdemain. Dawkins and Harris cannot explain why, if Nazism
was directly descended from medieval Christianity, medieval Christianity
did not produce a Hitler. How can a self-proclaimed atheist ideology,
advanced by Hitler as a repudiation of Christianity, be a “culmination” of
2,000 years of Christianity? Dawkins and Harris are employing a transparent
sleight of hand that holds Christianity responsible for the crimes
committed in its name, while exonerating secularism and atheism for the
greater crimes committed in their name.

Religious fanatics have done things that are impossible to defend, and some
of them, mostly in the Muslim world, are still performing horrors in the
name of their creed. But if religion sometimes disposes people to
self-righteousness and absolutism, it also provides a moral code that
condemns the slaughter of innocents. In particular, the moral teachings of
Jesus provide no support for – indeed they stand as a stern rebuke to – the
historical injustices perpetrated in the name of Christianity.

Atheist hubris

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.”

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.

It’s time to abandon the mindlessly repeated mantra that religious belief
has been the greatest source of human conflict and violence. Atheism, not
religion, is the real force behind the mass murders of history.

* Dinesh D’Souza is the Rishwain Fellow at the Hoover Institution. His new
book, “The Enemy at Home: The Cultural Left and Its Responsibility for
9/11,” will be published in January.

SOURCE: http://www.csmonitor.com/2006/1121/p09s01-

coop.html

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19 Responses to Putting the sins of atheism in perspective

  1. Kuttner’s crap isn’t worth reading. The second claim one runs into in the quoted text is that millions were tortured and killed in the Spanish Inquisition. This is wild exageration and a kid in grammer school who wrote such a thing in an essay would deserve to get a failing grade.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/S.....eath_tolls

  2. Dawkins et al also fail to consider how many people have been SAVED by religion. How many people from peons to kings who’ve been in a position to take a life chose to not do it because his religion eschews killing? Since that number is incalculable the whole argument of how many people were killed by religion collapses in on itself.

    The same poor argument is used by gun grabbers who cite how many people were killed by firearms but neglect the incalculable number that were saved by firearms.

    If the same asinine logic was applied to the law we could say that laws against murder don’t work because there are still lots of murders despite the law. It’s true there are still lots of murders despite the law but most people realize there’s an incalculable number of murders that are prevented because of the threat of law.

  3. Sam Harris writes even less honest rhetoric then Dinesh realized. The Tamil Tigers are marxist atheists who want to establish a secular socialist state for themselves in Sri Lanka. They are best known for being the first group to utilize suicide bombers on land (as opposed to kamakazes)

  4. There are 9 topics on the “front page”. 6 of them are now predominantly about Christianity or religion. Please do get back to weighing up scientific evidence about hypotheses – its starting to look a bit “obsessed” here…

  5. Adnan Oktar is similarly pointing out the impact of Darwinism:

    Turkish book traces terror’s origin to Darwin’s theory, Reuters

    ISTANBUL, November 23: A LAVISHLY illustrated Atlas of Creation is mysteriously turning up at schools and libraries in Turkey, proclaiming that Charles Darwin’s theory of evolution is the real root of terrorism. . . . Atlas of Creation carries a book-length essay arguing that Darwinism, by stressing the “survival of the fittest,” has inspired racism, Nazism, communism and terrorism. “The root of the terrorism that plagues our planet is not any of the divine religions, but atheism, and the expression of atheism in our times (is) Darwinism and materialism,” it says.

    The driving force behind these books is a reclusive Islamic teacher named Adnan Oktar who over the past decade has published a flood of books under the pseudonym Harun Yahya, which is probably a pool of writers, has turned out over 200 books in Turkish and translated many of them into 51 languages. Nobody seems to know how all this is funded.

  6. Has anyone noticed that while Dawkins and Harris want to usher in this new Atheistic utopia, free of any religious thinking or influence, and where science and scientific reasoning reign supreme, they immediately abandon even a pretext of science or scientific reasoning in their attacks on religion, opting instead to create straw man versions of religious views and then beat them to death with empty rhetoric based on stereotypes. I call it argument from arrogance…for that is all it is.

  7. DaveScot, your logic is flawed. One could easily say that D’Souza’s argument doesn’t take the people saved by atheism into account. For example, since I’m not a religious person, I don’t feel the necessity to go out and fight and kill for a religion. The real fact of the matter is that since these numbers are unknowable and entirely theoretical, they are rightly not considered.

    As for D’Souza’s claim that Hitler (who history shows was NOT an atheist) could not have used the prejudice against Jews sown by Christianity to promote the secular Nazi ideology of killing Jews: why not? The prejudices were there and had been percolating for hundreds of years. Nazism tapped into these prejudices, which were the fault of European Christians. In fact, it inherited the hatred of Jews from Christianity. This is an obvious point.

  8. Let’s not forget Pol Pot who abolished religion and exterminated 25% of the population of Cambodia.

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pol_Pot

  9. Freethinker17

    The real fact of the matter is that since these numbers are unknowable and entirely theoretical, they are rightly not considered.

    BZZZZZZZZZZT! Wrong. They are indeed considered all the time. You ignored my example of the law. We don’t know how many murders are prevented by threat of punishment yet we still have the threat of punishment enshrined in law. Can you explain that?

    P.S. Freethinker – Register with a real email address if you want to participate here in the future.

  10. This argument that Hitler was just going with some suppoed Jew-hatred within Christianity never makes sense to me. My Bible tells me the Jews (the people of Israel) are God’s chosen people to whom he revealed himself and his son (who was, himself, a Jew that followed Jewish law.)

    Maybe a small part of the Church in history had some deep deated hatred for the Jews, but I’d say that if we’re looking at it from a Biblical perspective- you’d have to conclude the opposite should be true of feelings towards the people of Israel.

    Point is- it’s ridiculous to talk about Hitler and point the finger at Christianity (which, in private, he despised.)

    Finally- what does that mean we don’t know how many people were saved by atheism? A person can be an atheist and save someone, but is it their atheism that is responsible? What part of of atheism could possibly be responsible for saving large numbers of people, and what atheist regimes or groups have saved large numbers of people in history? “Hi- you’re in trouble of death, which will the end of your existence…let me help you so you can live your pointless purposeless life without any true meaning so you can die in a few years and cease to exist.” Not sure how that worldview would spur anyone to save large numbers of people. Why would you, if you think that person, as you think all people, are without purpose, plan, meaning? When something has no use to me, I toss it in the garbage. Luckily for those around me, I think humans are full of worth, purpose, and meaning.

  11. Freethinker7,

    You said,

    As for D’Souza’s claim that Hitler (who history shows was NOT an atheist) could not have used the prejudice against Jews sown by Christianity to promote the secular Nazi ideology of killing Jews: why not? The prejudices were there and had been percolating for hundreds of years. Nazism tapped into these prejudices, which were the fault of European Christians. In fact, it inherited the hatred of Jews from Christianity. This is an obvious point.

    Nazi ideology and death camps were not all about anti-semitism. Millions of other minorities also perished in the Holocaust. The death camps were about racial superiority in general. There is nothing in Christianity about a master Aryan race or racial superiority. Such thinking is purely Darwinian. The subtitle of Darwin’s Origin of Species was “the Survival of Favored Races.” The connection between Darwinism and the eugenic movement and their ultimate expression in the Nazi death camps is well established. The Nazi genocide did not stem from any supposed Christian anti-semitism but from Darwinian logic.

  12. Religion has been tarnished by its share of bloodshed, but those who really think that its replacement with naturalism will usher in a golden age of peace, love, and harmony are absolutely deluded beyond belief!!!

  13. Freethinker17 obviously knows very little of the origin of Nazi Jewish policy not to mention his/her ignorance regarding Hitler’s (and Nazi) stance on Christianity and Christian Churches. This is not the first time someone, trying to defend his/her atheism, is ignoring historical evidence and claiming just the opposite. One has to wonder why atheism needs defending?

    As for the statement: “For example, since I’m not a religious person, I don’t feel the necessity to go out and fight and kill for a religion.”, I am not sure if he meant that religious persons fight and kill for a religion as a necessity. This is so false as to border bad joke and parody.

  14. You know, I’ve been learning a lot about what I really believe, and what the Bible really teaches, from listening to Dawkins and Harris.

  15. The “Hitler was a Christian/Nazis were Christian” crowd never ceases to amaze with their ability for self-delusion.

    Here’s the cover of the December 1943 edtion of a popular Nazi mass circulation magazine. The caption reads “Winter Solstice 1943″.

    The Nazis were pretty hardcore in their disklike for the teachings of the Jewish Jesus.

    At that time even Stalin had gotten desparate enought to start making appeals to the traditional Christianity of the Russian people.

  16. It’s true that Hitler used the historic (and un-Biblical) anti-semitism to advance his cause. However, one of his main influences was Friedrich Nietzche, a virulent anti-Christian philosopher (whom atheists still love to quote), who’s books were made required reading in Germany.

    BTW: Let’s not forget the millions of Christians who also perished in the concentration camps.

  17. This article makes some excellent points and the title seems a good way to consider it; in a balanced perspective.

    But arguing the relative sins of theism (even those other than Christianity, tribune7 notwithstanding) and atheism (also a religion!) seems futile to me. We end up with “neener, neener, neener, you’re meaner than me.” That doesn’t resolve much.

    What’s true is ultimately true, regardless of the morals or ethics of those who espouse it or oppose it. The purpose of science is not to regulate ethics or morals. So should we perhaps get back to the evidence for intelligent design vs. the natural emergence of complexity?

  18. The Nazi’s were under the impression that there was a secret plan by jewish leaders to try to take over the world. The “protocols of zion” was part of their inspiration for their fear and hatred of jews, not traditional european antisemitism. They may have used traditional antisemitism to their advantage, but it wasn’t their inspiration. Just like the “Cultural Revolution” in China tried to wipe out the intellectuals because they feared revolt led by or inspired by intellectuals, the nazis were well aware of the positions of influence in commerce and education that many jews held in Germany and other European countries. They feared that the jews were tribal and did were not loyal to the state. They blamed the jewish leadership for aiding the defeat of Germany in WW1. The history of WW1 shows that the worlds leading Jews i.e financiers, were being courted by all sides to aid them when it became apparent that the war was stuck in a stalemate and all sides were going broke. Germany also courted the jews and in fact German jews were very supportive of Germany. But it was Britain who prevailed by offering them a homeland (Balfour Declaration) in the hope of getting the financial help they wanted. This was believed by many Germans to be the cause of their loss of the war. This was what caused the anger towards the jews in post war Germany. Previously the jews in Germany were leaders in all sections of German society and were very well off for the most part. There was little real simmering traditional christian based antisemitism in Germany at that time. But with the view that the jewish financiers were vital in their loss of the war and with the appearance of the protocols of zion they became convinced that there was a plot by jewish leaders to rule the world and they viewed German jews as traitors or potential traitors.

    This was reinforced by the american eugenics movement which was imported into germany and supported by american corporate and university sponsorship. These people were commited Darwinists, they did not have their belief against jews because they thought jews were responsible for killing Jesus or that they were damned for not accepting Jesus. They had a purely racial ideology which was entirely based on Darwinism. The Nazi’s racial policy was that of the eugencis movement and it was also inspired by fear of a jewish conspiracy.

  19. According to Wikipedia

    The victims of the Holocaust were Jews, Poles, Serbs, Russians, Belarusians, Communists, homosexuals, Roma & Sinti (also known as Gypsies), the mentally ill and physically disabled, intelligentsia and political activists, Jehovah’s Witnesses, Roman Catholics and Protestant clergy, trade unionists, psychiatric patients, Africans, Asians, enemy nationals, common criminals, people labeled as “enemies of the state”; especially a large portion of the country’s rich and liberal dissidents, and many who did not belong to the Aryan race.

    So it wasn’t simply anti-semitism it was the whole racial superiority/eugenics thing.

    As for Nazi’s being Christian, that is not true either. Nazism or National Socialism was a secular religion of its own that had no room for Christianity.

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