Yep, a nice light topic for the blog today.
While I was in New York, I was catching a bit of Real Time with Bill Maher and there was a heated debate about the supposed difference between Islamic radicals and Christian radicals -- arguments on how both religions have a dreadful history of violence. During the discussion, a panelist brought up the statement often touted by many religious, of how atheism has killed more people in the last 100 years than any other religion. She then went on to use blood thirsty dictators like Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot. Speaking of blood, that is the very thing that was boiling while I heard her continue to go on and on with her rhetoric. Rhetoric that I've heard countless times before, and is one of the most overused arguments when a religious folk wants to espouse the evils of atheism.
I find the statement so infuriating because it is one of the most misleading arguments out there. It is the dictionary definition of 'completely missing the point.' I realize it is usually used to counteract those who blame war and violence on religion, and that is often an argument that is flawed as well ( or at least is without proper justification and explanation of the larger root problem). But using monsters like Stalin or Mao or Hitler or Pol Pot as examples of how atheism has murdered millions is absolute lunacy.
Yes, all those men may have been atheist or at least, non religious. Even then, some records show that at least Hitler had a rather distorted interpretation of Christianity (but for argument's sake, I'll happily not bother debating that and just throw him in the atheist heap). Most of those men worked really hard to destroy and ban organized religion from their respective countries and clearly despised the major known religions of the time. But a horrid monster who happens to be atheist, is not the same thing as atheism being the driving force for the death of millions.
On the other hand, religion has been used as the driving force to justify some of the greatest atrocities in history. The crusades is a particularly dark period in Christian history, and at the time it had the full backing of the church. Jihads are completely done in the name of religion, and 9/11's attackers where considering themselves religious martyrs. Now, these are cases of the respective religions being distorted and falling in the hands of nut jobs, but the simple fact is, the wars and massacres were done in the name of religion.
The acts perpetuated by the previously mentioned dictators were not done in the name of atheism. They may have been atheist, but that was inconsequential to their reasons for killing millions of innocents.
If anything, these awful regimes essentially replaced religion with their own evil new religion Each of the these leaders elevated themselves up to the position of gods. They implemented traditions and policies that essentially ensured that the citizens would be worshiping and following them. Most of them even created their own versions of 'religious' texts that outlined exactly how their followers are to behave and live. They played on people's insecurities and frustrations and desires to create a hive mentality, and have followers that would do anything in their name and regime. These regimes may not have had supernatural elements or almighty gods like most religions, but their is evidence of almost every one of these regimes deifying their leaders to some extent. They erected statues and made these men bigger than the country or even made them part of the cause or purpose of the country. It was essentially a religion -- just horrid and violent and unloving religions.
I want to make it clear here, the religion preached by Jesus Christ and the type of Christianity he proposed was not the crusades or bombing in Oklahoma City or anything resembling Westboro Baptist Church. Christianity according to Jesus was love and feeding the poor and offering understanding to all. So, I am not saying Christianity or religion equals war. I am saying there is nut jobs and radicals that distort a religion to serve their agendas and bloodlust. I am saying that religion has the potential of creating mindless followers or people doing awful acts with the misguided hope of spiritual rewards. Exactly the same type of things we saw in the previously mentioned regimes.
Religion can be dangerous in the wrong hands, just like almost anything can be. Unfortunately, some good religions have been used for awful means. It is the problem when you have anything that asks for followers who are not allowed to question and are expected to mindlessly do the deeds expected. Usually, there is promise of some great spiritual or heavenly reward if they follow through on the orders. This is exactly the same things used by the vile dictators, I've mentioned.
I don't see the awful regimes of Hitler or Stalin or Mao or Pol Pot as atheist regimes, but rather vile dictators that created their own devilish version of religion, with the leaders as the gods.
This is not an endorsement of atheism or an attack on religion. It is just a simple rebuttal against those that use these horrid regimes as examples of all the blood letting done in the name of atheism. These were not regimes that supported free thinking or individualism, and actually followed closely the same elements used by many radical religious powers. The massacres done by these men are not examples of the evils of atheism, but rather the massive dangers of mindlessly following one leader who promises great rewards.