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apologetics, God

Atheism Vs. Religion?

I’ve heard the claim by atheists lately that while atheism has never caused anyone to kill someone else religion has.  The problem with this statement is that it is purposely (I believe) engineered to produce that result.  You see, they will say that atheism has not beliefs therefore it can’t cause someone to kill.  And they are correct (sort of).  Granting them that atheism has no beliefs at its most basic level it should not be compared to a religion.  Not even religion in general as really that’s just a collection of groups with very specific beliefs.  If atheism truly has no beliefs it isn’t truly a group except at the highest level.  So we must then go to the highest level on the other (religious) side which isn’t “religion” but theism being defined as a belief in a deity of some sort be it Christian, Hindu, whatever.

At this level theism really has no particular beliefs either.  There is an acceptance at that level of a higher power but no particular tenants about that power.  So at that level theism also has no beliefs that would lead someone to kill.

Once you want to start talking about a particular religion you’ve moved from the very general (atheism/theism) to the more specific.  That means if you want to compare acts committed by, for example, Mormons, you would also have to pick a specific subset of atheists who have a belief that is informed by their atheism.

You see, theism (the belief that a god or gods exist) in and of itself won’t cause someone to do anything just as a belief in no god won’t.  But once you build a worldview informed by that belief then it’s a different story.

Stalin killed many people.  His worldview consisted of many things, and at his core he desired power.  He saw religion as a threat to this power.  This is as far as the atheist would like you to go.  They never ask the question why he saw religion that way.  This belief was informed by his atheism.  Since religion was not true (to him) they were ok to eliminate.  His atheism put no ultimate value on human life.  His atheism made his plans ok.

You might argue that if that was true then Christians would never commit atrocities.  The main difference here is that a Christian who murders someone is acknowledged to be not living up to his or her worldview.  The atheist that murders is not breaking any fundamental tenant of theirs.

Before anyone screams that I’m saying all atheists are immoral, I’m not.  Actually for an atheist morality is irrelevant.  There is no moral or amoral.  Atheists are generally as moral as their Christian counterparts.  However their morality has no authority behind it.  Is murder wrong?  I have a commandment saying it is.  What does the atheist have?  Nothing.  The atheist must borrow it’s morality from another worldview.

So if an atheist wants to say that atheism has no tenants that lead to misdeeds.  Tell them they are right, but neither does theism.



5 thoughts on “Atheism Vs. Religion?

  1. The atheist who said that is being disingenuous. You’re assessment of their meaning is pretty much right on: no content, no motivators.
    I’ve never actually heard that ‘horn’ of the quip before. I have heard the ‘religion makes people to bad things’ (or, to take your post here a little more seriously, ‘specific religions make people do bad things’).

    But you’re being a little disingenuous here too, bypassing the actual content of any religion by declaring it ‘theism’ is it’s ‘highest’ (read ‘vaguest’) sense.

    I hope this was meant as being a little tongue in cheek.

    Posted by Allallt | September 15, 2016, 4:27 pm
    • I wasn’t attempting to be disingenuous. I was just looking for a thing that atheism as only its purest definition could be compared to. A specific religion doesn’t fit that as it is a complete worldview. The closest I can come up with is theism (or a general belief in a supernatural entity) though I’m open to other thoughts on it. Just trying to find the apple to compare to their apple, perhaps there is a better comparison.

      Posted by Far Out Madman | September 15, 2016, 4:49 pm
      • Drill down on the atheist. Are they naturalists, determinists, do they believe in morality and why, what’s their political leaning? It won’t all be subsumed into one neat little name, like the specific religions are. (But, I imagine you’ve seen the down side of how a neat name can betray a nuanced worldview.)
        It’ll generate some more interesting discussion, I’m sure.

        Posted by Allallt | September 16, 2016, 12:45 am
  2. The situation with Stalin in an interesting one. You see Stalin was raised Christian by his mother, who enrolled him in seminary school. Stalin later took it upon himself to study for the priesthood for 5 years and eventually was said to renounce his religion.

    When Stalin came to power he attacked the church not because of anti religious views but because he thought they were spies. This is found to be very clear in most of his public speeches.

    It is also important to consider the role communism played in his rule. Communism in the Soviet Union was not just a political system, political party or philosophy. Communism in the Soviet Unions was an all inclusive state religion. Communism was “anti-religious” only in the sense that it forcibly suppressed all religions other than itself. This is no different than Christianity or Islam. Stalin eradicated the “other religions”.

    During world war two Stalin reopened the churches. His biographer Edvard Radinsky remarks, “During his mysterious retreat [of June 1941] the ex-seminarist had decided to involve the aid of the God he had rejected.” Radinsky likewise chronicles a number of religious comrades in Stalin’s immediate circle. It is evident that, whether for good or bad, religion played a significant role in Stalin’s life.

    Most importantly, and the point most Atheist will make is, Stalins actions were never done in the name of Atheism.


    Posted by atheistwan | January 26, 2017, 5:37 am
    • I always find it curious when it’s pointed out that Stalin was sent to a religious school & studied for the priesthood as though it means that he wasn’t anti-religion. I think that probably, in reality, fed what became his atheist hatred of religion. Communism is always a political/religious system as it (in its real world expression) always exists as an atheist system not just secular.

      As far as him enlist the aid of religion during WWII, the enemy of my enemy is my friend. He had bigger fish to fry and could use whatever help he could get.

      It is not true his actions were never done “in the name of Atheism.” He persecuted religious people because he disliked and distrusted those people. It’s like saying Hitler didn’t kill Jews in the name of racism. He just thought Jews were inferior and wanted to kill them for that reason (removing inferior genes). The distinction is meaningless.

      Posted by Far Out Madman | January 26, 2017, 11:55 am

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