Skip to content

Genocide as Proof of Atheist Immorality

January 14, 2009

Recently, my fellow Christian blogger Kreitsauce wrote an interesting post entitled “When Faith Justifies Mass Murder” in his blog Kreitsauce’s Musings. In the post he(she?) compared the total number of lives lost due to mass murders/genocide committed by Christians and Atheists and based on the comparison concluded

“Atheism, not Christianity or even Islam, is responsible for the greatest massacres found in history.”

Kreitsauce is definitely not alone in putting forward such arguments and arriving at such conclusions nor is he the first Christian to remind us of this “cruel” fact about atheists/agnostics. I have observed this type of finger-pointing and accusation from a lot of Christians and heard this argument in favor of Christianity numerous times from Christians of all denominations. Christians often use such arguments to show that atheism is immoral and atheists are some sort of a despicable, inhuman creed who are bent upon destroying humanity and humanatarian values. The implicit point here is that feelings of compassion and morality ONLY comes from a belief in religion(specifically, belief in a Christian god) and humans are incapable of being compassionate and moral without belief in god or religion. 

 

 

 

I initially thought of just replying Kreitsuace but since this argument has often been made by other Christians and discussed in a lot of forums, I decided to post my own thoughts here.

First let me start off by looking at the logic behind such a claim and pointing out the logical fallacy and the large stretch of imagination needed by Christians to arrive at the above conclusion based on the facts presented. The logic goes somewhat like this

X is a person who believes in A (e.g Stalin is an atheist who believes in the absence of God)

X is involved in an activity or commits a crime ( Stalin orders mass murder/genocide)

Therefore A is the cause for X to be involved in the activity.(Therefore atheism is the cause for those mass murders Stalin committed)

This type of logical fallacy is called Non sequitur or Fallacy of False Cause.

Lets look at a few more examples to see if this logic holds

Y strongly believes in democracy

Y is a heroine addict

Belief in democracy is the cause of heroine addiction

OR

X is a white american in pre-civil war Mississippi who believes in Christianity

X supports slavery and has a large number of black slaves 

Christianity is responsible for slavery and slave trade

Does the logic sound familiar ? Do we agree that there is a cause and effect relationship here? It’s very clear from the examples above that there is no logical path that can lead us from the facts presented to the conclusion drawn and the conclusions are either invalid or grossly misleading. Most white American Christians would vociferously disagree with my second example and yet they never hesitate to use such logic to prove that atheism leads to genocide.

Most Christians/believers who use this sort of logic either try to find correlation between two disparate objects or ignore the other possibilities or evidence at their disposal to arrive at the cause-and-effect thesis. They often confuse correlation with cause (not that I am saying there is any correlation between atheism and morality) . With  a little imagination, correlations can be found in a lot of things but that cannot in any definitive way point to a cause and effect. For example, some people may claim that since all polar bears are white and all types of natural milk is also white, there is some correlation between the two. But can we meaningfully correlate the two to arrive at a cause-and-effect thesis?  For us to arrive at a definitive conclusion we have to eliminate all other possibilities such that there is ONLY ONE possibility left to arrive at a cause and effect relationship. For Christians and believers to engage in such fallacious logic and specious argument is intellectually dishonest and an attempt to distort the truth to fit their agenda.

The correct question to ask in this case is – can we eliminate every other possible cause for the genocide other than atheism (however, to ask would they have acted differently had they believed in God would be pure speculation.)? Did Stalin, Mao or Pol Pot commit these mass murders ONLY in the name of atheism and did they kill these people ONLY because the victims believed in God. That would still be a valid question to ask and point to atheism as the only or primary cause.  But if we look closely at the numbers and consider the other reasons behind such heinous crimes we can see that this was hardly the case. These dictators committed these mass murders because of political reasons and to gain political power or to further a demented and false ideology which were not influenced by their belief (or lack thereof) in God. In fact many of those killed by these evil dictators were atheists themselves (members of their own communist parties). A lot of these people were also killed by idiotic and deliberate governmental policy like Stalin’s and Mao’s lunatic agricultural policy which resulted in huge famines.

 

 

 

 

 

Whenever it comes to genocide and mass murders, Christians only point to the Spanish Inquisition, the crusades and witch hunts to arrive at a number (the reliability of which is seriously in doubt due to unreliable sources used to arrive at those numbers). Here is another list of crimes also committed by Christians. But, what about the Christian kings/queens and heads of state who have ordered the killing of huge populations (including a lot of American presidents). The Kings/Queens of most of  European monarchies were practising Christians and were either heads of their church or had the full support of the church.  What about the Christian kings or czars of Britain, France, Germany, Russia, Prussia who have ordered the killing of hundreds of innocent people or have led wars resulting in millions of deaths. What about the US presidents who have ordered the bombings of hundreds of innocent men,women and children in Japan, Vietnam and Korea etc . Weren’t they all Christians/believers? (Here’s a site which lists countries Americans have bombed since WW2 ). Isn’t it too convenient on the part of Christians to claim that these weren’t Christian crimes? Shouldn’t the same logic which apply to atheists when they commit genocide apply to Christians and Muslims as well?  

Also, since the question here is number of crimes committed by theists and non-theists, can we ignore the millions massacred by Muslim rulers during their conquests or rule? Have we accounted for the people killed during Jewish pogroms by Christians and Muslims, the lives lost in the American, French or British civil wars or recent genocides in Africa all of which saw Christians killing Christians and Muslims killing Muslims or both of these killing Jews in massive numbers. What about the Chinese, Indian and Japanese rulers who killed huge numbers of people without remorse in spite of their religious beliefs?   I am sure if we add up all those numbers we will see that in number of crimes committed, believers are not very far behind than Agnostics or Atheists. If we use the same logic used by Christians to point at atheism, wouldn’t it be fair to say that Christianity/Islam is also responsible for the worst mass murders, genocides and wars?

Now we also have to consider that Christians claim that Christianity teaches compassion towards each and every soul. So, even if one person is killed by a Christian, examples of which I have provided in my post earlier, doesn’t it mean that believing in Christ does not engender morality or compassion. When numbers go against theists they seem to ignore it but they do not hesitate to bring numbers when it suits or supports their argument. So shouldn’t a murder of 2 people be the same as the massacre of 200 or 2 million? To use terms like “greatest massacre” to discriminate between deaths caused by Christians and atheists may seem like belittling the lives lost at the hands of Christians and in fact tacitly approving those deaths just because they were committed by Christians and are small (?) compared to the ones committed by Atheists.

Also, can someone show how Atheism preaches genocide or how that is a logical conclusion derived from a disbelief or sceptical view of God? If atheism truly leads to a belief that there is no yardstick for right or wrong behavior and a person is free to do whatever he/she wants since he/she is not answerable to anyone, why aren’t other atheists committing similar crimes? Why are there so many atheists/agnostics working voluntarily in thousands of charities worldwide( I personally know quite a few of these volunteers and can vouch for their selfless dedication). Why is it that I have never heard Christians commending two of the richest agnostics Warren Buffet and Bill Gates for donating almost their entire life’s wealth to charity? Ah, I know why. That would seriously invalidate their reasoning for the claim – that only Christianity or belief in God leads to morality and compassion.

Most believers think, that just because he/she needs a belief in God, heaven or karma to guide him/her about morality another person X also needs the same set of “carrots” to encourage him/her to behave morally. But, I will also admit that just as there are bad Christians there are also bad atheists who commit terrible crimes against humanity and belief and non-belief in god doesn’t influence much of what these people do. That does not mean that atheism leads to genocide. So in conclusion I will only say that believers who believe that religion is the basis of all moral behavior need to look more closely and keep their minds open to other possibilities. Just as there are moral theists there are also moral agnostics/atheists who believe in humanitarian values.

 

Advertisements
20 Comments leave one →
  1. shamelesslyatheist permalink
    January 14, 2009 9:15 am

    An excellent refutation of the old ‘evil atheist’ canard. I would only add that those carrying out the orders of Stalin et al could not possibly also have all been atheists. The problem indeed lies with their being ideologues to the point where the human condition was irrelevant to them.

    Religion gives bad reasons for performing acts of good. As Stephen Weinberg ably said, “Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.”

  2. January 14, 2009 9:23 am

    Lol, what did the stage manager say in Webber’s “Phantom of the Opera”?

    “It’s publicity!
    And the take is vast!
    Free publicity!”

    I’ll respond to your post when I have a free moment. Take care!

    PS- thanks for the free “publicity”!

  3. January 14, 2009 11:03 am

    “The implicit point here is that feelings of compassion and morality ONLY comes from a belief in religion (specifically belief in a Christian god) and humans are incapable of being compassionate and moral without belief in god or religion.”
    Such a belief is not inherent to my assertions nor is it explicitly stated anywhere in my post. Human beings in general- regardless of their belief system- are capable of compassion and morality. In fact, to their credit, most atheists that I have ever encountered are quite moral. (I do encounter quite a few atheists that launch verbal attacks on me personally or seem quite bitter toward the God that they don’t believe in.) My point is that the atheism of these men such as Pol Pot, Stalin, Hitler, etc. were able to commit such atrocities, in part, because there is nothing in Atheism that contradicts these actions or says that they are wrong. Without God to declare what is morally true or false, they have set up their own morality to dictate their actions. It is also from God that we have gained our natures, and things such as murder are atrocious because a murderer has shattered the image of God in an individual. By contrast, the Bible when properly understood condemns the actions of these men and even the “Christians” that use the Bible to justify their actions.
    Now, the logic behind my assertions is not a matter of simple if/then statements that you have used. Rather, in the case of Hitler especially, it can be (and has been) demonstrated that his atheism is foundational to his other beliefs. Even Mein Kampf is littered with Darwinian language. His animosity for Christianity is well known, and you can look at the responses in my blog for those quotes. While Christians must defy their own Bible to commit these terrible acts, Atheists have nothing inherent within their faith to stop them.

    • nitwitnastik permalink*
      January 14, 2009 11:17 pm

      @shameless

      I agree completely with your observations. Thanks for your comment

      @kreit

      You are welcome. Next time you need some free publicity from me, just drop a coin in the nearby fountain and make a wish 😉

      Btw kreit, even though I took your post as an example, my comment was addressed to all Christians and not to you personally. If you visit any of the forums on Christianity you would know what preposterous accusations are made by Christians.

      As for your comment that there is nothing in atheism which contradicts such actions and everyone is free to choose his/her morality, let me reiterate that there is nothing in atheism that supports or encourages such actions either. Moreover in spite of the Bible providing a guide of what constitutes moral and immoral behaviour, Christians cherry-pick their morals as and when the situation demands. The very fact that Christians all over the world have been involved in extremely heinous crimes is ample proof that Christians freely choose their morals too (inspite of the Bible that is). This just proves Christianity and the Bible doesn’t engender morality and clearly demonstrates the futility of biblical teachings and belief in religion or God.

      If the majority of atheists can arrive at their own code of morality (that is not deemed dangerous or immoral by society), without the help of the bible or any other book why do we need a book or belief in god to tell us what moral and immoral behavior constitutes of? Also, whats wrong with being able to choose our morality, isn’t free-will all about making our own choices?

  4. January 15, 2009 9:08 am

    Atheistic faith does allow for carte blanche choosing of morality, but it is void of eternal consequences or a standard by which to measure our choices. Christians do believe in free will, but that freedom of will does not mean that all choices are right or that those choices do not have consequences both now and in eternity.

    I think in all of this we are missing the point of why the Bible prescribes a particular morality. Its purpose is to prove that humans are incapable of living up to God’s standard. Once we do see this, we are faced with the reality of consequences for those actions. In light of the consequences, God’s love is manifest toward us in that Christ died for us in spite of our sinful state. His sacrifice gives us the ability to enjoy God’s forgiveness. This is the Christian message. The Law is there to teach us that we are incapable of perfection. It prescribes morality, but human (even Christian) disobedience is proof that none of us can perfectly obey.

  5. nitwitnastik permalink*
    January 15, 2009 11:26 am

    Kreit, here is the basic difference between what Christians think and what Atheists think – that makes these debates inconclusive

    Christians *assume* that the person who told them about God providing a guide for all moral behavior, was teling them the truth and indeed God created those laws.

    Atheists/Agnostics *assume* that the person who claimed God created moral laws was being dishonest. Most probably, it was he who projected his own sense of right and wrong onto a set of divine laws and created those laws himself. However he declared them as God’s law just so that they can have a stamp of higher authority which would’ve helped him to convince humans better. Accordingly, atheists claim that it is from humans and not god that all moral behavior originates.

    Both are assumptions and there is no conclusive way to prove or disprove either, since it is based on unsubstantiated claims by a person who did not have any witness when he supposedly got his laws from God.

  6. January 15, 2009 12:08 pm

    What basis do atheists/agnostics have for assuming the dishonesty, ignorance, etc. of the person sharing God’s Truths? I don’t think that ignorance and a desire for power or authority really explains the motives or nature of every Christian. That is no different than me leveling the claim that people are atheists out of ignorance or bitterness toward their family because they embraced Christianity.

  7. nitwitnastik permalink*
    January 15, 2009 12:42 pm

    As I said before, the burden of proof is on the person who claimed them to be god’s law to prove that it indeed was, other than expecting us to take his words on faith. Was there anyone present at the place when he received these laws from God and if God really wanted it to be known to everyone why didn’t he just gather everyone in a boat like Noah and give them these laws or write them on the sky? !!

    In absence of any proof or witness, the idea that humans created these laws *seem* the most plausible.

  8. January 15, 2009 12:58 pm

    Nor do you have proof that God does not exist. Proof for or against His existence is empirically impossible. Furthermore, it is impossible to prove a wholly anthropological or societal origin for laws, and plausibility is largely in the eye of the beholder. In the absence of definitive proof on either side, would it not be “safer” to trust God and then simply cease to exist at death than to disbelieve in His existence and then be unpleasantly surprised at death?

  9. nitwitnastik permalink*
    January 15, 2009 1:28 pm

    Well you just mentioned Pascal’s wager. Here is one discussion on it I saw a while back

    http://www.rationalresponders.com/forum/sapient/atheist_vs_theist/3687

    Wikipedia also has a section on criticisms of Pascal’s wager

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pascal's_Wager

    Here are some other links I found from wikipedia.

    http://www.geocities.com/paulntobin/pascal.html
    http://newsweek.washingtonpost.com/onfaith/sam_harris/2007/04/the_cost_of_betting_on_faith.html

  10. January 15, 2009 4:38 pm

    Lol, thanks for the links. I was more hoping to hear from you personally, but we’ll roll with it.

    I do hear people saying that they think it unlikely that God exists, etc. I take them to mean they think that there’s less than a 50-50 chance that God exists. That’s all well and good, but let me apply that to another scenario. You, like most people, probably wear a seat belt. However, the chances of you being in a car accident the next time you drive is relatively small (around .5%). We still wear seat belts in spite of a low (by our estimation) chance of an accident because the probability percentage is not what matters here. What matters is the tragedy of a poor outcome. How much greater is the potential for a good or bad outcome if we’re talking spending eternity somewhere?

    The only other argument I read that seemed to make much sense was the “what about other gods?” scenario. I do see the point. However, this argument against the wager assumes that all religions are on equal footing, which they are not due to logical (not necessarily the same as empirical) fallacies. If Hinduism or Buddhism are true, a belief in Christianity doesn’t necessary preclude me from winding up ok in the end. The Jewish Yahweh is, by Jesus’ own claim, very much the same God as the God of the New Testament, nullifying that issue. The only other major contender is Allah. According to the Koran, Allah is the God of the Bible, but Yahweh and Allah share few characteristics, not the least of which is that Yahweh’s Son is Jesus and Allah has no children (except back when he had the three goddesses of Medina, a passage which was subsequently changed.) For these reasons and more, I have no reason to accept Islam, leaving me with only Christianity.

    The Wager was only meant to be an initial, rational reason for considering the proposition of God. I’m not asking anyone to make that the end of their quest for faith. It is only one step. However, looking at the possibilities, one should at least take some thought for their immortal soul.

  11. nitwitnastik permalink*
    January 15, 2009 5:41 pm

    I think the problem with the seat-belt argument is that even though my chances of getting into an accident is small I know *for sure* that the consequence of getting into an accident without a seat belt is bad (unless Julia roberts or Jennifer garner hit’s my car and then offers me a role opposite her as an apology;-)).

    In the case of God, I do not know anything about the outcome of not believing in God and the consequence you claim is pure speculation. So why should I waste my time, money and energy in hedging against something totally imaginary or speculative?

    Would you invest your hard earned money in an imaginary company and then hope that if someday the company comes into existence it will make you rich? I for one, won’t. History is replete with people who have done exactly that and been conned by frauds who took advantage of these people’s faith and blind belief.

    My other problem with the “believers in God has nothing to lose” claim is the indication that God favours believers irrespective of how they lead their lives. If I am a moral person who does not believe in god yet works selflessly for humanity and lead a life of a law-abiding citizen, would God punish me for not believing in him and favour other believers who were immoral. If that is true, then God is just another unfair, prejudiced,egocentric maniac and I don’t feel the need to pray to him.

    If he does give preference to people depending on how they have led their lives and not whether they believed in Him or not, then I have nothing to worry about anyway as long as I lead a moral life.

  12. January 15, 2009 6:53 pm

    You’re still leaving out what is at stake. Are you willing to risk the chance that your estimations might be wrong? If I am wrong, I have invested my money, time, and energy into my students, those who are needy, and- at worst- some books and experiences that have, regardless of the fact that they were spiritual, still enhanced my life and mind. A person who invests in an imaginary company will never have that.

    God does not want mere belief in His existence. He wants repentance for sin and reliance on Christ’s death and resurrection for salvation. If a believer does live a horrible life, they are still kept from spiritual rewards in heaven and they still must face the consequences. God is supremely concerned with what we do with Jesus.

    It is not unfair, prejudiced, or egocentric to, as the Creator of the Universe and Author of a Moral Law, dictate the means of our salvation. He has done so much in a loving way to bring about our salvation. Is it not also unfair, prejudiced, and egocentric to throw His offering of salvation back in His face and demand that he accept us on some other terms?

  13. nitwitnastik permalink*
    January 15, 2009 7:28 pm

    No I am not ignoring what it at stake. I am saying that neither you nor me *know* what is at stake. It all just fluff and fancy. And estimations based on what? How can I estimate something if I don’t know what I am estimating in the first place.

    Without proof, concepts of heaven, hell or eternal damnation is blind speculation. If you can prove to me that such a thing exists then I will be willing to admit that there is *something* at stake. If not, it’s just a wild guess by someone.

  14. January 15, 2009 8:30 pm

    It is hard to relegate Someplace (such as heaven or hell) to “fluff and fancy” just because you are unaware of its precise location, dimensions, appearance, etc. It is also unwise to bet our soul on the nonexistence of a Being that we can also not absolutely say does not exist. If that Being only wanted to be “found” by those who look for Him, faith would be the key to unraveling all of those mysteries.

    Isn’t the point of faith not knowing what is at stake, not having empirical proof? Kant would tell you that there’s very little that you and I can actually know. Our perspective taints everything we experience. And If God gave you proof positive, you would find yourself incapable of having faith in Him (the very thing He desires of us) at that point because He revoked your freedom of will by forcing Himself on you.

  15. February 3, 2009 2:38 pm

    Hi Nitwit Nastic! I just read this exciting article and wanted to leave a comment to congratulate you on calling the Christians on this false accusation of atheism.

    @kreitsauce: Since the arguments in the comments section have departed from the initial point, let me just as you a general question that ties in with the last few comments here. You are making an argument for faith in the light of the fact that god is relatively unlikely by arguing that it is a safety precaution. So let me ask you, as a Christian are there not thousands of gods you dont believe in? In fact, we atheists and you christians are more alike in this aspect than you are to a hindu, for example. We just believe in one god less than you do. Check out this list : http://lukeprog.com/religion/gods.html

    • nitwitnastik permalink*
      February 3, 2009 4:51 pm

      @ Ajita

      Thanks for the comment and the link. I didn’t know so many gods existed 🙂

  16. Ziad permalink
    March 30, 2011 2:17 am

    >Y strongly believes in democracy

    Y is a heroine addict

    Belief in democracy is the cause of heroine addiction

    So this isn’t the same argument they use on religious people to show that they’re violent?

  17. Cristero permalink
    September 2, 2013 6:30 am

    This is very weak argument.

Trackbacks

  1. Hitler, Mao, Stalin killed the most people, therefore Atheism is genocidal? | Believers vs Non-Believers

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s

%d bloggers like this: