I do want to make a distinction between ordinary individual atheists and militant atheists. This post is about militant atheists, the kind that organizes into groups and then exerts political power to try to trample the rights of religious people. This post is about that kind of atheist, not the ordinary kind that is honest and open to being convinced that God exists. If you are an atheist, and you don’t have any thoughts about silencing religious people, or making religious people deny their convictions, or taking away their rights to speak freely or assemble, then this post isn’t about you. But there is another group of atheists that does have these and other goals, and this post is an answer to them.
Consider this post on the American Atheists web site. (The PDF is saved here)
It should come as no surprise that the individuals who abide by fundamentalist Christian… doctrines would be the first to cry out that they are being persecuted when their dangerous, damaging and disingenuous beliefs come under attack. Most of these people lack the maturity and intelligence to act in a socially acceptable manner. Many of them are sociopaths and quite a good number of them are psychopaths. All of them are clearly delusional.
The fact is that fundamentalist Christians… are not interested in coexisting or getting along. They have no desire for peace. They do not want to sit down with us in diplomatic efforts to iron out our differences and come to an agreement on developing an integrated society.
They want us to die.
Their interpretation of the Bible… are such that there is no other course of action but to kill the infidel, and if anyone believes otherwise they are only fooling themselves. It is not just in the best interests of atheists to be intolerant of fundamental Christianity and radical Islam, but it is also in the best interest of mainstream believers within these faiths, as well. Moderates and even Progressives who stand in support of extremists just because there is a claim to the same deity are not doing themselves any favors. Fundamental Christians make all Christians look bad…
…the underbelly of fundamentalist Christianity… does not operate in the legal system. They don’t respond to lawsuits, letters, amicus briefs or other grass-roots campaigns and they must, must, must be eradicated.
Wow, that’s some pretty strong rhetoric. Has anyone actually ever tried to eradicate Christianity? Let’s see.
The death toll of atheism: over 100 million in the last century
Here’s a quick introduction (from Harvard University Press) to the body count for atheist regimes in the last century.
Already famous throughout Europe, this international bestseller plumbs recently opened archives in the former Soviet bloc to reveal the actual, practical accomplishments of Communism around the world: terror, torture, famine, mass deportations, and massacres. Astonishing in the sheer detail it amasses, the book is the first comprehensive attempt to catalogue and analyze the crimes of Communism over seventy years.
“Revolutions, like trees, must be judged by their fruit,” Ignazio Silone wrote, and this is the standard the authors apply to the Communist experience—in the China of “the Great Helmsman,” Kim Il Sung’s Korea, Vietnam under “Uncle Ho” and Cuba under Castro, Ethiopia under Mengistu, Angola under Neto, and Afghanistan under Najibullah. The authors, all distinguished scholars based in Europe, document Communist crimes against humanity, but also crimes against national and universal culture, from Stalin’s destruction of hundreds of churches in Moscow to Ceausescu’s leveling of the historic heart of Bucharest to the widescale devastation visited on Chinese culture by Mao’s Red Guards.
As the death toll mounts—as many as 25 million in the former Soviet Union, 65 million in China, 1.7 million in Cambodia, and on and on—the authors systematically show how and why, wherever the millenarian ideology of Communism was established, it quickly led to crime, terror, and repression. An extraordinary accounting, this book amply documents the unparalleled position and significance of Communism in the hierarchy of violence that is the history of the twentieth century.
It’s important to understand that these communist regimes were run by militant, organized atheists. And atheism was at the center of their worldview, and their political involvement.
Here is a citation from a communist web site:
In the body of his study Marx pointed out that: “The proofs of the existence of God are either mere hollow tautologies… all proofs of the existence of God are proofs of his non-existence.” (Marx, The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature, 1841, MECW 1.)
…In 1841 Marx and Bauer planned to publish a radical philosophical periodical, Archives of Atheism. The views of some contemporaries give some indication of the scope of their project.
Arnold Ruge wrote: “Bruno Bauer, Karl Marx, Christiansen and Feuerbach are forming a new montagne and are making atheism their slogan. God, religion, immortality are cast down from their thrones and man is proclaimed God.”
And Georg Jung wrote to Ruge: “If Marx, Bruno Bauer and Feuerbach associate to found a theological-philosophical review, God would do well to surround himself with all the angels and indulge in self-pity, for these three will certainly drive him out of his heaven… For Marx, at any rate, the Christian religion is one of the most immoral there is.” (David McLellan, Marx before Marxism, 1970)
Flowing from his atheism, Marx opposed organised religion and the role of religion in politics. A flavour of Marx’s attitude can be gleaned from his journalism at the time.
…in “The Leading Article” in No. 179 of the Kölnische Zeitung (1842), Marx accused the Prussian state of disseminating Christian dogma, criticised the police and the censor for protecting religion and insisted that no distinction should be made between religion as belief and the religious establishment. (MECW 1)
But this is ancient history right? Or is this still going on today?
Anti-Christian violence in atheist regimes
The problem hasn’t gone away… it’s still here wherever militant atheism is the state religion.
Here’s an example of how Christians are treated by the atheist regime in North Korea. This is just one of these atheist dictators who is taking the anti-Christian rhetoric of Karl Marx seriously.
North Korea publicly executed a Christian woman last month for distributing the Bible, which is banned in the communist nation, South Korean activists said Friday.
Ri Hyon Ok, 33, was also accused of spying for South Korea and the United States and organizing dissidents. She was executed in the northwestern city of Ryongchon near the border with China on June 16, according to a report from an alliance of several dozen anti-North Korea groups.
Ri’s parents, husband and three children were sent to a political prison camp in the northeastern city of Hoeryong the following day, the report said, citing unidentified documents it says were obtained from North Korea. It showed a copy of Ri’s North Korean government-issued photo ID. It is virtually impossible to verify such reports about secretive North Korea, where the government tightly controls the lives of its citizens and does not allow dissent.
On Thursday, an annual report from a state-run South Korean think tank on human rights in the North said that public executions, though dropping in number in recent years, were still carried out for crimes ranging from murder to circulating foreign movies.
North Korea claims to guarantee freedom of religion for its 24 million people but in reality severely restricts religious observances. The cult of personality surrounding national founder Kim Il Sung and his son, current leader Kim Jong Il, is a virtual state religion.
The government has authorized four state churches, one Catholic, two Protestant and one Russian Orthodox, but they cater to foreigners and ordinary North Koreans cannot attend. However, defectors and activists say more than 30,000 North Koreans are believed to practice Christianity secretly.
The U.S. State Department reported last year that “genuine religious freedom does not exist” in North Korea.
“North Korea appears to have judged that Christian forces could pose a threat to its regime,” Do Hee-youn, a leading activist, told reporters, claiming public executions, arrest and detention of North Koreans are prevalent.
The BBC reports on some eradicating of Christianity in China.
Human rights groups have documented an increasing number of arrests of Chinese Christians since the beginning of 2004.
According to the charity Christian Solidarity Worldwide, persecution is becoming more systematic and targeted at large-scale Christian gatherings.
Since June the charity has documented three mass arrests of unregistered Christians. In each case more than 100 people were detained.
Amnesty International has reported many cases of detained church leaders in recent years, especially in the provinces of Zhejiang, Jiangsu and Hebei.
One of the most high-profile cases is that of Gong Shengliang, head of the South China Church, who was sentenced to death in 2001. His sentence was commuted to a prison term, but Amnesty has received reports that he has been severely tortured in jail.
In August three Christians were sentenced to jail terms for passing information to foreign governments, and in July state media reported that a woman had been beaten to death after being arrested for handing out bibles.
Peter Xu said that while he was in jail, he saw several people even being killed for their faith.
“A believer was praying, so a jailer made other prisoners lift him up to the ceiling and drop him to the ground many times until he died,” Mr Xu said.
So, judging from these examples, at least some atheists have taken the desire to “eradicate Christianity” and put it into practice.
Can atheism ground human rights and morality?
So does atheism rationally ground a prohibition on mass murder? Well think about what atheism involves. Atheism is the view that there is no design to the universe. The universe is an accident. Matter is all there is. There is no way the universe ought to be, objectively – because there is no designer, objectively. And there is no way humans ought to act, objectively – because there is no moral lawgiver, objectively. Humans have no free will to make moral choices – we are just matter in motion, and that means that our behavior is fully determined by our genetic programming and sensory inputs. Moreover, there is no one we are accountable to after we die, so even if we had free will, there would be no reason to do good self-sacrificially, or to abstain from evil, self-sacrificially. When you die, that’s the end, so there’s no point in sacrificing your happiness for some arbitrary social conventions that vary by time and place. There is no reason to put anyone else’s interests above our own unless it gives us pleasure or helps us to avoid pain or social disapproval.
On atheism, if you feel pleasure from hurting or killing others, and there’s no one there strong enough to stop you, then there is nothing objectively wrong with hurting or killing others. Morality is just a convention on atheism – it varies by time and place. If the majority of people like slavery, then slavery becomes “moral”. There is no transcendent source of morality or human rights, such as the right to life or the right to liberty, on atheism. I repeat: on atheism, morality is the same as traffic laws or clothing fashions – they just evolve as a result of biological evolution and social evolution. So atheist morality is just “do whatever makes you feel good, but don’t get caught by those who might have different arbitrary preferences than you do”.
Don’t believe me? Consider a couple of prominent atheists:
William Provine says:
Let me summarize my views on what modern evolutionary biology tells us loud and clear — and these are basically Darwin’s views. There are no gods, no purposes, and no goal-directed forces of any kind. There is no life after death. When I die, I am absolutely certain that I am going to be dead. That’s the end of me. There is no ultimate foundation for ethics, no ultimate meaning in life, and no free will for humans, either.
Michael Ruse says:
The position of the modern evolutionist is that humans have an awareness of morality because such an awareness of biological worth. Morality is a biological adaptation no less than are hands and feet and teeth. Considered as a rationally justifiable set of claims about an objective something, ethics is illusory. I appreciate when someone says, ‘Love thy neighbor as thyself,’ they think they are referring above and beyond themselves. Nevertheless, such reference is truly without foundation. Morality is just an aid to survival and reproduction, . . . and any deeper meaning is illusory. (Michael Ruse, “Evolutionary Theory and Christian Ethics,” in The Darwinian Paradigm (London: Routledge, 1989), pp. 262-269).
Richard Dawkins says:
In a universe of blind physical forces and genetic replication, some people are going to get hurt, other people are going to get lucky, and you won’t find any rhyme or reason in it, or any justice. The universe that we observe has precisely the properties we should expect if there is, at bottom, no design, no purpose, no evil and no good, nothing but blind, pitiless indifference… DNA neither knows nor cares. DNA just is. And we dance to its music. (Richard Dawkins, River Out of Eden: A Darwinian View of Life (1995))
No ultimate foundation for ethics? Ethics is illusory? No evil and no good? Then why is this American Atheist article saying that some things are evil and that some things are good? It’s not rational to make claims about what’s evil and good on atheism, because on atheism, as Richard Dawkins tells us, there is no evil and no good.
When a Christian theist says slavery is wrong, he means it really is wrong. And he can make a rational argument for it based on the existence of a designer who has revealed that slavery is wrong – as Christian abolitionists like William Wilberforce argued when he single-handedly ended slavery in the UK. But when an atheist says slavery is wrong, he means 1) that the morality of slavery is a matter of opinion, and 2) that the two opinions “slavery is right” or “slavery is wrong” are both equally warranted depending on where and when each convention evolved, and 3) that he has a personal preference for one view over the other, in keeping with his social group. In one time and place, slavery is “wrong”, and in another time and another place, slavery is “right”. Whatever has evolved in a culture at some time and in some place is right for that culture. There is no rule, on atheism, to say that one society is better than any other. Whatever evolved, biologically and sociologically, is right, on atheism.
Are atheists at least scientifically literate?
It’s also important to realize what we are dealing with in atheism.
According to the Secular Humanist Manifesto, atheism is committed to an eternally existing universe, (See the first item: “Religious humanists regard the universe as self-existing and not created.”). If something non-material brought all existing matter into being, that would be a supernatural cause, and atheists deny that anything supernatural exists. The standard Big Bang theory requires that all the matter in the universe come into being out of nothing. The Big Bang has been confirmed by experimental evidence such as redshift measurements, light element abundances and the cosmic microwave background radiation. According to this peer-reviewed astrophysics journal article, the best explanation for the Big Bang event is a supernatural agent. This cosmology falsifies eternal models of the universe, which are required by atheism.
So you have an entire group of people who basically make a faith commitment to an unscientific cosmology, and then they go on to advocate the eradication of Christianity (and therefore, of the eradication of the followers of Christianity). They believe what they want to believe – regardless of logic and science. Now why is that? Let’s consult a famous non-theist to find out what’s really going on.
Consider the famous agnostic Aldous Huxley:
“I had motives for not wanting the world to have a meaning; consequently assumed that it had none, and was able without any difficulty to find satisfying reasons for this assumption. The philosopher who finds no meaning in the world is not concerned exclusively with a problem in metaphysics, he is also concerned to prove that there is no valid reason why he personally should not do as he wants to do, or why his friends should not seize political power and govern in the way that they find most advantageous to themselves… For myself, the philosophy of meaningless was essentially an instrument of liberation, sexual and political.” — Aldous Huxley in Ends and Means, 1937
That’s what’s really going on here. They assume a reality that corresponds to their desires, and then they disregard any evidence that falsifies it – even scientific evidence.
What happens to atheists in debates?
Consider this debate with Christopher Hitchens and William Lane Craig:
If you watch the debate closely, you will find that although Christopher Hitchens is very aggressive, that he makes only one argument very briefly, in his very last speech. Instead, about 99% of his speeches he expresses his dislike for God and his preference that God would do things differently, so that it’s more in line with Mr. Hitchens’ preferences about the way the world ought to be.
The same thing happens in this debate with Sam Harris:
It’s really not about truth – it’s more like “Yuck! I don’t like Christianity!”. As we’ve seen, atheists don’t really believe that morality is real at all, it has no existence outside people’s opinions, on their view.
One final point, since it gets mentioned a lot: slavery. I find it particularly interesting when atheists complain about slavery. Slavery occurs when one group of people who have power de-humanize another group of people with less power based on some characteristic of that other group, so that they can exploit them or prevent them from interfering with their own pursuit of pleasure. Now consider the issue of abortion today. Conservative Christians oppose abortion, because we don’t think that entire groups of people lose their right to life just because they are small or insufficiently developed. Atheists on the other hand tend to favor of abortion.
In the time of slavery, the most committed evangelical Christians like William Wilberforce were active in the abolition movement. Similarly, the most committed evangelical Christians today oppose abortion. Both issues are the same – a whole group of people are having their basic human rights removed by some other powerful group. Now abortion is much worse than slavery – 50 million unborn Americans have died since 1973. And generally, atheists do not oppose abortion today. This leads me to suspect that atheists would not have been opposed to slavery back in the time of slavery, certainly not in the way that William Wilberforce opposed it. In fact, here is good old Richard Dawkins expressing his support for infanticide. Richard Dawkins recently made comments about wanting to destroy Christianity – even though he fled from an opportunity to debate William Lane Craig. It’s not debate they want.
So what’s my view of what to do with atheists? I advocate reasoning with atheists, using arguments and evidence. I also advocate treating them gently and respectfully and charitably. This is no surprise, since religious people are known to be more charitable than non-religious people.
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