When I discuss the harm done in religion's name with my sister, who is Moslem, she inevitably brings up the harm done in atheism's name, including Stalin in the process.  I am not sufficiently well informed about history to know whether or not she is right that harm has been done in atheism's name.  (I know that Marx thought that religious belief would simply vanish once people ceased to live under oppressive economic conditions, so that he didn't see the need to actively combat religious belief, but I also know that the USSR was an officially atheist state.)  What sort of reply would you give to someone who contended that while harm has been done in the name religion, it has also been done in the name of atheism, so that the look-at-the-harm-religious-belief-does argument isn't effective?

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Perhaps it is best to look at Stalin's followers to see the difference between him and religious crazies who kill:


Stalin's followers did as he said because they were scared of him.  And there were several attempts on his life.


Religious crazies do as their leaders say, because they agree with it.


There's a huge difference between being scared and doing something bad and doing something bad because the person believes it is the right thing to do.  


If look at today's suicide bombers and those who kill in the name of religion, these people believe wholeheartedly this is the right thing to do. I don't know of any atheist snipers or suicide bombers.  If there was one, it would be a huge media sensation, that would eclipse all other lone killers in the rush to prove atheism is the most terrible thing ever. 


Currently, Islamic are probably doing the most bad things in the name of their religion.  Not that the others haven't done their share, but right now Islam is front and center of the world's attention for doing bad staff.  Your sister may feel the pressure not only in atheists' disapproval of her religion, but all the other religions as well.  But really we are soft and loving compared to how many Christians feel about Muslims.  At least we feel their religion is equally invalid as all the others - not conceived and executed by Satan like most Christians. 


I'm just suggesting she may be feeling threatened not only by your lack of belief, but because the pretty much the whole non Muslim world doesn't like them much now.  However, she can look on the bright side, since Islam is one of the largest religions in the world (and growing, I understand), she has a billion or two people she can friend on Facebook. 

Stalin didn't kill people in the name of atheism any more than Hitler killed because he might have hated artichokes. He killed because of power and hated anything that took power away from him. Sweden is incredibly non-theistic, as is Denmark, Iceland, and Norway and none of those nations commit atrocities comparable to those of Stalin, but you will never hear a theist bring that up.

Good people can do bad things and bad people can do good things; but for people to commit atrocities, it takes religion.


Misquoting Stephen Weinberg.


apples to oranges man
gods' ak47's damage compared to a 3d landscaping high-tech scientifically tested app that betters the world

hello. throw in the difference between a water or farming engineer compared to a braindamaged and misguided throwback to nazi germany's culture of dominance instead common sense... ironically the only country to state they'll be phasing out nuclear energy replaced with green tech/grid solutions


combat that.

I regard the argument to be basically useless. I would only ever bring it up in response to any point made in the opposite direction. Millions may be good without god, but millions are good with one as well (my mother), and millions more are good having a god only in certain times in their life or on certain days in the week (my girlfriend). I don't believe in god because I find it to be a largely less than useless hypothesis for explaining anything, not because believing in one makes you bad. Honestly how do you quantify such a thing? The null hypothesis is that religion has neither a positive or negative effect on our way of life, and most of the evidence supporting both propositions is mixed and anecdotal. There is of course the negative correlation between developed countries and religion, but I find such evidence to be cum hoc ergo propter hoc.

Religion has had a negative effect on my way of life. 

Tell her Stalin was an orthodox Georgian, hitler was roman catholic and Mao practiced Buddhism for a year an roman Catholicism for 6
Stalin was an atheist though, and Hitler not Roman Catholic, so perhaps telling her that wouldn't be such an intellectually honest move ;)
To say that Mao practised Buddhism for a year is like saying I once took a ballet lesson.  It doesn't make me Rudolph Nureyev and it does no favour to the world of dance.
I gave this response to an article I read the other day that equated "Atheist State" with any society not run by a combination of Theocrats/Plutocrats or Theocrats/Aristocrats:

Yet another piece that promotes the myth that the monstrous communist dictatorships of the 20th Century were a result of Atheism while discounting the actual ideological basis for those regimes. Stalinist Russia, Maoist China, and Pol Pot's Cambodia were all ruled by Dictators and had effectively established personality cults around their rulers. Just because communism rejected traditional religious beliefs that competed and threatened communists and their philosophies doesn't make those sorts of societies the end result of Atheism as an ideological stance. The communist regimes in USSR, China and Cambodia were built on communist ideas and the crimes of those regimes were due to communist extremism. "Atheist extremism" doesn't make any sense without some sort of ideology to become extreme in favour of. Suggesting that Atheists (who do not subscribe to some political extremist view, I've never met one of those myself) would create anything even remotely like those despotic communist regimes is an insult to the many progressive, rational, democratic, secular, humanist, science-based non-religious people that have lived and worked to make the world better ever since the European Enlightenment. Atheists (at least the hundreds I've met) don't want a tyrannical non-religious regime any more than we want a tyrannical religious one. Both are equally unpleasant.So please stop promoting the nonsensical myth that the progressive, democratic, rational, ethical, scientifically minded, humanistic non-believers of faith-based religious beliefs (like myself) should take any responsibility for despotic regimes that were based on values completely different to ours - just because Atheists and communists reject organized religion.
Chris Day, your response is brilliant and one I intend to commit to memory. Thank you.

People don't do anything in the name of atheism because atheism is a belief in the non-existence of something. If it's not there, you can't do anything in its name. Now, does that mean that atheists never do anything terrible, even comparable to what theists do? No. I'm sure many of us have done terrible things. I know I have. But I never did them in the name of atheism because there's nothing there to which I could devote my actions. It's the whole idea of NOT devoting my actions to something that I call "atheism" in the first place.


I had this argument with people for a while too. Perhaps surprisingly, it was fellow atheists with whom I debated it the most, because I heard so many of them demonizing religion for being the inspiration of horrible acts of all kinds, and claiming that if we do away with religion, we will be doing away with a great many evils in the world. As if things like rape and murder and starvation did not exist before religions were invented. That's just silly, to me. Horrible things are done by people, in the name of themselves, not by religion or by atheism. Religion is not a physical entity that can cause things to happen, nor is atheism, so this argument is really misdirected.


All I can say to atheists, or theists, who are wont to engage in this debate, is stop wasting your breath trying to blame each other for everything. I'll even draw on a biblical idea: let he who is without sin cast the first stone. I don't believe any god inspired those words, but that does mean they aren't sage words. Blame yourself for your bad shit before you go blaming other people for theirs. You're not perfect, neither am I, and neither are our religious brothers and sisters. Get over it.











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