though you could be forgiven for thinking so.

No the opposite of Atheism is Theism. Two different answers to the question - Do you believe in god (assuming of course their can be agreement on exactly what god is, but I digress)?

Now belief or disbelief in a god does not cause one to go out and commit acts of atrocity, or of loving kindness for that matter. No for that something extra has to be added.

Steven Weinberg, Nobel Laureate and Physicist is quoted as saying:

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.


Now I must respectfully disagree with the good Professor here and it may just be semantics but to single out religion misses the mark. No, I think we need to widen the scope a little.

Dogmatic Ideologies without a system of checks and balances that can assert political power are the problem. Systems of control which crush free speech, which put the ruling party/organisation/group of sexually repressed old men above the law, which make decisions on whim rather than reason or evidence. That allow unscrupulous individuals to exert their ideas/wants/ desires on a populace. These I believe are the problem. So yes, it takes a particular form of religion for good people to do evil, but let us not leave ourselves unguarded to certain types of non-religious ideology either.

Atheism is not responsible for the deaths of a millions of Russians or for the killing fields,for that you need an ideology, a way of thinking to manipulate a populace, to crush their objection - for that you need Communism/Stalinism or Nationalism in the case of Hitler - though I think it can be argued that Hitler was able to use both Nationalism and Christianity to his ends.

Is theism responsible for the crusades, the inquisition, 9/11, no for that you need a religious ideology that abhors free speech and secularism that seeks to ensure that their religion is the one true religion, one that seeks to invade the privacy of a persons thoughts.

So our hope, Theist or Atheist is in a system that contains checks and balances that can question those put in power, that can elect those in power - a good secular democracy. A system that is neutral in is dealing with belief and that protects fundamental human rights.

So we should criticise and examine any ideological movement that seeks to threaten democratic values, that attempts to enslave a populace, to curtail debate, to curtail others freedoms. At present the two most pressing concerns I have are Christianity (because of its political power and the populace's apathetic response to their power plays) and Islam (which is in sore need of a reformation).

Am I splitting hairs?

I don't know, but this way of thinking about it seems to sit better with me.


Sean posts regularly at Sean the Blogonaut

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Comment by Sean the Blogonaut on September 20, 2008 at 10:29pm

I was listening to a debate held here in Australian just last week where Dr John Lennox trotted out the old Communism = Atheism line. Even seemingly rational people can get caught up in dogmatic ideology. Knowing that we are all suceptible to this, is I guess,one way of combating our human tendency to want to fix "things" in place permanently.
Comment by Sean the Blogonaut on September 20, 2008 at 10:25pm

Re the dogmas of democracy

I think the best idea is to always be willing to consider and reconsider what has been written to examine all critically.



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