In the afterword of "The End of Faith," Sam Harris responds to criticism that "the greatest crimes of the 20th century were perpetrated by atheists...Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and Kim Jong." Harris answers by saying, "these regimes have been mere litanies of delusion-- about race, economics, national identity..."

Note that all but one of these depots (Hitler) were communist. Almost all atheists whose writings I have read are more than atheists; they are empiricists. That is, they require evidence to establish the probability of truth to a claim. Before an empiricist would accept communism as a valid solution to the world's problems, an empiricist would have to have evidence that communism would work. Although we now have evidence that communism does not work, suppose we could go back in time before the Soviet Union and an empiricist evaluated whether communism would work well. The empiricist would examine the definition of communism:

"Communism is a social structure in which classes are abolished and property is commonly controlled, as well as a political philosophy and social movement that advocates and aims to create such a society.[1]
Karl Marx posited that communism would be the final stage in society, which would be achieved through a proletarian revolution and only possible after a transitional stage develops the productive forces, leading to a superabundance of goods and services.[2][3]"

An empiricist would need evidence to support the multiple claims of communism; namely that:
1. Abolishing social classes is possible and would result in a better world,
2. Public ownership of all property is fair and would result in a net gain for society, and
3. The only way to do 1 and 2 is by violent revolution.

An empiricist would, first of all, need to be shown how all of this could be done without violating basic human rights. If communism passed that test, s/he would want to see communism work on a small scale (a commune) and then a larger scale (a city or small nation). In my opinion there is no way communism would have passed the tests of an empiricist.

So, if all atheists changed their label to empiricist, atheists would be more accepted as a group because atheists would not be associated with communism. However, we know that atheists are pariahs of society.

However, I think that many theists would not realize that an empiricist, by definition, is an atheist. Many Christians would claim that they too are empiricists because they always examine evidence, i.e. The Bible, before they establish the probability of truth to a claim. As such, empiricists would have difficulty in fighting the detrimental effects of religion since there could be no unity of claims. There would just be the pseudo-empiricist theists fighting the de facto atheist empiricists.

As atheists, however, we have no problem with theists trying to hop on board our wagon, so to speak, because theist do not want to be on our wagon. Hence, as atheists (not empiricists) we can better make progress toward fighting the detrimental effects of religion. I suppose it is not realistic to expect the world will understand that atheists are not communist, since we do not have access to pulpits in the churches. About as much as we can expect is that authors such as Dawkins, Harris, Dennett, Hitchens, (and hopefully me one day) will continue to publish books that will educate the populace about atheism.

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Comment by Rudy Ruddell on July 26, 2010 at 4:41pm
"All of it was way above my ability to grasp but are you really sure that I did misunderstand the Empiricist that badly as you hint at here in your post?"

I am sorry if I sounded like I was commenting on your ability to grasp. I suppose I should know better. My wife complains that I insult her intelligence too. I do not mean to do so. I take things too literally. I respond sometimes without taking into consideration to whom I am talking. You obviously have a much better grasp of empiricism than I do. I should have done more homework before responding. I have gotten into trouble for that here on Atheistnexis many times. I posted something without search for similar posts. On FB it is much easier to get away with not doing homework.

Any way, thanks for the information. Damn that Bas van Fraassen for complicating empiricism. I guess I would need to call myself a scientific empiricist to reflect my true meaning.
Comment by Rudy Ruddell on July 25, 2010 at 11:39pm
@ Fred Werther: According to this definition, empiricism has nothing to do with personal experience and everything to to with physical evidence. Where do you find the definition to include personal experience?
"In philosophy, empiricism is a theory of knowledge that asserts that knowledge arises from evidence gathered via sense experience. Empiricism is one of several competing views that predominate in the study of human knowledge, known as epistemology. Empiricism emphasizes the role of experience and evidence, especially sensory perception, in the formation of ideas, over the notion of innate ideas or tradition.[1]
In a related sense, empiricism in the philosophy of science emphasizes those aspects of scientific knowledge that are closely related to evidence, especially as discovered in experiments. It is a fundamental part of the scientific method that all hypotheses and theories must be tested against observations of the natural world, rather than resting solely on a priori reasoning, intuition, or revelation. Hence, science is considered to be methodologically empirical in nature."
Comment by Rudy Ruddell on July 25, 2010 at 2:41am
Here is an article describing "the new atheists" as anti-dogmaists:
Comment by Rudy Ruddell on July 25, 2010 at 2:39am
I just found an anti-dogma organization on FB so I guess I was not the first to think of it:
Comment by Rudy Ruddell on July 25, 2010 at 2:35am
I thought of another label that would distinguish a communist atheist from a rational atheist: Anti-dogmaist or adogmaist, based on the following definition of dogma:Dogma is the established belief or doctrine held by a religion, ideology or any kind of organization: it is authoritative and not to be disputed, doubted or from which diverged.
If anyone knows of an existing word that conveys the same idea as anti-dogma, I would love to know.
Comment by Jim DePaulo on July 24, 2010 at 2:43pm
I do believe that Empiricist is more encompassing term than is Atheist It also fits most people on this sire because by definition Empiricist are Atheist, Cynics and anti-nonsense in all forms. No evidence - no cigar. It also has a positive, active element whereas Atheism is simply a no gods position- period.
A bonus is that most Theist have no idea what it means.
Comment by Matt on July 24, 2010 at 2:16pm
Say it's 1937, and as a citizen of the USSR you live without daring to question this message:

"Stalin has undertaken great responsibilities of our world. He protects us from our enemies, and sees the shining possibilities of our futures better than we could ever hope to. When people are taken away in the night, it's because they deserved it. When we starve and suffer, we must accept that it's for the greater good. We must try to understand that it's for the best, even though we don't have Stalin's ability to see the enormity of why this all must be so."

If people hadn't been conditioned for centuries to take this kind of crap off God, do you think Stalin could have worked the same con?



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