Skeptimus Prime » FAQ One atheist's thoughts on politics, religion, and philsophy Mon, 11 May 2015 01:55:18 +0000 en-US hourly 1 Atheism, the gate way drug to Communism, Pedophilia, Murder, and anything else bad that can be thought of. Part 2 Mon, 30 Jan 2012 04:24:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]>
Now, another common accusation towards atheism is that it leads to communism or that, more generally, that it is responsible for the many terrible genocides of the 20th century.   I have heard this attack from many people over the years but one of the more recent examples I have seen was in this video where Matt Dillahunty debates father Hans Jacobse, who despite being fairly liberal religious leader still believes this slanderous lie.
There are many more cases of this but rather than just start going through all of them if you doubt that this McCarthy era argument is alive an well just take a look at this Google search.
Of course most will admit that bad things have been done in the name of religion but, they will say, Hitler, Marx, Stalin, Pol Pot, and Mao Zedong were all atheists and they killed more than any of religion ever killed throughout history.  First I’ll point out that this argument, even if correct, is an affirmation of consequence and thus does nothing to prove god actually exists.  Arguing that god must exist because not believing in him might make us violent is not even an argument worth refuting.  However, this argument is flawed; indeed it is flawed in so many ways I am not even sure where to begin in refuting it.  
Bullshit at it’s best.
First, since Hitler was the only member of this group who was not communist, at the risk of invoking Godwin’s law, I will speak about him shortly.  There is basically no evidence that Hitler was an atheist, though I will not claim to know exactly what his religious beliefs were he never once said that he did not believe in some kind of god.  First it needs to be mentioned that no matter was his religious beliefs were all of Europe had been steeped in an antisemitism based upon Christianity for well more than a thousand years.   Martin Luther, the German reformer, wrote a book entitled “On Jews and their Lies” in 1543, nearly 4 centuries before the Third Reich, and his views were hardly uncommon.  
Good Christian literature in the 16th century.
Hitler’s speeches were peppered with religious symbolism.  You can easily dig up many quotes from him on the internet, but just one will do for the purposes of this article.
“I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator. By warding off the Jews I am fighting for the Lord’s work.”   [Adolph Hitler, Speech, Reichstag, 1936]
Of course it is not possible to know how much of it he actually believed and how much was used just to manipulate the German populace, but to argue he was clearly atheist is entirely contrary to the facts we have available.
Perhaps by lord he meant the flying spaghetti monster?  Oh wait FSM doesn’t condone this sort of shit.
Communism is something quite a bit different of course in that it is atheistic, or at least very anti-religious.  Of course we can look back into the history of communism and see the thinking in the famous quote by Karl Marx
“Religious suffering is, at one and the same time, the expression of real suffering and a protest against real suffering. Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, and the soul of soulless conditions. It is the opium of the people.”
“The abolition of religion as the illusory happiness of the people is the demand for their real happiness. To call on them to give up their illusions about their condition is to call on them to give up a condition that requires illusions. The criticism of religion is, therefore, in embryo, the criticism of that vale of tears of which religion is the halo”
One will noticed that Marx speaks about religion not god, but clearly he was no friend of religious beliefs and certainly many communist regimes seem to mandate a lack of religion
I could get bogged down in a debate about the history of Marxism here, but quite frankly this is a blog post not a graduate dissertation, so I will simply stipulate that the most if not all communist governments have mandated atheism.  
One exception I must note.  I personally think that North Korea may well be an exception as they believe that the current leader is a reincarnation of his grandfather Kim Il Sung, which strikes me as, if not a religious claim, then something rather like such a claim.  In any case I do not think communism’s support of atheism says anything about the modern atheist movement in America.
Though we might want to check under the bed just in case.
There are two reasons that the argument that atheism is to blame for the atrocities of the 20th century fails, one is a factual problem and the other a philosophical one.  
First, there these communist countries forced atheism on people, this is not only ethically wrong it is entirely contrary to the goals of the modern atheist movement.  While I will not hide the fact that I think the world would be a better place if it were less religious, (not perfect, just better) how one reaches the conclusion of atheism is actually more important than the conclusion itself.  I happen to believe that the world would be a better place without religion because religion is not rational or evidence based and it is far better to believe in something for rational reasons.  However, forcing a belief using political or physical force does not make anyone more rational.  
Many societies other can communists ones have forced a belief onto its people such as many Middle Eastern countries where many governments are Islamic theocracies or Europe in the middle ages being controlled by Catholicism in many ways.  None of these are examples of humans behaving rationally, and forcing any view onto a populace using political force is not something that leads to more rational people.
On second thought maybe I should reconsider Catholicism.
There is a further philosophical problem with ALL of these claims.  It must be asked if atheism is both necessary and sufficient to justify the atrocities of these totalitarian regimes.  “Necessary and sufficient” is a phrase in logic used to define the two elements needed to prove causality.  
One must ask if atheism is necessary, meaning that totalitarian regimes, and the atrocities they commit are necessarily atheistic.  Second, one must ask if atheism is sufficient, meaning that the mere lack of belief in a god is sufficient to justify the atrocities.
Of course there is no argument that manages to prove either necessity or sufficiency.  In fact, plenty of empirical data exists to show that atheism is hardly necessary.  There are plenty of examples totalitarian regimes and human rights violations from a variety of cultures and religions.  
Now when it comes specifically to communism I could grant that atheism is necessary for it, except that there are quite a few theists these days that support Communism.  Liberation theology for instance seems to be rather chummy with a lot of communist ideals. 
Now, as to atheism’s sufficiency, even if you take the most extreme definition of atheism where it is defined as a total rejection of even the possibility of any god existing, (no atheist I have ever met would go this far) one could not state that such a claim could, on its own, justify genocide, eugenics, communism, or totalitarianism.  Each one of these ideas are completely irrational, there is no empirical support for them and there is no valid reason to assert that just because atheism is sometimes mixed up in these things that it is integral to why they all went so wrong.
This argument is made more out of fear and prejudice than anything else, the cure for those prejudices is for us to be out and letting people know that these are not the sorts of things we believe in.  Preachers and other religious leaders may keep attacking us with all the prejudice and bigotry that they can muster, but more and more people will realize that the things they say just do not mesh with reality, and that we atheists are not the bogeyman that religion makes us out to be.   
I believe that the idea that atheists do not care about ethics and that we turn a blind eye to human suffering will become increasingly laughable, and that the views of the bigots who say such things will eventually be ignored by most people in the same way people ignore the KKK today.  Indeed it is quite the opposite, many atheists think this way precisely because we do care and we see the harm religion does to people and societies.  As long as religion is used as a tool to hurt our fellow humans beings we will be here calling out the religious for their bull shit.
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Atheism, the gate way drug to Communism, Pedophilia, Murder, and anything else bad that can be thought of. Part 1 Mon, 23 Jan 2012 05:14:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]>
Continuing the discussion on accusations/questions that are often leveled at atheists, these particular accusations come from theists of all sorts of backgrounds.  Fundamentalist Christians are probably the most common of course, but I have head the same accusations from Jews, Muslims, liberal Christian’s and even the occasional pagan.  
 This article may end up a bit long because I want to tackle several of the most common arguments as well as the historical and philosophical problems with these arguments.  I’ve decided to break this up into a few separate posts, I’ll start with the topic of pedophilia because I just ran across an article which argues this.
Moshi Averick pictured. Smug bigotry was unavailable for photo.
I recently ran across this article online written by a Jewish Rabbi, Moshi Averick arguing that the moral framework of “atheist philosophy” which makes it completely rational to be a pedophile.  Of course there are many problems with his argument, first he acts as if there is a singular moral philosophy from the atheist view point.  He takes his views from atheist philosophers such as Michael Ruse, even though Ruse’s ideas are generally not shared by much of the modern atheist movement.  Of course, since they align with Averick’s ideas about atheism he assumes they must be the correct ones.
Averick dismisses any atheistic moral philosophies that are not nihilistic in nature as being irrational and then proceeds to dismantle nihilistic philosophy as if it were the sum total of all atheistic thinking.  The reason for this, I think, is that theism and nihilism actually agree on several key points that are key to the type of argument Averick is making.   
Well, at least one person seems happy about it.

You see, nihilism and theism both agree that any real valuation of anything requires that in continue to exist for eternity.  Theists generally argue that something, namely us, will exist for eternity in some form, the nihilist says we will not, and thus because any action we take will eventually be rendered useless by the passage of time it is effectively useless now.  To me this sounds rather more like an opinion than a philosophical argument.  Sure my actions may essentially average out to basically nothing a in a billion years, but what rational reason can one give that eternity is a more valid context to judge actions in than the here an now?

Further I would point out that history does not bear out the claim Averick is making.  To be fair, he does not argue that there are more pedophiles among modern atheists than there are among theists, which is good since the facts don’t support such a claim.  Though to me this exemplifies the most basic problem with such arguments, Averick, and those who argue like him, do their best to posit an argument which is built entirely around bare deduction without reference to reality.  They are careful to not allow the argument to make any claims about the real world results we should expect to see if their arguments were correct.  
Of course he says that atheism should lead to pedophilia but he is careful to posit this as some portent of future danger rather than actually make a testable claim.  This, of course, has all the same hallmarks of pseudo-science.  If you design your claim to be untestable the no one can ever refute it.  
Personally I think this place has far more to do with pedophilia than atheists.

Of course when we look at the evidence the trend we actually see is exactly the opposite, in ancient civilizations as well as many modern third world countries relationships and marriages that would be considered to be pedophilia in the modern United States have been common faire, and by and large these civilizations have been far more religious than we are, or ever have been in this country.  Indeed in recent years several groups have been uncovered even here in the U.S. that were engaging in pedophilia, and every one of these groups were not only religious, but the pedophilia was being protected, sanctioned or even commanded by the religion in these communities. 

Now,  I do not want to suggest that religion is a cause pedophilia either, one has to be clear that correlation does not always amount to causation and I don’t necessarily think religion is to blame for pedophilia, it is often just a convenient cover for it.  However, to argue, given the facts, that any sort of theism is going to be a cure for this problem or that a lack of theism will cause it to get worse is just laughable.

I don’t really need a caption here, it pretty much speaks for itself.
Next up is a discussion about totalitarian regimes and the attempts that have been made to associate atheism with them.
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Question 2: Why don’t you just leave believers alone, their beliefs aren’t hurting anyone? Tue, 18 Oct 2011 22:15:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]>
The first thing that comes to mind when theists bring this up is how evangelistic they are.  Though truthfully, many theists are, in fact, not very evangelistic.  Some believe religion to be a private affair, and many say they believe in the idea of evangelism but very rarely make any effort to “convert” anyone.

“I should totally convert her to Christianity…well maybe tomorrow”

The thing is, most atheists don’t really do this either.  Of course there are exceptions, there are people in any group who aren’t satisfied unless everyone else sees the world the same way they do.  

Stop believing in god or so help me I will end you with this spork.

However this behavior seems rather rare from atheists, at least no more common than it is from theists.  As a theist I frequently engaged in forms of evangelism, including walking up to strangers in a beach to convert them.  As an atheist I have yet to approach one stranger to start evangelizing them.  Every serious conversation I have ever had about religion with someone I was not very good friends with were initiated by the theist trying to convert me or someone else in the room.
I imagine atheist evangelism looks something like this.
Personally I think this problem is in part due from the normal bias that anyone has with beliefs they disagree with.  I’ve often found myself discussing interviews/debates done between famous atheists like Hitchens or Dawkins with theists and I am surprised that they say how abrasive or mean that the atheist was; even during interviews where I felt that the atheist was rather tame or circumspect and the theist was.
I had just such a conversation about the above interview between Dawkins and O’Reilly in which Dawkins comes across rather gentlemanly and O’Reilly comes across, as usual, as a jerk who immediately attacks Dawkins’ atheism despite the fact that Dawkins had not mentioned religion or god at all.  Don’t get me wrong I’d happily admit Dawkins can come off insulting at times, just not this particular time.
Now, that being said, there are a few topics which often invite the ire of atheists.   Things like church-state separation related issues or religious based bigotry tend set quite a few of us off.  I believe that one of the main reasons this question gets asked is often because our weighing in on these topics is often viewed as a type of evangelism.  
I, of course, disagree with this assessment, but it does bear some discussion.  I think part of the problem is that, in this country, theists (Christians in particular) have a certain natural sense of entitlement when it comes to their beliefs.  
It seems a little like this to us.
 I have had many conversations with Christians who are offended that other groups, Muslims for example, should have certain freedoms that they feel are an intrinsic right of their group.   Those of you who question my assessment may want to give a moment of consideration to the significant group of Christians who believe that prayer and creation science should be reintroduced in public schools.  Yet the Christians who argue for this are unlikely want Muslim prayers or Hindu creationism taught in school.  
Exactly what evolution predicted humans evolved from.
Our early manophant ancestors were strange and wonderful creatures.
 This is typically where we atheist step in and say that given the disagreements among these groups the safest thing to do is not have any prayers from any religion publicly endorsed by any teachers in the school.  This is where we recommend simply teaching scientific facts about our universe and limit the teaching of creation myths to that of history class.  The best way to allow society to flourish is to keep government out of the business of mandating beliefs.
Some disagree.
 Unfortunately despite not being evangelistic in the least it is often interpreted as such by theists largely, I suspect, because atheism is viewed as just another competing religion to most theists.  They do not want to allow non-prayer in schools for the same reason they don’t want to allow Muslim prayer in school.  They try to remove the teaching of evolution in schools for the same reason they reject the teaching of the Japanese creation myth in science class.  
If you have ever heard a fundamentalist Christian say that evolution is just a creation story for atheists then you may have an idea what I am referring too.  I have heard them say, indeed, when I was a young believer I said it myself, repeated from sermons I heard.  To them non-prayer is viewed as a sacrament of atheism the same as prayer to their god is a sacrament to them.  Science, rather than a process by which we explore the natural world, is viewed as part of the “religion of secularism.”  Too many theists who ask this question secularism is just another competing religion that is seeking to drive their religion out of the public square and replace it with our own.
Extremism does differ a bit from group to group.

I wish a knew a way to win this particular debate because I truly think a secular government is not only better for me, but its better for theists of all types as well.  However some theists strongly believe that their religion should be given favored treatment by whatever government they live under, and any attempt to undermine that will be seen as an attack on their beliefs.
How dare you make laws saying we can’t burn people at the stake!  Stop interfering with our religious freedom.

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Question 1: Why do you lump all theists together into one big group when there are many nuanced views of religion and god that are not fundamentalist? Wed, 12 Oct 2011 07:17:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]> The short answer to this question is that I don’t do this, or at least I try not to.
In fact, I will admit, atheists do this from time to time.  For the most part, however, this is not done out of any malice, this is simply human nature.  It is the way our brain has evolved to work.  We create categories in our head to fit people or things into, and once in that category our mind automatically assumes a certain level of similarity between all things in that group.  This is just basic psychology.
This conversation is generally brought up by theists who are more moderate or liberal in their beliefs.  I have often had conversations, for instance, with more liberal Christians who seem to think that I only find their beliefs objectionable or incorrect because I have incorrectly assumed that their beliefs are the same as fundamentalist Christians simply because both groups are attached to the name “Christian.”
“Why would you disagree with my beliefs, it’s not like I think being gay is a sin (insert any other fundamentalist talking point here), just because I’m a christian doesn’t mean I agree with all those fundamentalist beliefs,” they will say.
Being gay is OK, but tell me you think my religion is wrong and I will break you.
 I can’t speak for every atheist but for me I think this question is the result of a basic misunderstanding between these two groups.  First, I am well aware that there is a wide variety of Christian beliefs.  I may have been a fundamentalist myself, but I interacted with many moderate/liberal Christians while I was a believer and since I became an atheist.
Some of these theists, like me, left some form of fundamentalism themselves, and I think they, more than anyone else, have trouble understanding my issues with religion.  I did actually consider becoming a more liberal Christian during my own disillusionment with fundamentalism; I also considered becoming a Buddhist and Taoist and several others.  I ultimately decided against all of those options because I felt the claims of all of those options were not proven by the evidence.  
See, I think the key difference is that the more liberal believers were offended or bothered by the social results of certain fundamentalist teachings, while atheists, by and large, have an issue with the lack of proof that religious people offer for their claims.  Don’t get me wrong, atheists also often have a problem with much of the social teachings of fundamentalists, abet for different reasons, but it starts with empiricism, which translates into a basic philosophical disagreement about how best to understand reality.
(From SMBC)
 Every person who believes there is a god must, at a minimum, believe in something for which they can offer no conclusive empirical evidence.  Indeed insistence on evidence is often maligned by more liberal believers, and I have found myself on the receiving end of criticism from so called “open minded” liberal Christians.  The thinking among more liberal believers seems to follow a post-modernist bent where the emotional content of your beliefs is more important than the factual content.  In an odd twist I have had many of these same theists suggest that I was just another form of fundamentalist no better than Christian fundamentalists I left, which relates to another question I plan on answering.  
So to sum up, I acknowledge that there is a myriad of various theist beliefs out there that weave a rich tapestry of diversity…and all of them have failed to produce evidence to suggest their beliefs correspond to any being that actually exists.
Maybe he is hiding behind the couch.
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Christians say the darnest things…to atheists Tue, 11 Oct 2011 18:49:00 +0000 Continue reading ]]>
The last few months I have been feeling the urge to write down my thoughts on a set of questions that seem to come up repeatedly whenever Christians or other theists engage me in debate or conversation.  Of course these “questions” are rarely actual questions.  You see when someone asks a question they usually are looking to find information they currently do not know yet, in other words they actually care to listen to the answer that is given.  
With these questions that is rarely the case, they are usually asked by a person who thinks they have come up with some question that will stump all atheists and presumably cause us curl up into a ball in a corner and lament the meaningless of our existence.  
Perhaps they imagine me doing this.
 To be honest some seem surprised when I don’t.  “How can this question not make you see how vacuous your world view is?” they seem to wonder.  Though I am, perhaps, projecting a view onto them that only exists in my head.  It does seem a reasonable assumption since I find time and time again if a discussion goes on very long the theist will ask the very same question again, often claiming I never answered it the first time.  
Maybe if I ask a few more times.
Now I am sure the answer I gave was not satisfactory for some reason but I have never had any of them explain why it is not satisfactory, they just repeat the question.  In many cases this is likely because they heard the question from a pastor or read it in an apologetics book presented as a question to stump atheists, and books on apologetics are usually bereft of a section on counterpoints to the argument they just made.  
They apparently think this is kryptonite for atheists.
You might think that as common as these questions are they have already been answered about a billion times, and you would be right.  This is probably the number one reason I had not bothered to write something on these before.  However, given the likelihood that these questions will come up I thought it would be a good idea to write out my own explanations.  If nothing else I will at least have a sort of FAQ to point to every time they are brought up. 
I’ll make a post on the first of these questions tonight.
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