Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Ad Stalinum

The next time I hear someone use the "Stalin was an atheist" arguement, I am going to explode. I guess it's not entirely an individual's fault when they think this is an accurate point to make. Afterall, the "godlessness" of the communists was a fact that was emphasized in America during the Cold War. But as is often the case, propaganda differs from reality. To quote Matt Dillahunty in his debate with Orthodox priest Fr. Jacobse, "atheism is niether nessasary, nor sufficient [to commit Stalin's atrocities]". This statement seems a bit confusing, but it is simple to expalain.

Would you place many buddhists and secular jews in the same catagory as Joseph Stalin?
Would you say that the terrorists on 9/11 were motivated by theism?

Most sane people would answer "no" to both of these questions, even though many buddhists and reform jews are indeed atheists and the 9/11 terrorists were indeed theists. In reality, niether theism nor atheism on their own are enough to inspire actions, good or bad. In order for people to commit atrocities and/or acts of charity, there must be some sort of other ideological motivation behind these actions. Christians often run charities because, not only do they believe in a god, but they believe that God wants humans to care about each other. The 9/11 terrorists not only believed in a god, but that God wanted them to attack their percieved enemies. Stalin not only didn't believe in a god, he had a separate ideology that included a supposedly "ethical" duty to eliminate those whom he saw as a threat to the State, including religious organizations.

If you wouldn't put buddhists and secular jews in Stalin's camp, you have no business putting the "new atheists" in his camp either. Freethinking empirical rationalists do indeed have different ideologies from Stalin, just as the buddhists do. All it takes to figure this out is a little historical research and a little time and effort to actually ask an atheist "what DO you believe?"

Since when is a virtual "ad hitlerum" argument not a logical fallacy anyway? After all, Stalin had facial hair. Remember that next time you see a picture of Jesus.