A Load of Bright
An atheist's views on religion and the supernatural

Open Thread: Do Militant Atheists Want to Wipe Out Religion?


On my recent article Tugging at Loose Threads, Evanescent and Storbakken resumed a debate they had suspended on another blog. It was completely off topic, so I’m starting an open thread for them, and anyone else, to continue it.

Evanescent’s last comment was:

Storbakken said:

It is not my intent to go round and round again. But I will briefly respond to your comment. The point is not that Hitler was an an atheist or a theist, rather that his ideology was based on the notoriously atheistic philosopher Fred Nietzche much more than it was based on the teachings of Christ. Hitler clearly infused religious rhetoric to win the masses and most definitely believed his own rhetoric.

You’re right, the point is not that Hitler was an atheist or a theist. I don’t hold up Hitler as an example of theistic horror, even though he was an affirmed Catholic and his many speeches and sayings reflected one who believed in the Christian god. I don’t care if he did or not believe in god as it was irrelevant to his actions, which is exactly my point.

I never said that Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao Zedong, et al committed their evil actions IN THE NAME of atheism. I did say that atheism produced these characters.

So their entire personality and character was a result of them being atheists? No, I don’t think so.

As evil as their characters were, it was not atheism that PRODUCED this evil. It is vital and yet obvious to point this out.

It is interesting that the anti-theistic communist government of Russia actually sent Christian communists to the gulag. It is also interesting that Enver Hoxha did brutally persecute the adherents to the religions of Albania for two decades and proclaimed his nation to be completely atheistic in 1967 when he passed the Decree on the Atheist State. You can argue whether or not these fascist atheistic dictators persecuted believers IN THE NAME of atheism or not, but the facts of history speak for them self.

Yes they do, and even if I grant that atheism was the motive for these actions, (which I do not grant), the scales are irreversibly tilted with blood in religion’s direction. Even if was 50/50, that would still be damning against religion, after all that would just show that believers and non believers tend to act with equal altruism and equal wickedness, a fact that throws religion into severe doubt anyway. But when we consider that religion has ALWAYS been a constant source of repression and cruelty, and far outweighs the crimes of non-believers, you are left with an absurd inexcusable mystery. The problem is yours, not mine.

The militant atheism movement today in America is almost frightening in its fervent zeal to eradicate theistic religions. This anti-theistic movement desires to wipe out every person’s faith in the grand name of reason. Why?

First of all, I could say that if your religion was grounded on REASON to begin with, you have nothing to fear. But since you are afraid of reason, I wonder what that implies?

All the same, the charge of ‘militant’ is unjustified. Atheists do not wish to wipe out peoples’ faith. You are happy to believe whatever you want! All we ask is that you don’t interfere with anyone else’s life. NOW, if religion did that, I AM CONVINCED that atheists everywhere would shut up about religion.

Unfortunately, religion has never kept itself to itself. It causes too much misery, repression, suffering, and interference in the world. It has become a menace to civilisation, and if religion is eradicated as a matter of slow evolving history, so much the better. However, I will say again, we all have a right to free speech and belief, so as long as no one is hurt, I would not force anyone to do anything, and I think I speak for most atheists when I say that.

Storbakken’s reply was:

Evanescent said: “All the same, the charge of ‘militant’ is unjustified. Atheists do not wish to wipe out peoples’ faith… All we ask is that you don’t interfere with anyone else’s life.”

The charge of militant atheism is not unjustified when I am specifically addressing militant atheism. I agree that not all atheists wish to wipe out people’s faith, but militant atheists clearly do. Militant atheists fail to employ reason with the same disregard for truth as Fundamentalist Christians. And yet, ironically, militant atheists say they do it in the name of reason.

Militant atheists make grand statements such as: “religion has ALWAYS been a constant source of repression and cruelty.” There have been times in history when adherents to religion (e.g. Tibetan Buddhism) are crushed under totalitarian and, dare I say, atheistic regimes (Communist China). I’m not saying that atheism is the reason China oppressed, systematically killed and exiled many Tibetans, but I am saying that religion is not, as you say, “ALWAYS a constant source of repression.”

Militant atheists declare that they don’t want theists to “interfere with anyone else’s life.” Does this mean that it is better for theists not to assemble, not to visit shut-ins, not to serve meals to the poor and indigent? Or should they simply not allow their beliefs to shape their views regarding foreign/domestic policy? Just like atheists, there are theistic pacifists, war-mongers, Democrats and Socialists. It is unjust to repress another group simply because they have faith in something greater than themselves.

I’m not going to pretend to be impartial, I am completely on the side of Evanescent, but rather than dropping my two cents in here I’ll join in the discussion as and when I can. Enjoy!

61 Responses to “Open Thread: Do Militant Atheists Want to Wipe Out Religion?”

  1. May I request that we drop the term “militant atheist” unless we are referring to someone who’s carrying an AK-47?

    The real militant atheists (e.g. Stalin) suppressed other religions in order to promote their own: worship of the Great Leader of the Communist Party, for example. Most garden-variety atheists do not advocate military action against theists. Whatever else they may want, most atheists with whom I’m acquainted hold to Enlightenment values like freedom of speech and conscience. They also advocate critical thinking, the bane of all Great Leaders whether religious or secular.

  2. “Militant” in this sense is hyperbole. It refers to aggressive, dogmatic intolerance to theists. Militant atheism is also called fundamentalist atheism.

  3. If militant is synonomous with “fundamentalist” then it is even more meaningless. What is a “fundamentalist atheist”? An atheist that belives in the fundamentals of the nonexistence of god? That would describe every atheist by definition. It makes no sense.

  4. Both militant and fundamentalist atheism does not exist. It is the theist’s perception of the atheist speaking that causes the theist to so label the speaker. An atheist threatens his belief, and the more outspoken he is, the more militant the theist perceives the threat.

    Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens are all called militant and fundamentalist because they have written books, attract crowds of admirers and are in the public eye. They’ve been saying the same things, quietly, for years, but were never known as militant until, god forbid (sorry – figure of speech) they go public with their criticism.

    Just because the speaker is fervent or zealous in his/her arguments, does not make them militant or fundamentalist. Even the most fervent atheists do not advocate violence to end theism. In fact, if you scratch the surface of a “militant” atheist, you will find that he is no different in his fervor than the mildest, most outward appearing milquetoast atheist. Like me. :) He just wants religion to stop being forced down the throats of unwilling recipients, like me. If that occurred, even Hitchens would shut up.

  5. SI said:

    “Both militant and fundamentalist atheism does not exist.”

    You might not consider yourself a militant atheist, but there are people who do consider themselves militant atheists to varying degrees. Charles Bradlaugh, Carmen Argibay and every member of The League of the Militant Godless are militant atheists. Vlad Lenin advocated militant atheism. The term is also used pejoratively to describe people who campaign against theism. Anti-theists often propagate against theism in a non-violent, yet militant manner.

  6. ‘Militant’ and ‘fundamentalist’ are both words, and like most words, they have definitions. ‘Militant’, in every other context, means violently supportive of whatever noun follows it. It comes from the same root word as ‘militia’. ‘Fundamentalism’, according to my dictionary, is a description of a certain brand of Protestantism particular to the United States, which calls for a return to a strict adherence to the fundamentals of biblical law. The term is also used to describe other religious groups with similar views. The word ‘atheism’ describes the entire set of philosophies that do not include a belief in deities, and therefore obviously lacks fundamentals to return to. To answer the question above; probably, the term ‘militant atheist’ doesn’t apply to any of the people who are usually called that.

    Charles Bradlaugh, Carmen Argibay and every member of The League of the Militant Godless are militant atheists.

    Never heard of em’.

    Vlad Lenin advocated militant atheism.

    Nonsense. Vlad Lenin advocated militant Communism, which is, granted, an atheistic philosophy. Do you think that the group of people usually described as ‘militant atheists’ (Hitchens, et al.) are Leninsts?

  7. Alex, I don’t think you’re a very good atheist if you’ve never heard of The League of the Militant Godless. Also, in 1922, Lenin wrote that “militant materialism must carry on untiring atheist propaganda and an untiring atheist fight.” Note, in Lenin’s own words, he advocates militant atheism.

    Regarding the definition of “militant,” Merriam-Webster (I dunno what dictionary you’re using) defines militant as “engaged in warfare or combat” and “aggressively active (as in a cause).” It cites “militant attitude” and “militant conservationists” as examples of word usage. “Fundamentalism” is defined as “a movement or attitude stressing strict adherence to a set of basic principles.” Thus, an atheist can be a militant and a fundamentalist.

  8. Alex, I don’t think you’re a very good atheist if you’ve never heard of The League of the Militant Godless.

    I’m not a “very good atheist”? That’s kind of a strange statement. I can assure you that I really don’t believe in God. What’s a “very good atheist”?

    Also, in 1922, Lenin wrote that “militant materialism must carry on untiring atheist propaganda and an untiring atheist fight.” Note, in Lenin’s own words, he advocates militant atheism.

    Where did he write that? (I’m not attacking you, by the way, I’m just interested.) If he did, I was mistaken and I apologize. You didn’t answer my question, though. Do you think that Hitchens et al. are Leninists? Do you think that their methods or goals are similar to Lenin’s? Do you think that the “militant atheism” of, say, Richard Dawkins is the same “militant atheism” practiced by Lenin?

    Regarding the definition of “militant,” Merriam-Webster (I dunno what dictionary you’re using) defines militant as “engaged in warfare or combat” and “aggressively active (as in a cause).”

    I’m using the Oxford American Dictionary.

    I haven’t noticed that PZ is “engaged in warfare or combat” lately, so that’s obviously not what people mean by ‘militant atheist’ (unless they’re shamelessly dishonest). That second definition doesn’t seem to fit either. Lots of Christians are at least as “aggressively active” in promoting their beliefs as the supposedly militant atheists. Would you agree that, by that definition, it’s fair to refer to them as militant Christians?

    “Fundamentalism” is defined as “a movement or attitude stressing strict adherence to a set of basic principles.”

    What are these basic principles of atheism that the militants are supposed to be adhering to? Atheism is, I repeat, a lack of belief in any deities. That’s the only principle that there is to it. One could be a fundamentalist humanist, I suppose, but that would entail (according to wikipedia) a strict adherence to “reason, ethics and justice.”

    Thus, an atheist can be a militant and a fundamentalist.

    I never said he or she couldn’t be a militant. I said that the way the phrase is typically used is disingenuous. I suppose an atheist could be a fundamentalist, but “fundamentalist atheist” is meaningless without qualifiers.

  9. It seems to me that there is a lot of bickering about the use of rhetorical words like militant and fundamentalist that seems sills. Atheists very consistently paint theists with a broad brush and flippantly call them ignorant, militant, fundamentalist …and much worse.

    If atheists don’t like the rhetoric being aimed a them, maybe they should use less of it.

    Hitler….seriously doubt he was a Christian. The problem with Hitler is that so much of what he said and did was used purely for the purpose of propaganda. If the people were religious, then he would frame his goals in religious language. Trying to get inside the head of madman over 60 years later and see what he really believed is difficult.

    Evanescent….that’s a nice little trick to say that religion has wiped out more than Stalin, Pol Pot, etc. I would like to see some evidence about that. In the 20th century alone tens of millions have died at the hands of atheistic regimes. Considering that most wars occur based on competing for resources, revenge motives, and broadening a kingdom through force, I am curious how you got to the conclusion that religion has killed so many?

    I will concede that religion has killed people, but I think your confident assertion is nothing more than rhetoric that has no factual basis in reality!

  10. Alex asked: “What’s a ‘very good atheist?”

    I was merely implying that you failed to know some very basic history regarding atheism. It was meant to be facetious.

    Regarding the Lenin quote, you can find it in his essay “On the Significance of Militant Materialism.” Regarding Hitchens, he was once a neo-Trotskyite, but never a strict Leninist. His political views are still shaped by Marxism and he tends toward Socialism. You could find all this by doing some basic research yourself rather than leaning on a theist to learn to teach you the history of atheism.

    Dawkins and Hitchens don’t have access to arms nor do they have any genuine political clout so I can’t say how far their propensity to eradicate Judeo-Christian beliefs would go if they had. Neither are Dawkins and Hitchens, as far as I know, planning a revolution. So I would have to think that their ambitions aren’t nearly as lofty as Lenin’s.

    Alex asked: “What are these basic principles of atheism that the militants are supposed to be adhering to?”

    The basic tenet of militant atheism (i.e. anti-theism) is to propagate for the eradication of theism as opposed to simply being a non-believer. I would rather stop going over the basic definitions of terms. The terms have all been clearly defined. The title of this post asks, Do militant atheists want to wipe out religion. And the simplest answer to that question is a big Yes.

  11. The League of Militant Atheism.

    This seems to be more of an offshoot of Stalinist or Lenist Communism, than of atheism. It failed. Doesn’t seem very relevant to modern day atheism. Bringing it up now is simply another way to paint atheism with the excesses of past ideologies, simply because the leaders of those ideologies were nominally atheists. It’s a scare tactic designed to deflect people from properly considering exactly what atheism is, in an effort to keep them theistic. Same with calling us militant and fundmentalist.

    Piss poor tactics in my opinion.

    However, I’ve been think about this fundamentalist smear. If you accept the fact that we are all born atheist, then come to theism either throuigh childhood indoctrination (the vast majority) or through faulty reasoning (the minority), then to a certain extent, atheism is a return to the fundamental lack of belief inherent in human thought. But if that’s the case, to call us “fundamentalist atheists” is a redundancy.

  12. “The basic tenet of militant atheism (i.e. anti-theism) is to propagate for the eradication of theism as opposed to simply being a non-believer. I would rather stop going over the basic definitions of terms. The terms have all been clearly defined. The title of this post asks, Do militant atheists want to wipe out religion. And the simplest answer to that question is a big Yes.”

    You may not want to discuss the “definition” question, but it is plainly relevant to the subject of the post “do MILITANT ATHEISTS want to wipe out religion.” Unless you define what a “militant atheist” is and who the “militant atheists” are, the question is irrelevant. Pointing to historical figures is a unnecessary diversion, because they are obviously not around to attempt to wipe out religion. Accordingly, to answer the question you need to identify who today is a “militant atheist” attempting to wipe out religion.

    You are apparently not contending that Dawkins and Hitchens are militant atheists trying to wipe out religion. Your own words:

    “Dawkins and Hitchens don’t have access to arms nor do they have any genuine political clout so I can’t say how far their propensity to eradicate Judeo-Christian beliefs would go if they had. Neither are Dawkins and Hitchens, as far as I know, planning a revolution. SO I WOULD HAVE TO THINK THAT THEIR AMBITIONS AREN’T NEARLY AS LOFTY AS LENIN’S.”

    If that is the case, who exactly are the militant atheists alive and active today that are attempting to wipe out religion?

  13. Sorry. That link should be this:

    The League of Militant Atheism

    If I did it right this time.

  14. Steve, it is not that I don’t want to discuss the definition of militant atheism, but that we have repeatedly gone over it. It is defined.

    Steve asked, “…who exactly are the militant atheists alive and active today that are attempting to wipe out religion?” One example of an anti-religion government is The People’s Republic of China. But, on a much more grassroots level, it is those who campaign vehemently against theism by disseminating anti-God, anti-theistic propaganda in an effort to disparage religion so that atheism might be elevated to the ideal and, ultimately, the only reasonable choice. Some atheists are simply non-believers, but some are zealous advocates for godlessness. These zealous advocates have, what Webster calls, a “militant attitude.”

    SI said that “Bringing [history] up now is simply another way to paint atheism with the excesses of past ideologies…” and Steve said, “Pointing to historical figures is a unnecessary diversion…”

    Atheists often talk about the past atrocities committed in the name of God. Yet, you claim that it is unfair for theists to remind atheists of the history of godlessness. Puh-leez. We are speaking specifically to militant atheism. Thus, history is vitally relevant. I might have you know that I also offered Carmen Argibay as an example of a militant atheist who is alive today. Carmen may not be armed, but she definitely considers herself a militant atheist.

    Two questions for atheists: Would you consider yourself to be either a fundamentalist or militant atheist? And, in your ideal world, would there be no such thing as religion.

  15. liza said:

    Evanescent….that’s a nice little trick to say that religion has wiped out more than Stalin, Pol Pot, etc. I would like to see some evidence about that.

    I provided a very limited list of religious atrocities here:

    http://ellis14.wordpress.com/2007/07/24/why-do-i-bother-tue-24th-jul-07/

    When you consider that for thousands of years religion has held sway over the lives of all people, in societies where the death penalty, mental and physical torture, repression and suppression, and the suffocation of human rights and desires have been commonplace, it is self-evident that religion has caused more harm and deaths and the people you mention above.

    I only answer your question out of politeness: it is irrelevant, because the motivation for their actions was not atheism, or more specifically, humanism. Stalin and Pol Pot were atheists, but they were politically and ideological motivated.

    Despite that you want to believe, there is good reason to believe that Hitler was a Christian; he most certainly seemed to believe in the divine and a god. When you consider that the Vatican said prayers for Hitler every day on each birthday, right up until the end, and their complicity with Nazi Germany is gross and well known, I doubt anyone can deny some religiosity of Hitler.

    Having said that, I don’t believe the motivation for Hitler’s actions was religion, so I won’t use him as an anti-religion example; that would be fallacious.

    In the 20th century alone tens of millions have died at the hands of atheistic regimes. Considering that most wars occur based on competing for resources, revenge motives, and broadening a kingdom through force, I am curious how you got to the conclusion that religion has killed so many?

    Because religion is the single-biggest label by which people differentiate one from another. A label that is superficial, capricious, and irrational.

    In Northern Ireland, for example, most of the violence of the years is rightly described as being politically-motivated. But, if there was no such label as Catholic or Protestant, these political disputes would have dissolved years ago. You will find that many apparent political conflicts around the world at any point in time are rooted in religious division.

    Even the War on Terror at the moment appears political, but it too has religious undertones.

    I will concede that religion has killed people, but I think your confident assertion is nothing more than rhetoric that has no factual basis in reality!

    But you see, Liza, even if atheists did deliberately kill and hurt millions of people purely in the name of atheism (which they don’t), isn’t that WHAT YOU WOULD EXPECT given your beliefs?? If religion was NEVER responsible for violence and oppression, isn’t that also what you’d expect??

    But the world we see isn’t like that is it? The world is exactly what you would expect to find if religion was man-made; millions of people competing against each other and oppressing each other just because they have a different belief about the world.

    To Storbakken: your charge of militant atheism is ill-defined and meaningless. We both concede that great evil has been committed by those who are religious and those who are atheists.

    Can you name a single moral action or saying said by a believer that couldn’t have been made by a non-believer?

    Now, can you think of a single evil action or saying that could ONLY have been said by a believer?

    Nobody I know can answer the first question, but everyone I know would have no trouble answering the second!

    Finally, even if religion didn’t physically harm anyone, I would still be against it. I am an anti-theist, because I’m opposed to the notion of a theistic god as defined by human man-made monotheisms. The regime and character painted is one of suppressive, inhuman, totalitarianism. Even if your “god” existed, I would not wish to follow him, because I think he is evil.

    Fortunately, there is absolutely no reason or evidence to believe that any god exists at all.

  16. Storbakken said:

    Would you consider yourself to be either a fundamentalist or militant atheist? And, in your ideal world, would there be no such thing as religion.

    The first question is a false dilemma.

    The second question is interesting, but leading.

    In my ideal world, people would act rationally. People would not invest absolutely certain belief in things for which there was no evidence. People would accept the differences in others without needing to change policy or convert non-believers. People would not mutilate the genitalia of children, or cover women up with robes, or stifle proper science and research, or fly planes in buildings, or ritualistically rape virgins so they’re then able to be executed. People would not indoctrinate the young with lies about the world.

    Yes, in a perfect world I would like a lot of things to be different. The necessary conditions to bring about an ideal world WOULD PRECLUDE RELIGION though. Religion is just one of the many evils I would like removed from the world. However, if religion keeps itself to itself I would respect people’s right to believe whatever they want.

    Can we call it a deal then?: religion keeps itself to itself, and it can stay? Do you think any theist would agree to that?

  17. Storbakken said:

    Two questions for atheists: Would you consider yourself to be either a fundamentalist or militant atheist? And, in your ideal world, would there be no such thing as religion.

    My answer to the first question is no, I don’t. I think the term “militant” or “fundamentalist” is applied to atheism to make it seem like it’s a religion, when it is most definitely not.

    The answer to the second question, is a definite yes: in my ideal world religion would not exist. I think the world would be a better place if everyone were an atheist, provided that everyone were an atheist of their own free choice.

    This is the crucial part for me. I’m not presuming to speak for all atheists, but I would predict that most would agree with me on this point. I think that everyone should be free to do anything they want, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else. That includes belief in anything – because belief itself can’t harm anyone – and the practice of religion.

    I want people to stop believing in God and stop practising their religion, but I don’t want to force anyone to do anything, either physically or psychologically. I want to use evidence, reason and logic to gently persuade people away from religion and to see the harm that it causes.

    I can’t find the exact quote, but Ebonmuse of Daylight Atheism answered the accusation of fundamentalism by saying that if you really want to use that word, then he’s a “truth fundamentalist”. I agree, I’m fundamentalist (not militant) about the truth, I want it at any cost other than the harming of other people. I want everyone to seek the truth and find it if possible.

    I do want to see a revolution towards atheism, but that revolution has to occur slowly and peacefully, or not at all. I fully accept the unlikelihood of seeing any significant change in my lifetime (and I’m only 25).

    Storbakken, based on what I’ve said, do you consider me a fundamentalist or militant atheist?

  18. Militant atheists are a lot like Jesus…fictional.

  19. When you consider that for thousands of years religion has held sway over the lives of all people, in societies where the death penalty, mental and physical torture, repression and suppression, and the suffocation of human rights and desires have been commonplace, it is self-evident that religion has caused more harm and deaths and the people you mention above.

    It is self-evident to you! Saying something is self-evident is a cop-out. There is no hard, actual evidence to support your claim other than you saying that it’s so. It’s nothing more than faulty correlation on your part.

    But, if there was no such label as Catholic or Protestant, these political disputes would have dissolved years ago. You will find that many apparent political conflicts around the world at any point in time are rooted in religious division.

    no. This type of thinking makes me think that at heart you are really an optimist, thinking that people in power are motivated most by religious beliefs and some sense of truth. Nothing could be further from the truth. There may be some wars that have occured based purely on religious belief, but they are few. Greed, egoism, and lust for power are usually the prime motivators. Religion is often just a pawn or weapon in the hands of a manipulative administration.

    Saying that the Vatican prayed for Hitler doesn’t tell us anything about whatHitler actually believed, although it is important to note that Hitler’s idea of supreme humans and the Aryan Nation are based on Nietzche, not Jesus. Let’s look at what Hitler does, not what he says. Why trust the words of a liar and murderer?

    I only answer your question out of politeness: it is irrelevant, because the motivation for their actions was not atheism, or more specifically, humanism.

    Double standard. I can say that the motivation for atrocities in the name of Christianity was not God. How far is that argument going to get with you? Own it already! Atheism did have a role in those events. To try and spin it otherwise just shows an unwillingness to be completely and philosophically truthful.

    Finally, even if religion didn’t physically harm anyone, I would still be against it.

    Now…that’s the money quote. You might as well have written,”I know what I think, so don’t confuse me with the facts!”

    You make outrageous statements, can’t back them up, and ultimately say it doesn’t matter.

    I ask you…does that seem reasonable?

  20. ” … it is those who campaign vehemently against theism by disseminating anti-God, anti-theistic propaganda in an effort to disparage religion so that atheism might be elevated to the ideal and, ultimately, the only reasonable choice. Some atheists are simply non-believers, but some are zealous advocates for godlessness. These zealous advocates have, what Webster calls, a “militant attitude.”

    What would you consider “anti-God, anti-theistic propoganda”? God is Not Great or The God Dillusion? I would hardly call either of those books propoganda. Rather, they contain logical arguments and evidence aimed at pursuading (not using force) against theism. If those books are contained within the definition, then any person who writes a book critical of religion is automatically considered “militant.” If that is the case, then any person who writes to promote religion is also a “militant” theist. You cannot have it both ways.

    I don’t think most or if any atheists promote “godlessness” as such, but reason and evidence which leads to the conclusion that there is no god. The reasons for the increase in atheists speaking up as of late is probably in response to 9/11, the London bombings, Bali bombings and similar terrorists events which are clearly and directly motivated by religion. My impetus for becoming more vocal is because of the decision by some (but numerous) Christians in the United States taking an active role in politics based on their religion and their attempts to steer public policy according to their beliefs which are not supported by evidence. In essence, I believe many “vocal” atheists are speaking up to steer others away from these religious influences and to push religion back into believers’ homes and churches. If people kept their religion there, I doubt you would have many people buying The God Delusion or God is Not Great. However, once believers step into the public sphere and attempt to force their religion onto others, they can expect to be pushed back for their lack of evidence and unreasonableness.

    “Atheists often talk about the past atrocities committed in the name of God. Yet, you claim that it is unfair for theists to remind atheists of the history of godlessness.”

    Past atrocities committed in the name of religion is relevant somewhat to, in part, explain why atheists care so much about their philosophy and are becoming more vocal. My point was that past “atheist” figures are irrelevant to the topic of the discussion, i.e. Do Militant Atheists Want to Wipe Out Religion. I presume we are talking about current “militant atheists.”

    Furthermore, I have not seen one pursuasive argument that all of these historical atheists committed atrocities in the name of atheism. Just because they happen to have been atheists does not mean they did any of these things based on that belief. For example, the Soviets and Chinese have committed numerous atrocities in the name of Communism, a political theory that is every bit as dogmatic as most religions and involves an economic theory just as unsupported as theism. On the other hand, the Crusade, 9-11, witch trials, etc. were clearly motivated by the actors’ religion.

    “I might have you know that I also offered Carmen Argibay as an example of a militant atheist who is alive today. Carmen may not be armed, but she definitely considers herself a militant atheist.”

    If your only example of a currently living “militant atheist” is a 68 year old female judge in South America, then I do not think the theists have much to worry about. Agribay has described herself as a “militant atheist” but I do not know what she meant by using that term. In any event, I am sure there are some people who would advocate using military means to destroy religion. It is just that those people are a small minority and have virtually no influence over most atheists. To point to one living person and to scream that militant atheists are trying to violently overthrow religion is unfair. That would be like me pointing to the “God Hates Fags” people and saying that all Christians are disgusting and disrespectful idiots that all want to protest at soldiers’ funerals. The fact is that most Christians would not associate or be influenced by this fringe group.

    “Would you consider yourself to be either a fundamentalist or militant atheist?”

    Not as I understand that term, no. I do not advocate converting people away from religion by force.

    “And, in your ideal world, would there be no such thing as religion.”

    Yes, but not by using force against the religious to make them give up their religious beliefs. I would rather use reason and argument. However, according to you, by Dawkins, Harris and Hitchens all attempting to influence through reason and argument in their “propoganda” they are automatically militant.

  21. Double standard. I can say that the motivation for atrocities in the name of Christianity was not God. How far is that argument going to get with you?

    That’s patently false. You can say it, but that would be silly. The fundamental motive and inspiration for countless atrocities has been religion.

    The key determiner of somethings causality is whether the absence of a possible cause ceases to produce the observed result: in other words, takes clouds away and it won’t rain. Take wind away and leave clouds, and it still rains. Therefore wind doesn’t cause rain, clouds do.

    Take religion away, and would the crusades have happened? Would there have been fighting in northern ireland? Would 9/11 have happened? Would 1 million people have been extirpated in Rwanda? Would the Inquisition have happened? Would the Witch Trials? Would people have been executed for being homosexual, or questioning the church? Would millions of people believe that contraception is evil and AIDS a curse from god? Etc etc. I could go on forever…

    Now, let’s imagine that Hitler and Pol Pot were not atheists. Would they still have committed the atrocities they did? YOU’RE DAMN RIGHT they would have! But, suppose we take away their extreme political ideologies but left them with atheism, would they have done what they did? Extremely extremely doubtful, in fact almost certainly not. That’s the difference: no clouds, no rain.

    I’m not attacking religion for every atrocity where it was INVOLVED, so you should not attack non-believers for every atrocity where non-believers were involved. My only question is whether a lack of belief in god tends to produce evil, and the answer is no. Whereas belief in god does tend to produce evil ideas (and often evil people), consistently.

    Own it already! Atheism did have a role in those events. To try and spin it otherwise just shows an unwillingness to be completely and philosophically truthful.

    I’ve already addresses this above.

    Now…that’s the money quote. You might as well have written,”I know what I think, so don’t confuse me with the facts!”

    I think you misunderstand Liza. I am opposed to religion because of what it stands for. Even if god existed and you were totally 100% right, I would still oppose religion, just as I would oppose Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot, Kim Jung Il, all the Popes, Genghis Khan, etc.

    I’m not saying “I’m right so there!” I’m saying that religion is evil, whether it’s true or not.

    You make outrageous statements, can’t back them up, and ultimately say it doesn’t matter.

    My statements might seem strong, but that’s only because I want to be clear about where I’m coming from. I don’t mean to be aggressive or hostile, I really don’t. I’m just being forceful and specific. If you look at what I’m saying, I don’t think anything I’ve said is really outrageous, although you might not like it.

  22. @ Tobe and Steve Radford:

    Both brilliant comments. Brilliant.

  23. Take religion away, and would the crusades have happened? Would there have been fighting in northern ireland? Would 9/11 have happened?

    Do you really believe that? I mean reallybelieve it?

    Do you think that evil and atrcocities wouldn’t be committed if there were no religion? You really are an optimist.

    Evil exists. People are selfish. Power corrupts. It doesn’t matter if religion existed or not…you’re not going to erase human nature’s ability to be repugnant and uncaring.

    To really believe that the end of one system of thought is the dawn of utopia is not based in this physical world, reason, or any sense of reality. If anything, it is Pollyanna atheism!

    Also…what is the form of government that is going to exist in this new utopia? How will you enforce this form of rationality and conformity of disbelief?

    You may want to disown the atheistic regimes that have occurred so far, but they are the only examples we have. You can’t make any statements about how atheism will play out without any evidence. It’s mere conjecture.

    Please describe what this new utopia without religion is going to be like.

  24. Do you think that evil and atrcocities wouldn’t be committed if there were no religion? You really are an optimist.

    I can address your entire post really by answering this.

    My answer: no. No I don’t believe that a world without religion would be perfect. BUT, that isn’t what I was asked. I was asked if religion would exist in an ideal world, and I said no. I said that an ideal world would PRECLUDE religion.

    Of course bad things would still happen in a world without religion, but I also have no doubt that they would be greatly reduced. There is no question for me, that a world without religion would be far safer, more civilised, better educated, more tolerant, less violent, and suffering and repressing would be VASTLY reduced. That’s what I think.

  25. Tobe asked: “…do you consider me a fundamentalist or militant atheist?”

    I believe you answered your own question when you wrote: “I want people to stop believing in God and stop practising their religion…” The desire for others to abandon their personal faith in God is what separates a non-believer from an anti-theist.

    You wrote: “I agree, I’m fundamentalist (not militant) about the truth, I want it at any cost…I want everyone to seek the truth and find it if possible.”

    You want people to stop believing in God, yet you don’t even know if it is possible to know the truth.

    Steve said: “I would hardly call either of those books propoganda.”

    Books, blogs, television, media are propaganda. Propaganda is not a necessarily bad thing.

    Steve said: “I don’t think most or if any atheists promote “godlessness” as such…”

    Atheism merely means “godlessness.” Nothing more.

    Steve said: “In essence, I believe many “vocal” atheists are speaking up to steer others away from these religious influences and to push religion back into believers’ homes and churches.”

    When was religion ever exclusively in the home and church?

    Steve said: “If your only example of a currently living “militant atheist” is a 68 year old female judge in South America, then I do not think the theists have much to worry about.”

    Is she less of a person because of her age, gender and nationality? I don’t think so and, in fact, her beliefs undoubtedly carry more influence than anyone commenting on this site.

  26. @ Storbakken

    I believe you answered your own question when you wrote: “I want people to stop believing in God and stop practising their religion…” The desire for others to abandon their personal faith in God is what separates a non-believer from an anti-theist.

    You’re switching terms. I probably would class myself as “anti-theist”, but I consider that very different from “militant” or “fundamentalist”. Anti-theist just means against theism, which I am. Militancy or fundamentalism is much more than that.

    You want people to stop believing in God, yet you don’t even know if it is possible to know the truth.

    I’m not getting into a half baked pseudo philosophical discussion here, but I’ll just say that we can examine the evidence and reach reasonable conclusions, which is what I want people to do. There’s always a chance you could be wrong and we should always keep our minds open, but that doesn’t mean we can’t know anything. In my opinion, once one truly embraces rationalism and discards any remnants of wishful thinking, atheism is a “when” not an “if”.

  27. The desire for others to abandon their personal faith in God is what separates a non-believer from an anti-theist.

    Being an anti-theist doesn’t make one a fundamentalist. I think Tobe’s comment early that you’ve attempted to reply to here, was so good, exactly because it showed the vacuousness of your charge of fundamentalist. Tobe is fundamentally committed to the truth, that’s all. That’s why he is against faith; that’s why he’s against religion. Now if you want to use the word fundamentalist for that, then colour me fundamentalist too; in fact, colour everyone who cares about truth and will stop at nothing to arrive at it and reject those who pretend to know that which they can’t know.

    But if you do that, what word do we use when we REALLY want to call someone a REAL fundamentalist?

    Perhaps you missed this part of Tobe’s comment:

    I think that everyone should be free to do anything they want, as long as it doesn’t harm anyone else. That includes belief in anything – because belief itself can’t harm anyone – and the practice of religion.

    I want people to stop believing in God and stop practising their religion, but I don’t want to force anyone to do anything, either physically or psychologically. I want to use evidence, reason and logic to gently persuade people away from religion and to see the harm that it causes.

    Now if that is a fundamentalist to you, I can only wonder at how you’d define liberal!

    Books, blogs, television, media are propaganda. Propaganda is not a necessarily bad thing.

    You’ve just watered the definition of propaganda down so much it doesn’t even support your case anymore! If anything is propaganda, then it works both ways, and anything can be considered propaganda, so why even bother using the word?

  28. Tobe wrote: “we can examine the evidence and reach reasonable conclusions, which is what I want people to do.”

    No, you “want people to stop believing in God and stop practising their religion.”

  29. He also said: “but I don’t want to force anyone to do anything, either physically or psychologically. I want to use evidence, reason and logic to gently persuade people away from religion and to see the harm that it causes.”

    Did you miss this part of his comment? It came right after the part that you quoted…

  30. @ Storbakken

    Are you selective about which parts of my comments you read, or just which parts you quote?

    After the part you quoted, I went on to say

    In my opinion, once one truly embraces rationalism and discards any remnants of wishful thinking, atheism is a “when” not an “if”.

    I want people to stop believing in god because I believe that it is false and harmful. Yes, I think I’m right, obviously – if I didn’t think I was right I wouldn’t think it! But I’m open to being wrong. If the truth is that God exists, then I want to see the evidence as soon as possible so that I can realise for myself that it’s the truth and start believing it too. Until then, I want to use debate to subtly convince people that their belief in God is false.

    But, as Evanescent pointed out, even if the claims of religion were true it wouldn’t stop it being harmful.

  31. Tobes said: “You’re switching terms.”

    The terms fundamentalist/militant atheism and anti-theism have been used interchangeably throughout this thread. This brand of atheism was defined early on as “aggressive, dogmatic intolerance to theists.”

    The question asked in this post is: “Do Militant Atheists Want to Wipe Out Religion?” Most of you have confessed to genuinely wanting the elimination of religion. Yet nobody here wants to own up to being a militant atheist. Is it then your enlightened sense of reasoning that prompts you to desire the utter destruction of another’s faith?

  32. @ Storbakken

    The terms fundamentalist/militant atheism and anti-theism have been used interchangeably throughout this thread.

    They were defined by you, I didn’t accept those definitions. I don’t accept “anti-theist” as synonymous with “fundamentalist” and “militant”.

    This brand of atheism was defined early on as “aggressive, dogmatic intolerance to theists.”

    And in what way have I shown my views to be in line with this? Was it the part where I said I respected the rights of people to do or believe anything as long as it didn’t harm other people? How about when I said that if there is to be any revolution, it has to be slow and peaceful or not happen at all?

    The question asked in this post is: “Do Militant Atheists Want to Wipe Out Religion?” Most of you have confessed to genuinely wanting the elimination of religion. Yet nobody here wants to own up to being a militant atheist. Is it then your enlightened sense of reasoning that prompts you to desire the utter destruction of another’s faith?

    Listen to the words you’re using. Elimination. Destruction. I want nothing of the sort. A gradual shift in belief over a long period of time, with absolutely nothing happening against anyone’s will, with not one gun fired, one bomb exploded, one drop of blood spilled, one tear of bereavement shed, with passionate debate the only battle and words the only weapons, can hardly be described as elimination or destruction!

    Whatever you may want to believe about our views, I don’t want to force my beliefs on anyone. I want to state my case to anyone who agrees to listen and then leave them to make up their own minds. To use force of any kind would go against every principle I stand for.

  33. Storbakken, the reason no one is “owning up” is because we disagree with your use of the term.

    I openly confess, and make no apologies for, wanting a world without religion.

    But what good is a world without religion unless that decision is reached by every person freely and rationally of their own volition.

    You seem to be missing this very important point: we want people to act rationally based on what the available evidence indicates. We want a world where people think with their brains, and not surrender their intellect to faith. In such a world, things like astrology would go, clairvoyance and mediumship would go, as would UFO cults and craniology, and aromatherapy and chi and karma and all the other crackpot nonsense that wishful-thinking leads to. Religion would just be another casualty.

    But since atheists don’t want to force anything on anyone, and since our arguments are based on logic and reason instead of wishful-thinking and emotion, and since we want people to make their own informed minds up about what to believe, how can you possibly levy the charge of dogmatic and intolerant at us??

    Granted, we may dislike faith and all that comes with it, but it is enough for us to argue about it. We don’t go around blowing people up and promising everlasting hellfire for those who disagree with us. Now that, would be intolerant and dogmatic!

  34. “Books, blogs, television, media are propaganda. Propaganda is not a necessarily bad thing. ”

    Your original quote defined “militant atheist as “those who campaign vehemently against theism by disseminating anti-God, anti-theistic propaganda in an effort to disparage religion”

    So I am understanding you correctly, then any person who writes a book that his critical of religion is a “militant atheist.”

    “Steve said: “I don’t think most or if any atheists promote “godlessness” as such…”

    Atheism merely means “godlessness.” ”

    If you read the entire paragraph you pulled my quote from, I think I explained what I meand by “as such,” i.e. atheists don’t promote godlessness itself as an intrisicly good thing, but a lack in the belief in gods as a correct conclusion from a reasoned analysis of the evidence.

    “Steve said: “In essence, I believe many “vocal” atheists are speaking up to steer others away from these religious influences and to push religion back into believers’ homes and churches.”

    When was religion ever exclusively in the home and church?”

    Maybe “back into houses and churches” was an incorrect choice of words. I should have said into the houses and churches and out of politics, public schools, etc. If the religous refuse to do this, then they have no room to complain about reasonable people being critical of their beliefs.

    “Steve said: “If your only example of a currently living “militant atheist” is a 68 year old female judge in South America, then I do not think the theists have much to worry about.”

    Is she less of a person because of her age, gender and nationality? I don’t think so and, in fact, her beliefs undoubtedly carry more influence than anyone commenting on this site.”

    You know damn well that is not what I meant and your comment is simply an attempt to appeal to emotion and get me to back off to avoid offending the politically correct. I am not afraid of offending any person. If you are afraid of a single female judge in South America (I am assuming you are not in South Amercia), then you are a little too sensitive. Add to that the fact that you have not identified any facts indicating what she meant by “militant atheist” (which obviously has different meanings to different people as demonstrated in this discussions). Add to the fact that you have identified a single person living today who might possibly be a “militant atheist” and I think you have demonstrated my point. Where is the large Argibay Army armed to the teeth and ready to overthrow theism? In fact, where is the elderly Argibay armed to teeth out storming churches? Oh, that’s right, just being openly critical of theism makes a person a “militant atheist.”

  35. Tobe and Evanescent,

    I commend you both for your willingness to engage a theist in a lively debate. I’m duly glad to hear that you aren’t for armed atheistic revolt :). We throw terms around such as “intolerant” and “dogmatic,” yet we must agree that each of us does subscribe to a definite authoritative tenet (i.e. dogma) although what we consider authoritative varies greatly (something we can debate at another time). I think that we can also agree that intolerance, at times, has its place in society (e.g. intolerance toward genocide).

    I hope that I haven’t come off too abrasive at times. If so, I apologize. I am a follower of Christ and utterly devoted to his life and teachings. I lift you both up in prayer and thank the Most High for both of your lives.

    Tobe, thanks for allowing this exchange to take place on your blog. Perhaps we can continue, but my weekend is starting very soon and I’m looking forward to a break from all things electronic.

    storbakken

  36. Storbakken said:

    yet we must agree that each of us does subscribe to a definite authoritative tenet (i.e. dogma) although what we consider authoritative varies greatly (something we can debate at another time)

    I cannot agree with you on this, Stor. I have no definite authoritative tenet or dogma. My only condition for investing belief is that there is a good logical reason for doing so, and that it is reasonably well-supported by evidence, and consistent with the state of affairs we would expect to find in the universe is such a belief were true.

    Now, that is I believe, probably everyone else’s condition for investing belief too, including yours. The difference is that some people will abandon this rationale in favour of revelation or faith. This is a contravention of the afore-mentioned rationale, which means that believing on faith is self-evidently necessarily a self-annihilating position; it is the abandonment of the very foundations required to form any coherent position: logic and evidence.

    We agree that intolerance has its place. I am intolerant of cruelty and evil. But when I’ve said “tolerant” on this thread, I’m referring to being tolerant of differences in others that our primitive evolved psychology might otherwise resent or suspect.

    Therefore, to accept that all people are different, with their own minds, own thoughts, own desires, own beliefs, and yet accept this and not try or wish to change it, is one of the noblest things a human being can do; in fact we’re the only animal that can. We can also recognise that all people have one overriding purpose in life: to be happy. In a world where happiness is achievable it must be the case that people are allowed to pursue whatever their heart desires, as long as no one else is harmed, because in such a world where this was allowed, no individual happiness would be guaranteed.

    I think it’s perfectly demonstrable, in theory and reality, that religion cannot lead to a world where happiness is guaranteed. I’ve explained all the reasons for this above, but they can be summed up by this: religion does not serve humans, it is served by humans.

    Thanks for the discussion. All the best.

  37. religion cannot lead to a world where happiness is guaranteed

    What can?

    If “happiness” is the sum total of what we should be striving for, how will atheism achieve that?

    And….what sort of scientific basis do we have to say that “happiness” is the standard by which we judge if something is true?

    a very fickle standard, indeed.

  38. Liza said:

    If “happiness” is the sum total of what we should be striving for, how will atheism achieve that?

    No one ever said that atheism would necessarily lead to happiness. The only thing that matters is whether it’s true or not.

    No matter how much you might want christianity to be true, all your wishful-thinking in the world doesn’t make it one jot more truthful.

    Atheism is just lack of believe in god.

    Humans achieve happiness by fulfilling their goals; by doing whatever makes them happy. I cannot see any possible correlation between belief in god and happiness. Whilst it might be true for some people that religion and belief gives them HOPE, so do a lot of things, and most of them are far more tangible and solid than the fantasies of religion.

    And if your reason for saying religion brings happiness because it gives hope, then religion shouldn’t be concerned with what people believe; it should just be concerned that people BELIEVE in something. But of course, that isn’t how religion works is it? All religions claims that ONLY THEIR religion can bring happiness and nothing else can. Religion is a bad pyramid scheme run by a dodgy used-car salesman. The con is in making people think they can’t live without religion. But of course you can.

    And….what sort of scientific basis do we have to say that “happiness” is the standard by which we judge if something is true?

    I’m not sure what you mean here. Whether something makes us happy or not doesn’t make it true. I obviously agree with that.

    But what I said earlier is that human happiness is about doing whatever makes you happy, as long as you hurt no one. Now, in a religious world that isn’t possible, because you’re not free to do what you want; almost every facet of your life is under strict control:

    What if you’re a young jewish boy and you DON’T want your foreskin cut away and sucked off by a middle-aged man and then spit out?

    What if you’re a young girl and you DON’T want your clitoris and labia removed by evil repressive decadents who want to deprive women of sexual pleasure?

    What if you’re homosexual and you fall in love with, and want to make love to, a member of the same sex?

    What if you’re a scientist who wants to study the natural world and the fact of evolution and the big bang, and a naturalistic universe with no mention or need of god?

    What if you want to get on with your life and do whatever harmless frivolities bring you happiness, without going to hell and being roasted alive forever and ever?

    What if I disagree with god and want to stand up and denounce him and question his judgment, like I would any elected ruler? Will I be allowed to, or would I be murdered by god on the spot like he does in the bible and koran?

    Religion makes universal human happiness impossible, because it rejects the very freedoms that happiness is founded upon: the right to think and act your own way.

  39. Atheists rely on logic to a fault. Atheists are Vulcans who can’t do anything if it isn’t logical. Maybe they need to take a break, learn to love and find a hobby in the tin whistle.

  40. You use rhetoric rather than answer the question.

    I ask a valid question and you go off on a rant.

    I never said that religion does bring happiness, that is your interpretation of what you think I said.

    I haven’t brought my Christianity into the conversation. I am simply echoing your own points back to you and pointing out they are not necessarily based on evidence, reason, and logic.

    I don’t need to reiterate all the horrible things about atheism in the same way you try and bring up all the horrible things about religion.

    I am willing to admit that religion has sometimes had a bad effect on society. You are unwilling to admit that atheism has ever been harmful to society.

    I ask…who is being more open, honest and truthful?

    This is where conversation breaks down, because of the reluctance by atheists to admit any faults in the way that atheism has been implemented and the effect that it can have on people.

    In the same way that “happiness” does not prove that something is true, conversely…lack of “happiness” does not prove something is false.

  41. Rhetoric? What I said isn’t rhetoric, it’s a good explanation of why religion is incompatible with happiness. I wasn’t ranting at all, I was provided a few more-extreme but real-life examples to support my case.

    I am willing to admit that religion has sometimes had a bad effect on society. You are unwilling to admit that atheism has ever been harmful to society.

    I admit that atheists have been harmful to society. But like I argued above, and to which you and Storbakken didn’t reply, is that the only examples of atheists committed harm is where there were other factors that were far more likely to have been the cause of their actions. Remember my clouds and rain analogy? If Stalin and Pol Pot were NOT political idealists and STILL WERE atheists, would they have done what they did? No. So atheism was only incidental in their actions and not the cause. Besides, the problem with regimes like Stalin’s is that they were TOO MUCH LIKE a religion!

    Find me a regime that is based on the principles of humanism that has committed any immoral acts. (Well you couldn’t because we don’t have one unfortunately, except for the USA which was founded as a secular nation, despite the best efforts of christian zealots to usurp the constitution, but I digress…)

    I will admit that there may have been instances were atheism lead to harm, but I can’t think of any. If all you want me to do is admit the possibility, fine, I just have.

    But my point is not simply to weigh the scales up and see who has the greater count of dead, believers or non-believers. The point is: which has caused, which does cause, and which has the greatest potential to cause, suffering – religion or irreligion? This is a non-contest as far as I can see. Religion is actively immoral and counters human happiness.

    I’m saying all this to back up what I said earlier and what you initially objected to, that religion causes more suffering than atheism does.

  42. @ Storbakken

    yet we must agree that each of us does subscribe to a definite authoritative tenet (i.e. dogma)

    Speak for yourself, Sir. With everything else you said in your last comment, I agree and return the sentiment. Enjoy your weekend. :)

  43. Atheists are Vulcans who can’t do anything if it isn’t logical.

    Rely on ridiculous caricatures much?

  44. I’ve been writing this as I read through the comments. I have deleted most of what I wrote as it was sufficiently addressed.
    Sure wish I caught this while it was going on.

    First; I wish to thank the folks sponsoring this web thread, (Tobe).

    Secondly; I support your views if you think atheism is simple disbelief in a god or gods, and not some religion, conspiracy, or organized movement.

    Thirdly; since when does using sound reasoning make you a militant atheist? Obviously Harris, Hitchens, and Dawkins, not to mention Dennett, are only viewed as “militant” because super theists, like D’Souza, can’t refute their logic.

    Can someone tell me what the big deal is over ‘atrocities’ and what the epistemology of the person or peoples has to do with that? People do not need an ideology to perform atrocities, however the more reasonable a person’s epistemic outlook is, the less likely that person is to perform atrocities.
    Disbelief in god hasn’t been and never will create utopia. However, because it is a more supportable metaphysical outlook than theism is, it sure would be a great start.

    Liza, what are these atheistic regimes you speak of? Surely these ‘regimes’ you speak of had other ideologies behind them that are more likely to cause whatever evil you attribute (causelessly) to atheism.

    Storbakken-
    “The question asked in this post is: “Do Militant Atheists Want to Wipe Out Religion?” Most of you have confessed to genuinely wanting the elimination of religion. Yet nobody here wants to own up to being a militant atheist. Is it then your enlightened sense of reasoning that prompts you to desire the utter destruction of another’s faith?

    When is the last time you saw a gang of atheists marching around with guns forcing theists to not believe, or padlocking the church doors? We (atheists) only want the elimination of bad reasoning, which we think includes religion. If you want to shut an atheist up, produce God, produce some action that only those that believe in God can do. If you cannot prove God exists, you cannot prove atheists are illogical; hence you’re wasting your time, and everyone else’s.

    I’m not saying atheists cannot be militant, I am saying that if they were, it would be a minor trait likely to result in imprisonment as would any other militant group action. By and large atheists are just tired of contending with Christians who are so insecure because they cannot count on their God to lift one godly finger to help them (and the rest of us) out in the BIG QUESTION. We simply consider this another good reason to not believe.

    Can you (liza and storbakken) produce a good reason that you believe in God, at least one that an atheist can understand? Can you delineate a standard of evidence that you use?

    Liza wrote-
    religion cannot lead to a world where happiness is guaranteed
    What can?
    If “happiness” is the sum total of what we should be striving for, how will atheism achieve that?
    And….what sort of scientific basis do we have to say that “happiness” is the standard by which we judge if something is true?
    a very fickle standard, indeed.

    Who said anything about atheism producing happiness? Who said that happiness is a standard which indicates truth? What are you talking about?

    Liza wrote-
    This is where conversation breaks down, because of the reluctance by atheists to admit any faults in the way that atheism has been implemented and the effect that it can have on people.
    How does one implement atheism, which is simply non belief in God? The conversation seems to be breaking down because you refuse to understand that atheism is not a religion. BTW, what effect has atheism had on people, do you know?

    That being said, I will respectfully go back to reading the comments. I just had to blow off some steam.

  45. Dropping my 2 cents, very, VERY late, sorry.

    evanescent said: “Take religion away, and would 9/11 have happened?”

    then Liza said: “Do you really believe that? I mean reallybelieve it?”

    Do YOU really believe that someone would throw a plane at a non-militar, non-government target, ending his own life when he believes it’s the only one he has, when he believes there will be no reward for his actions, when he knows he would be ending the lives of thousands of people that have little to no relation with the conflict? Do you really believe that? I mean reallybelieve it?

  46. Petrucio,

    If you read my comment I think that you will see that I am referring to evanescent’s more general view that the elimination of religion would somehow make the world a less violent, happier place.

    People don’t need God or religion to make them do horrible things.

  47. @ Liza

    People don’t need God or religion to make them do horrible things.

    People can do horrible things without God or religion, but with God and/or religion they can do things many times worse. It takes belief in an afterlife to sacrifice your natural life.

    Take 9/11. As Sam Harris said, if the hijackers don’t believe the literal word of the Quran, they don’t crash the planes. It really is that tragically simple.

  48. I am an albanian and I think that the only good thing Enver Hoxha did for my country is to get the religion away from us. Here we marry with chrystians if we are muslims or vice versa. I don’t have the minimal ideas what religion my friends have. So religion do not affect the way I think about the others.

  49. Tobe

    That’s true in regards to suicide missions. But that really only comes into play with that individual’s life and the specifically Islamic concept of instant paradise for martyrdom.

    Nothing can stop someone from doing the same thing without killing themselves.

  50. 9/11 demonstrates the selfishness of those who practice their religion that they would put their own future paradise above the life of others and their afterlife fate. This shows that theism is morally bankrupt at least by its practitioners. It also shows a god who rewards injustice.

  51. Punishing the guilty along with the innocent is the height of injustice. Everyone knows this, even the religious. The only way to rationalise their religion is to claim that the innocent aren’t REALLY innocent after all. That’s why the bible called atheists fools, it also says that the difference between the wicked and the non-wicked is whether they serve god or not. The Qur’an uses ‘infidel’ to refer to non-believers in Islam of any sort. Once you believe the innocent are just as guilty as everyone else, you can commit any action. The notion of true ethics goes out the window.

  52. It seems to me that the conversation has taken an illogical and emotional turn.

    You have no proof that religious people are MORE violent than non-religious people.

    You have no evidence that people with no faith are less likely to commit horrendous acts.

    The responses given lately are just visceral responses to the terrible acts committed by jihadists. I do not support them. They are terrible and indefensible.

    However, the contention that atheists would somehow be more respectful of life simply because they think that is all there is, is nothing more then something you personally think and feel. Perhaps it seems logical that would happen, but since when are humans logical?

    Many despicable, violent acts occur with NO religious motive and by people with NO particular religion.

    It is the same point I made to evanescent way back in the thread…..Not all violence is tied to religion. To say that most of the world believes in God and therefore religion is the bogeyman behind every tragedy is ridiculous. That’s like saying that most humans are heterosexual, therefore heterosexuality is the cause of violence. Or maybe most humans sleep at night, so being diurnal is the root of violence.

  53. Liza said:

    You have no evidence that people with no faith are less likely to commit horrendous acts.

    Why is it then that religious people throughout history have consistently acted wickedly, motivated by their faith?

    It’s true that people can be evil whether they’re religious or not. What faith does is make people who otherwise wouldn’t commit evil, commit evil. If you don’t accept this, you have only to ask the question: would 9/11 have happened if it wasn’t for faith? This is just one example. I’m not saying if you take faith away the world would be perfect. Of course it wouldn’t. But at least all the evil actions committed because of it would go away, and that is a great many actions indeed.

    However, the contention that atheists would somehow be more respectful of life simply because they think that is all there is, is nothing more then something you personally think and feel.

    I agree. Being an atheist doesn’t necessarily mean anything. An atheist is just someone who has answered the question: “do you believe in god?” with a negative. It isn’t a worldview, and it isn’t a moral system. For that, we can turn to humanism, or Objectivism etc.

    However, it is generally true that people who identify as atheists have come to this position through honest critical thinking and rejecting faith. This kind of attitude also makes one less likely to be irrational.

    My argument is not atheism vs religion. It is rationalism vs irrationalism.

    Not all violence is tied to religion. To say that most of the world believes in God and therefore religion is the bogeyman behind every tragedy is ridiculous.

    Nobody ever said all violence is tied to religion. You’re attacking a strawman. We’re saying A LOT of violence is rooted in religion, and without religion it is simply inane to say people would just find something else to argue over.

    What I am saying, and you cannot disagree, is that there is something rather odd going on here: the majority of the world believes in god and yet the evil that occurs isn’t committed by the tiny portion called rationalists is it?? No! It is committed by the religious and the non-religious alike! This is very damning for the theist. It shows that religion has positively no overall beneficial effect on morality, and in fact consistently produces evil actions (not all the time but too much so to call it a coincidence). This isn’t a problem for me: religion is man-made; this is exactly what you’d expect! But for the theist, this must be a splinter in the mind: you must constantly ask yourself: if theism is true and religion is good and faith is a virtue, why does it have absolutely no overall beneficial effect on society?

    That’s like saying that most humans are heterosexual, therefore heterosexuality is the cause of violence.

    The difference is that nobody is tying sexuality to morality! It is the religious who claim that religion is moral, or that morality would be impossible without religion. If theists admitted that their faith makes them no less moral than anyone else, I’d happily stop arguing, since there wouldn’t be anything to debate over. But theists won’t do this.

    Also, your analogy is flawed anyway, because there is no link between sexuality and evil; people don’t commit evil actions just because of their sexual orientation; wheras people do because of faith. Finally, a side note: we need sexuality. We don’t need faith.

  54. evanescent….it’s called hyperbole. Of course sexuality doesn’t cause violence…that’s my point.

    And now we are right back to the earlier conversation. As a theist…I am supposed to somehow feel that whacked out jihadists undermine my stance that there is a God.

    However, anytime Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao…or any other prominent atheist responsible for the deaths of millions and the repression and torture of many people is mentioned….atheists try to use a bunch of smoke and mirrors to claim that their governments weren’t really based on systematic atheism.

    Once again…where is the evidence? If rationalists are guided by logic and evidence…then where is it? Where are the studies correlating belief with violence? Where are the statistics that more have died at the hands of religion than have died at the hands of atheistic governments or other motives? Where are the brain scans showing belief and violence residing in the same sectors?

    They don’t exist.

    As a theist I am constantly told that atheism only exists as long as there is no “evidence” for God. Somehow if evidence were found, then atheists would gladly believe. They just want logic, evidence and proof.

    However, this entire line of argument is not based on any of those things.

  55. evanescent….it’s called hyperbole. Of course sexuality doesn’t cause violence…that’s my point.

    You were attempting to draw an analogy, but the analogy was flawed.

    And now we are right back to the earlier conversation. As a theist…I am supposed to somehow feel that whacked out jihadists undermine my stance that there is a God.

    Well, yes. If I were you, I would feel my faith undermined by a whole planet that looks JUST LIKE there was no god.

    The fact that faith produces NO overall positive effect on man is surely a huge problem for your beliefs isn’t it? It shows that is makes NO difference if you’re religious or not, which is exactly the opposite of what you’re supposed to believe.

    However, anytime Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao…or any other prominent atheist responsible for the deaths of millions and the repression and torture of many people is mentioned….atheists try to use a bunch of smoke and mirrors to claim that their governments weren’t really based on systematic atheism.

    You’re right: we are going around in circles. But that’s because you one of your thinking legs is shorter than the other:

    If the individuals you mentioned were not motivated by an extreme political ideology (that bordered on religious), would they have committed the actions they did? Answer this question in your next comment, Liza.

    No one is denying that they were atheists. Atheists have committed crimes just like theists. But, am I blaming religion for all the actions of theists?? NO. Can you blame rationalists for all the actions of atheists?? NO. The point is: what is the deciding factor? Take atheism away, and would Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao etc have still acted the way they did? Almost certainly. So you cannot say that lack of belief was the deciding factor.

    Now, take faith away, and would 9/11 have happened? Would genital castration happen? Would children be systematically lied to? Would potential AIDS victims be told lies about the use of condoms? Would millions of people be scared by the fear of an imaginary hell and the disgust for their own bodies and sexuality? Would there have been war in Northern Ireland? Would there have been a massacre in Rwanda? Would the Crusades have happened? Would the Spanish Inquisition?

    The deciding factor here, the key label, the differentiator, is FAITH. You cannot say that take faith away and the above things would have happened. That, quite simply, blows your argument out the water.

    Once again…where is the evidence? If rationalists are guided by logic and evidence…then where is it? Where are the studies correlating belief with violence? Where are the statistics that more have died at the hands of religion than have died at the hands of atheistic governments or other motives? Where are the brain scans showing belief and violence residing in the same sectors?

    The evidence is in the history of atrocities committed that wouldn’t have been committed without religion and faith. I cannot emancipate atheism from the actions of wicked men like Stalin etc, but since atheism was not the key factor it isn’t conclusive either way.

    Besides, as I said above, I am not trying to win people over to atheism. I am not arguing atheism vs theism. My argument is rationalism vs irrationalism. You can be an atheist and still act irrationally.

    If rationality wins though, communism goes, Nazism goes, so does clairvoyance, chi, religion, and all faith. Your faith is just another symptom of irrationality. Your belief in a theocratic regime is no different to any human totalitarian government.

  56. Take atheism away, and would Stalin, Pol Pot, Mao etc have still acted the way they did? Almost certainly. So you cannot say that lack of belief was the deciding factor.

    How can you say such a thing?

    How do you–separated by many years of history–have any idea what Stalin and Pol Pot…etc. would have been like without atheism? Are you clairvoyant? Have you mastered the art of mind-reading? This is yet another example of a statement that has no evidence and is predicated simply upon your personal opinion. You are entitled to your opinions, as I am to mine, but you shouldn’t state them as obvious facts when they are nothing more than revisionist history and wishful thinking.

    The fact that faith produces NO overall positive effect on man is surely a huge problem for your beliefs isn’t it?

    No positive effect. More revisionism. I guess all the missionary doctors who have given their lives to care for suffering people had no positive effect. Or maybe the fact that Christian nations–or ones that used to be anyway–are usually the fore-runners in Human rights…no positive effect there?

    BTW…the genocide in Rwanda had nothing to do with religion…read your history!….revise…revise…revise!

    You say absolutely ridiculous things which make you seem either misinformed, or so rabid in your enthusiasm for atheism that you are intellectually dishonest about history.

    Your belief in a theocratic regime is no different to any human totalitarian government.

    Now you’re just talking out of your a$$! When did I ever say that I believed in a theocratic regime?…..revise….revise…revise.

    I do hope that whoever reads this thread will actually research the things you say and find out how untrue and false they are.

  57. my comment was eaten by wordpress…..can you fish it out?…or have I offended everyone too much?

  58. Of cors they want to destroy Christians!

  59. I’m the only one in this world. Can please someone join me in this life? Or maybe death…

  60. Militant Atheists? thats why you did use the term, writer him self is a religious lunatic. It absolutely should be wipe out to the last one. Two Millennia people are dying in the name of “Jesus or Ala or other fantasy

  61. as I was reading this tread a thought crossed my mind and as I continued down the page I realised it more and more, Atheism has become a religion in itself, the more and more I read, the more and more I realise it to be true. Do you not see it? all the bickering the has unfolded on this page points it out it to be true it really came to light for me when I read someone’s post calling another quote “I don’t think you’re a good atheist”, its like a christen saying to another christen “you’re not a very good christen because you haven’t read the bible”, that is what it sounded like, who gives two shits if they haven’t researched past atheists and the history of atheism only someone who is religiously following atheism would, atheism is a belief so anyone who holds that belief is an atheist there can be no good or bad atheist if it is simply viewed as a belief, it is only when a person expands on the belief that they begin to view it religiously and once it becomes a religion there are good and bad followers of that religion depending on how vigorously they study it.

    Atheism is a belief, a belief that there are no deities, simple, easy, but what people have done is turned it from that plain easy belief into a full blown religion, the religion of the non-believers/ anti-theist some examples of how it has become a religion instead of a belief is shown by pulling up quotes from famous atheists (who cares what other atheist say its their belief), arguing back and forth about who said what, and whining about how others show/practice/ label their beliefs:

    so to all those who have turn this belief into a religion go suck a donkey’s dick, I’m so freaken sick of you religious bastards trying to tell others how to be an atheist you are the same as christen believers who force their religion on to others and cram it down their throats so freaken stop being so serious, bring atheism back to being a belief instead of a religion. (yes I know I’m being a bit hypocritical in some of my statements but don’t take what I’m saying to seriously)


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