Atheism is bad for you

Well, Popey has kicked up quite a stir with his visit, notably over his negative comments about atheism. Whether or not he has been misunderstood or taken out of context is subject to debate. What is not up for debate is the tired old connection some religionists make between mass murderers and atheism.

"Hitler, Stalin, and Pol Pot were atheists… therefore atheism can lead to mass murder."

Boll-bloody-ocks!

Firstly, the assertion that all of the above were atheists is demonstrably false. They may have exploited religion to meet their political agendas and even had their own understandings of their respective religions, but they never exercised in the name of atheism. The complete opposite is the case.

Just to take the case of Hitler (the one about whom I know most), Hitler went to great lengths to create a German church, stripping out the Jewish influence and building on the Jew-hating elements of the Catholic faith. His hatred of Jews was in all likelihood fostered from birth in his Catholic upbringing. He made peace with the Catholic Church. Mussolini, Franco, and the Vichy regime of France (all allied with Hitler in the Axis) were steeped in Catholicism. German soldiers in the Reichswehr fought with the words "Gott mit uns" (God With Us) on their belt buckles.

Secondly, more importantly, and more obvious to anyone with half a brain, the causal connection is laughably erroneous. Saying that Hitler did wicked things because he was an atheist is as ridiculous as saying he did them because he was a vegetarian or a teetotaler, or because he once ate a slightly sour grapefruit.

Historically, the justification for mass murder and genocide has been openly claimed to be divinely inspired or commanded far more often than it has been attributed to atheism. I challenge anyone to name a mass murderer who has specifically acted in the name of atheism (as opposed to some political doctrine, often founded on the back of a religious or cultural beliefs).

There are good atheists and bad atheists. There are good theists and bad theists.

Speaking (or rather writing) as an atheist, I don’t need scripture to tell me what is right and wrong. The fact that religionists will ask ‘whence comes your morality, if not through scripture’, I say ’tish and pish’! A good atheist’s morals will in all likelihood be very similar to those of a good Christian. The difference is, they do what they do because it is the right thing to do… not because they’ll burn forever in Hell’s flames if they don’t. The humanitarian values adopted by modern Christianity (which has chosen to abandon some of the more unsavoury aspects of its faith) predate that faith, but are also common in other faiths. Religion does not have a monopoly on ‘goodness’. We ‘good’ atheists believe that we have one shot at life and that’s it. There is nothing before and nothing afterwards. This life matters. This life counts. Live it to the best of your abilities and treat other people the way you would like to be treated. That is, quite literally, the "Golden Rule".

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