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PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2007 3:20 pm
by Adele
/agree with Seol that religion's not necessary for morality - philosophy can generate normative ethics, as can the memes he himself mentions.
Sarcastro wrote:Eh, that article said some weird things. How can you blame Stalin's atheism for anything? He never even claimed to be motivated by atheism, he was just totally ruthless. If you want to say that that was because of his atheism, well, okay (though I don't think there's any evidence for that besides the idea that atheists are evil), but the purges still weren't motivated by atheism by any stretch of the imagination. Stalin did what he did because he was ruthless, not because he was crazy (like, say, Hitler). So no, I don't think it's equivalent to people saying that you can't say there's something wrong with religion because all the genocidal maniacs weren't "true Christians/Muslims/whatever".
Less sure about that. Maybe not Stalin - I'm no expert on him - but "Social Darwinists", Nietszheans and the like to represent a certain materialistic, monist, humans-have-no-intrinsic-worth atheism about them. It's easier to kill folk if they're just meatbags, I suppose. In fact, the part of me that thinks maybe Hitler was agnostic/atheist underneath it all kinda thinks that's the idealogy that drove him.
--> See also Machiavelli. Amoralism and monstrous selfishness make sense for an atheist of... a certain worldview.

Which is not to say mine. <.< >.>

PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2007 4:17 pm
by Sarcastro
Social darwinism doesn't really have anything to do with atheism, first of all. One can obviously be an atheist without being a social darwinist, and one can be a social darwinist without being an atheist. Even then, though, exactly how many people have social darwinists killed? Even in the heyday of eugenics, sterilisation was the method they used. There has not, to my knowledge, ever been any genocide perpetrated because of someone's social darwinism. Yes, a certain amount of social darwinist justification might exist (in the sense of "this race is genetically inferior"), but the underlying causes completely separate, and I think it'd be difficult to find a genocide that wouldn't have happened had the perpetrators not espoused those sorts of ideas.

The thing about not viewing people as having intrinsic worth is that if you're killing them, you probably don't believe that anyway, regardless of any religious beliefs. Sure, Christians and Muslims are taught that all people have intrinsic worth, but those passages are right next to the ones telling you to stone the gays. Some religious people might believe that every life truly is sacred, but in general, religious people are just as capable of deciding that lives don't have any value. Further, the worst viewpoint possible from atheism is really just neutral - that it doesn't matter if you kill someone. I have trouble thinking of an atheist justification for believing that someone is intrisically bad, that is, that their lives actually have a negative intrinsic value. There are plenty of examples of this sort of thinking among the religious.

Hitler was a devout Catholic until his death. It's kind of difficult to hate the Jews if you believe that they're the same as everybody else. I'm not really sure where this idea that Hitler was an atheist came from, but it's pretty easy to see from Hitler's speeches and Mein Kampf that he believed the Holocaust was "the Lord's work".

Machiavelli was a Catholic, too, but I'm sure you knew that. And yes, some atheists do believe that monstrous selfishness is a good thing (*coughaynrandcough*), but even they don't generally go around promoting genocide.

PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2007 4:47 pm
by Oman
Good link Thespical!

PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2007 5:22 pm
by vollkan
Sarc rightly pointed out that Stalin did not do what he did because he was an atheist. You might as well say that people with moustaches (eg. Stalin and Hitler) are capable of committing evil in the name of moustaches. It's that coincidental.

Hitler was a Social Darwinist, yes, but he believed he was doing God's will. As Sarc said, Hitler was a devout Christian. Hitler acted in the name of Christianity which, given the whole "Jews killing Jesus" thing, worked out rather conveniently for him.

When atheists do questionable things etc. it is not in the name of atheism. Stalin and Mao were atheists (though, I argue they simply implemented their own religions with themselves as figureheads) but that fact was largely coincidental. Their opposition to religion was pragmatically motivated simply in the fact that that they needed their own person to be the devotional centre.

As for amoralism etc. making sense for atheists, as Adele suggested, I disagree also. Some atheists are wonderful, some are amoral, some are absolutely callous. It's the same with religious people. The difference is that atheism cannot be used as a justification for evil behaviour, religion can and I don't need to bother to point out examples of where it is.

Religion can be used to argue, as Sarc said, that things are bad. All atheism "tells us" about morals is that we can do and think what we like.

PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2007 5:26 pm
by Thesp
*sigh*

:(

PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2007 5:29 pm
by vollkan
Which part of my post is the *sigh* directed at?

PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2007 5:38 pm
by Thesp
Just about all of it.

On a lighter note, I'm glad so many others seem to be getting something out of the article. I was answering a call while seeing the "Communion Wafers is People" image, and had to try not to bust out laughing during my greeting!

PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2007 5:40 pm
by vollkan
I had the following points:
1) Stalin's and Mao's atheism was coincidental
2) Hitler was a devout Christian, and he used religion to his own means
3) Atheism is independent of one's morality and cannot be used as justification for things
4) Religion is independent of one's morality but can be used as justification for things

PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2007 5:48 pm
by Thesp
Okay.

PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2007 7:06 pm
by Seol
"Religious" conflict is very rarely about religion. It's about tribal instinct - maintaining territory for "your tribe", whether that be your clan or your religion or your country or your political views. In any case, it's about furthering your interests and those you associate and identify with over people who you don't associate and identify with. Perfectly natural human behaviour. "Religious" war doesn't happen when there are philosophical differences between groups, it happens when there is extreme social inequity and/or the potential to exploit and subjugate others - and then religion gets cited.

If you need justification for a conflict, religion is always a good cite because it's pretty much inarguable. It's opinion and interpretation of the words of an absolute moral arbiter who cannot be directly consulted.

Voltaire once said "if God did not exist, it would be necessary to invent Him." This is true on many fronts and applies to the evils perpetuated in the name of religion as well as the good (primarily imposition of moral systems such as "no sex before marriage" and tribal wisdom such as "in this sweltering heat prior to the invention of the refrigerator it would be smart not to eat pork").

PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2007 8:07 pm
by JDodge
Seol wins the thread.

PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2007 10:03 pm
by Sarcastro
Vollkan, I think Thesp's point is just that we kind of ruined the whole point of the article, which was to try to look at how atheists and theists aren't completely different.

Seol, you're basically correct about religious conflict usually having other important factors, such as tribalism and inequity, but it's important to note that religion is one of the things that causes tribalism and inequity. It's easy to say, for example, that the religious conflict in Nothern Ireland is really a class issue, but that would ignore the fact that the whole reason the class issue exists is discrimination against Catholics.

And religion can exacerbate issues that would otherwise be smaller. Just look at Spanish history. Does the Reconquista happen if instead of the Moors you have other Christians? Probably not, considering just how long it took. That peninsula-wide split doesn't last that long if there aren't too opposing religions there.

You're right that one can't just point to say, the Crusades, and say "look what religion caused", because it's not always that simple. Neither, though, does that excuse religion from fault.

PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2007 10:39 pm
by vollkan
Sarcastro wrote:Vollkan, I think Thesp's point is just that we kind of ruined the whole point of the article, which was to try to look at how atheists and theists aren't completely different.


I gathered that.

Anyway, on Seol's post:

I agree with Sarc entirely. Religious disputes, in the sense of pure philosophical clashes, are rarely ever a cause of actual conflict (except, of course, for purges of heretics). However, religion provides a tribal label and a higher cause for what is usually politically-oriented issues, enflaming and "mutating" the problem.

PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2007 10:45 pm
by Yosarian2
Sarcastro wrote:Eh, that article said some weird things. How can you blame Stalin's atheism for anything? He never even claimed to be motivated by atheism, he was just totally ruthless.


Eh...Stalin was pretty harsh on Orthadox Chritian believers because of his athiesm; or at least because he believed religion was anti-communist, which is almost the same thing. That's not the reason for most of the bad things he did though.

PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2007 10:57 pm
by vollkan
Yosarian2 wrote:Eh...Stalin was pretty harsh on Orthadox Chritian believers because of his athiesm; or at least because he believed religion was anti-communist, which is almost the same thing. That's not the reason for most of the bad things he did though.


Hmm...it isn't the same thing.

Stalin suppressed religion because it didn't suit him politically. I admit that, had Stalin been an Orthodox Christian, he would not have suppressed the church (that should be obvious), but that doesn't change the coincidental nature of his atheism. If religion had worked to Stalin's advantage, I very much doubt he would have cracked down on it in the way that he did. Indeed, in the Nazi occupation of 1941, Stalin used the Orthodox Church as a means of rallying the Russian people.

PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2007 11:50 pm
by Foolster41
So the fact that stalin was a aithest is coincidence, but religion is a the excuse and caue of many murders? If this is what you are really saying this seems pretty unfair.

PostPosted: Tue Nov 06, 2007 11:54 pm
by Thestatusquo
No, what he's saying is that Stalin didn't kill because he was an atheist. That is to say that he was atheist, and he also killed, whereas in events such as the crusades, the people killed because they were religion. That is to say that they killed in the name of their religion because they thought they were achieving a desirable religious goal (i.e. eliminating islam.) This is a pretty strong claim, imho.

PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2007 12:02 am
by vollkan
Yes, what TSQ said.

Foolster, Stalin's atheism was coincidental, like him having a moustache. The things he did, he did because he wanted to secure his own dominance, not because he was an atheist. This is proved by the fact that Stalin aligned himself with the Russian Orthodox Church when it suited him.

PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2007 5:43 am
by Yosarian2
vollkan wrote:
Yosarian2 wrote:Eh...Stalin was pretty harsh on Orthadox Chritian believers because of his athiesm; or at least because he believed religion was anti-communist, which is almost the same thing. That's not the reason for most of the bad things he did though.


Hmm...it isn't the same thing.

Stalin suppressed religion because it didn't suit him politically. I admit that, had Stalin been an Orthodox Christian, he would not have suppressed the church (that should be obvious), but that doesn't change the coincidental nature of his atheism. If religion had worked to Stalin's advantage, I very much doubt he would have cracked down on it in the way that he did. Indeed, in the Nazi occupation of 1941, Stalin used the Orthodox Church as a means of rallying the Russian people.


No, it's not just because it didn't suit him personally, or politically; it's becaue, like any good communist, he believed religion was the opiate of the masses and something that had to go in order for society to advance. Religion being bad was a part of his belief system he acted on, just as much as non-believers being bad was part of the belief system the Spanish Inquisitors acted on.

But anyway, we're straying from the point here, I think we already had this thread, heh.

PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2007 5:44 am
by Yosarian2
Thestatusquo wrote:No, what he's saying is that Stalin didn't kill because he was an atheist. That is to say that he was atheist, and he also killed, whereas in events such as the crusades, the people killed because they were religion. That is to say that they killed in the name of their religion because they thought they were achieving a desirable religious goal (i.e. eliminating islam.) This is a pretty strong claim, imho.


And you don't think Stalin wanted to achieve a desirable religious goal; IE, eliminating religion?

PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2007 6:45 am
by vollkan
Yosarian2 wrote:No, it's not just because it didn't suit him personally, or politically; it's becaue, like any good communist, he believed religion was the opiate of the masses and something that had to go in order for society to advance. Religion being bad was a part of his belief system he acted on, just as much as non-believers being bad was part of the belief system the Spanish Inquisitors acted on.

But anyway, we're straying from the point here, I think we already had this thread, heh.


First up, I need to correct a very common misconception in your post. The "opiate of the masses" thing is a very commonly misused quote. It entirely ignores the context of what Marx was saying.

Karl Marx wrote:Religion is, indeed, the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself, or has already lost himself again.
...
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.


Moreover, in Marx's era, opium was not thought of in the manner it is today, as it was often a very important painkiller medicine. Thus, in truth, what Marx was really saying is that religion is a natural form of escapism from oppression (a "painkiller"), rather than the "dangerous drug" we associate opiate with. In context, Marx was talking about religion as a natural response to social inequality. Of course, Marx was an atheist, but his view was simply that religion is a symptom of human mentality; he wasn't actually calling for its violent suppression at all.

Now, the point of that long spiel was to show you that anti-religiosity is not intrinsic to communism. Stalin and Mao both, of course, violently suppressed religion but, as I have been said several times, it was neither due to their atheism or their communism but, rather, due to them being megalomaniac dictators, who needed their own personality cults to reign supreme.

PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2007 11:01 am
by Quagmire
I find myself agreeing with Seol in just about every facet of this thread. In any "religious" war, the underlying cause in all of the jihads could not possibly be to get people to convert to another religion, but it instead is to further the agenda of organizational power.

I don't know why people are arguing over whether Stalin killed because he was an atheist, or Hitler killed because he was a devout christian. You're not going to know, unless you can show me a primary source that explicity says one thing or the other. This is all irrelevant anyway, because Thesp's article nicely pointed out that people on each side of the boat do terrible things, so focusing on one example isn't going to do you any good.

PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2007 11:42 am
by Fiasco
Quagmire wrote:the underlying cause in all of the jihads could not possibly be to get people to convert to another religion

You don't get to say "could not possibly" without a proof of some sort.

PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2007 1:00 pm
by mikeburnfire
WaterboyWaldo wrote:
Do you believe in Evolution?

Yes.


I always knew that Charizard was proof of evolution.
Image

PostPosted: Wed Nov 07, 2007 4:57 pm
by Thestatusquo
MBF wins the thread. All anti evolution people can leave now.