Thursday, 3 August 2006

A bunch of atheists

Speaking of religion and making judgements, as I was earlier, here's a page with a bunch of quotes about atheism. Sample:
  • "There once was a time when all people believed in God and the church ruled. This time was called the Dark Ages." - Richard Lederer
  • "Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent. Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent. Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil? Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?" - Epicurus
  • "It ain't the parts of the Bible that I can't understand that bother me, it is the parts that I do understand." -Mark Twain
  • "So far as I can remember, there is not one word in the Gospels in praise of intelligence." - Bertrand Russell
  • " I do not believe in an afterlife, although I am bringing a change of underwear." - Woody Allen
  • "We must respect the other fellow's religion, but only in the sense and to the extent that we respect his theory that his wife is beautiful and his children smart." - HL Mencken
  • " Why should I allow that same God to tell me how to raise my kids, who had to drown His own?" Robert Green Ingersoll
  • "Blasphemy is a victimless crime." - Anonymous
More here.

LINK: Quotes - Chris Beach RELATED: Quotes, Religion


  1. One more quote: atheistic Russia and China murdered more people in just the 20th than religion in the last 13.5 billion years.

  2. Good point. Which perhaps shows atheists that what you're for is more important than what you're against.

    Atheism itself is only a minor 'virtue', the necessary pre-condition to the major virtues, but still nonetheless true for all that.

  3. Given the body count and terrors, can't you make the case that atheism is the necessary precondition for this evil?

  4. Robert Winefield3 Aug 2006, 14:13:00

    Shhh... Don't mention the Inquisition to Berend...

  5. I like the Epicuris quote. :)

  6. dear robert, my country men were brutually murdered by the Inquisition. Possession of a Bible was already evidence enough to be burned. You really think I'm going to defend the Inquisition?

  7. By saying that atheism is the common link between the massacres of China and Russia, is like saying that moustaches is the common link between Stalin and Saddam. (Paraphrasing Dawkins)

    Russia and China had (has?) a culture which embraced an anti-life, collectivist philosophy. The millions of deaths were caused by the actions of individuals who embraced that philosophy, and who viewed their actions to be compatible with their philosophy.

    The fact that they were also atheist, is incidental. Atheism isn't a philosophy, it's just the absence of belief in God.

  8. A lecturer I once had made the critical point that while the USSR and China were atheistic, they had what he described as a "this worldly religion". In other words, Marxism-Leninism (and Nazism) are doctrines that required strict adherence, which propagated unadulterated myths with no basis on evidence, constant quotation from sacred texts (Das Capital, selected works of the holy ones), elevated certain individuals to the status of infallible omnipotence (was there anything Mao did wrong or couldn't do?).

    Engels, Marx and Lenin espoused atheism because belief in supernatural religion interfered with the inculcation of the this worldly religion that EVERYTHING is about class - and the "inevitability" of class conflict, dictatorship of the proletariat (aka party) and the mystical future of communism (heaven). You can't have single minded pursuit of one goal while there are other loyalties - don't forget all non state/party organisations were banned, and there was a serious attempt to tear apart family loyalties. Christianity, Islam, Buddhism and other religions were just another source of competition.

    Besides Berend you've proven yourself wrong. The case that atheism is the necessary precondition for evil is disproven by the inquisition example, or indeed the millions killed or abused in the name of the church.

    "That's ok Johnny, you can trust a priest, they are far less likely to sexually molest you than one of those heretical atheists" ha!

    The problem with religion is that it requires abandonment of the evidence of the senses and reason to provide answers to actual events, and morality. At best, this might be incidental to day to day life, and be used to give comfort at times of stress - at worst it justifies 9/11.

    Atheism as the absence of this cannot be blamed for anything - anymore than the absence of believing ducklings are cute can be.

  9. People who believed in Allah have committed great atrocities. This is of course explained by their beliefs.

    People who did not believe in any god have committed far greater atrocities. That of course has nothing to do with their beliefs.

    Very convincing arguing guys.

  10. People who believed in God/Allah have committed great atrocities in the name of God/Allah. This is of course explained by their beliefs.

    People who did not believe in any god have committed far greater atrocities in the name of communism/Stalin/some other crap, but notably not actually in the name of atheism. That of course has nothing to do with their beliefs.

    Fairly feeble straw man, Berend

  11. People ought to be aware that the bloodthirsty Inquisition is considered to be a myth by a number of historians. So, Berend isn't proven wrong if the what the Inquistion was considered to be is a myth.

    Quite a connundrum, huh, Berend? I say this in a, I really wish I didn't have to say this kind of way.

    Josh, if the precondition required for mass murder of a scale never seen before is lack of belief in God, then where is the straw-man? There is no man. Or God. Because if beliving in God prevents mass-murder, not believing removes the prevention. No need to murder in the name of lack of belief, that's just weird.

  12. Berend, your problem is it remains a non-sequitur.

    Neither belief in gods or non-belief in gods has a bearing, in and of itself, on whether a person initiates force against others. Muslims, Christians, Hindus, Jews, Shintoists etc have all used their religion and its historic texts and teachings to justify murder. There are Muslims who still do and Christians who still do. Atheists have tended NOT to use the absence of a belief to justify murder, but have used what they are for (PC's point) to justify it.

    Fundamental at the heart of these religions is a belief that human beings do NOT own their lives and do not have a RIGHT to live their lives in peace, and that accountability for their actions lies AFTER death.

    There are atheists aplenty who do not believe human beings own their lives and have a right to live in peace.

    The point is whether you evade reason to decide what you are for. Belief in religion is an evasion of reason because it abandons the mind for faith in something that does not manifest itself in reality. The only question is how much evasion is undertaken and where that evasion takes you. Theists founded the USA, but whatever their belief in what happens after death or how the universe was created, those theists applied reason to the present. Atheists can evade reason as well - Marxism Leninism is a pretty clear example.

    To start producing a body count and lay the murders of the USSR, PRC, "Democratic Kampuchea" etc on the side of atheists (including PC and I) is as stupid as me throwing Islamic/Hindu/Christian terror, crusades on your side. Marxism has a huge body count, but atheists? You could argue that people for whom rice was a primary food source were murderers too, pointing at the Chinese Communists, North Korea, militarist Japan, Vietcong, Khmer Rouge. The atheism is incidental, they simply worshipped a different God - the difference is that the Maoist Jesus was still living.

  13. Wasn't Hitler a Catholic?

    Anyway, regarding body counts and who killed more, atheists or theists, isn't the wider issue the willingness of lemming-like humans to believe in higher authorities, be they the theistic gods of the monotheistic religions or the secular gods of the state? or socialism or fascism?

    In the end its the same thing. In 1917 religious Russia traded a theistic god for the secular gods of communism and worship the state.

    It's all the same - sacrifice of the individual to whatever you want it to be: God, Allah, Yahweh, the leader, the prophet, the country, the group.

  14. libertyscott, I can't make a lot of sense of your arguments. Part of it seems to say that: Neither belief in gods or non-belief in gods has a bearing, in and of itself, on whether a person initiates force against others.

    I mostly agree. Then you continue that the difference is that believers have justified their actions based on their beliefs.

    Atheists haven't done so. Well quite true, Atheists cannot use their god as justification, they will have to use something else. Quite true. But I also note that philosophers like Nietzsche have used the absence of religion to advocate total freedom of morality.

    So indeed, presence or absence of belief isn't a sufficient indicator if someone will be mass murderer. Surprise.

    The only point I wanted to make is that, given history, and given a dictator the non-religious ones tended to murder in bigger numbers. Being an atheism doesn't stop someone from murdering it seems.

    I agree: it is just stupid holding "atheists" or "christians" or whatever religion responsible for body counts. But that is not the point you seem to want to make. Somehow atheism is a virtue and anything else potentially leads to mass murder and terror.

    I'm saying: given a religious and an atheistic dictator, it might well be the atheist dictator is the worst.

  15. Three points here which I think have already been made, but letme just make them again:

    1) Atheism simply says what you are against. It says you are a-theist. It says what you are against, but nothing about what you are for. Outside nihilism, it is what you do believe that motivates behaviour, not what you don't.

    possible to found morality upon the real world instead of the supernatural, but in fact the real world offers a far superior starting point. As you'd expect: It's real.

    3) I have no doubt but that any dictator or theocrat apprised of the industrial-killing powers that the twentieth-century dictators had and still have would not have used them.

    The fact that these industrial-killing powers are now available makesit even more imperative to found morality upon real rather than imaginary ground.

    A theocratic dictator with nuclear weapons who believes his imaginary friens has told him to seek the martyrdom of the whole planet is a frightening thought to behold.

    4) You've cited Marxist dictators as examples of murderous atheistic bastards. But I'm not at all sure that either these bastards or Marxism itself can truly be considered an a-theist philosophy in any true sense. Consider these two points:

    a) Marxism's doctrine of historical necessity is rather close to and was in fact founded upon Hegel's idea of the World Spirit, the ineffable collocation that supposedly produces the so-called world-historical figures who become dictators (this was called freedom according to Hegel) and, eventually of course, after all the kiling, we get the great salvation of the appearance of 'socialist man.'

    b) And as Ken MacLeod suggests, accurately in my view"Dialectical materialism is a contradiction in terms, because dialectic is a mental process, and the only way a mental process can be inherent in matter is if there is a mind inherent in matter.

    "Hegel called it Spirit. But Hegel's Spirit is God. Without Spirit, there is absolutely no basis for a dialectic of nature or of history. Dialectic of nature -> Spirit in Nature -> animism.

    "Providence is thus smuggled back into a supposedly scientific view, with disastrous results, because if you think you are an atheist but are unconciously counting on Providence (the cunning of Reason, the logic of history, and other such avatars) to make it all come out right in the end, you are going to make catastrophic mistakes which you have no way to recognise, let alone correct. Historical messianism is the inevitable consequence of dialectical materialism."

    Now, if that's not theistic, then what is?

  16. Paula: it sounds even better when Bernard Hill is saying it.

    (Jonathan Miller's "Brief History of Disbelief" is BTW an excellent documentary series)


1. Commenters are welcome and invited.
2. All comments are moderated. Off-topic grandstanding, spam, and gibberish will be ignored. Tu quoque will be moderated.
3. Read the post before you comment. Challenge facts, but don't simply ignore them.
4. Use a name. If it's important enough to say, it's important enough to put a name to.
5. Above all: Act with honour. Say what you mean, and mean what you say.