The USSR/China/Cambodia as atheist societies: please dissect my rebuttal
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13-01-2017, 09:25 AM
The USSR/China/Cambodia as atheist societies: please dissect my rebuttal
One of the criticisms of atheism that's often trotted out goes along these lines:

Quote:"You only have to look at atheistic societies to see what happens. The USSR murdered millions of its own people. China did the same. The horrors in Cambodia, led by Pol Pot, an avowed atheist, are well documented."
(I've actually been to the killing fields in Cambodia and to say it's chilling is the understatement of understatements.)

My response is usually something like this:

Quote:"Those states - and I agree they were atheist states - substituted devotion to a divine superintelligence to devotion to the state and that state's ideology. The fact that Stalin spent his formative years in a seminary and Pol Pot was at one time a devout Buddhist shows that they were taught religious doctrine and used those teachings as a way to control their populations."

Then I rely on Hitchens:
Quote:"Show me a state which has thrown off the shackles of religion and lived by the principles of the Enlightenment, of liberty, of justice, of freedom of conscience, of Jefferson, of Paine, and still perpetrated horrors, then you might have an argument. But as it is, you (the theist) have no argument."
Alas, I find both those refutations hollow (even though I use them).

They do not address what is, I believe, the core of the argument: that those leaders who believe they have no retribution to fear from a divine superintelligence have no qualms about murdering millions.

I need a better argument.

Undoubtedly you, too, have heard similar or identical statements. How did you refute them?
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13-01-2017, 09:37 AM
RE: The USSR/China/Cambodia as atheist societies: please dissect my rebuttal
Here's mine...

I can fully understand killing for or dying for something you believe in.

But I don't understand killing for or dying for something in which you do not believe.

Killing in the name of your god ... happens all the time. We've seen how totalitarian theocracies work.

But killing in the name of a not god? Doesn't make any sense.

Dodgy

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13-01-2017, 09:51 AM (This post was last modified: 13-01-2017 10:50 AM by Szuchow.)
RE: The USSR/China/Cambodia as atheist societies: please dissect my rebuttal
Not one of said states was atheistic. Sure, their leaders didn't believe in christian god but instead they had different deity, be it marxism-leninism, maoism or polpotism I guess (from these three Pol Pot was farther from marxism-leninism, at least according to Philip Short). They had their paradise - communism, chosen people - working class, devil - capitalists. At the very least Soviet Union was theocracy, and from what I know Mao China and Pol Pot Cambodia weren't different.

Leaders weren't concerned with divine retribution, but they thought that they're doing history bidding and victory of revolution was supposed to be preordained by "scientific laws" which looked suspiciously like religious dogma.

Much better insight you can find in Raymond Aron The Opium of the Intellectuals who consider marxism-leninism to be a political religion if I recall correctly and Rafał Imos Faith of the Soviet Man. The Soviet's Institutionalized Myth (only in Polish sadly, or at least it was last time I checked) who claimed that marxism-leninism was gnostic, dualistic and universalistic state religion with prophet and saints. Edit: You could also look into Robert Service Lenin where he claims that Bolsheviks leader was sanctified after his death, there is also Richard Pipes who note similarities between religions and communism and fascism in I believe Russia Under the Bolshevik Regime.

Edit 2: Little quote from Aron The Opium of the Intellectualsp. 267, of English 1962 edition:

The Marxist prophetism, as we have seen, conforms to the typical pattern of the Judeo-Christian prophetism. Every prophetism condemns what is and sketches an outline of what should or will be; it chooses an individual or a group to cleave a path across the no-man’s land which separates the unworthy present from the radiant future. The classless society which will bring social progress without political revolution is comparable to the dreams of the millennium. The misery of the proletariat proves its vocation and the Communist Party becomes the Church which is opposed by the bourgeois/pagans who stop their ears against the good tidings and by the socialist/Jews who have failed to recognise the Revolution which they themselves had been heralding for years.

The first revolt is against the supreme tyranny of theology, of the phantom of God. As long as we have a master in heaven, we will be slaves on earth.

Mikhail Bakunin.
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13-01-2017, 11:00 AM
RE: The USSR/China/Cambodia as atheist societies: please dissect my rebuttal
(13-01-2017 09:25 AM)Heath_Tierney Wrote:  One of the criticisms of atheism that's often trotted out goes along these lines:

Quote:"You only have to look at atheistic societies to see what happens. The USSR murdered millions of its own people. China did the same. The horrors in Cambodia, led by Pol Pot, an avowed atheist, are well documented."
(I've actually been to the killing fields in Cambodia and to say it's chilling is the understatement of understatements.)

Whoever speak in such way is wrong - people in power may had been absent belief in christian god but:

a) it doesn't mean they didn't have another religion
b) societies weren't atheistic, Russia had it orthodox faith for example. Those societies may became atheistic (in sense on non believing in particular god) but at the time of greatest crimes it was hardly so

My response is usually something like this:

Quote:"Those states - and I agree they were atheist states - substituted devotion to a divine superintelligence to devotion to the state and that state's ideology. The fact that Stalin spent his formative years in a seminary and Pol Pot was at one time a devout Buddhist shows that they were taught religious doctrine and used those teachings as a way to control their populations."

I wouldn't call them atheists states. Theocracies is term which fits better considering said countries had state religion.

Also a fun fact - if Montefiore Stalin: The Court of the Red Tsar is to be believed then Stalin thought of party as an order. It would certainly fir with his upbringing.

Quote:Then I rely on Hitchens:
Quote:"Show me a state which has thrown off the shackles of religion and lived by the principles of the Enlightenment, of liberty, of justice, of freedom of conscience, of Jefferson, of Paine, and still perpetrated horrors, then you might have an argument. But as it is, you (the theist) have no argument."
Alas, I find both those refutations hollow (even though I use them).

I don't like Hitchens one as those states didn't thrown off shackles of religion, just traded one for other.


Decided to wrote second post to address it from different angle.

The first revolt is against the supreme tyranny of theology, of the phantom of God. As long as we have a master in heaven, we will be slaves on earth.

Mikhail Bakunin.
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13-01-2017, 01:00 PM
RE: The USSR/China/Cambodia as atheist societies: please dissect my rebuttal
I'm a little curious why the OP doesn't counter the argument that the dictators who do have religion seem to be no less afraid of divine retribution when slaughtering wholesale.

Everyone involved in the Rwandan genocide was religious, for instance.

Atheist or not, it would strike as a more accurate description to say that power-hungry madmen feel free to murder wholesale, regardless of how they justify their actions to themselves and their supporters. Religion is one way to do it. Making a "god" of the state ideology (and/or leader) is another.

"Theology made no provision for evolution. The biblical authors had missed the most important revelation of all! Could it be that they were not really privy to the thoughts of God?" - E. O. Wilson
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13-01-2017, 01:07 PM
RE: The USSR/China/Cambodia as atheist societies: please dissect my rebuttal
Quote:You only have to look at atheistic societies to see what happens. The USSR murdered millions of its own people. China did the same. The horrors in Cambodia, led by Pol Pot, an avowed atheist, are well documented."


Germany was a Christian nation. They cooperated with National Socialism.
They actually have no data on how many Russian citizens believed what, and cultural change takes generations. After Communism, it's already back to a state religion. Until proven otherwise, Russia was a Russian Orthodox (Christian) society that cooperated with Stalin. These leaders actually did very few "killings". They have no data on the followers, or why they did what they did.

Insufferable know-it-all.Einstein God has a plan for us. Please stop screwing it up with your prayers.
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14-01-2017, 01:09 PM
RE: The USSR/China/Cambodia as atheist societies: please dissect my rebuttal
(13-01-2017 01:00 PM)RocketSurgeon76 Wrote:  I'm a little curious why the OP doesn't counter the argument that the dictators who do have religion seem to be no less afraid of divine retribution when slaughtering wholesale.

Everyone involved in the Rwandan genocide was religious, for instance.

Atheist or not, it would strike as a more accurate description to say that power-hungry madmen feel free to murder wholesale, regardless of how they justify their actions to themselves and their supporters. Religion is one way to do it. Making a "god" of the state ideology (and/or leader) is another.

Good points, all.
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14-01-2017, 01:12 PM
RE: The USSR/China/Cambodia as atheist societies: please dissect my rebuttal
(13-01-2017 01:07 PM)Bucky Ball Wrote:  
Quote:You only have to look at atheistic societies to see what happens. The USSR murdered millions of its own people. China did the same. The horrors in Cambodia, led by Pol Pot, an avowed atheist, are well documented."


Germany was a Christian nation. They cooperated with National Socialism.
They actually have no data on how many Russian citizens believed what, and cultural change takes generations. After Communism, it's already back to a state religion. Until proven otherwise, Russia was a Russian Orthodox (Christian) society that cooperated with Stalin. These leaders actually did very few "killings". They have no data on the followers, or why they did what they did.

Yes, Germany was very much a Christian nation, and much of the horrors perpetrated by the Nazi state was done so with tacit acceptance by the far-right (at the time) Catholic church.

That's why I didn't use Germany in my outline, and stayed with the USSR, Cambodia and China.

And you're right, of course, that the Russian Orthodox Church did cooperate with Stalin, though Stalin himself was an atheist. There's a very detailed paper on this very topic here (it's a PDF): https://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/in...10492/8074
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14-01-2017, 01:40 PM
RE: The USSR/China/Cambodia as atheist societies: please dissect my rebuttal
(14-01-2017 01:12 PM)Heath_Tierney Wrote:  
(13-01-2017 01:07 PM)Bucky Ball Wrote:  Germany was a Christian nation. They cooperated with National Socialism.
They actually have no data on how many Russian citizens believed what, and cultural change takes generations. After Communism, it's already back to a state religion. Until proven otherwise, Russia was a Russian Orthodox (Christian) society that cooperated with Stalin. These leaders actually did very few "killings". They have no data on the followers, or why they did what they did.

Yes, Germany was very much a Christian nation, and much of the horrors perpetrated by the Nazi state was done so with tacit acceptance by the far-right (at the time) Catholic church.

That's why I didn't use Germany in my outline, and stayed with the USSR, Cambodia and China.

And you're right, of course, that the Russian Orthodox Church did cooperate with Stalin, though Stalin himself was an atheist. There's a very detailed paper on this very topic here (it's a PDF): https://ejournals.library.ualberta.ca/in...10492/8074

Stalin was marxist-leninist and according to Imos and his Faith of The Soviet Man aspiring prophet and loyal guardian of doctrine who demanded that orthodoxy should be kept. He was atheist only in that sense he don't believed in christian god, but he still was faithful - even if pragmatic as his pact with Hitler show - communist. His deity being immutable laws of history does not mean that he was atheist.

Also it's not really about cooperation with church, as church as a political entity will cooperate with people in power - crimes of Soviet regime weren't crimes of atheistic society, but rather religious one as Bucky points.

The first revolt is against the supreme tyranny of theology, of the phantom of God. As long as we have a master in heaven, we will be slaves on earth.

Mikhail Bakunin.
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14-01-2017, 01:50 PM
RE: The USSR/China/Cambodia as atheist societies: please dissect my rebuttal
(14-01-2017 01:12 PM)Heath_Tierney Wrote:  Yes, Germany was very much a Christian nation, and much of the horrors perpetrated by the Nazi state was done so with tacit acceptance by the far-right (at the time) Catholic church.

I have to correct you here, twofold even.

#1 The catholic church wasnt politically far right (yet conservative), but rather bound to the "Centrum" party.
#2 While the catholic church certainly at some point collaborated with the NSDAP it was the protestant/evangelical church that actually was embracing the NSDAP first and much more than the catholic church. The catholic church in general resisted much more than the protestant one, although the most prominent nazi victims were protestant (Niemöller, Bonhoeffer) theologians.

This is a very complex topic and a correct answer probably would have taken a whole page and led this thread OT, so please excuse me for making a 2 liner out of this. If you need more info on this judgement feel free to ask ....Szuchow Tongue I am confident he can give you at least two hands full of book titles on the topic. Bowing Laugh out load

Ceterum censeo, religionem delendam esse
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