When this author left off last week, I had just finished examined each of the approximately 12 people Dan Barker had listed as prominent atheists who had made great contributions to the world. Of those twelve, no more than four met the actual criterion set by Dan Barker/Richard Dawkins for atheists.
As a partial counterpoint, atheists figure prominently in the annals of the greatest mass killings and atrocities of the twentieth century. Communist Russia, Communist China, North Korea, Vietnam, Cambodia and Cuba all are (or were) Communist Regimes that commit(ed) massive atrocities on their own citizens. An atheist is not necessarily a Communist. Communists must be atheistic because the state must supplant God as the supreme entity.
||% in List
|Chinese traditional religion/Confucianism
The web page http://www.adherents.com/adh_influ.html. Lists the names, religions and achievements of the top 100 most influential people in world history and given by Michael H. Hart’s book ‘The 100: A Ranking of the Most Influential Persons in History.’ The top eight religious (non)affiliations are seen in the box to the right. The atheists in that Top 100 list were: Karl Marx Simon Bolivar Joseph Stalin Sigmund Freud Vladimir Illych Lenin and Mao Zedong. Considering the legacy of these people, it seems that there is something common in their ideology that leads to slaughter.
Dan states that “Most religions have consistently resisted progress–including the abolition of slavery; women’s right to vote and choose contraception and abortion; medical developments such as the use of anesthesia; scientific understanding of the heliocentric solar system and evolution, and the American principle of state/church separation.”
In the words of Ronald Reagan, “There you go again…” Dan paints ALL RELIGIONS EVERYWHERE AT ALL TIMES with the same brush. Is he judging the society of the Pharos, Alexander the Great or Julius Caesar by today’s standards? Does he judge the regimes of Lenin, Mao, Stalin, Ho Chi Min, Kim Jung Il and Pol Pot by those same standards?
The practice of slavery is as old as time, likely dating back to the Stone Age (as the Stone Age civilizations found in the Americas did). The practice of slavery was global as every society (at one time or another) practiced slavery
The ‘enlightened’ (and often atheistic) ‘elite progressives’ such as Margaret Sanger and Woodrow Wilson (resurrected the dying KKK) of the first half of the twentieth century, judged themselves as the torchbearers and arbiters of human progress. They alone had the intellect and wisdom necessary to guide and make all the ‘tough calls’ for the ignorant masses they would rule over. They were the source of the eugenics movement which was used in turn to support many of the Jim Crow and segregation laws as well as the ‘Cleansing’ of undesirables in/by the Third Reich. Today, the eugenics movement is almost universally condemned now as evil, unfounded and pseudoscience. Do we hold the progressives to today’s standards?
The standards for morals, public or private behavior, just as everything else changes as time goes by. Christ did not explicitly condemn slavery, but the Golden Rule “Do unto others as you would have them do unto you,” makes it rather clear what He wanted people to do. Hebrew law ordered Jews to treat slaves as family and the Jew who killed a slave was to die, just as they would for killing a fellow Jew. The Muslim Religion not only allows, but prescribes enslavement of non-believers. Christianity and Judaism both demand humane treatment of others. Christianity demands it regardless of race, class, sex, etc. The abolitionist movements in Europe in America came from Christianity. Bahá’u’lláh, founder of the Baha’i faith, officially condemned slavery in 1874. In Hinduism, the vedas of about 600+ BC taught that slavery was contrary to their goals. Over time, the teachings of the leaders in the religion went back and forth. Buddhism has a long history of generally condemning slavery, though debt slavery could still occur. Finally, Buddhist Emperor Ashoka banned slavery and renounced war. This list does not contain any pagan religions, Confucianism, Shinto or innumerable others that have existed throughout time. Do these marked difference in beliefs not illustrate that lumping religions all together is like lumping all political parties, all Germans, Japanese (or any other nationality) or atheists into a single unit? Five of the six most influential atheists were dictators of the most tyrannical, bloody regimes of history. The sixth was their political inspiration. Can we therefore judge all atheists to be just like them?
All humans from any time and any place are hypocrites to one extent or another. A person can behave devoutly in church and public places and become a veritable demon in their home or in a neighborhood where they are not known. Yes some rulers in the past have used religion to justify war, subjugation, enslavement and many other evils. Many atheists have done the same or worse with no excuses or cover whatsoever beyond ‘The Dialectic Demands It’. The atheist has no standard for behavior. By rejecting all religions and their teachings, the only available guide will be expediency. Most religions seek to elevate the self to a higher level of purity or holiness. Any theist who takes their faith seriously finds themselves held to a supposedly unchanging standard of ‘Good.’ A theistic person (if they are entirely honest) is aware of how far they fall below the goal of their faith and must therefore strive to improve themselves to become closer to the Creator, and finally reach Enlightenment/Nirvana/Heaven/Paradise.
To judge all religious people by a single incident or period of a single sect is patently ridiculous. For every Salem Witch Trial there are civilians who hide friends, neighbors and strangers in their home because their faith tells them to. Pope Pious XII sheltered 3000-4000 Jews in the papal summer palace outside Rome. Allied airmen and Jews were sheltered inside the Vatican or other church and private properties. If the Germans had chosen to search those locations, the SS would have likely looted the entire Vatican complex within Rome, all properties or accounts owned by the Holy See and the private homes then kill or imprison everyone within.
Women’s suffrage is yet another case of judging the past by today’s standards. The pursuit of equality with men in political and other arenas amounted to the overthrow of 1,400 or more years of both tradition and laws based on those same traditions. To claim that religions opposed women’s suffrage is equivalent to saying politics opposed women’s suffrage. Religion is an ideology. People are born into or choose to join one religion or another. Western culture (particularly American) has chosen to divide the political and religious portions of our lives. It is their choice whether they follow the dogma and traditions of the faith. No one can or will force them. If a preacher gives a sermon about a political issue, they are not serving a deity. They are substituting politics for faith. That being said, how can Dan, sitting in the nosebleed section of the bleachers, be in a position to criticize those who are actually trying to finish the race?
Next, we shall address the charges that Dan brings about religion slowing medical research, scientific advancement, hindering acceptance of evolution or interfering with the separation of church and state.
To the charges of interfering with medicine and science: This author shakes his head slowly and repeats the Ronald Reagan quote from earlier. The Catholic Church was the cradle of modern western science. James Hannam refutes these accusations in his article found at: http://blogs.nature.com/soapboxscience/2011/05/18/science-owes-much-to-both-christianity-and-the-middle-ages. Dr. Hannam points out where in history the charge of suppressing science originated and who exactly created the charges. Even Stefan Molyneux, an atheist Canadian YouTube vlogger and host on Freedomain Radio has created episodes acknowledged that the Catholic Curch built western civilization.
When it comes to evolution, Dan may have a solid case. Yes, some religions reject the theory because they read the bible in a literalist manner. Others reject the theory because it seems to be a tool to eliminate God. Many religious people embraced it enthusiastically and still do. This writer believes it may simply be that God used evolution as a mechanism of creation. Whenever belief systems are seen to collide, it will create tension and disagreement whether the two are actually contradicting each other or not.
The separation of church and state was never under the control of religion. The truth is that in the Western Hemisphere, the church was never in control of the state. The church often served as advisor or attempted to rein in rulers with threats of excommunication. The union of church and state was done through political leaders declaring a religion the ‘official’ religion of the nation, then imprisoning, executing or exiling all who refused to follow the new official religion. The American Experiment with the separation of church and state was never hindered by religion or religious leaders because no one wanted to wind up on the receiving end of state power used to suppress them.
The atheist initiative to drive religion out of any and every public or government space is in direct conflict with the portion of the First Amendment that states: “Congress Shall Make No Law Regarding Religion or the Free Exercise Thereof.” Dan seems to be simultaneously claiming suppression by religion while attempting suppression of religion.
Dan Barker claims that freethought is a philosophical, not a political, position, that embraces adherents of virtually all political persuasions, including capitalists, libertarians, socialists, communists, Republicans, Democrats, liberals and conservatives. There a great deal of literature to negate his claim that there is no philosophical connection between atheism and communism. The atheism in Communist regimes has been and continues to be a form of militant atheism which led to various acts of repression, including the razing of thousands of religious buildings and the killing, imprisoning, and oppression of religious leaders and believers.
The persecution of Christians in the Soviet Union was the result of the violently atheist Soviet government. In the first five years after the October Revolution, 28 bishops and 1,200 priests were murdered, many on the orders of Leon Trotsky. When Joseph Stalin came to power in 1927, he ordered his secret police, under Genrikh Yagoda to intensify persecution of Christians. In the next few years, 50,000 clergy were murdered, many were tortured, including crucifixion. “Russia turned red with the blood of martyrs”, said Father Gleb Yakunin of the Russian Orthodox Church. According to Orthodox Church sources, as many as fifty million Orthodox believers may have died in the twentieth century, mainly from persecution by Communists.
Dan claims that Adam Smith and Ayn Rand were freethinkers and staunch capitalists though he provides no proof to indicate that they had heard of, never mind joined, the ‘Freethinker’ movement. Ayn Rand claimed to be an objectivist, though, not a freethinker. If he is claiming those two simply because they are atheists, then he must also accept Timothy McVeigh, Jeffery Dahmer and every other atheistic criminal in modern history. Though the early Christian Church did have a somewhat communistic organization (see Acts of the Apostles) the experiment was quite short-lived because communism is a system that kills the human spirit and is actually contrary to Jesus’ teaching.
Dan says that North American freethinkers agree in their support of state/church separation. This is quite an extraordinary claim. It is almost unheard of for an organization to have 100% agreement on anything.
To answer the following question: Is atheism/humanism a religion? Dan Barton states, “No. Atheism is not a belief. It is the “lack of belief” in god(s). Lack of faith requires no faith. Atheism is indeed based on a commitment to rationality, but that hardly qualifies it as a religion. Freethinkers apply the term religion to belief systems which include a supernatural realm, deity, faith in “holy” writings and conformity to an absolute creed.”
Claiming the definition of atheism to be merely ‘lack of belief’ is obfuscation as the definition has traditionally been belief that no God or gods exist/active denial of God’s existence To hang onto a new redefinition in one dictionary out of all the brands available, is begging the question. Further, to state lack of faith requires no faith is patently false. To even make this statement requires faith. There is no research or empirical data to support that allegation. Dan Barker has to have faith in his logic or reasoning to even make that statement.
https://humanism.org.uk/humanism/humanism-today/non-religious-beliefs/ The Humanists UK website features the following definitions for Atheist, Freethinker and Humanist
Atheist” includes those who reject a belief in the existence of God or gods and those who simply choose to live without God or gods. Along with this often, but not always, go disbelief in the soul, an afterlife, and other beliefs arising from god-based religions.
“Freethinker” is an old-fashioned term, popular in the nineteenth century, used of those who reject authority in matters of belief, especially political and religious beliefs. It was a very popular term in the 19th century and is still used in different languages in some European countries by non-religious organisations to describe themselves.
“Humanist” is used today to mean those who seek to live good lives without religious or superstitious beliefs. A humanist may embrace all or most of the other approaches introduced here, and in addition humanists believe that moral values follow on from human nature and experience in some way. Humanists base their moral principles on reason (which leads them to reject the idea of any supernatural agency), on shared human values and respect for others. They believe that people should work together to improve the quality of life for all and make it more equitable. Humanism is a full philosophy, “life stance” or worldview, rather than being about one aspect of religion, knowledge, or politics
Secular humanism has no god, bible or savior. It is based on natural rational principles. It is flexible and relativistic–it is not a religion.
The claim that ‘Freethinkers/Humanists/Atheists are not religions because they do not rely on “ a supernatural realm, deity, faith in “holy” writings and conformity to an absolute creed” is completely false. As Dan Barker describes ‘free thought’ it does in fact have a god (atheistic reason), bible (the writings of Harris, Dawkins, Hitchens, Denning, et al), saviors (the atheistic apostles who wrote their bibles) the natural, rational principles, that freethinkers claim to base their philosophy on deliberately and consistently ignores all logical/physical/rational/medical evidence for a creator, the soul and anything else related to religion.
The flexibility and relativism Dan Barker claims for the freethinkers exists only for those who adhere completely to the doctrines he prescribes. In the first installment of this series, I examined the cognitive dissonance that is involved with that description of ‘freethinking’ and how it demands absolute adherence to a set doctrine.
Mr. Barker finished his essay with the question, “Why should I be happy to be a freethinker?
He answers his question by stating the following, “Freethought is reasonable. Freethought allows you to do your own thinking. A plurality of individuals thinking, free from restraints of orthodoxy, allows ideas to be tested, discarded or adopted. Freethinkers see no pride in the blind maintenance of ancient superstitions or self-effacing prostration before divine tyrants known only through primitive “revelations.” Freethought is respectable. Freethought is truly free.”
I ask again, Mr. Barker, “How can you state that any of those statements be true when you have laid out absolute demands for private beliefs to adhere to. Nothing can be said to have freedom when there are boundaries placed on inquiry or pre-set answers to those possible questions. I refer again to the first essay I wrote on this topic.
Stating a false claim repeated times Mr. Barker, does not make you any more correct. You claim again and again that religions are ancient superstitions that blind people and prevent ideas from being tried and tested when the very science and scientific methods you espouse were developed in Medieval Monasteries. You decry blind adherence to ancient superstitions when there are growing proofs for the existence of a Creator in every field of scientific inquiry. I respectfully suggest, Mr Barker,that you take a long, hard look in the proverbial mirror and honestly analyze the question of who is adhering blindly to a bankrupt ideology.