Friday, 24 September 2010

Another equation of atheism and Hitler

So why do the religious, when cornered to admit that religion kills, always hurl the canard that atheism brings us Hitler, Stalin, and Mao as if this were in some way logical? After all, how could atheism do such a thing? It’s like saying that because Hitler, Stalin and Mao all wore brown shoes that brown-shoe-wearing causes the death of millions of innocents. Still more illogical is the proposition that the atheist community should apologise for these atrocities. Bill Donohue of the Catholic League, who fights “anti-Catholicism”, recently said:

The pope cited Hitler today, asking everyone to "reflect on the sobering lessons of atheist extremism of the 20th century." Immediately, the British Humanist Association got its back up, accusing the pope of "a terrible libel against those who do not believe in God."

The pope did not go far enough. Radical atheists like the British Humanist Association should apologize for Hitler. But they should not stop there. They also need to issue an apology for the 67 million innocent men, women and children murdered under Stalin, and the 77 million innocent Chinese killed by Mao. Hitler, Stalin and Mao were all driven by a radical atheism, a militant and fundamentally dogmatic brand of secular extremism. It was this anti-religious impulse that allowed them to become mass murderers. By contrast, a grand total of 1,394 were killed during the 250 years of the Inquisition, most all of whom were murdered by secular authorities.

Why should atheists today apologize for the crimes of others? At one level, it makes no sense: apologies should only be given by the guilty. But on the other hand, since the fanatically anti-Catholic secularists in Britain, and elsewhere, demand that the pope—who is entirely innocent of any misconduct—apologize for the sins of others, let the atheists take some of their own medicine and start apologizing for all the crimes committed in their name. It might prove alembic.

(What the hell is the word ‘alembic’ doing in there? That’s an alchemy term, not an adjective. Anyway...) I want to know where these religious folk get their history from. Is there some sort of Christian playbook floating around that includes all the common fallacies and misconceptions we hear all the time? I can just imagine the chapters of such a pamphlet: “Hitler and atheism: Six degrees of separation” or “20th Century Atheist Genocides: The players, the proof” Because even a cursory glance at Hitler’s writings will reveal his honest belief that he was doing “god’s” work. For instance, here he is in a speech at the Reichstag in 1936:

"I believe today that I am acting in the sense of the Almighty Creator. By warding off the Jews I am fighting for the Lord's work."

Pretty unambiguous I think. And again in his book:

"I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator."

[Adolph Hitler, _Mein Kampf_, pp. 46]

"What we have to fight the freedom and independence of the fatherland, so that our people may be enabled to fulfil the mission assigned to it by the Creator."

[Adolph Hitler, _Mein Kampf_, pp. 125]

This is not the voice of a person dedicated to “secular extremism” as touted by Donohue and co. Atheists do not, out of habit mostly, invoke the ‘Creator’ when making a speech. Indeed Hitler goes on to describe his deep convictions as a Christian believer.

"This human world of ours would be inconceivable without the practical existence of a religious belief."

[Adolph Hitler, _Mein Kampf_, pp.152]

"I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so"

[Adolph Hitler, to Gen. Gerhard Engel, 1941]

Here’s the kicker. The rhetoric spouted by the religious that atheism equates to genocide and Hitler is not dispersed by some sect, or a shunned parish deep in the wintery highlands, it is spread by mainstream religious organisations. The charge that atheism inevitably eventuate Stalin and Mao falls just as easily as the Hitler fiasco with a bit of historical and contextual research. The claim is ludicrous that atheism somehow leads to terror, the religious are fed this lie to exacerbate an already brooding ‘us vs them’ mindset; to separate further out the so-called ‘sheep from the goats’. Besides, how can a position such as atheism ‘lead’ to anything? It’s neither a world-view nor a belief structure. Atheism, as I’ve said before, is simply the negative answer to the question, "Do you believe in god?" Why is that so difficult for the religious to grasp?

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