What’s a common misconception about history that you wish more people didn’t state as fact? Obviously, the myth that is being told by religious apologists, that the Third Reich and Stalinist SU were supposedly atheist dictatorships.Hardcore History Group
Of course, the first response he got to this assertion was that the Soviet Union was atheist and that Hitler was an atheist. I’m not going to talk about Hitler here. His religious views are well documented. Here is the wiki article devoted just to that topic. Hitler was not an atheist. But Stalin did toe the Marxist line and adopt a pretense of atheism. There is room for argument on this subject.
The original poster (OP, in this instance. It could also mean original post. Both are condensed in my unattributed discussion quote) offered a Christopher Hitchens clip that I had to track down in order to use because of the quality of the clip that he had selected.
It turns out to have come from the Hitchens vs. Hitchens: Faith, Politics & War debate. This video is queued up to the beginning of the question that Christopher Hitchens is in the middle of answering in the video offered by the OP:
I love Christopher Hitchens. I would love to be Christopher Hitchens, if it didn’t mean I had to give up being me in order to be him. Therein lies the problem with that personal dream of mine. I soldier on trying to live up to my ideal of the man anyway, knowing I will fail at my goal with every literary outing that I attempt. Failure is how you learn.
The OP’s detractor continued to insist that the Soviet Union practiced religious repression and so couldn’t possibly be considered to be religious in its goals, in much the same vein that the other Hitchens also tries to do if you listen on in the debate. In answering his brother I see Christopher Hitchens come as close to being nervous in his arguments as I have ever seen. I know now watching the whole debate why these debates between the two of them were popular. Sibling rivalry begins in the womb and doesn’t end until the grave. It is visible on Christopher’s face, and it is what gives his overmatched brother the verve to continue the fight for as long as the two of them held breath. It is quite the dance they engage in. Watch the whole thing if you have the time.
Religious repression is not in same ballpark as what Christopher Hitchens is pointing out in his answer. You take a nation of millions of penniless serfs who had been the property of various leaders prior to the time of the Russian revolution in 1917, serfs who believed the king of Russia, whom they call czar, which is literally caesar, the leader in Rome, head of the catholic church, except in Moscow or St. Petersburg, where he is head of the Russian Orthodox church, and the king of that country is anointed by god to lead their religion. Their king is the direct representative of their god and their king, their leader, is their only hope of ever seeing a day that isn’t filled with unrelenting misery. You expect those people to turn on a dime and stop believing because you suddenly declare atheism is the law of the land? That is a knee-slapper right there. A good joke, in Southern parlance.
They believed alright. They weren’t atheists and neither was Stalin an atheist. He thought he was god, just like so many dictators before and after him did, and his followers thought he was god, too. They may have called what they were atheist, but it wasn’t. What they believed was a religion in everything but name, including a bizarre personality cult around its leader and a communist sect trying to push their very own sense of ideological purity. The similarity to religion is uncanny.
This observation also applies to Mussolini, to Robespierre in France, etcetera, etcetera, ad nauseum. Cults of personality are by definitions a flavor of religion. That people who have a religion think theirs is the only thing that can be called a religion is a part of the basic misunderstanding present here.
Mussolini was famously an athiest and anti-clerical while Franco fought the Republcans, in part, because of their anti clerical acrivities. Hilter used a eviscerated state christianity as a political tool. It was non christian on most of the important stuff. So Fascists came in all stripes independent of religion. The Soviets also revived some orthodox practices as a morale builder during the war….. many regimes of all politcal stripe have used religion just as they have used many social insitutions for control. Nothing new, not religion’s faultSteve Andersen
It is religion’s fault that these fascists were successful to exactly the extent that religion represents false belief that originates within authority that is then hijacked by populists and con artists bent on their own pursuits. The pulpit. The presidency. False belief that can be manipulated by authority, like the Prosperity Gospel is a manipulation by the wealthy to control the ignorant who think they work for the dollars the wealthy give them. They don’t work for dollars, they trade their time and effort for dollars. If you love your work you do it for free, it is just hard to feed your family with love and devotion. It takes dollars to do that, ergo trading time for dollars. Dollars that the government makes and could give to anyone. Or take away from anyone.
Attempting to suggest that belief can be separated from human action is where these arguments leave the rails. People kill for belief, do evil for belief. They don’t do these things if they don’t believe, and not believing in god (being an atheist) is not a reason to kill, QED.
So you’re assuming it is false and you have difficulty with authority. Wouldn’t someone who had no belief, and thus assume that moral decisions have no repercussions beyond the here and now also (as any human) be capable of evil? If authority uses food as a weapon (as Stalin did) or the police or the courts o the army (as they all do) does that mean there is something inherantly wrong with food or cops? People do evil things. Whether they have stone knives or nuclear bombs, churches or sewing circles, doesn’t matter. (How to define evil without moral absolutes or authority is another discussion)Steve Andersen
Belief does not equal religion. Belief can be many things and take many forms. Belief that originates in authority and cannot be questioned is automatically suspect no matter the origin. As an atheist I believe many things, it just so happens none of those things relate to gods or their commandments as related by authority. Ergo atheism is not the cause of the problem as the people who make these kinds of arguments are attempting to suggest, because atheism doesn’t mean lack of belief but a lack of belief in gods. It is a specific kind of belief. Can atheists kill? Yes. Do they kill because they are atheists? No. They kill because they are human and are fallible. Or they kill because they are human and they feel threatened. Or any of a myriad of reasons, none of which are likely to be because they don’t believe in gods.
This is the much broader point Christopher Hitchens is actually making in the video clip. Blind obedience encouraged by religion and harnessed by leaders intent on doing evil leads to the kinds of outcomes that religious apologists then turn on their ear and blame on an unrelated part of Marxist dogma (and something entirely missing from fascism) atheism. Because it suits their broader argument of apologizing for religion. I’ll have none of that, thank you.
It is worth noting, as I add this article to the blog some four years after I wrote most of the text in this piece, that I actually agree with the first point that Peter Hitchens advances in the debate. I always have. Invading Iraq was always a bad idea and it was executed under bad intentions and it was Christopher Hitchens’ belief in the threat that he saw in Iraqi muslims and the person of the dictator Saddam Hussein that lead him to support the invasion in the first place.
The proof of the stupidity of invading Iraq only becomes clearer as we get further down this road in history. We have no idea what Saddam Hussein could have been had he been allowed to continue in power. What we do know is that he would never have had access to nuclear weapons of his own construction because we had destroyed his ability to make those weapons with the first war lead by George H. W. Bush. We figured out the lie that lead us into Iraq long after the deed had been done, too late to fix the error (it is still not too late to punish the criminals) Not invading Iraq would have made the emergence of ISIS from out of the disaffected former military leadership of Iraq an improbability. They might have emerged as the next leadership from within Iraq, but there is no way to know that now. We can’t know that, because that road through history isn’t the road we took.
On the road we took we ended up with another President trying to disengage us from the longest war in United States history, dealing with the revolutions that emerged across the region that our invasion had destabilized. The destruction of blood and treasure engaged in by George W. Bush in invading Iraq and Afghanistan lead to a collapse in the global economy and resulted in the election of Donald Trump to the presidency of the United States some 15 years later on a mandate to do to America and the world what Stalin and Mao and Hitler and Mussolini etcetera, etcetera, ad nauseum, did to their countries previously. To make the United States Christian and to then make the rest of the world a direct possession of the United States through economic terrorism, wielding the common world currency, the dollar, as a weapon.
That is what the Evangelicals that backed Donald Trump demanded, and I have little doubt that Christopher Hitchens would have seen through that charlatan in a heartbeat. He would have reneged on his original stance as to the greatness of invading Iraq in much the same way that he changed his position on the subject of waterboarding as torture once he understood what waterboarding was and underwent the torture in order to understand it.
He died of cancer on December 15, 2011, and so we will never know what he would have thought of the rise of Donald Trump from the vestiges of the Moral Majority and Reaganism, and Donald Trump’s further attempts to prosecute wars against the Muslim threat that Evangelical America is still certain is out there waiting for them. Of course they are convinced of this. They have the same designs on those people’s hearth and home as they accuse the other of having. The standard playbook, something Hitch would have also recognized.
In writing out Atheism is Not a Belief System, I purposefully sidestepped the issue of “who kills more, atheists or christians?” because the exercise is a senseless mirror act of finger pointing. Humans kill, and they kill because they believe things. Some of those things that lead them to kill are orders from a higher power that those humans believe is their god. You can then say “ah, so you are engaging in a no true Scotsman fallacy by saying atheists are not mass murders.” and you would be right if I was saying that atheists don’t kill at all. Which is not what I am saying. What I am saying is that if you kill because someone told you to kill, and you think that person is your god, then you are killing for your religion and that is a reason to kill. I’ve said it several times now. Christopher Hitchens said the same thing with more words, and he said it repeatedly in just that one answer to that one question, and none of the people who disagreed with him would accept his answer as valid. If you still disagree then all I can suggest is that you become an atheist and try to kill in the name of the thing you don’t believe in and see if you can do it. Otherwise you will just have to take my word for it.