Doug's Darkworld

War, Science, and Philosophy in a Fractured World.

Those Crazy Atheists

with 14 comments


Ah, another lovely atheist meme lifted from Facebook. I see a lot of stuff like this. It bothers me for a number of reasons. It’s a wonderful example of how convincing false arguments can be, since I’m pretty sure most atheists have no problem with this image at all. That’s how false arguments work, they sound very convincing if one already agrees with them. That’s how Rush Limbaugh and his ilk cash in, they just endlessly regurgitate strings of false arguments that reinforce the prejudices and misconceptions of their target audience, and they’re golden. It works the same with all belief systems as far as I can tell, atheism among them.

OK, let’s get started deconstructing this mess. “Radical Muslims fly planes into buildings.” Well, appeal to emotion for one thing. One should always be suspicious of arguments that start off by pushing emotional buttons. This is also a propaganda button, since the idea that 9/11 was because they were crazy Muslims has been the central plank of US propaganda since 9/11.  Um, yes, the 9/11 plotters were Muslims, but their reasons for attacking the USA were largely secular and completely in response to US actions in the Middle East. Actions that killed vastly more innocents than died on 9/11. In other words, this first statement isn’t really true, and it’s completely without context. It’s a great way to demonize all Muslims though, even though the vast majority of them are as appalled by 9/11 as anyone else.

On to number two, abortion doctor killers. How many of them have there been, three? To say this is a cherry picked example is being generous. Thousands of murders are committed in the USA every year, most of them with motives as messed up as the abortion doctor killers. One could find examples of murders by any sort of person one likes and then hold it up as an example of how some radical world view poisons people. An argument that can be used to support any position isn’t much of an argument.

And what about radical Christians and Muslims that do good things? How come they don’t get mentioned? Small numbers of radical Christians helped their neighbours avoid the holocaust. Radical Muslims built a holocaust museum on the West Bank and surround churches in Egypt to protect their Christian neighbours. Wow, what monsters these radical religious people must be! In other words, radical religious people do terrible things because when a terrible thing was committed by a religious person, it must have been because of his religion. What?

Lastly, and the most transcendentally absurd considering that the meme is apparently trying to make the case that somehow atheism is a voice for peace, is the idea that radical atheists are just harmless authors. Well, first off, even the radical atheists they are alluding to, Hitchens and Dawkins I am assuming, have been some of the biggest cheerleaders for America’s violent foreign policy in the Middle East and Asia. Um, promoting war against Muslims isn’t about peace, it’s warmongering. It gets even worse. Stalin and Mao were both atheists and they both wrote books. And they were definitely antithetic to religion, which would seem to make them pretty radical. They also did far more than write books, they killed tens of millions of people. In fact they make al-Qaeda and abortion doctor shooters look like amateurs when it comes to mass murder. Why not mention them in the company of radical atheists?

In the real world the reasons for human violence are complex and deeply rooted in history, personality, culture, and politics. And while religion is most definitely used to inspire people in violent endeavours, it’s rarely the seminal cause of those endeavours. Sophomoric tropes blaming violence on religion are just atheist propaganda, and about as helpful as blaming Jews or Muslims or Christians for the world’s  violence. It’s easy to blame the world’s problems on people who are different than you. This is what radical atheists are doing with this meme, it’s just a way for atheists to pretend they have the answer. Kinda like what so many religions do.

“The line separating good and evil passes not through states, nor between classes, nor between political parties either, but right through every human heart.”
—Aleksandr Solzhenitsyn

(The above image appears to have its own attribution, and since they must have released it on Facebook, it must be public domain. In any event it’s not being used for profit and is claimed as Fair Use under US copyright law. I could have also mentioned that a certain famous German atheist wrote a book called Mein Kampf that’s not exactly a handbook for peace. However his atheism is debatable, Mao and Stalin’s isn’t.)


Written by unitedcats

June 19, 2013 at 10:29 am

14 Responses

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  1. The point is that the word ‘radical’ is attached inappropriately to atheists who dare to write books, whereas the term is applied elsewhere to mean the willingness to use violence. Atheists don’t do violence to promote atheism, so the term is completely out of place. Yits companion is the ever-present ‘militant’ when it comes to vocal atheists, yet this doesn’t stop otherwise reasonable people from smearing atheists with these inappropriate words all the time. That you failed to pick up on this point but allowed yourself to get angry at this misunderstood atheist ‘meme’ as if it smeared others who do use violence to promote their versions of islamic and christian values shows just how shallow is your comprehension of the complaint.


    June 19, 2013 at 12:33 pm

    • Nope. Radical doesn’t necessarily imply violence, so you’re wrong there, and the word militant is so common now that it isn’t inappropriate either.


      June 19, 2013 at 2:08 pm

      • Oh, for crying out loud, please explain how non belief in a god or gods is ‘radical’? Yours, for examples, in not believing in Tonatiuh. Please show us all how we should make the comparison with those who do violence in the name of a god or gods and show us all this connection you insist belittles these violent perpetrators?


        June 19, 2013 at 2:56 pm

  2. A competent hatchet job, Doug, but your target was kind of small, slow and stupid….

    Ed Johns

    June 19, 2013 at 10:48 pm

    • OK, sorry that was out of line.

      Ed Johns

      June 19, 2013 at 10:54 pm

      • Webster lists the primary definition of “religion” as “a belief in a divine or superhuman power or powers to be obeyed and worshiped as the creator(s) and ruler(s) of the universe”. Say what you will, atheism does not meet that standard.
        Also, the fact that Atheists are annoyed or angered by being told that their beliefs are a religion does not necessarily say anything about what they believe, except perhaps that they believe they have the right to reject a label they probably find offensive.
        Furthermore, not believing in something does not make one a member of a group of people who also don’t believe in that thing. I’m sure neither Hitler, Stalin, bin Laden, Churchill, Roosevelt nor Pol Pot believed in Santa Claus, but that disbelief does not make them members of a common group, or somehow distribute the responsibility for their actions amongst others who don’t believe in Santa Claus.
        Furthermore, attacks on religion from atheists (at least the sensible ones) generally pivot on actions performed in the name of religion. Neither Hitler nor Stalin acted in the name of Atheism. They may have been atheists, but atheism was not their motivating ideology. To attack Communism because of the crimes of Stalin is fairly reasonable. To attack atheism on the same basis is, I submit, much less tenable.
        Unfortunately in todays world we see many threats, some minor like Al Qaida, some major like the religious right wing in America, that do act explicitly in the name of religion. When people commit crimes in the name of religion that, sadly, reflects on the religion that they purport to represent, and the onus is on the other representatives of that religion to disavow them. Some religions, like Islam, have done an OK job, others, like the Evangelical Protestants, less so. When people go around committing murder in the name of Atheism, I promise you, you won’t find me defending them.

        Ed Johns

        June 19, 2013 at 11:53 pm

  3. The promotion of atheism is central to communism. Religion gets replaced with the political system. All support must then only come from the state.

    John Galt

    June 20, 2013 at 9:28 pm

  4. The argument the meme was making was that atheists aren’t dangerous, it’s religious radicals that kill people. Since Stalin and Mao are in the top ten of history’s greatest murderers, and they were both definitely atheist, the meme is suspect at best. Clearly being an atheist doesn’t prevent one from inflicting acts of unspeakable violence. And, you know, consider the odds. How many of histories murderous leaders have been atheists? 2? So they account for a vastly disproportionate share of the violence. Saying they weren’t “inspired” by atheism is at best a “no true Scotsman” argument. You can’t simultaneously claim that atheists aren’t violent but Stalin and Mao weren’t real atheists. Interesting comments, thanks! —Doug


    June 27, 2013 at 8:24 pm

    • Not so fast, unitedcats. Whereas religious motivation can be directly attributed to be the cause of much violence – violence carried out in its name – atheism cannot. It was not atheism that was the motivation that caused the violence done by Mao and Stalin; they did not do violence in its name. That’s why the analogy fails.


      June 28, 2013 at 5:44 am

      • So what, exactly, caused Stalin and Mao to be two of histories greatest monsters? You are claiming that their atheism had absolutely nothing to do with their world view and the actions they took? Bullshit. Atheists unable to grasp that atheism can be horrifically misnavigated are making the same mistake theist’s make … claiming that their world view has all the answers. Mao and Stalin and tens of millions of graves are proof that atheism whatever its advantages may be, is clearly not the whole answer to the problem of human violence. The line between good and evil lies in each of us, and that includes atheists. —Doug


        June 28, 2013 at 7:48 pm

      • I am claiming that the violence done by Mao and Stalin and Pol Pot and Hitler were done to solidify political power to bring about a totalitarian state they led and not to further any goals of ‘atheism’. If anything, the tools of the totalitarian trade, so to speak, is identical to establishing totalitarian religious authority, and the first order of business is to dismantle individual legal autonomy in the name of some greater ‘good’ and then the dismantling of any competing ideology. Furthering the influence of atheism was never the motivation for the violence by these totalitarian leaders; eliminating those whose loyalties to the Dear Leader and/or threat of usurping the accumulated political power was systematically carried out.

        Atheism does not claim what you think it claims: a worldview or perspective that is the whole answer to the problem of human violence. Atheism is simply non belief in gods or a god. That’s it. That’s the sum total of its ideology, its worldview, its perspective. Atheists as individuals are as likely as anyone else to be violent or do violence, but it’s not a comparative ideology to religion that often is furthered by doing violence in its name. Thinking it is is buying into a misrepresentation that serves believers to lump us into a single and competitive category that isn’t true in reality; remember that every believer is an atheist to every other religious notion save one, and it will serve you well responding to such claims as the Mao/Stalin trope.


        June 28, 2013 at 8:46 pm

  5. Hey Doug! First of all, I hate memes, they are the bastard children of bumper-stickers and 100 times more annoying. I think its important to point out that if you do not believe in any religion you are an atheist, if you promote non-belief in any religion you are an anti-theist. For atheists there is no belief system,no holy text or prophet or whatever to condone violence or any other actions and no instructions or mandates that say you should get others to not believe. Seems to me “radical atheism” is just anti-theism, and atheists should not be lumped with anti-theists.


    July 1, 2013 at 1:23 pm

    • There already is just such a distinction: we’re called New Atheists and we have compelling reasons to be against all forms of woo.


      July 1, 2013 at 2:06 pm

      • “we have compelling reasons to be against all forms of woo.” ahaha, I love that statement, lol


        July 1, 2013 at 2:45 pm

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