Reading the comments on this story, I saw several people demonizing atheism, on the basis that people who declared themselves atheists – like many communist leaders – did so many atrocities. As examples of this, they usually mention Mao, Stalin and Hitler among others.
I will ignore the obvious error of Hitler being atheist, since Fascism and Nazism were not only movements with Religious roots but had also strong backing by the Church, even after their failure.
Here I will sidetrack a little to say this: Even if you compare Stalin’s and Mao’s to religious leaders like (this time correctly) Hitler, Mussolini, King Justinian and even Bush, you will see that were the first did what they did for the benefit of their country (albeit at a high cost of human lives within the same country they were benefiting) with tangible results (USSR become a superpower and China is on the same track right now), the later did their atrocities for no other specific reason than to follow demented (religious) ideals and/or satisfy their own (or, as in the case of Bush, the people that move their strings) lust for power.
But of course they base their whole argument on the opinions that have been spoon fed to them (Communism demonization) and hope the emotional baggage is enough to make a point.
Back on topic now. These people seem to ignore that with this kind of argument (“atheism is bad because Stalin was bad”) they open a whole new avenue of attack against religion.
I usually do not open this subject because I have come to realize that you should not attack an idea itself based on the actions that self-labeled “upholders” of that idea take. When I make an argument about a religion. I do not begin by enumerating all the bad things leaders of that religion has taken. All proponents will do to defend against this, is to just say that they (the religious leaders) were never true believers but liars instead.
However when that said proponent is the first to accuse atheism (of all things) of being one of the causes for, say, Stalin’s atrocities, I cannot help but wonder on how hypocritical that is coming from the mouth of a religious person.
Crusades, Inquisition, War, Fascism, Genocides, Destroyed woman rights ,Destroyed Human rights, Racism, War, Perpetuation of Epidemics, Anti-Knowledge, Terrorism, Abuse, Hatred and War-fucking-WAR!
These are the fruits of religion, if we take as examples the religious leaders of history.
Trust me Christian, you do not want to open this can of worms.
And just think, for every bad representative of atheism you can think of, it has hundreds of good examples. Scientists like Einstein, Philosophers like Marx, Spiritualists like Buddha and much more. Tell me how many good things religion has done? (And don’t bring examples like Mother Teresa or I will laugh bitterly)
Furthermore, just because a person is an atheist, it does not have anything to do with the way he acts in life. Unlike religion which tries to set moral guidelines (and such good guidelines they are), being an atheist is just that, the absence of belief in one or more supernatural beings and nothing more. It is not a religion as some would try to convince you (There is not Church of Atheism and no two atheists believe the same thing) and as such, it does not have a moral guideline that comes packaged.
However, as funny as it seems, as a rule, atheists tend to be quite more altruistic (or “good”) than most religious people, any way you look at it. The only immoral thing about an atheist is that he doesn’t follow the demented morality of other religions. He will not beat his wife because she was raped, he will not become a builder because he happened to be born as one and he will not sacrifice a human because “his god requires it”.
To paraphrase: Every religious person is immoral to the eyes of every other religion. An Atheist is just immoral for one more religion than everyone else.
If nothing else, he may actually take the best ideas from every religion and if after adequate criticism they stand up to his morality and further his way of life, he will absorb them, discarding any theological garbage.
I ask you, would a devout religious person do the same?
EDIT: Fixed Mother Teresa and Beating links