Tom Gilson

A. C. Grayling’s Falsehoods

This entry is part 2 of 2 in the series Grayling's God Argument


Series: Grayling's God Argument

I wrote a first impression of A. C. Grayling’s The God Argument the other day. Now for a second impression of Grayling’s falsehoods. This one is horrific:

Religious individuals and institutions . . . sometimes accuse their critics of militancy. The critics reply that when religion occupied a dominant position in society, it dealt with its critics much more harshly than today’s critics now deal with religion: for one familiar example, by torturing them and burning them at the stake. Today’s critics of religions generally limit themselves to hurling arguments rather than stones at the religious.

He knows better. The list of people burned at the stake is largely populated with dissenting — yet strong — believers. None of this should have happened: it is all atrocious.

But do critics of religion limit themselves to hurling arguments? What an abominable, twisted, false thing to say!

Hitler killed six million Jews — and three million Christians — in less than a decade. That’s at least thirty times, perhaps 500 times as many people as were burned at the stake over hundreds of years. I don’t know whether Hitler was officially an atheist, but he was certainly a critic of religion. That’s not just hurling arguments, you know.

Communist regimes were “critics of religions” who generally allowed themselves to imprison, torture, and kill Christians, steal children from their Christian parents, shutter and destroy churches, ban Christian literature, forbid Christians from meeting, impose special tax burdens, block Christians from employment, and — oh yes, “hurl arguments” against Christianity that were just as much lies as what Grayling has told here.

It’s still going on. I have a friend in Belarus whose church was systematically targeted for persecution in just the past year. I was in Cuba not long ago, with government permission to talk with Christians there — permission the government revoked after just a few days.

So tell us, Dr. Grayling, do you know the difference between hurling arguments and hurling lies? What’s that — you say you don’t? Really? Are you proud of yourself for it? How about the atheists reading here: are you proud of being aligned with this?

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55 thoughts on “A. C. Grayling’s Falsehoods

  1. Haven’t read the book, but I expect he would say those critics are not from “today”. If he stated that clearly in the book then readers would know that he is cherry picking the data to make things look better (worse?) than they really are.

  2. I’m an atheist, and that paragraph seems fine to me.

    Without more context, I think your charge of lying turns on the definition of “today” and what it means to be a “critic of religion”.

    First, I agree with Steve K., events of 70 years ago aren’t normally referred to as “today”.

    Second, by describing Hitler as a “critic of religion”, aren’t you expanding the phrase’s meaning beyond anything Grayling would have intended?

    Hitler never even hinted at being an atheist. From the page you linked:

    In [Mein Kampf] historian Richard Steigmann-Gall notes, “Hitler gave no indication of being an atheist or agnostic or of believing in only a remote, rationalist divinity. Indeed, he referred continually to a providential, active deity.

    If Hitler was a “critic of religion”, then when the Nigerian Christians attack Muslims and burn a mosque, or Syrian Muslims attack Christians and burn a church, they’re all just acting as “critics of religion”.

    If there’s context to consider I’m ready to be wrong, but otherwise, let’s cut Grayling some slack: by “today” Grayling means, well, today, and by “critics of religion” he means critics of religious faith as a concept, not “anybody on the planet who abuses a person of any faith for any reason”.

  3. Keith, if we’re going to cut Grayling some slack for the 20th century then maybe he could cut us some for the 16th.

    If Hitler wasn’t a critic of religion (for the sake of argument, that is), then Stalin was. Mao was. Castro is.

  4. Hitler certainly was a Christian. Perhaps not in the same sense that you are, but he considered himself one. He certainly was not an atheist.

    A quick google even brings these up:

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

    – Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Vol. 1 Chapter 2

    “My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice… And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.

    -Adolf Hitler, in a speech on 12 April 1922 (Norman H. Baynes, ed. The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, April 1922-August 1939, Vol. 1 of 2, pp. 19-20, Oxford University Press, 1942)

  5. Chris, see here.

    Why is it (this is just astonishing to me!) that people think that Hitler’s words should be taken at face value? Has it not occurred to you that he might have been a liar? Or was he too fine and upstanding a character in your view for him to have done that?

  6. @Keith,
    I appreciate you agreeing with me, but it doesn’t help Grayling even if true. The point of his argument loses any force if he’s cherry picking data to make his case.

    All it takes is a rebuttal that also uses cherry picked data, which is kind of pointless really, but if you want a rebuttal like that then Tom gave one in #4.

  7. I’m just saying that he felt he was a Christian, and demonstrated it many times in speeches and in writings.

    Hitler felt that he was doing “God’s work”. Now I’m not sure exactly where this came from, for there are plenty of variables, but you can argue that much of his warped sense of right and wrong stemmed from the antisemitism that existed for centuries in Europe. I won’t make any claims as to the source if this antisemitism, but it certainly isn’t a characteristic on non-Christians and non-Muslims.

    At the end of the day, if you can’t call him a God-believing Christian, then what is he then?

  8. “At the end of the day, if you can’t call him a God-believing Christian, then what is he then?”

    Oh. My. Goodness.

    I am stunned.

    Sorry, Chris, but your binary thinking here is astonishing.

    I’m not going to honor that question with any further answer.

  9. And if you think I’m going to let you get away with, “[antisemitism] isn’t a characteristic on non-Christians and non-Muslims,” you’re wrong. It’s your claim. Show me the evidence. Make sure you don’t include Stalin; he’ll make your case a lot harder to demonstrate.

  10. Chris @9, Tom @11:

    Tom’s right, antisemitism predates Christianity.

    Religious antisemitism is arguably rooted in historic Christianity, but that wasn’t where antisemitism first appears, the Jews were outcasts before that.

    Wikipedia has a whole page.

  11. How about the atheists reading here: are you proud of being aligned with this?

    To what, specifically, does that final “this” refer to? What are we supposed to be “aligned with”? Grayling’s words, or Stalin’s actions, or what?

    And while Hitler was certainly a ‘critic’ of some religions in specific, your source itself states To the extent he believed in a divinity, Hitler did not believe in a “remote, rationalist divinity” but in an “active deity,” which he frequently referred to as “Creator” or “Providence”. It’s kind of hard to call that ‘atheist’.

    Stalin, Mao, et. al. certainly illustrate clearly that atheism is no vaccination against dogmatism. But a large part of the reason they killed so many is that the technology available (a) allowed more people to exist thanks to better agriculture and so forth, and (b) allowed people to be killed faster and more efficiently than ever before. Massacre with a machine gun is much quicker than with a sword. I find it hard to think that, had one somehow been available, either side of the Albigensian crusade would have hesitated to use a nuke.

    I think dogmatism is by far the greater threat than religion per se. But it does seem to me that, all else being equal, thinking you have commands from the Author of the Universe might be an enhanced risk factor for dogmatism.

    [BTW, only tangentially related, but interesting: The Communist states under Stalin and Mao explicitly rejected neo-Darwinian evolution, embracing (and enforcing) Lysenkoism instead. The resulting crop failures when reality failed to match up to “worker’s science” killed a huge fraction – possibly the majority – of the millions who died under those regimes. Ironically, the people under Hitler, Stalin, and Mao would have been better off if their leaders had accepted neo-Darwinian evolution.]

  12. Tom wrote:

    Has it not occurred to you that he [Hitler] might have been a liar?

    Oh come on Tom. Hitler was a megalomaniac, an antisemitic racist and mass murderer; but a liar? (Just kidding) 🙂

  13. Ray wrote:

    The Communist states under Stalin and Mao explicitly rejected neo-Darwinian evolution, embracing (and enforcing) Lysenkoism instead.

    That might be true but Darwinian thinking did have a direct influence on the Nazis. In other words, this is a case of “pick your poison”.

  14. JAD – Darwinian thinking did have a direct influence on the Nazis.

    Indirect, in that it was filtered through a couple other sources (the ‘Social’ ‘Darwinists’ – rather like ‘Christian’ ‘Scientists’, really), and their interpretation was based on the idea that the ‘races’ had been created separately.

    As Hitler put it: Where do we acquire the right to believe that man has not always been what he is now? The study of nature teaches us that, in the animal kingdom just as much as in the vegetable kingdom, variations have occurred. They’ve occurred within the species, but none of these variations has an importance comparable with that which separates man from the monkey — assuming that this transformation really took place.

    and

    The fox remains always a fox, the goose remains a goose, and the tiger will retain the character of a tiger. The only difference that can exist within the species must be in the various degrees of structural strength and active power, in the intelligence, efficiency, endurance, etc., with which the individual specimens are endowed.

    In modern terminology… Hitler was a creationist who accepted only ‘microevolution’!

  15. Come on people. Was Hitler a Christian – What’s in a name? Was Hitler a follower of Jesus Christ – NOT A CHANCE !!!
    He was a manipulator of people, of the Catholic Church and did and said anything that served his purpose alone.

  16. Its funny how things change. Growing up it was the religiously dominated societies of the West stood for human rights, and the atheist regimes of the East which stood against them.

    Somewhat ironically, it’s that freedom which the atheism of today benefited from.

  17. Saying that Hitler wasn’t a true Christian is just a No True Scotsman fallacy. What’s germane is that he apparently believed that he was doing God’s work. That shouldn’t be surprising – so did the church during the Inquisition, the Crusades, the witch hunts, or even Martin Luther’s antisemitic diatribes such as his book “On Jews and Their Lies”.

    Atheism is not normative. It’s descriptive. There’s no such thing as an “atheist philosophy” or an “atheist dogma”. An atheist just doesn’t believe in a God or gods. It’s that simple. You cannot gleam anything else about them simply from that one descriptive label any more than you can gleam anything from someone because they don’t believe in fairies.

    Most modern atheists are also Humanists though, like Grayling himself. Humanism is not atheism. All humanists are atheists, but not all atheists are humanists. This is elementary stuff. Heck,it’s so elementary that it’s in Atheism for Dummies:

    Q: Do you think God exists?
    A: No, I’m an atheist.
    Q: But are you absolutely certain?
    A: Of course not, I’m an agnostic.
    Q: And do you believe as you do because some authority told you to?
    A: No, I’m a freethinker
    Q: And if there’s no God, don’t you think it’s important for us to take care of each other?
    A: Of course. I’m a humanist.

    That Stalin was an atheist is irrelevant, precisely because atheism is only descriptive. He was not a humanist, and he certainly didn’t espouse free thought. Like most such dictators he was a megalomaniac who preached a political dogma that was not unlike a religion unto itself.

    If atheism really led people to mass murder, the largely secular countries of Northern and Western Europe would be the most violent nations in the world. But they’re the most peaceful and prosperous nations on Earth.

    So, Grayling is right. There was never, nor is there now, any “atheist dogma” that leads people to kill religious people. The phrase is meaningless, since atheism is not normative. Grayling, clearly, is responding to the frequent claim that people like himself, Dawkins, the late Hitchens, Harris, Dennett… hell, myself… are “militant”. What is “militant” about presenting arguments against religion in print and in the public forum of a secular democracy?

  18. I think that by militant people mean exactly what just about any dictionary defines it as.

    mil·i·tant
    [mil-i-tuhnt]
    adjective
    1.
    vigorously active and aggressive, especially in support of a cause: militant reformers.
    2.
    engaged in warfare; fighting.

    Where is the confusion in that Mike? It seems to me that people like Dawkins (perhaps less so Grayling ) fit that definition when it comes to their reaction to religion. If it quacks like a duck…

    Their militancy is understandable in some ways, of course, but the tone can be shrill and often hysterical and when it is so it eventually becomes tedious. Incidentally, Grayling’s term “critic” is all but useless. He seems to ignore the rather obvious reality that there exist plenty of internal critics of religion.

    Comparing atheism to a particular religion is a category error. The opposite of atheism is theism, not religions or a particular religion.

    It seems to me that in the grand scale of things not believing in God makes somebody as likely to do nasty things as believing in God. I wonder would Grayling agree with this? If so then what are we talking about?

    Anywho, Russia again supplies us with a good example of people motivate by beliefs rooted in atheism. The League of Militant Atheists has a certain ring to it, no? In name only it seems to fit the bill – atheists who where militant in their opposition to religion.

    Finally, not all humanists are atheist.

  19. Mike D,

    So, Grayling is right. There was never, nor is there now, any “atheist dogma” that leads people to kill religious people. The phrase is meaningless, since atheism is not normative.

    Then for the same reason, the phrase “atheism provides a positive benefit to humanity” is also meaningless.

    So while atheists may do good deeds, discover new medicines or invent the next big thing – these outcomes have nothing to do with atheism.

    Nothing there to cheer about. Makes me wonder why so many people spend their time talking about it.

  20. The “Hitler was a Christian” stuff is nonsense and has been shown to be over and over. The Nazi hierarchy, including Hitler, were primarily occultists if they had any religious orientation at all. He wasn’t any kind of Christian that would be recognizable as such and that doesn’t qualify in any sense as a “No True Scotsman fallacy”. He used the churches and religion and religious rhetoric in any way that suited his ends. Claiming Hitler was a Christian only shows how little one understands the entire Nazi movement and the ideology that informed it.

  21. BillT – I, for one, have not claimed that Htler was a Christian. (Though a huge number of the anti-Semites who carried out the Holocaust claimed to be Christian.)

    I do claim quite explicitly that Hitler was not an atheist. Tom wrote, “I don’t know whether Hitler was officially an atheist”. Hopefully now Tom knows that Hitler was officially not an atheist.

  22. Mike D says “That Stalin was an atheist is irrelevant, precisely because atheism is only descriptive.”

    Right it’s descriptive when you want it to be, Let’s tell that to atheists who use the definition and concept of ‘atheism’ to their advantage whilst pointing out countries that are more atheist than theist as being good places to live. (ie: The Nordic countries, Finland, Norway etc.) Which in the end makes a comparison, but when someone brings up Stalin all of a sudden the atheist changes his own criteria.

    For the logic to be consistent if one can’t give blame then you can’t give praise when it helps your argument, as long as I see consistency here then I don’t have a problem.

    But the inconsistent ‘let’s use my definition when it works in my favor’ is absurd.

    Also even if one did ‘bite the bullet’ and commit to a no true scottsman fallacy, so what? I see many laymen use this term of no true scottsman claim all the time, but it’s a rarity in academia. The same goes for ‘godwin’

    Lastly why don’t you define what a ‘Christian’ actually is, for you need to do so in order to make a claim that entails substance. I mean you do care about validity in your arguments, right?

  23. SteveK –

    Then for the same reason, the phrase “atheism provides a positive benefit to humanity” is also meaningless.

    Just as much as “theism provides a positive benefit to humanity” is meaningless. Just ask the Aztecs.

    Some philosophies or worldviews with theistic elements have been beneficial to humanity. (And others inimical…)

    Similarly, some atheistic philosophies have been harmful to humanity. And others beneficial.

  24. Ray,

    Just as much as “theism provides a positive benefit to humanity” is meaningless. Just ask the Aztecs.

    Perhaps. Christian theism is not meaningless if true and most beneficial to humanity if true.

    There is no such equivalent version of atheism (according to Mike), which was my main point. My lesser point in the form of a question was to ask why Mike talks about it so much when there is literally no human benefit to be found in its truth. If true, atheism is a useless fact of nature.

  25. Right.

    Christian theists are more than willing to claim Christian theist beliefs. Atheists seem eager to deny any atheistic beliefs.

  26. “My lesser point in the form of a question was to ask why Mike talks about it so much when there is literally no human benefit to be found in its truth. If true, atheism is a useless fact of nature.”

    Because it is extremely interesting to atheists why so many people are theists? That’s why I at least am fascinated by these blogs and religious people in general. Sure I could go on with my life and never give religion another thought, since it is basically irrelevant to my life, but it *is* very interesting.

  27. I wonder why anyone would spend time talking about atheism, and you say it’s because theism is interesting to atheists.

    What the…huh?

  28. BillT – Sorry, rereading that I see I wasn’t clear. I didn’t mean that you (or anyone) had accused me of calling Hitler Christian. What I was trying to do was point out the other common claim, that Hitler was an atheist, is equally false.

    SteveK –

    Christian theism is not meaningless if true and most beneficial to humanity if true. There is no such equivalent version of atheism (according to Mike)

    Why can’t atheists disagree with each other at least as much as theists do?

  29. Ray,

    Why can’t atheists disagree with each other at least as much as theists do?

    They can and they do. However when it comes to the definition of atheism you guys seem to be pretty consistent and on the same page – it’s lack of belief in god and that’s it – nothing else necessarily follows from this definition, no behaviors or beliefs follow from this definition, no philosophical no moral and no worldview considerations follow from this definition. At least that’s what we are told. Maybe you are less mainstream.

  30. SteveK –

    nothing else necessarily follows from this definition, no behaviors or beliefs follow from this definition, no philosophical no moral and no worldview considerations follow from this definition.

    Well, sure. But note – the same is true of theism simpliciter. I mean, just saying ‘the supernatural of some kind exists’ doesn’t have any necessary philosophical or moral consequents. The word ‘theism’, by itself, includes both Christian and Lovecraftian conceptions.

  31. We are on a Christian blog so the same is NOT true, Ray. You keep making the point that theism is meaningless just like atheism – as if your comment is a rebuttal to what people are saying here. Nobody is talking about theism in general, Ray. Nobody but you. Stop it.

  32. I am always mystified by those who continually insist that Hitler was a Christian based on speeches he gave in which he used some “Christian” lingo. Then when someone else points out that Nazi “Christianity” is incompatible with real Christianity, they invoke the “No True Scotsman Fallacy.” Imagine that you are going into a store to buy some strawberry jam. The merchant very kindly goes and selects a jar for you. You look the jar over to see if anything is wrong with it. Sure enough, the label on the jar says “Bob’s Homemade Strawberry Jam.” It even lists all the ingredients in the jam. But then you notice something funny as you inspect the contents of the jar. It’s filled to the brim with sliced dill pickles, not jam! “Hey! These are pickles! I wanted strawberry jam!” you protest. The merchant asks, “What do you mean? I gave you jam just as you asked. Just read the label. It even lists all the ingredients.” At this point you’re probably questioning the man’s sanity. You say to him, “Uh, sir…I know what strawberry jam looks like and this is not jam. It doesn’t matter what the label says, I know what’s in the jar by its fruit.” “Pish-posh,” he retorts! “That’s just the No True Scotsman Fallacy! The label says all the right things needed to make strawberry jam, and by gum, that MEANS there’s strawberry jam in this jar.” You slooowwly put the jar down and back out of the store. Well, I hope my point is clear enough.

  33. SteveK – There’s a couple different issues going on here.

    First, ‘Christian theism’ is, undeniably, a subset of the broader category of ‘theism’. There are, as I said before, a lot of different kinds of theism and some of them are not beneficial (e.g. Heaven’s Gate). Yes, this blog focuses on Christianity – no argument there. If you’re going to talk about ‘atheism in general’, then don’t be surprised when the topic of “theism in general” comes up. If you’re going to discuss atheism here, I can hope we can discuss it with some clarity.

    Now, you claim that Christian theism has been beneficial to humanity. And then – your “main point”, in fact – you say “There is no such equivalent version of atheism (according to Mike)”. But even before you posted that “main point”, I (a) disagreed with that (and thus Mike), and (b) pointed out an example of an atheistic philosophy (a subset of all possible atheistic philosophies) that I contend is demonstrably beneficial to humanity too. Jonas Salk didn’t just invent the polio vaccine, he chose to deliberately forgo any patents on it so it could help the maximum number of people.

    To make it explicit – I disagree. I think there can be atheistic philosophies that are beneficial to humanity if true. In general, atheistic humanism – the idea that humans are important, at least to other humans, and that we can study the universe and learn to improve the situation of humans in it – seems to fit the bill. Maybe it’s not as positive as Christianity would be, if Christianity were true – atheistic humanism doesn’t promise eternal life, for example – but it’s not negative.

  34. Ray,

    I think there can be atheistic philosophies that are beneficial to humanity if true.

    Again, you aren’t part of the mainstream that says atheism has a very narrow definition (lack of belief).

    My comments were never directed toward anything but that very narrow definition, yet you continue, again and again, wanting them to be otherwise. Sorry to disappoint you, but I’m not taking the bait.

  35. SteveK – You’re missing the point. Completely. We’re talking about two different things.

    The point of saying “atheism has a very narrow definition (lack of belief)” is to make clear that saying someone is an atheist gives you very little indication of their philosophy.

    In exactly the same way as saying someone is a ‘theist’ tells you very little about their beliefs. As I’ve pointed out before, the Aztecs were devout as far as it goes. The Taliban are devout.

    I don’t think Mike phrased his comment very well, but if you read his words in that light, I think you’ll see that that’s part of what he was saying, too.

    On other points, I do disagree with Mike. For example, that it was ‘irrelevant’ that Stalin was an atheist, or that “There was never, nor is there now, any “atheist dogma” that leads people to kill religious people. ” Heck, he’s the one disagreeing with me – I first said “Stalin, Mao, et. al. certainly illustrate clearly that atheism is no vaccination against dogmatism.”

  36. @Ray,

    “In general, atheistic humanism – the idea that humans are important, at least to other humans, and that we can study the universe and learn to improve the situation of humans in it – seems to fit the bill.”

    Yet this isn’t an idea specific to atheistic humanism, so using it as an example of an atheistic philosophy that benefits humanity doesn’t really hold.

    Also, is there an atheistic philosophy that is specifically anti-Christianity while not touching on any other ‘theistic religion’?

    If there is then atheists should limit themselves to that one when they debate Christians but it seems that they use any and all religions and religious beliefs in order to discredit all Christianity.

    For example, a Christian mentions the miracles performed by Christ and His disciples. So the atheist asks about the miracles associated with “Rama-lama-ding-dong” and expect the Christian to defend those as well. But as soon as a Christian brings up acts performed by an atheist, other atheists are quick to deny that such actions were informed by atheism since atheism is only the ‘lack of belief in God or gods’ and the Christian must look elsewhere for a basis for the evil done by self-identifying atheists.

  37. The Chinese government routinely imprisons ministers and priests, closes churches that don’t conform to government requirements, including innumerable house churches, destroys shrines and generally pushes Christians, Catholic and Protestant, underground. This is going on TODAY, for any who have concerns over how to interpret Grayling’s “today.” It is also common in Vietnam, Cuba, and other countries.

    As well, in the U. S., Christians who don’t hold to the approved position on gay marriage have been fired, prosecuted, fined, kicked out of university, etc…

    It is patently ridiculous to claim that Christians have nothing to fear from religious critics “today” than the arguments they hurl.

  38. Also, I would contest the notion that “all humanists are atheists.” There is a centuries-old tradition of Christian Humanism. Have you never heard of Thomas More and Erasmus?

  39. “If Hitler was a Christian why did he and his Nazi’s put so much stock into the works of Fredrick Nietzsche?”

    He probably wasn’t a christian (when the holocaust started) regardless of what he said. As for equating Hitler to atheism (or humanism) fails as his non belief in God wasn’t the reason why he killed 6 million jews and 3 million christians. Interesting you neglected to mention the millions of non believing russians he slaughtered, can see why you would omit that. There is no rational correlation between the moustages both Hitler and Saddam Hussain had and the deeds they comitted like their was no connection between Hitler’s (apparent) non believe and his deeds.

    “Finally, not all humanists are atheist.”

    Humanism denies the existence of supernatural deities, so actually they are all atheists. Most atheists today, in the west and worldwide (excluding the east), are humanists which clearly reject the eastern attrocities of the last century.

    Finally not all atheists are critics of religion (I happen to be) and not all critics of religion are atheists. Equating Hitler to atheism fails and I am surprized “thinking” christians still argue so much. 😉

  40. Humanism denies the existence of supernatural deities, so actually they are all atheists.

    You are thinking of naturalism, Bob was right, go look up Erasmus.

  41. There’s significant ambiguity in the term humanism, so it’s not surprising that someone would say it’s atheism. The contemporary “humanist” movement as represented in various manifestos certainly is atheistic. Humanism was not always that way, however.

  42. Who equated Hitler to humanism or atheism, Fluksinator?

    I’m glad you can see why I omitted mentioning the Russians he killed. Funny how you also omitted mentioning the Belarussians he killed. I’ve been to Khatyn. But here’s the thing: I was just trying to make a single point, as were you. Neither one of us brought out the whole history of WWII; both of us mentioned what was relevant to our point.

    Finally, if you think that beliefs and moustaches are both equally tied to actions, I think that’s silly, even for atheists.

  43. Me in the OP: “I don’t know whether Hitler was officially an atheist, but he was certainly a critic of religion.”

    Was I calling Hitler an atheist there? No, just a critic of religion. Does that mean he’s an atheist anyway? No for as Fluksinator just wrote, accurately enough, “Finally not all atheists are critics of religion (I happen to be) and not all critics of religion are atheists.”

    But Fluksinator continues from there, “Equating Hitler to atheism fails and I am surprized ‘thinking’ christians still argue so much.”

    I’m surprised he’s surprised. I mean, sure, if thinking Christians actually did equate Hitler to atheism, that would be surprising. But I don’t know any who do. Maybe there are some somewhere, but none here.

  44. Tom, just for pedantic clarity – in light of this discussion, do you know now whether Hitler was “officially” atheist?

    If you do know now – was he an atheist or wasn’t he?

    If you don’t know yet – what would you need to decide one way or another?

  45. toddes –

    Yet this isn’t an idea specific to atheistic humanism, so using it as an example of an atheistic philosophy that benefits humanity doesn’t really hold.

    The idea that there’s a God who cares about us and wants us to treat each other right isn’t an idea specific to Christianity, either.

    Also, is there an atheistic philosophy that is specifically anti-Christianity while not touching on any other ‘theistic religion’?

    I don’t see how there could be. An atheistic philosophy would kind of necessarily deny any theistic scheme. In the exact same way that any theistic scheme would be opposed to all atheistic ones.

    For example, a Christian mentions the miracles performed by Christ and His disciples. So the atheist asks about the miracles associated with “Rama-lama-ding-dong” and expect the Christian to defend those as well.

    That’s not the point at all. The Christian is making a case something like, “1) Only a genuinely supernatural phenomenon can perform miracles. 2) Jesus, and his disciples, performed miracles. Therefore, 3) Those miracles are authenticating evidence that Jesus was supernatural.”

    If an atheist points to miracles of ‘Rama-lama-ding-dong’, they are making a case against either 1) or 3). Either the miracle stories are not proof of Rama-lama-ding-dong’s supernature, or else miracle reports alone don’t ‘authenticate’ Jesus, since the Christian presumably disputes Rama-lama-ding-dong’s spiritual authority.

  46. I have no reason to think Hitler was an atheist, Ray. I am sure he didn’t believe in the Christian God, but I have no idea whether he believed in some other spiritual something-or-other. I have no reason to trust anything he said about any religion, although it’s clear from his actions what he felt about Christianity and (obviously) Judaism.

  47. toddes –

    But as soon as a Christian brings up acts performed by an atheist, other atheists are quick to deny that such actions were informed by atheism since atheism is only the ‘lack of belief in God or gods’ and the Christian must look elsewhere for a basis for the evil done by self-identifying atheists.

    Let’s try it in reverse. What if I were to say, “The 9/11 hijackers were religious, and they did terrible things. Therefore, religion leads to horrible things.”

    I hope you’d object to such a poor case. I certainly do! But when someone says something like, “Some atheists have done terrible things, therefore atheism leads to terrible things,” a whole lot of theists seem to have trouble picking out the illogic.

  48. Bob –

    The Chinese government routinely imprisons ministers and priests, closes churches that don’t conform to government requirements, including innumerable house churches, destroys shrines and generally pushes Christians, Catholic and Protestant, underground. This is going on TODAY, for any who have concerns over how to interpret Grayling’s “today.”

    Speaking of stuff going on today: http://freethoughtblogs.com/pharyngula/2013/04/04/solidarity-with-atheists-of-bangladesh/

    As well, in the U. S., Christians who don’t hold to the approved position on gay marriage have been fired, prosecuted, fined, kicked out of university, etc…

    Atheists have been fired by Christians, as well. I don’t know of any Christians in the U.S. who’ve been prosecuted for speaking out against ‘gay marriage’ – can you point to examples? (Atheists get prosecuted in other countries, though.)

    So oppression is hardly something that’s only done by atheists – or something that isn’t done by Christians.

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