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If moderate religion leads to fundamentalist religion, then does moderate atheism lead to fundamentalist atheism?

I asked a question as to why atheists strive so hard to convert the religious (and yes it is conversion, don’t throw around this ridiculous notion of “de-conversion” your lack of belief requires just as much faith as my belief). The answer I got claimed that moderate religion leads to fundamentalist religion. If this is true, then let me ask you this, what about those famed atheists who lead some of the most bloody and horrific atrocities against human kind? Stalin – atheist, Mao- atheist, Pol Pot – atheist. These guys sought to stamp out the religious too. Would you consider these to be fundamentalist atheists or just your run of the mill? So doesn’t it work both ways? Isn’t it really just being intolerant, the very thing so many atheists claim to hate about religion? Isn’t it all a bit hypocritical and arrogant?

Posted: March 8th 2009

jonecc www

Other respondents have covered the main issues in your question. This is a small addition on the subject of ideological responsibity.

I don’t think it’s fair or intellectually justifiable to 'blame’ people for ideas that other people hold, simply because they happen to hold different ideas in common. This seems self-evident, if only because there are some ideas, such as a belief in gravity, which are generally accepted.

So the Archbishop of Canterbury is no more culpable for the behaviour of Fred Phelps just because of their shared belief in God than I am for Stalin because of our lack of belief.

But you have to be clear in your position. I repudiate Stalin for his war crimes, despite his atheism (which incidentally is historically suspect – it’s known that he retained a priest). So, in my experience, do all other contributors to this site.

If I was Christian, I would for instance feel the need to repudiate that notorious war criminal and anti-Semite Martin Luther on the same grounds. It’s the failure to take that step which in my eyes makes so many supposedly liberal theists morally culpable.

Similarly, if people believe that gay people are sinful, or that women are second class citizens, I reject them as potential allies.

Yet the Archbishop of Canterbury, despite his personal liberalism, bends over backwards to accommodate such people. The Church of England still persists with employment policies which would get any other employer sued. This lack of backbone undermines his claim to moral authority.

And it’s surprising how immoderate many religious moderates turn out to be, when you actually quiz them on their beliefs. People who seem superficially educated and literate can turn out to have some very strange attitudes on subjects like virginity or contraception.

Posted: March 12th 2009

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George Ricker www

Atheism is the absence of god-belief. It requires no faith.

It also is not any sort of ideology or world view. An atheist would not incorporate a deity into his or her view of the way things work, but with that caveat noted, there are many differences in the view of atheists on most subjects. The only thing we are agreed on is that we don’t believe in gods.

There is nothing about the statements “I believe in no gods” or “I have no belief in gods” or even “I believe there are no gods” that should cause anyone to do anything to anybody. Atheism, in and of itself, has no dogma and seeks no power over others.

Remember, atheism is not the opposite of religion, it is the opposite of theism (simple god-belief). The difference is that most theists do practice religions that come loaded with all sorts of dogma and, in many cases, strong fundamentalist strains that demand strict obedience and threaten dire consequences for those who don’t.

Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot did not commit the atrocities they committed because of their atheism but because they were statist tyrants who demanded absolute obedience from their subjects and total control over their lives.

Posted: March 9th 2009

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Eric_PK

Two points.

First of all, atheism is not a philosophy or world view in the way that theism is. It is simply the lack of belief in god(s) – there is no atheist creed.

That means that atheists tend to have different views, and are hard to organize. The “Hate the gays because the bible says homosexuality is an abomination” sort of approach doesn’t work with atheists – “Follow me because god doesn’t exist” is not a rallying cry that works, and atheists are not prone – because of our general lack of faith in the religious sense – to accept what others say just because they say we should.

So, to do a comparison based on somebody’s atheism doesn’t get you anywhere. To be meaningful, you need to know what they believe, not what they don’t believe.

Or, to put it another way, to compare what people do based on their lack of religious belief makes about as much sense as comparing what they do based on their hair color.

I happen to be a humanist, which puts me about as far for Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot as you can get. Much farther than the vast majority of the religious people I meet.

My second point is that the reason Stalin and others were against religion is not because that was a feature of atheism, but because the religious organizations were a challenge to their power. If you look at the Soviet history, you will find that the Soviets were tolerate of religious beliefs, they just were intolerant of religious organizations.

Posted: March 9th 2009

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Dave Hitt www

Fundamentalism requires following a set of fundamentals from a holy book. It’s not possible to be a fundamentalist atheist because there are no atheist holy books. It is a nonsense term. (I find it amusing, though, that fundies think they’re clever using the term “fundamentalist” as in insult, implying ignorance and obnoxiousness.)

Some religious fundamentals allow followers to murder unbelievers, others require it. Atheists can do evil things, of course, but not because of any fundamentals of atheism. There aren’t any.

Posted: March 9th 2009

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bitbutter www

I’ll try to address the things in your post in the order they appear.

don’t throw around this ridiculous notion of “de-conversion”

Even if it was true that atheism requires as much faith as theism, de-conversion remains an accurate description of what happens when a religious person loses his or her religious belief because we are all born without god-belief.

your lack of belief requires just as much faith as my belief.

I hope that you look around this site a little more because it seems that you’d benefit from finding out more about atheism, from atheists. When you do that it will be clear that atheism, usually defined as the absence of belief in gods, requires no more faith than the lack of belief in unicorns or vampires. You seem to be confusing atheism for a position of certainty about the non-existence of anything that could fit the label 'god’. That’s generally not what atheists believe. You can find out more about this here.

The answer I got claimed that moderate religion leads to fundamentalist religion. If this is true, then let me ask you this, what about those famed atheists who lead some of the most bloody and horrific atrocities against human kind? Stalin – atheist, Mao- atheist, Pol Pot – atheist. These guys sought to stamp out the religious too. Would you consider these to be fundamentalist atheists or just your run of the mill?

Some atheists have been willing to kill others in the service of an ideology, or in order to secure power. But these are no more 'true atheists’ than those committed to change by peaceful means. Non-believers have no sacred text to adhere to, so the word fundamentalist doesn’t make sense when applied to atheism.

So doesn’t it work both ways? Isn’t it really just being intolerant, the very thing so many atheists claim to hate about religion? Isn’t it all a bit hypocritical and arrogant?

I think you’re saying that if it’s true that non violent religion fuels the growth of violent religion, then it must also be true that the growing number of non-violent atheists must lead to a growth in the number of violent atheists, and that atheism should be opposed for the same reason that moderate religion should be opposed.

First of all, because of the content-poor nature of atheism, it makes no more sense to link it to violence than it does to talk about the dangers of unicorn denialism. “Stalin and Pol Pot were unicorn denialists, and look how many people they killed!”

So it is fair to say that moderate religion provides a fertile ground for the growth of violent fundamentalism? If we add a couple of uncontroversial assumptions, I think so. The assumptions are:

1. There is still a widespread taboo against criticising the ideas of mainstream religion.

2. A plain reading of the holy books of mainstream religions reveals passages that justify acts of violence.

While these things are true, and moderate religion doesn’t diminish, violent fundamentalism seems guaranteed to emerge because from every generation of believers, some will actually take the holy books at their word.

Posted: March 9th 2009

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