Atheism, part II: In the Name of Atheism

Prelude to Atheism, part II:

I want to begin this entry with some words directed toward my Atheist friends. Here they are:

I am sorry. I was wrong. And I thank you!

Last week, I shared an entry that voiced my frustration with an observable lack of accountability towards extreme Atheists. As a Christian, I’m prone to speaking out against hateful, irrational Christians who speak out of anger and spite. Do Atheists do this?

It does still seem to me that Atheists get a free pass on this matter simply because Atheists can be (and, indeed, are!) so varied in what they believe! Unlike Christians, who are united by a common belief, Atheists are united by a common lack of belief. Still, it bothers me. It bothers me because I do have Atheist friends! It bothers me because I know Atheists who are not nearly so hateful as the comments in question might make us think. In fact, the vast majority of Atheists I have known in the course of my life have been decent, rational, honest, funny, personable people! I confess it with trepidation: I tend to enjoy the company of Atheists over my Christian buddies. It’s true! I like them very much. And in cultivating friendships with these Atheists, I would be shocked and hurt if any one of them would voice agreement with the hateful remarks made by some extreme Atheists. I just can’t imagine them hating Christians that much. So there’s a part of me that wants them to stand up and disagree simply to reaffirm our connection as friends. I don’t think that’s an incredible expectation.

I was so encouraged to learn that several of these friends did actually separate themselves from the person making the hateful, outrageous remarks. Do they agree with him on many other issues? It is likely. What is important to me here is that they were willing to stand up and say, “Yanno, you are so far out of line on this matter, it’s not even beneficial to listen to you until you chill out.” That blessed my socks off.

So to my friends who are Atheists, I thank you for your stance here. I have never been so happy to be wrong. It reaffirms to me that Christians and Atheists can be friends and still disagree. I am so, so thankful!

End of Prelude:

An interesting discussion occurred last night that has left me perplexed. Someone that I adore and respect an enormous amount made a comment about the number of people who’ve died “in the name of Atheism” throughout history. It sparked an incredible discussion and has left me with more questions than answers–which is pretty typical for me, to be honest! I offer no apology for these questions or the train of thought that leads me to them, because I’m looking for answers, not for any advantageous material to use against Atheism.

The first question is an obvious one: Is Atheism proved wrong by the wrongdoing of some Atheists? The first answer, therefore, is just as obvious: No! And for any Christian who wants to argue this matter with me, I would encourage you to turn the tables. I always fall back on the example of Bertrand Russell. When I first read Why I’m Not A Christian (which I highly recommend for Christians, by the way), I was disappointed to learn that the actions of Christians might somehow serve as evidence against the validity of Christ and the Gospel. It would do us well–every one of us–to remember that people are people. We are not perfect. Some of us make ginormous blunders in life. Some are downright power-hungry, money-hungry, blood-lusting. No Christian is excused, no Atheist, no Muslim, no Buddhist, no person–religious or non-religious. We are not a one perfect. Our imperfection does nothing to affirm or deny the truth of what we believe (or disbelieve).

The second question is a little harder to answer: Were the evils of Mao somehow justified by his convictions, by his Atheism? I honestly don’t know. I don’t know much about Mao’s personal beliefs, to be honest. But I know a lot of Atheists who would never condone Mao’s actions, and that leads me to suggest that these evils were not acted upon because of his Atheism, but rather–in spite of it. And again, I think I would default to that position for a Christian Mao as well.

The third question is almost impossible for me to grapple with, but I pose it nonetheless: How could anything be done “in the name of Atheism,” when Atheism is a lack of belief? What “name” could be used?

And my final question is the one that has caused me severe brain strain in the past twelve hours: Should we simply ignore a person’s religious ties (or lack thereof) when they pursue atrocious evils–whether or not it can be argued that this philosophy (in this case, Atheism) was not the motivation for his evils?  Would we if it were a Christian? Would we if it were a Muslim?

As I said, it was a remarkable conversation. 10,000 SemBlog points to anyone who responds to the four questions above.

Pax Christi.

Semmie

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10 thoughts on “Atheism, part II: In the Name of Atheism

  1. Alright, I’ll give it a go.

    Q1 – I think your answer sums it up well.

    Q2 – Maybe. I don’t know much about Mao either. But I do know that people or groups in positions of power will go to great lengths to maintain it. Prehaps he just viewed religion as a threat to his control of China.

    Q3 – I think if a person believes strongly enough in anything, it will cause them to act, even if that belief is the lack of the existence of god. (I’m struggling to come up with a similar example, but give me time.)

    Q4 – I don’t think we should necessarily ignore religious ties. Take Osama bin Laden. He uses religion as justification for his actions. I don’t know about Mao, Stalin, or others. But political figures have other circumstances that must be factored in.

  2. Okay…

    Q1. Okay.

    Q2. I agree with you. I think a lot of the world’s evils have been done for the sake of power and control, having less to do with religion than we are like to admit.

    Q3. You’re probably right about this. I’m trying to compare it to the idea of Christ coming “in the name of the Father,” simply because…it meant far more than a literal name; it had to do with authority, position, power, et cet. Is it possible for an Atheist to speak or act for the sake of the alleged “authority” of science or atheism in a similar manner? I need to think about this more, as well.

    Q4. Yeah…I don’t know.

    Let me know if you have any other thoughts about this. I’m intrigued, and I’m like to be thinking about it yet for some time!

    Pax Christi, Rapt! Oh–how’s the baby????

    10,000 SemBlog Points! Woohoo!!! Spend them wisely. :)

  3. Hi Sarah,

    I don’t have all the answers, but just a comment. Look throughout history and you will find that many times those that call themselves Christian have committed some on the most atrocious crimes against humanity. During the Crusades, everyone was killed in Jerusalem: Women, children, Christians, Muslims, Jews. This may have occurred in other cities in that area. Then there is the Spanish Inquisition where Anabaptists, Jews, and just about anybody were tortured -often to death- to admit to charges that were usually false. So our heritage is littered with some of the PR made by what other Christians (or so the call themselves) have done. Of course , we are not unique in this matter, since many other religious/ non-religious groups have the same woes from their overly zealous offshoots.

  4. Hi Steve!

    How did you know I was just thinking about you and wondering when you might pop in again? Are you well?

    You are very right. Christian history is certainly not exempt from evil. I can’t justify it. I don’t want to justify it. I often wonder how professed Christians could go to such extremes as to have killed and tortured so many people! It grieves me, to put it mildly. How can anyone justify such actions while professing the Savior who said, “Love your neighbor as yourself”? It just breaks my heart.

  5. The baby is doing good, he will be two in april….. suddenly I feel old.

    …and the Inquisition is a sad point in christian history. I’m amazed at how they tried to justify their actions as doing “god’s work”.

    … not to change the subject, but I saw an old post that deals with health care. I want to see what you think of some ideas I have if you don’t mind.

    I apologize for such a disjointed post.

    Raptor

    • Oooooh. I would LOVE to talk about Health Care! Let me know what you’re thinking. You can email me if you’d rather.

      I can’t believe your boy is two this year! It seems like just yesterday…

      Don’t ever apologize to me. I love hearing from you. :)

      Blessings,
      Sar

    • GLENN!!!!!!!!!! Thanks for watching. :) 5,000 SemBlog Points for watching. And another 5,000 for not actually shaving your head. WOOHOO!

      Pax Christi, brother!

  6. Hiya Sarahmoo! Interesting topic, as always. The thought of 10,000 Semblog points….I’m hooked.
    Q1. Good answer. IMHO, atheism and christianity will be proven
    neither right or wrong in this life, no matter how good, or
    bad either group acts. The unstoppable force and the un-
    movable object will be decided at their appointed time. As to
    Mr. Russell…a book on excuses is just that…excuses.
    Q2. Good and evil, not being a part of atheist philosophy, would
    not be condonements for actions. Mao was simply a bad
    apple, and as such, had no purpose but to spoil all around
    him. Again, your answer is good.
    Q3. IMHO, hopefully without stereotyping or rattling atheist
    cages, ‘in the name of atheism’ merely represents ‘oppostion,
    or counter comparison’ to ‘in the name of religion’. Atheism,
    to me, has no reasonable existence except as a faith of opp-
    osition. We say ‘there is a God’, and the Pavlovian response
    is ‘no, there is not’. So, in order to ‘maintain the balance’, a
    sense of worth is derived when doing things ‘in the name of
    *anything*’.
    Q4. Simply ignoring a persons religious ties, or lack thereof, will
    not make them cease to exist. Being aware of radicals, on
    either side, and skirting them as mere follies seems to be the
    logical course. In the end, evil is evil, and will be rewarded
    as such. The only person we, you and I, are accountable for
    stares back at us from the mirror (when we have the
    courage to look that way..*points at me*)
    Anywho, just dropped a few lines to say ‘Hi’ , *waves*, and
    ‘keep up the good questions’.
    to any I have offended, step into a new pair of shoes, turn around three times *while I make a hasty exit* and tell me about it later. ;p

    • Hi Ray,

      Thanks for your thoughts on these questions. I won’t drag out a response, because my focus has ventured to other topics at present. You do cause me to ask additional questions, however…and that may be reason enough for another blog on this topic.

      Sometime. Not tonight.

      See, the problem is this: the actions of an individual cannot be reason enough to claim something true or untrue (ie: a Christian lies to you, therefore, Christianity must be a deceitful and false religion; or vice versa: a Christian is honest with you, therefore, Christianity must be true). It doesn’t work that way. However, don’t we have an obligation to look at trends? If one Christian commits murder, then surely the validity of the faith would not be in question. But if EVERY professed Christian began committing murder, then would we have reason to question what Christianity teaches?

      Meh. As I’ve said (and will continue to say), I have far more questions than I have answers; and each answer I try to sneak up on, pummels me with a dozen more questions. So I just have to keep asking, keep trying to make sense of it, keep being open to the answers (even when they spark more questions).

      Thanks for your thoughts! As promised… 10,000 SemBlog Points to you! And yes…I’m keeping track. Good to see you. Give my best to Lea–I’d love to see her around now and again, too.

      Pax Christi.
      Sarah

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