"It seems to me that to organize on the basis of feeding people or righting social injustice and all that is very valuable. But to rally people around the idea of modernism, modernity, or something is simply silly. I mean, I don't know what kind of a cause that is, to be up to date. I think it ultimately leads to fashion and snobbery and I'm against it."
Jack Levine: January 3, 1915 – November 8, 2010
I notice none of those people you quote bothered to answer my question, nor do I think could that they could, asking what atheist proposed substitute for religious morality wouldn't fall to the atheist means of rejecting religion, most relevantly, "Who's going to make me?". If you and they can't do it, wouldn't it be easier to just admit that atheism is fatal to any effective assertion of morality, no matter how basic that is and that, therefore, atheists criticizing other people for their moral lapses don't stand on atheism to do that but, for the most part, they depend on ideas promoted as truth by the very religions they reject. If you want to blame someone for making me come to these conclusions, I got them from listening to and reading what atheists said, not from any religious criticism of atheism. Atheism means anything goes as long as you can get away with it, in the end. That's not a new observation, as RMJ pointed out the other day, Nietzsche and Sartre are among those who admitted as much, not to mention other sciency atheists such as Francis Galton and Ernst Haeckel*, and, as I've pointed out, that masterful atheist judge of moral conduct, Steven Weinberg, for those who hold that philosophy is dead and has been replaced by science. Christians who kill are violating the teachings of Jesus, they aren't violating your faith, atheism. I could ask that other question I did over at Religion Dispatches, where in atheism do atheists get the moral positions they use against religious folk? * Haeckel's "Moral Materialism" included murdering a whole list of those he considered to have lives not worth continuing, the sick, the disabled (including the deaf) children, entire named races of people.... It also was an aristocratic system, opposed to democracy and socialism. His great work of science, the History of Creation, begins with a systematic attack on religious morality, rather odd for a book which was promoted as a great work of science by Charles Darwin. I doubt most sane people reading it in which everything must be reducible to a single characteristic essence, and what his monist system proposes as "morality" would be willing to consider it moral in any real sense of the word. Update: "bitter blogging loser" Oddly I'm known as being remarkably cheerful by people who know me. Do I have to get out my theme song again? How about my other theme song.
The book he mentions sounds interesting, if I have time I'll try to find it and read it. That chart about the varying success rates of regime change struggles, between the peaceful means being successful and the violent ones being unsuccessful match what I read of the history of revolutions to make governments that aren't at least as bad as those which were replaced. Revolution isn't an especially successful means of making better governments.
I do believe the adage that peace is the fruit of justice, including economic justice. That the recent Egyptian revolution led to an election that put the Muslim Brotherhood in power, a group that, while not being anything like advocates of gender equality, had been one of the main venues of economic aid to poor Egyptians as the government serviced the rich. As its overthrow and the installation of a pseudo-democratic military despotism shows, partial "equality" doesn't produce a peaceful, democratic government. I think the conditions that make peaceful revolution possible might account for the statistical results claiming that success for it. Just being non-violent isn't enough, it has to include struggle for real, effective, experienced economic and social equality and equality in gender, racial, ethnic and other relevant identities.
"The effect of righteousness will be peace, and the result of righteousness will be quietness and confidence forever." Isaiah 32:17
Still, with that reservation, I agree with what he says in the video.
Update: NTodd has provided a link to a paper which is related to the book. I will read it sometime the coming week.
Atheists can refuse to believe any assertion of morality made by atheists by exactly the same means they use to refuse to believe in God "prove it", "why should I," "so what," which all boils down to the crux of your dilemma if you want to create those atheist substitutes for the real thing, "Who's going to make me?" Tell me how any atheist substitute for religious morality wouldn't be vulnerable to rejection on the basis of that atheist question, "Who's going to make me?"
I came across this today. It's a protest song. I heard some idiot talking about wanting to send soldiers back into Iraq. Yeah. That worked out so well the last time.
Here's a translation from the internet.
The Soldier who Marches
Original Esperanto by Claude Piron
The soldier who marches
in the wind
upon the road which is a marsh
feeling his body no more.
His mind indeed dulls
only the fatigue
and the irritation1
of the rain which drips,
tormenting him without compassion.
And he goes on without blessing
in the mud
which are always heavy in a bothersome manner
and makes the way rough.
While suffering exclusively
in the mind
rules over everything bad
and ties up the ability to think
And he marches in the line
in the weather's malice
and the mockery of the sergeant.
He already is awake for a long time
and a yawn
with an obsession
in jaw forming himself
for an irresistible temptation.
If he could even in a begging way
begin to receive
a right to dream
and a minute only to rest
to stop upon the travel path.
But he doesn't hope for that
because the dream,
due to the duty
in a soldier, doesn't appear:
here is the military service's fate.
Already the gun weighs too much
and the helmet
and the bag
and the gruel from clay
stuck to the shoe.
But the far away horizon
always runs more far away.
The soldier who is tired
for a restful, peaceful life
without an additional everlasting drive.
But he feels with disgust
that the life
goes on continuously and without a pause
to an unachievable purpose.
And likewise in army
about a command
doesn't exist due to obedience
with no exception.
Thus the realization is missing
about the reason
and only rules each attitude
another course and acceptance.
1. is more accurately defined as "the setting of one's teeth on edge (by some kind of irritation)"
2. literally means "union"+"form"
3. literally means "one"+"form"
As you can hear, the original with it more flexible inflection does it easier than English in that meter.
Since I came out of the closet as a many times a day pray-er this week, here is Fr. Richard McBrien on prayer.
(This week's column is dedicated to the memory of John F. Whealon, Archbishop of Hartford from 1969 to 1991, for reasons which only he and I would know.) One of the most notable developments in post-conciliar Catholicism is the broadened interest in prayer. Before the Second Vatican Council, many Catholics regarded prayer as something done primarily by priests, nuns, and a few pious lay persons. Today, an increasing number of lay Catholics want to know how to pray and they seek out those who might help them, either directly or through their books and tapes. Although there is a lot more talk these days about prayer, many Catholics still have a vague understanding of its meaning. The traditional definition of prayer is the raising of the mind and the heart to God. It is the act by which an individual or a community enters into conscious, loving communion with God. Prayer is differentiated by reason of its purpose. Thus, there is the prayer of adoration, whose immediate end is the praise and glory of God; the prayer of contrition, which expresses sorrow for sin; the prayer of thanksgiving, which gives gratitude to God for blessings received (the Eucharist is the prayer of thanksgiving par excellence); and the prayer of supplication, or petition, which asks God for blessings upon oneself or others. Older Catholics will recall the mnemonic which the nuns taught them: A-C-T-S (adoration, contrition, thanksgiving, supplication). Prayer is also differentiated by reason of method. Mental prayer may or may not use words, but if it does use words, they do not follow a pre-set formula. Vocal prayer does use a given formula, that may be spoken or sung. There is also the prayer of bodily gesture, such as expressed in dance. There is another methodological distinction between discursive and affective prayer. In discursive prayer reason, or thinking, dominates. In affective prayer the feelings dominate (trust, surrender, gratitude, love). The normal development in the life of prayer is from discursive to affective prayer. Meditation, which is a form of mental prayer, involves an extended reflection on the presence and activity of God. When the awareness of God's presence is not apprehended by thought but by love, it is called contemplation. Meditation (sometimes called "active meditation" to distinguish it more clearly from contemplation) is generally understood to involve discursive reasoning, while contemplation is affective. It is simple awareness of, and focus upon, the presence of God. It is important to note that contemplation is not a method of prayer to be chosen at will, like meditation. It is a gift into which one is drawn. The most intense form of contemplation is attained when there is ecstatic union between the one praying and God so that the human senses can no longer communicate with the outside world. This is sometimes known as absorption, or rapture. Centering prayer is a special method of contemplation in which the person simply attends to the presence of God within, that is, at the center of one's being. A mantra or short phrase is sometimes repeated to keep one's attention centered. Mystical prayer is also a form of contemplation in which the mind and heart are directly and powerfully influenced by God to operate in a way that is beyond the capacity of human effort, unaided by grace. This method of prayer has many forms and stages. Lectio divina ("divine [or holy] reading"), originally a monastic term, refers to the prayerful reading of, and meditative reflection upon, Sacred Scripture, the Christian classics, or other types of spiritual writing. A final, practically important distinction may be made between intensive and extensive prayer. The former occurs at particular periods and is done either communally or privately. The latter permeates one's whole day; indeed, one's whole life. One lives in the presence of God (extensive prayer), but one's direct attention is focused on God only at particular moments and under particular circumstances (intensive). For most of us, most of the time, our prayer is extensive rather than intensive. And it is utterly crucial to remember that extensive prayer is as much a form of prayer as is intensive prayer. In other words, we don't have to be engaged in formal prayer to be praying at all. Truly Christian prayer is at once trinitarian, Christological, ecclesial, pneumatological, and eschatological. In simpler English, this means that Christian prayer seeks union with the triune God, is centered on Jesus Christ, occurs within and by the Church, is empowered by the Holy Spirit, and is oriented to final and complete union with God at the end of human history. As such, it is a vital and indispensable part of the Christian life.
I was tempted to post more of that exchange with Matthew Berry posted yesterday. It went on but, as Marilynne Robinson said, it tended to accumulate instead of develop. One point of interest began as the typical dismissal of the story in the Gospel of John, the woman caught in adultery, though, as atheists will do, Berry moved the date of its alleged insertion into John to the 9th century.
The date that the woman caught in adultery was very first added is incredibly easy to establish, which is why I said "at least as late as 800 AD". I can explain why if you'd really like to know.
I welcomed his condescending pose because it made me especially glad to be able to point out that would make its presence in the Codex Bezae, a fifth-century manuscript rather a mystery. I did look up the date to confirm my memory on that point and was interested to find out that no other than the atheists' favorite New Testament scholar, Bart Ehrman, has located it in non-canonical books. While I'm not competent to judge the arguments, in detail, those show that the blog atheist assertions about that story are anything from uninformed to outright fabrication. From a blog by the New Testament Scholar and sometimes debating opponent of Ehrman, Daniel B. Wallace
The great majority of scholars hold that the so-called pericope adulterae or “PA” (the story of Jesus and the adulteress found in John 7.53–8.11) is not original to John’s Gospel. The first manuscript of John to include this story is Codex Bezae (D), which dates to the fifth century, and on internal grounds these verses interrupt the narrative of John’s Gospel and feature non-Johannine vocabulary and grammar. But if the PA is not from the hand of the Fourth Evangelist, where did it come from? Many scholars have noted that these verses contain distinctively Lukan grammar, vocabulary, and themes, but the lack of early manuscript evidence associating PA with Luke’s Gospel has made this a dead-end. Bart D. Ehrman, however, made a groundbreaking contribution several years ago (“Jesus and the Adulteress,” New Testament Studies 34 : 24–44) by demonstrating the likelihood that PA as we have it in John’s Gospel is in fact a conflation of two earlier stories, one found in Papias and the Didascalia, and the other found in Didymus and the Gospel of the Hebrews. Erhman noted that all of the Lukan features of PA John are found in the former of these (what I’ve termed “PA East” = John 8.2-7a, 10-11). My article builds on Ehrman’s contribution by arguing that PA East and the Lukan special material (the so-called “L” source, which is that material unique to Luke’s Gospel) have remarkable similarities in their style, form, and content. Citing distinctive parallels in each category, I conclude in my article that “in terms of style, form, and content, PA East so closely resembles the L material that PA East almost surely would have been part of an original L source” (p. 247). Given a shared Syro-Palestinian provenance, I contend that a single line of transmission from L to the Didascalia is in fact quite plausible. From all this, I draw several conclusions. Perhaps the most interesting is that “we can affirm the essential historicity of the event recorded in PA to the extent that it is preserved in the Didascalia, since identifying the account with the L source places it into the middle of the first century” (p. 247). Much of this beloved story rings true to what else we know of Jesus’ life and would almost certainly not have been the kind of account the early church would have invented. As for why Luke left this story out of his Gospel, there’s no reason to think that he included every story he heard, and the non-conflated PA East is a bit of a bore compared to the form that appears in Codex Bezae. Nevertheless, it continued to circulate (likely orally) in Palestine, made its way into the Didascalia, and was ultimately conflated with a similar story and inserted into John’s Gospel. Why? At this point, I’ll simply refer interested parties to the work of Chris Keith, whose proposal I find quite satisfying.
Of course, most ancient texts that come down to us aren't the uhrtext directly from the pen of the author, I doubt any of them are. Pointing that out about the New Testament was what made Ehrman famous with people who didn't know that already and who believed it debunked Christianity. And it's lucky for Ehrman's field that it didn't or they wouldn't have much to make a career out of and he'd never have become famous and gain fans among atheists and get on Fresh Air.
I believe the story and my belief in it works if it is an anachronistic example of modern reportage, which so few atheists would realize was an anachronistic expectation, or if it is an allegory because the result is of a piece with the rest of the teachings of Jesus. As I've recently used the story in an argument against capital punishment, I thought I'd share one of the few things I learned during my arguments at Religion Dispatches this week. Not from an atheist, I had to come across it while looking up a citation for the date of that manuscript.
I have a very busy schedule the next two days, I hope to post some videos or podcasts which are hopefully of interest and a column from Fr. Richard McBrien's archive.
In lieu of anything which requires research I don't have time to do this week, here's an unedited excerpt from the brawl I got into with several atheists at Religion Dispatch which, I must say, seems to have about as many atheist trolls as Media Matters gets Republican trolls. It is long but that's in the nature of blog brawls. I don't want to be accused of "cherry picking" and "quote mining". "Camera Obscura" is me.
Why is it so difficult for you to understand that atheism is not a belief system? It has no creeds, no dogma, no liturgy. It is simply the rejection of your dogma as irrational and indefensible; a dogma that I am very well acquainted with. It is printed in black and white in the books you hold dear; books that I also have on my selves and have read front to back. It is your dogma that justifies genocide, oppression and slavery, not mine. I'm not sure what your fixation with Nazis and eugenics is, but I hope you do realize that most of it's proponents were Christians.
Since you clearly have not read what I wrote, I will repeat it again. The neither the "laws of god" nor "laws of nature" determine human actions. What prevents man from committing atrocities is human decency not god. What allows man to rise above nature is a scientific understanding of nature.
Science is without a doubt a creation of man and that is to the great credit of humanity. Science long ago superseded mythology and superstition as description of the universe. That battle is over and done, regardless of whether you accept it or not. It is also high time man replace his other creation as the basis for moral action. Gods may have once served a purpose but that time is no more.
For people who claim not to have a belief system, your beliefs seem to just somehow always assume a very uniform form. If you really didn't believe anything then you have no grounds to base a moral criticism of religion, its history, the conduct of its members, As it is, atheism is a belief system, typically scientistic materialism is the ideological belief of atheists but mostly they believe deeply and fully in their superiority to the large majority of humanity.
I've read what you you've written for decades, it is exactly the same thing that atheists have been saying since at least the middle of the 19th century.
You, as almost all atheists I've had discussions with, are totally ignorant of the literary history of atheism and the history of the uniformly violent, murderous, oppressive atheist regimes of the last century and of such in the past as the Reign of Terror in France. Since atheism contains no belief that it is a mortal sin to commit murder, as almost all religions do, that's not any surprise that atheists would gain and hold power by doing that. As I said, anyone who claimed to be a Christian would have to be violating the teachings of the central moral authority of Christianity, Jesus and those who knew him.
Really, atheists are always trying to have it both ways, either atheism is amoral and atheists have no basis for making moral criticisms of other people or atheists have moral beliefs which are not based in atheism while pretending they have no moral beliefs. Lying about the defining moral teachings of Christianity, which are there no matter how hard it is for those who profess Christianity to follow them. Those are the defining moral character of Christianity done with integrity and an attempt to follow the professed beliefs of Christians. To claim that the failure of everyone who professes Christianity to follow those teachings debunks Christianity is about as sensible as claiming that the frequent mistakes in multiplication falsify arithmetic.
I never used to think of atheists the way I have come to in the past dozen years of reading their unedited thoughts in these comment threads. While I know atheists who aren't dishonest bigots, I have to conclude that an unusual number of them are.
"atheism is a belief system, typically scientistic materialism is the ideological belief of atheists "
No, you are wrong.
Atheism is the absence of belief in a god(s). That's it. No extras, no side orders, no creed and no manifesto.
Some (probably all?) atheists have beliefs. Those beliefs are likely to be consistent with their lack of belief in god(s). Any such beliefs are not part of atheism; they are additional to, maybe consequential upon, their atheism, but they are not intrinsically atheism.
As has been said before "I can explain it to you but I can't comprehend it for you".
Since you're taking the "atheims is the absence of beliefs, with no creed" you certainly can't make any kind of moral criticism of anyone else within atheism. You have to swipe moral positions from outside of atheism to do that, in my experience with atheists, moral positions they don't hold their side up against, only their opponents.
Neo atheism is based on trying to impose a double standard in favor of atheism at the expense of the vast majority of people. And such atheists become enraged like Jerry Coyne when the vast majority of people refuse to tolerate that double standard.
"Within atheism" is a contradiction of the fact that atheism is an absence of beliefs, with no creed. Atheism is a statement of negation, nothing more.
What you are criticizing is the personal systems of belief built by individuals to justify their actions, not atheism, which is just a statement of negation.
It is extraordinarily naive to argue that Abrahamic injunctions against murder have led to the avoidance of atheist-caused atrocities, given the rich history of atrocity in the Christian era and the obfuscation of the issue in Abrahamic religions by creation of a distinction between morally evil murder and morally acceptable or even good killing. This Biblical ambivalence extends to moral codes you present as firmly decided, such as the command by Jesus to forgive transgressors whose context is the preaching of apocalyptic first century Judaism, which promised the imminent and violent destruction of the enemies of Israel.
There is a reason it took subsequent arguments and many mutual excommunications to arrive at orthodox views on many subjects in the New Testament.
It is extraordinarily ironic to complain that many opponents of Christianity simply respond to caricatures of one's chosen religion by the most grotesque firebrands, while responding to atheism by reference to Stalin. Stalin, by the way, was considered to be to at least some degree psychopathic by at least one of his respected biographers, Alan Bullock. Far from weakening his grasp on power, his psychopathic symptoms probably strengthened it.
You really don't get my argument. Atheists here were condemning religious people who acted immorally, killing people, oppressing people, etc. I pointed out two things about that, first your objection, I was pointing out that atheists had to come up with the idea that what those people were doing was wrong from somewhere other than atheism as atheism doesn't provide moral standards, atheists can't find them in their own ideology which is deficient in that regard, as in some others.
They, ironically, were expropriating moral standards, moral obligations, that are contained in the religious they criticize for lapses of morality that their own ideology, atheism, doesn't even hold are real. If atheists didn't have external sources which find or generate morals they'd never know the first thing about them as atheism has no morality. Neither does science, as atheists are always telling me, only to instantly forget that in claiming superior moral status for atheism and science.
Stalin certainly works as a good example of what atheism with total political power leads to. He was certainly sane enough to win in a power struggle with some extremely intelligent people such as Trotsky. He won over all of his rivals, playing a game more intricate than any series of chess matches to avoid being killed by rivals, to consolidate his power, to survive the massive blunders he committed, the revelations of his massive campaigns of genocide and murder. He died of natural causes, surrounded by a hoard of some of the more immoral and power hungry men who would have thought nothing of killing him if they thought they could come out on top. Read the accounts of his death when as vicious a person as Lavrentiy Beria, an accomplished mass murderer in his own right, alternately mocked and, when he thought Stalin might revive, cower, only, after he died, to claim he'd killed him. Only to die in the power struggle that led to Kruschiev winning. Kruschiev, by the way, lead a resurgence of the war on religion begun by Lenin, intensified enormously under Stalin but which Stalin let up on a bit as he realized he needed the Russian Orthodox Church to win WWII.
To dismiss Stalin as a psychopath is too easy, a mere psychopath wouldn't have been able to do what he did, he was entirely aware of what was going on around him with an accuracy that allowed him to play events like a virtuoso. What he was was amoral and so, as it served his purposes, massively immoral. He was able to be that because he was an atheist whose ideology contained no moral commandments.
The point is that atheism, as a statement of negation, is no source for generalizing a group's beliefs. Moving on from the statement of negation to a system of morality is what everyone except an utter nihilist would do, and it is that system you should critique. Atheism, as said before, is not an ideology.
It is true that atheism itself has no morality, and that systems to fill the void need to be developed. I've always found it odd to abrogate this challenge by handing it to a celestial judge, which is in practice simply the projection of whatever a particular group believes at a particular time.
That atheists develop morality externally is not equivalent to atheists expropriating them from theists. Theists, deists and atheists have all contributed compelling arguments to moral thought at any given time. Theists are prone to imagine their contributions as eternal truths without qualification, which others steal, without acknowledging their own changing stances or debts to other systems.
Stalin did not base his morality on atheism. Doing so is impossible, since it's a statement of negation. Stalin based his morality on his particular interpretation of Maxism and Leninism, and rampant megalomania. Marxists will argue Stalin perverted their opinions, as Christians will argue the Crusader kings perverted Christianity. Where Christianity struggles more than Marxism on this issue that Marxism is more coherent, inevitably.
The relationship between the Orthodox Church and Stalin/Khrushchev was the contemporary chapter of a very convoluted power struggle between the two institutions, hardly unique to Russia. The latest chapter in the story is the co-opting of the Church by Putin to support his narrative of chauvinistic nationalism.
You don't seem to understand what psychopathy is. It is not, in many cases, a debilitating condition. Many Fortune 500 companies have psychopaths in their higher reaches, for example. Psychopathy does not entail an abrogation of responsibility, it provides a context for understanding motivations.
Whatever Stalin was, in his own mind he was following a very clear morality: sacrifice everything to the state, which he associated with his own person. You might call him immoral, but I'm not personally convinced that "Because God says so" is a good justification for doing so.
If Stalin did what he did BECAUSE he was an atheist, whose adherents have no moral commandments, whence the Christian monsters culminating in genocidal Serbs and SS officers?
As I said, you really don't get what I was saying, your first sentence verifies what I said. Atheism is an ideology no matter how many times atheists deny that it is. Nihilism, an even more radical program of negation, is an ideology. They are related.
Your third paragraph verifies the deficiency of atheism.
Stalin was amoral. I think even his own daughter more or less admitted that. He had no sense of moral obligation to anyone, not members of his own family, not his sons, not even her. I'm not sure if it was she who said that on one occasion he held a little girl in his lap as he joked about how he had had her father tortured and imprisoned, maybe killed. I don't recall in detail. His execution orders which are extant show he had absolutely no moral inhibitions at all. He was hardly the only atheist to either demonstrate amorality or to tout that atheism had liberated people from any moral obligations, it was all over the air in the writings and jabbering of atheists.
Any Serbian Orthodox or German Lutheran or Catholic who murdered people were violating the entire gospel of a man they claim to believe spoke with divine authority, to, in fact, be God. Any who oppressed or enslaved or committed genocide or violence were completely violating their professed religious beliefs. The simplest explanation of that is that their professions of faith were a lie, which they might have been. What you can't say with any kind of integrity were that they were following the teachings of Jesus or the Prophets or the Apostles or the earliest recorded Christians who were, notably, pacifists.
The Nazis killed enormous numbers of people for trying to follow those teachings of Jesus and the Jewish prophets, I've looked and I have not found a single case of them killing someone for trying to be good at being an atheist. It would be rather hard to make that case as Martin Bormann, Hitler's second in command was a loud-mouthed, religion hating atheist who, a very few words changed, would fit right in on many an atheist dominated comment thread today.
You've just flatly contradicted the argument I offered for why atheism is not an ideology, which is inadequate. As I said before: atheism is simply a statement of negation, and it is the ideology which replaces that void which you're actually criticizing.
You've completely ignored the fact that to cast the exchange of normative ideas in ethics is not a one-way street from theists to atheists, or "expropriating". Atheists are as capable of producing systems of ethics as anyone else, and have done so in the past. Arguing that the only legitimate form of ethics is the one espoused by this or that particular version of divinity is ludicrous.
Your story is wrong. What his daughter referred to is a daughter sitting on his lap whose father had been killed during the Terror, to no discernible discomfort to Stalin. You're completely right that he was not the only atheist to behave immorally, but your argument that this was the consequence of being "liberated" from moral obligations is flawed. It is not true that the only source of morality is theism, or that atheists "liberate" themselves from morality. Stop dealing with the caricature, deal with the reality.
As I've pointed out, your caricature of Christian ethics is inadequate. Jesus did not have a problem with directed violence, only violence within his community. He was an apocalyptic preacher with a hatred for intellectuals and foreigners, who fervently believed those groups would be violently destroyed in an imminent apocalypse.
The Bible is full of divinely-mandated or directly acted genocide; slaveowners in the American South and Apartheid South Africa cited Bible verses to justify their racism; the gigantic suffering inflicted by Manifest Destiny of European societies is well-documented; as is a millennium of antisemitism and misogyny. It is simply inadequate to refuse to engage with the subject by flatly calling those people wrong, and you right. What elevates you above them, when you both claim origin for morality in the same book of the same divine power? They claimed with absolute conviction to be following the teachings of Jesus, just like you do. The earliest Christians were certainly not pacifists, some of the earliest martyrs died in violent mob attacks on "pagan" temples and cultural landmarks. The Church Fathers excommunicated one another with enthusiasm. I suggest reading MacCulloch's very good work on the early Church.
The Nazis explicitly referenced the atheism of Bolshevism as part of the justification for the Commissar Order; Nazi propaganda set up the Christian Aryan German against the atheist, degenerate Slav. That you're not aware of this cornerstone of the justification for the war in the East is astonishing. That you implicitly acknowledge the distinction between "murder" and "killing" is indicative of how much more complicated this moral issue is than your simplistic approach can deal with. Where, by the way, do you think the Nazis got their antisemitism? Ex nihilo?
Extensive studies have been conducted on the beliefs that drove members of Einzatsgruppen and other SS units to commit the incredible atrocities that they did, I suggest you read one. Comparing Bormann to an atheist on a comments board is precisely that grotesque caricature that you decry when it is employed by atheists.
Nihilism is just a statement of negation, it is an ideology. The characterization of something isn't done on its own terms, it is done externally of the entity being characterized. I know atheists like to have everything their way but the rest of us aren't under any obligation to allow them to do that.
Atheism is, actually, what atheists make of it and what's on display here is a full blown ideology, including some pretty vulgar and crudely considered beliefs surrounding materialism, scientism, a host of historical myths, invective that could have come from anything from Foxe's frequently false "Book of Martyrs", Chick Publications, and other such sources of bigoted fable.
I have made an extensive study of the claims of atheists over the past dozen or so years and one thing I have learned is that atheists have certainly in those dozen years and, very often, well into the past, constructed double standards in their favor in which they don't ever hold it is fair or valid to be held up to the standards they use to criticize religions and religious people. They feel they have carte blanche to misrepresent what they did and said, to exaggerate, to lie about religion and religious people as so many of those commenting here have in this discussion, having learned those same distortions and misrepresentations from previous atheists who originated them. Atheists, in my long experience of arguing with them, seem to be allergic to original source materials, favoring atheist clap trap as published by Prometheus or some other such tertiary or worse junk.
Your characterization of Jesus clearly is of a piece with that atheist propaganda. It leads me to believe you've never read the Gospels or anything that anyone who was near in time to him said about him. The only incident in the gospels that comes anywhere near what you said is the incident of him driving the money changers out of the Temple precinct. Which was hardly anything in line with what you said. The moral commandments of Jesus, if followed, would certainly not produce killing or oppressing or slavery, do unto others as you would have them do unto you could not produce slavery. Forgive your enemies and pray for them, what you do to the least among you you do unto me, says the Lord, "Neither do I condemn you", etc. all show what an enormous lie that characterization that is.
I've answered you on Stalin already, I will answer you on the Nazis. As I pointed out, the Nazis murdered enormous numbers of people for trying to act according to the words of Jesus and The Law. His second in command, as I pointed out, was a loud-mouthed, bigoted anti-religious atheist who, really, when you read him sounds like nothing so much as so many blog thread atheists. While Hitler had to deal with a population which was largely Protestant and Catholic, his clear plan was to destroy Christianity, as the OSS documented from its study of the public and the internal documents of the Nazi regime. He used a pose of Christianity, just as so many of the clearly hypocritical Republican politicians do, even as they violate every single moral teaching that Jesus set out.
I would go look up the reference but you'd just ignore it, Hitler addressed the Christian resistance to him by telling his opponents they didn't matter because he had their children. His regime made all of the Protestant youth groups illegal and made it mandatory that all children join the Hitler Youth at age 10. He had agreed to allow the Catholic youth groups to continue but made it illegal for Hitler Youth to belong to other youth groups, effectively making membership in Catholic youth groups illegal. The leaders of the Hitler Youth were vehemently anti-Christian and made up all kinds of anti-religious chants and songs for the Hitler Youth to sing. Which is all available online, now.
We know where Hitler got his racial theories because we know what he was reading while he was in prison, what he called his "university education at the public expense". He read Grundriss der Menschlichen Erblichkeitslehre und Rassenhygiene by Eugene Fischer, Fritz Lenz and Erwin Baur, as he was writing Mein Kampf. We also know from Martin Bormann who was there when he said it, that Hitler hated Jesus because of his moral teachings, which he would have since he and all of his apostles,. etc. were Jews. Any pose of Christianity that he made was political expediency.
I have also studied those accusations you make, in detail, and could go on at length, with citations. What you claim is rubbish.
Nihilism is not atheism, I'm not going to deal with it here. As pointed out elsewhere, the basis for you calling atheism an ideology is your perception of common beliefs held by atheists. You're now resorting to some imaginary "rest of us".
Find me some objective assessment of atheism as an ideology, and I'll respond to that. I've responded to your personal argument that it is one, and it's now reduced to going round in circles.
You seem determined to conflate disagreement with how you see historical events and "carte blanche to misrepresent what they did and said, to exaggerate, to lie about religion and religious people". This kind of hysterical caricature of your opponent has no place in a reasoned debate. I've no doubt that you've met some stupid atheists, who've said stupid things. Caricaturing an entire group of people based on that is as wrong as those atheists caricaturing all Christians on the basis of Christian fundamentalists.
You are resorting to an ad hominem argument on the subject of Jesus and the Gospels. I have actually spent my life in academia on the subject, and the subject of the Hellenistic Near East, and I can tell you that your simplification of New Testament moral teaching is utterly absurd. The moral commands of the New Testament have been interpreted, from at latest the Medieval Age, to include the most horrific violence. The most notorious example is in Matthew 27: 24-25, which has been used to justify pogroms for a millennium.
You have also not responded to the context in which Jesus was preaching: as an anti-intellectual apocalyptic preacher who believed that the violent death and destruction of Israel's enemies, as he perceived it, was imminent.
Responding to these issues by claiming superior insight into the mind of divinity simply begs the question.
Bormann's position as "second in command" is a ridiculous over-simplification of the system in which Hitler operated. Hitler's opinions on Christianity were at best, for you, ambivalent, and his repeated references to Providence and explicit statements of faith do not support the idea that Hitler was interested in either destroying Christianity or doing anything more than making the Churches subject to Nazi control.
The Einsatzgruppen were recruited from religiously conservative farmers and policemen, the traditional core of the Nazi vote. The majority of officers in the SS were confessing Catholics. Both of these groups, responsible for the most horrific crimes against the Jews and Soviets, explicitly linked their Christian faith to their actions. They saw their role as the modern Crusaders, destined to protect civilization from Jewry and atheist Bolshevism. These groups have been extensively researched, I suggest you read some of it.
It is true that Hitler saw the Church as a rival center of power and protest, which it was on one important occasion. His responses to this should be interpreted in this context, not in the context of Bormann's hatred of Christianity, since Bormann only had any influence in the last couple of years of the war, if no other reason.
We know where Hitler got his racial theories. This is half of the story, and still controversial. His application of racial theories to Jews and Slavs, in particular, is what is at issue here. It beggars belief to argue that a millennium of Christian antisemitism had no role in his development. Hitler's Table Talks on the issue are worth reading, although I don't suggest it since they're incredibly boring.
The problem with your arguments on Hitler, Jesus and others is that you hold positions so extreme and total that they inevitably beggar belief. You are reduced to a conspiracy theory on natural selection, you are reduced to arbitrary distinctions on questions of Christian behavior, you are reduced to caricature on the issue of Stalin and Hitler. It's true that there are natural selection extremists, the worst of whom is Dawkins, it's true that some Christians base their behavior on only the most tenuous justifications, and that Stalin and Hitler were monsters. But reality doesn't correspond to your black and white world, and you tie yourself into all kinds of knots by angrily demanding that it does. Most of all, you time and time again rely on a tiny number of sources, which you elevate to ridiculous heights in order to ignore contrary evidence. It does you no service.
If your support for you claim that atheism is not an ideology is "atheism is simply a statement of negation" you can say the same thing about nihilism, about which the statement is ever more true than it is atheism. Yet I would suspect any credible philosopher would count nihilism as an ideology.
I will answer some, though not all of the things you say about Nazis, lots of which is garbage. For example, try this simple experiment, Google Martin Bormann Hitler's second in command" and see what comes up. I didn't make up the idea, it is somewhat ubiquitously held.
If the Einsatzgruppen were Christians, they certainly were violating every single thing that Jesus taught, the entire JEWISH Law which Jesus taught and cited. Since Jesus and all of the apostles, virtually everyone mentioned in the Gospels apart from some Romans and a few Samaritans and others were Jews, they would have all been lined up and shot by the Nazis.
Atheist claims about the Christianity of the Nazis while denying the atheism of Stalin and Mao and Pol Pot and Enver Hoxha is absurd in so far as none of the atheists were violating a single thing about atheism in their campaigns of mass murder while the Nazis violated everything in the Gospels.
Really, atheists have absolutely no intellectual integrity.
It is your claim that atheism is an ideology, which is up to you to justify. You seem to have confused this with a situation where, if I cannot convincingly prove to you that it isn't, it necessarily is one. Obviously, that doesn't work. "Atheism is simply a statement of negation" is not support, it is a truth claim which I would be happy to support if asked. Because of these two factors, your leap to nihilism is unjustified.
What you claim is that atheism is an ideology, because you see many atheists holding the same views. That you arrive at this by caricaturing atheists, as we've seen above in your Stalin and Bormann comparisons, and ridiculously misrepresent their views, as we see above in your claims that they are amoral, undermines your argument without any need for my input. So come up with a good reason for why it is an ideology, don't waste time with digressions into nihilism.
Google is not an academic source, and will naturally return a result in your favor when your result is contained in the search query! It's amusing that you've stooped this low, but it is still unconvincing. Perhaps Google "Martin Bormann" and look at some actually enlightening explanations of his rise in the Nazi system, starting in 1943, ten years into the Third Reich.
It is inadequate to emphatically condemn people who were convinced they were behaving as good Christians. You have still completely refused to even engage with the deep ambivalence of the New Testament to violence and Christian history of antisemitism. Try engaging with the issue. As it is, you're just wasting my time with these emphatic claims, particularly in the light of a millennium of Christian antisemitism. As an aside, the issue of Jesus' "Jewishness" vexed theologians for centuries, and fed into wider bitter debates on the nature of Jesus' divinity or otherwise. Again, the issue is actually complex, and your simplifications don't work.
There are no credible ways to deny that Stalin and Mao were atheists, or to argue that atheism in some way inoculates against behaving badly, any more than being religious does. You're responding to "atheist claims", but not my claims. I am not here to defend every stupid utterance of any atheist, and more than you are here to defend every Christian instigator of a pogrom.
The Christian faith of members of the SS and Einzatsgruppen, along with appeals to Christian "Crusader" spirit in Nazi propaganda is well documented. You can go look it up for yourself. It is, and this is getting tiresomely repetitious, inadequate to emphatically claim that the Nazis "violated everything in the Gospels" without actually engaging with the contents of the Gospels. It is a fact that the Gospels, and I've already given you one important couple of verses, contributed significantly to Christian antisemitism. You need to deal with it.
Am I going to have to resort to the dictionary? Well, here from the online Merriam Webster:
Full Definition of IDEOLOGY
1 : visionary theorizing
2 a : a systematic body of concepts especially about human life or culture
b : a manner or the content of thinking characteristic of an individual, group, or culture
c : the integrated assertions, theories and aims that constitute a sociopolitical program
The fact that atheism has been all of those is fully demonstrated in this and other blog discussions through what atheists assert is the consequence of atheism. If you deny that in this discussion almost every assertion made by atheists fulfills one or another of those items, you are proving what I said about atheism not being able to produce the idea that it is a sin to tell a lie. Coyne's every assertion about atheism and the consequences of being an atheist as compared to being religious proves my point, as well.
You couldn't have looked very closely at that google search because in mine I saw lots of them linked to statements to that effect made by academics. You are merely denying what is so obviously true, Hitler's second in command, a man whose atheism, his ranting against Christianity and religion in general, didn't get him into the kind of trouble that, for example, the students of the White Rose got into over asserting their religious convictions. His regime chopped their heads off with that emblem of the materialist "Enlightenment" the guillotine.
I looked and could find absolutely no evidence that the Nazis ever murdered someone for being an atheist, they killed millions for being religious. Same as Stalin, Mao, and those with fewer opportunities such as Hoxha, Pol Pot. And those "Enlightened" atheists of that event wildly popular with many atheist academics today, the Reign of Terror, were no slouches in killing people for their religion either. Most of them peasants.
"You have still completely refused to even engage with the deep ambivalence of the New Testament to violence and Christian history of antisemitism."
"The deep ambivalence of the New Testament to violence". You mean like when Peter took out his sword and cut of the ear of the guy who was coming to lead Jesus to his death and he told Peter to put it away? When he said, "Those who live by the sword will die by the sword"? Or do you mean when he turned over the money changers tables and drove them out of the temple precincts? If you find that "deep ambivalence to violence" I would counter you with Nietzsche, Haeckel, Marx, the neo-cons, and a vast host of other writers who are beloved of atheists, excerpted by atheists, republished by atheists. I would repeat my citations of the atheist regimes of the 18th and 20th and 21st centuries with the oceans of blood, the oppression and enslavement of people.
I would even refer you to the many statements of people like Charles Darwin, Thomas Huxley and Ernst Haeckel saying that the consequence of believing that natural selection is a valid way of looking at the human population means that violence, killing people has salubrious effects on the human population. Both Charles Darwin and Ernst Haeckel attribute the widespread practice of infanticide to the excellence of the Spartans, a violent, military despotism which, every so often, would declare war on their slaves and decimate them, selecting out those they thought might present the greatest challenge to them. Though, of course, the reputation of the Spartans was not scientifically based but was more like lore and gossip. It was no wonder that so many Darwinians in the next generation, such as Huxley's student H. G. Wells, would advocate using the "lethal chamber" to murder those they deemed "unfit" including, in the case of Wells, named racial groups who he said "must go". You should read Scott Christianson's book, about the history of the gas chamber, the first chapter, Envisioning the Lethal Chamber may still be available online,
"Writing at the dawn of the twentieth century, H.G. Wells often mentioned “lethal chambers for the insane” and mused that the “swarms of black, brown, and dirty white, and yellow people . . . have to go.”
An idea which he could have developed directly from things that were written by the eminent scientist who was his teacher, through whom his link to Darwin was made. Ideas which were held by the educated elite at that time to be sophisticated, scientific and modern. If you don't believe that you should read The Descent of Man and The History of Creation,. Thomas Huxley's Emancipation in Black and White and Well's Anticipations of the Reaction of Mechanical and Scientific Progress Upon Human Life and Thought. Oh, and his "Experiment in Autobiography" in which he talks about how his study of science led him to atheism. What he says about Jews and other ethic and racial groups in the first one in terms of social "efficency" as a determinant of whether or not they should be killed along with the "yellow" "brown" "dirty white" could have inspired much of what the Nazis said, as could the British talk about murdering large numbers of people, en masse, in gas chambers in the early years of the 20th century, before the Nazi Party was even formed. All of them inspired by science, all of them entirely uninhibited by the words of Jesus.