Top 10 Atheism Quotes

by Luke Muehlhauser on March 23, 2010 in Quotes

There are hundreds of great atheism quotes out there. Like most skillful turns of phrase, they all sound good. But there are many I disagree with, for example “All thinking men are atheists” (Ernest Hemmingway).

Or consider this Julian Baggini quote: “Goblins, hobbits… truly everlasting gobstoppers… God is just one of the things that atheists don’t believe in, it just happens to be the thing that, for historical reasons, gave them their name.” Actually, no. Perhaps we could say that God is just one of many things that naturalists don’t believe in, or something like that, but atheism is defined only by a lack of belief in gods.

There are hundreds of other atheism quotes to choose from,1 but these are the ones that strike me most deeply right now.

My 10 favorite atheism quotes

When   you   understand  why   you   dismiss   all   the   other   possible   gods,   you  will understand why I dismiss yours.

Stephen  Roberts

When I was a kid I had an  imaginary  friend and I used to think that he went everywhere with me, and that I could talk to him and that he could hear me, and that he could grant me wishes and stuff. And then I grew up, and I stopped going to church.

Jimmy Carr

Believe nothing,
No matter where you read it,
Or who has said it,
Not even if I have said it,
Unless it agrees with your own reason
And your own common sense.

Buddha

To understand via the heart is not to understand.

Michel de Montaigne

I don’t know if God exists, but it would be better for His reputation if He didn’t.

Jules Renard

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime; give a man religion and he will die praying for a fish.

Anonymous

Do not pass by my epitaph, traveler.
But having stopped, listen and learn, then go your way.
There is no boat in Hades, no ferryman Charon,
No caretaker Aiakos, no dog Cerberus.
All we who are dead below
Have become bones and ashes, but nothing else.
I have spoken to you honestly, go on, traveler,
Lest even while dead I seem talkative to you.

Ancient Roman tombstone

An atheist doesn’t have to be someone who thinks he has a proof that there can’t be a god. He only has to be someone who believes that the evidence on the God question is at a similar level to the evidence on the werewolf question.

John McCarthy

Men never commit evil so fully and joyfully as when they do it for religious convictions.

Blaise Pascal

Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful.

Anonymous

  1. Atheism quote lists: 1 2 3 4 5 6 7 8 9 10. Also see these anti-atheism quotes. []

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{ 105 comments… read them below or add one }

manicstreetpreacher March 23, 2010 at 6:21 am

Most people cannot bear sitting in church for an hour on a Sunday. How are they supposed to live somewhere very similar to it for an eternity?

– Mark Twain

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Mark March 23, 2010 at 6:26 am

Famous one, but: “To you, I’m an atheist; to God, I’m the loyal opposition.” — Woody Allen

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Haukur March 23, 2010 at 6:44 am

“Religion is regarded by the common people as true, by the wise as false, and by rulers as useful. – Seneca the Younger”

Seneca? The pious Stoic guy? Where is he supposed to have said that? Looks bogus to me.

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Lee A. P. March 23, 2010 at 6:44 am

This version of the Buddha quote is better. I wonder how accurate this is to the original though:

“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”

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Silver Bullet March 23, 2010 at 6:48 am

This one is my own: ” God does not work in mysterious ways – he works in ways that are indistinguishable from his non-existence”

I like these too:

“God is infinite: an infinite amount of nonsense one can know about nothing.” -?

“Be who you are and say what you feel because those who mind don’t matter and those who matter don’t mind.” – Dr. Seuss

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Reginald Selkirk March 23, 2010 at 7:06 am

“Atheism? Fuck Yeah!”

– Reginald Selkirk

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Haukur March 23, 2010 at 7:18 am

Here are a couple of things Seneca did say about religion:

Religion does honour to the gods, while superstition wrongs them.

[Philosophy's] sole function is to discover the truth about things divine and things human. From her side religion never departs, nor duty, nor justice, nor any of the whole company of virtues which cling together in close-united fellowship. Philosophy has taught us to worship that which is divine, to love that which is human; she has told us that with the gods lies dominion, and among men, fellowship.

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Gregg March 23, 2010 at 7:50 am

This version of the Buddha quote is better. I wonder how accurate this is to the original though:“Do not believe in anything simply because you have heard it. Do not believe in anything simply because it is spoken and rumored by many. Do not believe in anything simply because it is found written in your religious books. Do not believe in anything merely on the authority of your teachers and elders. Do not believe in traditions because they have been handed down for many generations. But after observation and analysis, when you find that anything agrees with reason and is conducive to the good and benefit of one and all, then accept it and live up to it.”  

That’s pretty much it. It’s from the Kalama Sutta. Google it for more info.

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Gregg March 23, 2010 at 8:01 am

To understand via the heart is not to understand.

-Michel de Montaigne
  

I’d probably disagree with this one, too, at least when it comes to matters related to living well (e.g. eudaimonia). Take, for instance, the fact that we’re all going to die. It’s both a Stoic and Buddhist practice to attempt to remind yourself that not only will you be dead one day, but that it might well be the last time you see every single person you encounter.

An intellectual assent to this proposition only gets one so far; but with practice, as this sinks into “the heart” (choose another metaphor if this one’s unappealing to you), it may radically change the way you interact with people and how you live your life for the better. It may manifest in less time wasted, more fears overcome, and kinder interactions with others. But in this case, thinking it’s true won’t necessarily bring this about – it’s more of a “gut level” thing.

Please don’t take the above to condone the attitude that feeling something makes it true (the fallacy of emotional reasoning). But instead take it to imply that “virtue” (in Aristotle’s sense – arete) requires meshing with one’s heart in addition to one’s head.

In this sense, I feel that Montaigne’s quote above throws the baby out with the bathwater.

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Eric M. March 23, 2010 at 8:01 am

A favorite of mine, in a similar vein to the Seneca the Younger quote:

“If we go back to the beginning we shall find that ignorance and fear created the gods, that fancy enthusiasm or deceit adorned them, that weakness worships them, that credulity preserves them, and that custom respect and tyranny support them in order to make the blindness of men serve their own interests.”
-Baron d’Holbach

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Molly March 23, 2010 at 8:37 am

“I do not feel obliged to believe that the same God who has endowed us with sense, reason, and intellect has intended us to forgo their use.”

-Galileo

…Although ambiguous, it is provocative considering yet another quote by a mind of approximately equal influence…

“I had to set limits to reason in order to make room for faith.”

-Kant

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Reginald Selkirk March 23, 2010 at 8:43 am

Here are a couple of things Seneca did say about religion:

Religion does honour to the gods, while superstition wrongs them.

That’s great. Did he explain how to tell the difference between the two?

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Reginald Selkirk March 23, 2010 at 8:47 am

Fire is hot, water cold,
refreshingly cool is the breeze of morning;
By whom came this variety?
They were born of their own nature.

Carvaka

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CypherSD March 23, 2010 at 9:11 am

I love the quotes, but found the first one humorous since it is on *my* list of atheist quotes I disagree with.

When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.

I don’t think that is correct. Most religious people reject other gods, not from some deep analysis of the likelihood they might exist, but rather because they aren’t the god they grew up with. Obviously I am painting religious people with a very broad brush, but it seems to me that most of them choose a particular god because it was the one their parents and family taught them was real, or perhaps because it better reflects the world as they want it to be (in the case of conversions). Those are *not* the reasons I use to reject those gods.

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Gregg March 23, 2010 at 9:46 am

I love the quotes, but found the first one humorous since it is on *my* list of atheist quotes I disagree with.
I don’t think that is correct. Most religious people reject other gods, not from some deep analysis of the likelihood they might exist, but rather because they aren’t the god they grew up with.   

That’s probably true. But in addition, most monotheists may reject other gods because their religion states that there’s only one God. That’s clearly not the reason atheists reject all gods.

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Jake de Backer March 23, 2010 at 9:53 am

You never see animals going through the absurd and often horrible fooleries of magic and religion…. Dogs do not ritually urinate in the hope of persuading heaven to do the same and send down rain. Asses do not bray a liturgy to cloudless skies. Nor do cats attempt, by abstinence from cat’s meat, to wheedle the feline spirits into benevolence. Only man behaves with such gratuitous folly. It is the price he has to pay for being intelligent but not, as yet, quite intelligent enough.
–Aldous Huxley, Texts & Pretexts

Let us be honest. Did all the priests of Rome increase the mental wealth of man as much as Bruno? Did all the priests of France do as great a work for the civilization of the world as Diderot and Voltaire? Did all the ministers of Scotland add as much to the sum of human knowledge as David Hume? Have all the clergymen, monks, friars, ministers, priests, bishops, cardinals and popes, from the day of Pentecost to the last election, done as much for human liberty as Thomas Paine? — as much for science as Charles Darwin?
– Robert G. Ingersoll

It is a contradiction in terms and ideas to call anything a revelation that comes to us at second hand, either verbally or in writing. Revelation is necessarily limited to the first communication. After this, it is only an account of something which that person says was a revelation made to him; and though he may find himself obliged to believe it, it cannot be incumbent on me to believe it in the same manner, for it was not a revelation made to me, and I have only his word for it that it was made to him.
– Thomas Paine

“Changing a rod into a serpent and the serpent back into a rod may be clever magic, but how does such a demonstration prove that Moses spoke to God? If the only thing necessary to prove the truth of an extraordinary claim were to demonstrate an ability to bewilder, there would be no more mysteries to solve. If a person claims that he can bring the dead back to life, and in proof of that power pulls a rabbit out of a hat, that is hardly a demonstration of the truth of his claim; it is merely an example of his ability in the art of deception. If he claims that he can fly without wings and without the use of mechanical help of any kind, and in proof of his ability pulls another rabbit out of another hat, that is not proof of his ability to fly, but of his ability to lie, and he will without much hesitation be condemned as a faker. The demonstration of one thing has absolutely no bearing in proving the truth of the other, when there is no relationship between them. ” Joseph Lewis

We know the clerical party; it is an old party. This it is which has found for the truth those two marvelous supporters, ignorance and error. This it is which forbids to science and genius the going beyond the Missal and which wishes to cloister thought in dogmas. Every step which the intelligence of Europe has taken has been in spite of it. Its history is written in the history of human progress, but it is written on the back of the leaf. It is opposed to it all. This it is which caused Prinelli to be scourged for having said that the stars would not fall. This it is which put Campanella seven times to torture for saying that the number of worlds was infinite and for having caught a glimpse of the secret of creation. This it is which persecuted Harvey for having proved the circulation of the blood. In the name of Jesus it shut up Galileo. In the name of St Paul it imprisoned Christopher Columbus. To discover a law of the heavens was an impiety, to find a world was a heresy. This it is which anathematized Pascal in the name of religion, Montaigne in the name of morality, Moliere in the name of both morality and religion. There is not a poet, not an author, not a thinker, not a philosopher, that you accept. All that has been written, found, dreamed, deduced, inspired, imagined, invented by genius, the treasures of civilization, the venerable inheritance of generations, you reject.
– Victor Hugo

J.

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Haukur March 23, 2010 at 10:05 am

That’s great. Did he explain how to tell the difference between the two?

Well, basically his idea is that if you are properly religious then you realize that the gods are good and you love them and strive to imitate them. If you are superstitious, you are afraid of the gods, thereby dishonoring them and implying that they can do evil.

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Haukur March 23, 2010 at 10:07 am

But in addition, most monotheists may reject other gods because their religion states that there’s only one God. That’s clearly not the reason atheists reject all gods.

I, and others, have been telling Luke this for a long time but he still has this quote in the masthead. I have no idea why he likes it so much – I’ve never seen him seriously attempt to defend it against criticism. Which is weird, because Luke is usually all about debate.

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Haukur March 23, 2010 at 10:09 am

Looks bogus to me.

Looks bogus to those guys too, and they’ve done a lot of work trying to track its origins.

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Kevin March 23, 2010 at 10:14 am

“We’ll never prove the existence of God because all the smart people are atheists.”

As far as I know, I came up with this. I suppose it could have leaked into my mind from elsewhere.

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Haukur March 23, 2010 at 10:18 am

Some of my best efforts to explain why I think the masthead quote is not true or useful are in this thread and this thread. Luke, I’d appreciate you engaging some of these arguments.

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Hermes March 23, 2010 at 10:22 am

CypherSD, I take that quote to mean that all gods are on the same level; none get preferential treatment.

Because they are are all not demonstrated as being real, they are all dismissed on that same level. As the very quotable Pat Condell said;

I can say that with all due respect, because no respect is actually due. … But what you’ve got to realise is that believing a thing, no matter how strongly, doesn’t necessarily make it real. …

There will be people who immediately say their god should get preferential treatment because it is not like the others. I take those claims seriously, but I feel no compulsion to grant that status till there are reasons to grant it.

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Bebok March 23, 2010 at 10:50 am

Haukur,

I’ve tried to find the source for that Seneca quote and checked all his sentences with the word “religio”. None of them is that one. There are few more Latin words and expressions that can be translated as religion (like res sacrae, res divinae, sacra, pietas erga deos, cultus deorum, or caerimoniae), but I haven’t got time to check them all right now. Anyway, it’s pretty unlikely it could be Seneca’s opinion. Looks like one of those internet memes.

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lukeprog March 23, 2010 at 11:06 am

Those who disagree with the “When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods…” quote should read what I said about it earlier.

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lukeprog March 23, 2010 at 11:08 am

Great discussion on the Seneca quote here.

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lukeprog March 23, 2010 at 11:10 am

There, I changed it to ‘Anonymous.’

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Haukur March 23, 2010 at 11:46 am

Those who disagree with the “When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods…” quote should read what I said about it earlier.

I’ve read it and I’ve criticized it at length. Briefly: You assume that believers of one religion think the gods of other religions don’t exist, in the same way that atheists think they don’t exist. But this is not at all typical for believers, in fact I think it is a very rare position for believers to hold.

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lukeprog March 23, 2010 at 12:07 pm

Haukur,

Really? I think monotheism is far more common than polytheism. In any case, that quote isn’t meant to apply to everyone. I could also say, “When you understand why you dismiss alien abduction stories, you will understand why I dismiss stories about gods.” But of course some people do believe alien abduction stories.

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Chris Hallquist March 23, 2010 at 12:26 pm

I know what I’m getting on my tombstone.

As for sourcing: why not attribute the last quote to Gibbon, since he appears to be the probable source of it?

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Haukur March 23, 2010 at 1:01 pm

Really? I think monotheism is far more common than polytheism.

Indeed it is, but there’s no inconsistency between that and what I said. Christians don’t disbelieve in the god of Islam the way you do. Most of them don’t, anyway.

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Tomas Wallin March 23, 2010 at 1:17 pm

This one is actually from a fantasy book by Steven Eriksson. Stuck with me.

“There is something profoundly cynical, my friends, in the notion of paradise after death. The lure is evasion. The promise is excusitive. One need not accept responsibility for the world as it is, and by extension, one need do nothing about it. To strive for change, for true goodness in this mortal world, one must acknowledge and accept, within one’s own soul that this mortal reality has purpose in itself, that its greatest value is not for us, but for our children and their children. To view life as but a quick passage along a foul, tortured path – made foul and tortured by our own indifference – is to excuse all manner of misery and depravity, and to exact cruel punishment upon the innocent lives to come.
I defy this notion of paradise beyond the gates of bone. If the soul truly survives the passage, then it behooves us – each of us, my friends – to nurture a faith in similitude: what awaits us is a reflection of what we leave behind, and in the squandering of our mortal existence, we surrender the opportunity to learn the ways of goodness. the practice of sympathy, empathy, compassion and healing – all passed by in our rush to arrive at a place of glory and beauty, a place we did not earn, and most certainly do not deserve.”

Born again?! No, I’m not. Excuse me for getting it right the first time.
-Dennis Miller

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PontiusP March 23, 2010 at 1:58 pm

The John McCarthy quote is probably a pretty accurate description of atheists, and ignorance is just one of the reasons why they don’t (yet) believe in God. I challenge any atheist to read Plantinga’s Warranted Christian Belief, and then point me to a similar defense of the existence of werewolves.

On the other hand, I’m pleased to see you reading as brilliant Christian authors as Pascal. Btw. atheism/irreligion is also a religious conviction, and the evils committed in irreligious societies (e.g. under communism) are well known.

God still loves you, Luke.

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TaiChi March 23, 2010 at 1:59 pm

I know what I’m getting on my tombstone.

I’ve always liked the epigraph: “I was not. I am not. I care not.”

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Scott March 23, 2010 at 1:59 pm

I’d be careful with that Montaigne quote. In his essay “Apology for Raymond Sebond”, he basically concludes that God is what gives man meaning:

“He shall raise himself up, if it please God to lend him his helping hand. He may elevate himselfe by forsaking and renouncing his owne meanes, and suffering himselfe to be elevated and raised by meere heavenly meanes. It is for our Christian faith, not for his Stoicke vertue, to pretend or aspire to this divine Metamorphosis, or miraculous transmutation.” (Florio translation, 1603)

I love Montaigne, but he was deeply pious, so his placement on your list is odd.

I like this Emo Philips joke:
“When I was a kid, I used to pray every night for a new bike. Then I realised, the Lord doesn’t work that way. So I just stole one and asked Him to forgive me”

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Haukur March 23, 2010 at 1:59 pm

Christians don’t disbelieve in the god of Islam the way you do. Most of them don’t, anyway.

Just to show I’m not talking out of my ass, the official position of the Catholic church regarding other religions has this:

The Church regards with esteem also the Moslems. They adore the one God, living and subsisting in Himself; merciful and all- powerful, the Creator of heaven and earth, who has spoken to men; they take pains to submit wholeheartedly to even His inscrutable decrees, just as Abraham, with whom the faith of Islam takes pleasure in linking itself, submitted to God.

So the position of the Catholic church isn’t that the God of Islam doesn’t exist – it’s that Muslims and Christians worship the same god.

By contrast, many conservative protestants don’t agree that Christians and Muslims worship the same god. But that doesn’t mean they think the god of Islam doesn’t exist, the way atheists believe. Here’s a quote from some random guy with a webpage:

Allah is a demon who deceived Mohammed in order to deceive a multitude of others who followed after Mohammed’s teachings. Allah feeds upon their hate for everything God created and favored, this puts the Jews, Israel and Christians at the top of the hate list.

So, Allah exists all right – he’s even actively doing things now and has done some pretty substantial things in the past. Again, totally different from the atheist viewpoint.

There are various other positions a Christian can take regarding the god of Islam but few Christians take the atheist position that there is no such being and any appearances to the contrary, past or present, are the result of human cognitive biases, powerful people using religion for their own ends etc. etc.

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Haukur March 23, 2010 at 2:32 pm

Here’s a quote from some random guy with a webpage

Or take this Rod Parsley guy: “Allah was a demon spirit”.

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lukeprog March 23, 2010 at 3:21 pm

Chris,

‘Cuz we’re not sure.

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Jurguens March 23, 2010 at 3:43 pm

Some of my favourites have been posted already, but here are two that I’ve always loved from surrealist filmmaker Luis Buñuel.

“God and Country are an unbeatable team; they break all records for oppression and bloodshed.”

“Thanks to god I’m an atheist”

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RedKing March 23, 2010 at 3:45 pm

Our God, some contend, is immutable,
And their faith is, indeed, irrefutable:
When He does what He should,
It’s because “He is good,”
When he doesn’t, “His ways are inscrutable.”

–Laurence Perrine

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Jamie G. March 23, 2010 at 3:57 pm

“If Hell were real, each occupant would be a shining reminder that God has failed.” – Robert Ingersoll

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Zak March 23, 2010 at 4:00 pm

When did I realize I was God? Well, I was praying and I suddenly realized I was talking to myself.
–Peter O Toole

I have never made but one prayer to God, a very short one: ‘O Lord, make my enemies ridiculous.’ And God granted it.
–Voltaire

You might imagine an uncharitable extraterrestrial observer looking down on our species over all that time—with us excitedly chattering, ‘The Universe is created for us! We’re at the center! Everything pays homage to us!’—and concluding that our pretensions are amusing, our aspirations pathetic, that this must be the planet of the idiots.
–Carl Sagan

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lukeprog March 23, 2010 at 4:07 pm

RedKing,

LOL!!!!

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lukeprog March 23, 2010 at 4:08 pm

So many good ones here. Keep ‘em coming, folks!

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justfinethanks March 23, 2010 at 4:18 pm

We have already compared the benefits of theology and science. When the theologian governed the world, it was covered with huts and hovels for the many, palaces and cathedrals for the few. To nearly all the children of men, reading and writing were unknown arts. The poor were clad in rags and skins — they devoured crusts, and gnawed bones. The day of Science dawned, and the luxuries of a century ago are the necessities of to-day. Men in the middle ranks of life have more of the conveniences and elegancies than the princes and kings of the theological times. But above and over all this, is the development of mind. There is more of value in the brain of an average man of to-day — of a master-mechanic, of a chemist, of a naturalist, of an inventor, than there was in the brain of the world four hundred years ago.

– Robert Ingersoll

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Hermes March 23, 2010 at 4:23 pm

When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.

In other words; those ‘other’ gods are irrelevant. Wash, rinse, repeat.

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Hermes March 23, 2010 at 4:41 pm

Just to show I’m not talking out of my ass, the official position of the Catholic church regarding other religions has this:

Hmmm… None of the Catholics I know would agree with that. Neither does it match up with some of the the current pope’s other comments.

Consider that the RCC as an organization might just be attempting to play nice.

Keep in mind that the word “Catholic” means “Universal” as in ‘If you’re not one of us, you’re just wrong.’.

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Jake de Backer March 23, 2010 at 6:36 pm

I’d be careful with that Montaigne quote.In his essay “Apology for Raymond Sebond”, he basically concludes that God is what gives man meaning:
“He shall raise himself up, if it please God to lend him his helping hand. He may elevate himselfe by forsaking and renouncing his owne meanes, and suffering himselfe to be elevated and raised by meere heavenly meanes. It is for our Christian faith, not for his Stoicke vertue, to pretend or aspire to this divine Metamorphosis, or miraculous transmutation.” (Florio translation, 1603)I love Montaigne, but he was deeply pious, so his placement on your list is odd.I like this Emo Philips joke:
“When I was a kid, I used to pray every night for a new bike. Then I realised, the Lord doesn’t work that way. So I just stole one and asked Him to forgive me”  

To say Montaigne was pious may have been overstating the case a bit. Certainly he was a Catholic, however, he is not without a few impious sentiments, such as these:

Man is certainly crazy. He could not make a mite, and he makes gods by the dozen.

Nothing is so firmly believed as what is least known.

How many things served us yesterday for articles of faith, which today are fables to us!

Man is forming thousands of ridiculous relations between himself and God.

Men of simple understanding, little inquisitive and little instructed, make good Christians.

It is setting a high value upon our opinions, to roast men alive on account of them.

Given, then, a more well-rounded view of his perspectives on religion, I think his is a name well placed upon this list.

J.

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Scott March 23, 2010 at 6:43 pm

True, Montaigne was a first-class skeptic and sought no desire to impose his religion or culture on others (he had the radical idea that maybe the “savages” in the New World weren’t that savage!), but I feel like he’s a “yes, but…” case. Yes, he’s irreverent at times, but…

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Scott March 23, 2010 at 6:51 pm

More quotes:

“The invisible and the non-existent look very much alike.” (Delos McKown)

“A casual stroll through the lunatic asylum shows that faith does not prove anything.” (Friedrich Nietzsche)

“Here’s something you never hear in the news: ’200 killed today when Atheist rebels took heavy shelling from the Agnostic stronghold in the North.’” (Doug Stanhope)

“To judge from the notions expounded by theologians, one must conclude that God created most men simply with a view to crowding hell.” (Marquis de Sade)

“Protestantism was the triumph of Paul over Peter; fundamentalism is the triumph of Paul over Christ” (Will Durant)

“Religion – it’s given hope in a world torn apart by religion.” (Jon Stewart)

“The Bible tells us to be like God, and then on page after page it describes God as a mass murderer. This may be the single most important key to the political behavior of Western Civilization.” (Robert A Wilson)

“I have found you an argument; I am not obliged to find you an understanding.” (Dr. Samuel Johnson – not atheistic, but it’s a useful argument-ender!)

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Scott March 23, 2010 at 7:12 pm

“The fact that a believer is happier than a skeptic is no more to the point than the fact that a drunken man is happier than a sober one. (G.B. Shaw)

“Man will never be free until the last king is strangled with the entrails of the last priest.” (Denis Diderot)

“Say what you will about the sweet miracle of unquestioning faith, I consider a capacity for it terrifying and absolutely vile.” (Kurt Vonnegut)

“Lighthouses are more helpful then churches.” (Benjamin Franklin)

“Creationists make it sound like a ‘theory’ is something you dreamt up after being drunk all night” (Isaac Asimov)

“INFIDEL, n. In New York, one who does not believe in the Christian religion; in Constantinople, one who does.” (Ambrose Bierce)

“RELIGION, n. A daughter of Hope and Fear, explaining to Ignorance the nature of the Unknowable.” (Ambrose Bierce)

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Michael March 23, 2010 at 7:19 pm

A little confused on the Pascal quote. He was a Christian was he not?

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Jake de Backer March 23, 2010 at 8:09 pm

I am surrounded by priests who repeat incessantly that their kingdom is not of this world, and yet they lay their hands on everything they can get.
– Napoleon Bonaparte

A myth is a fixed way of looking at the world which cannot be destroyed because, looked at through the myth, all evidence supports the myth.
– Edward De Bono, PO: Beyond Yes And No

I have observed that the world has suffered far less from ignorance than from pretensions to knowledge. It is not skeptics or explorers but fanatics and ideologues who menace decency and progress. No agnostic ever burned anyone at the stake or tortured a pagan, a heretic, or an unbeliever.
– Daniel Boorstin, “The Amateur Spirit” from Living Philosophers

I cannot follow you Christians; for you try to crawl through your life upon your knees, while I stride through mine on my feet.
– Charles Bradlaugh

God is, as it were, the sewer into which all contradictions flow.
– Georg Hegel

Calling Atheism a religion is like calling bald a hair color.
— Don Hirschberg

We are all tattooed in our cradles with the beliefs of our tribe; the record may seem superficial, but it is indelible. You cannot educate a man wholly out of the superstitious fears which were implanted in his imagination, no matter how utterly his reason may reject them.
– Oliver Wendell Holmes, Sr.,

As a set of cognitive beliefs, religion is a speculative hypothesis of an extremely low order of probability.
– Sidney Hook

I recall the story of the philosopher and the theologian. The two were engaged in disputation and the theologian used the old quip about a philosopher resembling a blind man, in a dark room, looking for a black cat — which wasn’t there. “That may be,” said the philosopher: “but a theologian would have found it.”
– Julian Huxley

Whatever he was—that robot in the Garden of Eden, who existed without mind, without values, without labor, without love—he was not man.
– Ayn Rand

They know that shepherds are unnecessary in the absence of wolves and that it is to their interest to convince their sheep that they, the sheep, needs protection. This they are willing to do for half the wool.”
– Robert Ingersoll

It will not do to investigate the subject of religion too closely, as it is apt to lead to Infidelity.
– Abraham Lincoln

Faith is the assent to any proposition not made out by the deduction of reason but upon the credit of the proposer.
– John Locke

I find every sect, as far as reason will help them, make use of it gladly; and where it fails them, they cry out, it is a matter of faith, and above reason.
– John Locke

During almost fifteen centuries has the legal establishment of Christianity been on trial. What have been its fruits? More or less in all places, pride and indolence in the Clergy, ignorance and servility in the laity, in both, superstition, bigotry and persecution.
– James Madison

To sum up:
1. The cosmos is a gigantic fly-wheel making 10,000 revolutions a minute.
2. Man is a sick fly taking a dizzy ride on it.
3. Religion is the theory that the wheel was designed and set spinning to give him the ride.
– H L Mencken

The whole religious complexion of the modern world is due to the absence from Jerusalem of a lunatic asylum.
– Havelock Ellis

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Justfinethanks March 23, 2010 at 8:10 pm

A little confused on the Pascal quote. He was a Christian was he not?  

Yes. Which lends him even more ethos when he says it. What are you confused about?

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Mat March 24, 2010 at 12:15 am

Glad the Buddha is quoted, I think he was the first radical skeptic, atheist, rationalist yet is message has been subsumed in millennia of mystcisism.

It is still there, in Dharma, for all to see for themselves.

“Doubt everything, be your own light.” The Buddha’s last words, perhaps.

:)

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Haukur March 24, 2010 at 12:49 am

CypherSD, I take that quote to mean that all gods are on the same level; none get preferential treatment.

Because they are are all not demonstrated as being real, they are all dismissed on that same level. As the very quotable Pat Condell said;

I can say that with all due respect, because no respect is actually due. … But what you’ve got to realise is that believing a thing, no matter how strongly, doesn’t necessarily make it real. …

There will be people who immediately say their god should get preferential treatment because it is not like the others. I take those claims seriously, but I feel no compulsion to grant that status till there are reasons to grant it.

In other words; those ‘other’ gods are irrelevant. Wash, rinse, repeat.

If the quote made sense to begin with it wouldn’t need all this exegesis. You’re starting to sound like a Christian apologist.

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Haukur March 24, 2010 at 12:54 am

Hmmm… None of the Catholics I know would agree with that. Neither does it match up with some of the the current pope’s other comments.

This is very much the current pope’s position, as recently reaffirmed.

Though of course your intuition about what your acquaintances might say about this, if one day you were to ask them, is more authoritative than the Vatican. I stand refuted.

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Kiwi Dave March 24, 2010 at 3:03 am

My favourites:

Faith is a fine invention
when gentlemen can see -
But microscopes are prudent
In an emergency.
Emily Dickinson

and

Let us tend our garden.
Voltaire

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Hermes March 24, 2010 at 4:28 am

If the quote made sense to begin with it wouldn’t need all this exegesis.

Good point. Yet, I was only addressing the minority that may have some issues with it not the majority that likely understood the gist of it it without any explanation, regardless if they agree or not.

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Hermes March 24, 2010 at 5:04 am

This is very much the current pope’s position, as recently reaffirmed.

Thanks for the press release. Note the date on yours and the date of the events described in mine.

As before, this is diplomacy; Here little doggie! Nice little doggie! I have a big hard present for you! Something for you to ‘think’ about! Of course we both follow the god of Abraham! I’m just here to be nice! Come a little closer! I have time! I’m patient!

The opposing Islamic sects have no qualms about bearing their fangs, of course, and they are — if nothing — are also patient even though at times they act emboldened.

Though of course your intuition about what your acquaintances might say about this, if one day you were to ask them, is more authoritative than the Vatican. I stand refuted.

Intuition is not required. I considered myself a Catholic till I went to College (though I was atheistic well before then) and have had many talks with my family (including several levels removed) as well as my mostly Catholic friends and associates.

Plus, there were always the priests. One did a very kind and sympathetic act during a wedding he was presiding over. What did this man of the cloth do? He informed those attending the wedding — mostly non-Catholics — that they should join the correct religion. As he continued, he had some sharp and condescending words for Baptists, specifically. Frankly, while I had not been a Catholic for years by that time, I apologized to my college friends out of embarrassment that I’d never seen anyone do such a thing. Of course, I was not paying attention, and on reflection I realized that was not the case. The only difference was that this priest decided to do it because there were non-Catholics were in the room, not because of their absence.

The words might be more restrained from the pulpit today, but the intent of the creed I previously linked to is still in force. To be blunt, many Catholics just think the rest of you non-Catholics are a bunch of pagans. After all, they say “We believe in one holy catholic and apostolic Church.” with every bit of Christian baggage that involves, not ‘An Ye Harm None, Do What Ye Will.’.

If this could be boiled down to an emotion that Catholics express towards the beliefs of non-Catholics, that emotion would be pity.

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Hermes March 24, 2010 at 5:13 am

Note on the last comment: All the events described above, with the exception of a few conversations with a couple relatives, involved people who lived in a pluralistic and suburban area just outside of a few major metropolitan cities in the USA (checks: millions of people per city).

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Haukur March 24, 2010 at 6:01 am

Hermes, none of what you’ve described is in any way inconsistent with anything I said. Of course Catholics think Catholicism is the true religion, to which all people should convert. But the Church does acknowledge a special bond with Muslims – they’re more heretics than pagans. Check the Catechism if you think Nostra Aetate and the recent reaffirmation of it are somehow suspect.

My larger point is that believers very rarely have a completely naturalistic position on other religions – they’re usually willing to chalk up a large part to divine inspiration and/or demonic inspiration.

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Hermes March 24, 2010 at 6:32 am

My larger point is that believers very rarely have a completely naturalistic position on other religions – they’re usually willing to chalk up a large part to divine inspiration and/or demonic inspiration.

…or, simply dismissive. Those other religions? Those other gods? Quaint. Too bad for them.

Personally, I like to read about mythology (said not dismissively or derogatorily). Yet, I don’t think Odin — or Yahweh — are credible entities. Even with my extra effort and interest, the bottom line is as stated before;

When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.

Conversely … from the other side of the mirror;

And when we say also that the Word, who is the first-birth of God, was produced without sexual union, and that He, Jesus Christ, our Teacher, was crucified and died, and rose again, and ascended into heaven, we propound nothing different from what you believe regarding those whom you esteem sons of Jupiter. –Justin Martyr

The above would sound both desperate and stilted if it were spoken today, though I have no doubt variations of it are used as recruiting tools for different religions to other people quite frequently.

Both quotes are direct and simple and only seem to get extra comments in environments like this.

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Haukur March 24, 2010 at 6:47 am

You’re not even trying to engage my argument, Hermes. You keep trying to reformulate what the quote says into something that makes more sense (hey, maybe if instead of ‘gods’ we had ‘religions’ and…) but that just goes to show that the quote doesn’t hold up as is.

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Michael March 24, 2010 at 8:13 am

Yes.Which lends him even more ethos when he says it. What are you confused about?  

Couldn’t figure our why he was being quoted as an atheist. Just because one says something bad about religion in general or even their own religion doesn’t make him not a follower. I have criticized fellow Christians for being hypocritical and not truly following what the Christian religion encourages one to do. This doesn’t make me not a Christian.

A quick point that makes Pascal’s quote pointless… he died in the 17th Century. In the 20th Century, atheist regimes killed over 100 million people to make it the bloodiest century ever. He didn’t see it coming and I’m sure would have changed his quote if he did.

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Hermes March 24, 2010 at 8:44 am

I understand your argument.

Are you correct? Partially, yes.

Do most people notice what you pointed out is a possibility or think that way themselves? No.

They grok the intention of the quote. That’s why it’s a good quote; it coveys an idea succinctly. That’s why that quote keeps getting repeated, not because it’s fractally perfect.

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Hermes March 24, 2010 at 8:50 am

Re: ‘”atheist regimes” killed people’ nonsense

Michael, thank you for pointing out an evangelical talking point that has been addressed in spades in many many places. It would be good if it were not repeated with such earnest yet misinformed confidence. If this were your first post here, I would think you were spreading the nonsense yourself even knowing the flaws. I do not think that is the case, but I do hope you actually investigate that idea to see if it is indeed valid.

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Justfinethanks March 24, 2010 at 9:03 am

Couldn’t figure our why he was being quoted as an atheist.

He isn’t. These quotes come from pagans, Christians, agnostics, and atheists. But these are all quotes that express atheistic ideas. One of which is that religion is a poisonous and destructive, which Pascal expresses quite succinctly.

A quick point that makes Pascal’s quote pointless… he died in the 17th Century. In the 20th Century, atheist communist regimes killed over 100 million people to make it the bloodiest century ever.

There, I fixed it for you. Every single person who was killed by Pol Pot or Stalin was killed for political, not metaphysical reasons. They were all called “counter revolutionary” not “counter atheism.” The existence of overwhelmingly secular states like Sweden and Denmark that dwarf religious states in term of freedom, health, peace, and prosperity quite neatly exposes the dusty old theist lie that there is something inherently destructive about atheism.

He didn’t see it coming and I’m sure would have changed his quote if he did.

Since he was smart enough not to fall for your reinterpretation of history, I sincerely doubt that.

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Haukur March 24, 2010 at 9:18 am

They grok the intention of the quote. That’s why it’s a good quote; it coveys an idea succinctly.

The majority of atheists who have commented on this quote on this blog seem to like it. Not all have. No-one who is a believer has commented that he likes it – in fact many have argued that it doesn’t make any sense. But it’s addressed at believers!

Why would Luke, the sympathetic atheist, want to have a masthead quote that is condescending to believers and that only atheists like? To quote myself:

[The quote says] that the believer is so unreflective that a) he doesn’t understand important aspects of his own worldview and b) consquently doesn’t understand the reasons for the atheist position. That’s just incredibly condescending and unhelpful, even if it were true – and you haven’t made the case that it is true, or even made a serious attempt at doing that.

By contrast, I think the Michel de Montaigne quote would be pitch-perfect for this blog. It would give people a better idea of what this blog is about and it is thought-provoking without being condescending. The Buddha quote is good too.

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Robert Gressis March 24, 2010 at 9:39 am

Hermes,

I don’t understand what’s nonsensical about the “atheist regimes killed people” claim. From what I gather, the Soviet Union and communist China were explicitly atheistic and made the practice of religion illegal. Why do they not count as atheistic regimes? Is the idea that communism is itself a religion and so anyone who is a communist, no matter how atheistic he is, is really not an atheist?

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Bebok March 24, 2010 at 12:05 pm

Robert,

Religion was not illegal in the Soviet Union, at least since 1941. Plenty of Russians tried to reconcile communism with Orthodox Christianity and Russian nationalism and some of them still do:

http://www.marcgopin.com/?p=846.

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Haukur March 24, 2010 at 1:53 pm

I think Albania is the canonical example of atheist-communist assholery.

Bebok: Thinks for double-checking that Seneca stuff!

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Hermes March 24, 2010 at 2:53 pm

Robert, in addition to what Bebok said — an informative point that I thank Bebok for thoughtfully and concisely bringing up — the USSR was not ‘the Union of Soviet Socialist and atheist Republics’.

Let’s deal with facts. Was the USSR an officially atheistic state? Yes, for about a dozen years before being dropped (1928-1939). This was during Stalin’s reign, yet it ended well before his death in 1953.

(Just so it doesn’t squeek by, note that the Nazi party in Germany was explicitly theistic in parts and not atheistic at all. Religious ideas were mainly used as a rallying cry along the lines of ‘for God[Yahweh] and country’ as expressed in slogans like the well documented ‘Gott Mit Uns’, but were also held firmly by the Nazi leadership.)

Back to the dinosaur that was the USSR…

The ideology of top-down dictitorial communism was paramount to anything else in the USSR, regardless of how much (or little) sense it made. As an example, they promoted Lysenkoism (and suffered from multiple crop failures) instead of using a careful examination of reality to reach reasoned conclusions on how to deal with agriculture. This included outlawing non-lysenkoism biologcal research and made people who promoted evolution by natural selection “enemies of the Soviet people”. (Swap in ID for Lysenkoism, and that’s basically what well funded literalist theists would like to see happen to the sciences in ‘western’ countries today.) The notorious ’5 year plans’ were also signs of them distincing themselves from reality and clinging to dogmatic state-promoted ideas.

Religious groups were persecuted mainly because they were another power base that could work against communism.

Bottom line;

If anyone can show a rough equivelent of ‘Gott mit uns’ (or other distinct evidence of a different type) where atheism was a rallying cry in the USSR, they are free to do so.

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Haukur March 24, 2010 at 3:46 pm

If anyone can show a rough equivelent of ‘Gott mit uns’ (or other distinct evidence of a different type) where atheism was a rallying cry in the USSR, they are free to do so.

What a weird and arbitrary challenge. Why should this be the standard by which we judge anything in particular?

The Nazis were theists, the Stalinists were atheists, both did some awful things. This is not a pissing contest anyone is going to win.

Atheism certainly was an important part of the ideological underpinnings of the Soviet Union but it doesn’t exactly lend itself to catchy rallying cries.

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Robert Gressis March 24, 2010 at 6:35 pm

I agree with Haukur about the arbitrariness of the challenge. More than that, though, there is this part:

“The ideology of top-down dictitorial communism was paramount to anything else in the USSR, regardless of how much (or little) sense it made. As an example, they promoted Lysenkoism (and suffered from multiple crop failures) instead of using a careful examination of reality to reach reasoned conclusions on how to deal with agriculture. This included outlawing non-lysenkoism biologcal research and made people who promoted evolution by natural selection “enemies of the Soviet people”. … The notorious ‘5 year plans’ were also signs of them distincing themselves from reality and clinging to dogmatic state-promoted ideas.”

I don’t understand the relevance of Lysenkoism to whether or not the Soviet Union was an atheist state. The fact that they didn’t accept all the deliverances of natural science doesn’t make them non-atheists. I’ve known atheists to believe in all sorts of weird stuff, like energy crystals and the like.

On another note, do you happen to know whether atheism was taught in schools even after religion was (in whatever sense) decriminalized?

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dermotb March 24, 2010 at 7:36 pm

“I once heard the survivors of a colony of ants that had been partially obliterated by a cows foot, seriously debating the intention of the gods towards their civilisation”

“That stern and rockbound shore
felt like an amateur
when it saw how grim the Puritans
that landed on it were”

(Archy & Mehitabel – poems written by a poet reborn as a cockroach)

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Simon March 24, 2010 at 8:19 pm

That’s probably true.But in addition, most monotheists may reject other gods because their religion states that there’s only one God.That’s clearly not the reason atheists reject all gods.

And yet the monotheist position is often worded in terms of “worshiping false gods.” That’s entirely in keeping with the atheist viewpoint that *all* gods are false.

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Hermes March 24, 2010 at 8:21 pm

It’s very simple, and not weird at all.

If Stalin & company did what they did in the name of atheism, there would be evidence for it. For example, rallying cries.

When we look at the relation of many ‘God[Yahweh] and country’ rallying cries, we don’t see the mirror image on the side of the ‘godless communist’ side.

If you can think of a different chunk of evidence that I’ve overlooked, then ‘or other distinct evidence of a different type’ has left that door wide open for comments.

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Hermes March 24, 2010 at 9:01 pm

I don’t understand the relevance of Lysenkoism to whether or not the Soviet Union was an atheist state. The fact that they didn’t accept all the deliverances of natural science doesn’t make them non-atheists. I’ve known atheists to believe in all sorts of weird stuff, like energy crystals and the like.

It showed that they were dogmatic about Communist ideology (and in many cases leader worship (see ‘cult of personality’)).

Churches pose an independent authority structure and have for centuries, and thus are a challenge to a dictator’s authority. It meant nothing to the Soviet dictators if someone was an atheist if they weren’t good Communists and with that had singular loyalty to the Soviet system.

As an example in modern times, note the dictator Saddam Hussein that styled himself after Stalin. Prior to him being ousted, there weren’t many conflicts between sects of Islam because he suppressed those tensions by imposing his own rule. We’re currently enjoying the unintended secondary consequences of removing one bastard and allowing the others to rise to the top of the sludge pile.

Additionally, if state atheism was crucial to the USSR, then why was it revoked?

You could say that the onset of WWII was the reason, but Stalin died in the 50s, well after WWII was over, and also he did not implement state atheism till years after taking the top seat.

Along those lines, why did only one Soviet leader implement state atheism? Not Lenin before him. Not Khrushchev, or Brezhnev, let alone the later leaders (Gorbachev, who had a hand in dismantling the Soviet system, even campaigned for religious freedom while the USSR was intact).

Where’s the equivalency? Where’s the bloody hand of atheism on the throats of the “over 100 million people” Michael attributed to “atheist regimes”? Such things are misguided forms of cheap shots, wrapped in a cloak of political correctness.

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Hermes March 24, 2010 at 9:37 pm

And yet the monotheist position is often worded in terms of “worshiping false gods.” That’s entirely in keeping with the atheist viewpoint that *all* gods are false.

Simon, good way to phrase it.

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Haukur March 25, 2010 at 12:03 am

It’s very simple, and not weird at all.

If Stalin & company did what they did in the name of atheism, there would be evidence for it. For example, rallying cries.

When we look at the relation of many ‘God[Yahweh] and country’ rallying cries, we don’t see the mirror image on the side of the ‘godless communist’ side.

The Nazis didn’t even invent Gott mit uns – they mostly just continued the prevailing attitude to religion in their country. By contrast, the Soviet leaders actively worked to change people’s attitude towards religion.

And of course there were slogans (“Struggle against religion is a struggle for the five year plan!”) but not catchy ones.

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Haukur March 25, 2010 at 12:20 am

Additionally, if state atheism was crucial to the USSR, then why was it revoked?

Because surviving the Nazi onslaught was more crucial so Stalin instituted an alliance of convenience with the church. Antireligion campaigns started up again under Kruschev.

Along those lines, why did only one Soviet leader implement state atheism?

Are you using some unusual definition of state atheism?

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everettattebury March 25, 2010 at 7:02 am

One of my favorites, by John Keats:

Written in Disgust of Vulgar Superstition

The church bells toll a melancholy round,
Calling the people to some other prayers,
Some other gloominess, more dreadful cares,
More heark’ning to the sermon’s horrid sound.
Surely the mind of man is closely bound
In some black spell; seeing that each one tears
Himself from fireside joys, and Lydian airs,
And converse high of those with glory crown’d.
Still, still they toll, and I should feel a damp,
A chill as from a tomb, did I not know
That they are dying like an outburnt lamp;
That ’tis their sighing, wailing ere they go
Into oblivion;–that fresh flowers will grow,
And many glories of immortal stamp.

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Hermes March 25, 2010 at 11:08 am

I do like to write. Too bad editing is not enabled on this blog or I’d clean up some of the more cringe worthy comments I’ve made, and correct the occasional typos and too frequent mid-sentence archaeological editing artifacts.

The Nazis didn’t even invent Gott mit uns – they mostly just continued the prevailing attitude to religion in their country. By contrast, the Soviet leaders actively worked to change people’s attitude towards religion.

Both sentences are true, yet read them again please. While you do, remember the proposition that I am addressing: “over 100 million people” [ killed by ] “atheist regimes”.

These types of statements do not place the blame for the millions of actual deaths soberly at the feet of those who can be identified as responsible. These statements do not intend to identify or discover what actually motivated those people to commit their crimes and what we can take away from that discovery as a lesson for the future. These kinds of comments are intended to blame one group for the acts of others while avoiding any of the difficult issues that may actually be relevant.

I’ll offer additional specific referenced commentary on the issue of contrast that you raised if it is necessary, but I think that just gets us sidetracked and you could probably run that conversation through your own head by yourself and get roughly the same result.

Because surviving the Nazi onslaught was more crucial so Stalin instituted an alliance of convenience with the church.

Addressed in my previous comments; it doesn’t answer why he didn’t reinstitute the gosateizm policy after the war to the point of executing all religious officials. This is Stalin we’re talking about.

Primarily, Stalin and other Soviet dictators and leaders over time with the assistance of the Supreme Soviet attempted to implement a bad idea; a system of government — top down communism — that requires oppression as a force to get it to work at all because it works counter to the motivations that individuals would normally follow. The body count flowed from that, and the USSR struggled and eventually collapsed because of it; you can’t fight human nature.

Antireligion campaigns started up again under Kruschev.

Point taken. Still not bound at the hip to atheism, though, but driven directly by a Soviet government policy to control the population.

As before, more details can be provided if you require them.

Are you using some unusual definition of state atheism?

How technical do you want to get? Gosateizm is roughly translated as ‘USSR state atheism policy’. It was not consistently enforced, and when it was brutal it was focused on the property of specific religious groups (and often not others at all) and religious leaders (also inconsistently).

Even though that was the case, the death toll of the religious leadership was in the thousands. Not good, but not what Michael reflexively repeated either. Very little effort was made to track down and persecute individuals as was done by the Nazis to the Jews. Was there snobbery and even bigotry against the religious? Yes. Was it bad for your job prospects as most were tied directly to being in the Soviet Communist Party? Also, yes. Both issues as well as others are true, and were some of the reasons for Gorbachev’s religious reforms. That’s not being countered by me at all. They were real bastards and the communists were responsible for a great deal of misery and death.

Back on target …

If atheism itself was demonstratively to blame for the ‘over 100 million deaths’ — and not the leaders of the USSR implementing Soviet communism and enforcing their dictatorships — I’d not argue against that evidence or that conclusion. It would cause me a great deal of concern.

Adding up the bodies — even being generous towards the argument for atheism itself being a driver — does not reach even a substantial fraction of the claim being made. The larger pile of bodies belong to an actual ideology, and I say that only giving much undue credit to the proposition.

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Hermes March 25, 2010 at 11:26 am

One of my favorites;

When you believe in things
that you don’t understand,
then you suffer.

Superstition ain’t the way.

–Stevie Wonder, Superstition

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Robert Gressis March 25, 2010 at 11:28 am

Hi Hermes,

First, this is a very illuminating debate between you and Haukur. I’m learning a fair bit about the USSR from reading your exchanges.

That said, when I asked what the relevance of Lysenkoism to whether the USSR is an atheist regime, you wrote:

“It showed that they were dogmatic about Communist ideology (and in many cases leader worship (see ‘cult of personality’)).”

OK, so they were a communist regime. But atheism is often taken to be a part of communism, and in this case it was; granted, advancing atheism wasn’t the main concern of the USSR–advancing communism was. But it seems to have been a part of it. And it also seems to me that the leaders who made the worst decisions were atheists.

Now, does this make atheism the _primary_ motivator of the murders the USSR carried out? Doubtfully–at least, if you were to argue this, you’d have a lot of ‘splainin’ to do. That said, it seems that you’re defining an atheist regime as a regime where atheism is the primary motivator of all its decisions. (Am I wrong about this? If I am, how _are_ you defining an atheist regime?) I don’t think that this is the only way to define “atheist regime”, and it’s not the way I define it. I define an “atheist regime” as at least a regime where most of the policymakers are atheist, and atheism plays some sort of significant role in their policies. For instance, if the USA, for example, stripped “God” from the pledge and the money and made atheism something that was taught in schools, but where religion was permitted, if discouraged, I would consider that an atheist regime.

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Hermes March 25, 2010 at 11:44 am

Robert, statements like the one Michael repeated aren’t getting at the issues. They are intended to defame not enlighten. They are based in ignorance.

As I wrote;

These kinds of comments are intended to blame one group for the acts of others while avoiding any of the difficult issues that may actually be relevant.

It’s as relevant as blaming all vegetarians for Nazism.

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Haukur March 25, 2010 at 12:43 pm

We can argue till the cows come home about statements like “atheism has a lot of blood on its hands”. That’s a statement with no obvious clear definition, designed more to have an emotional impact than to communicate facts clearly.

But I think the Soviet Union was an atheistic regime under any reasonable definition. It was a regime where all the policy makers were required to be atheists, where the ruling ideology had atheism as a component, where atheism was promoted by the state and where other worldviews were actively suppressed (to various degrees at varying times). This is stuff you just have to concede.

Here’s a little syllogism:

P1: The Soviet Union was an atheistic regime.
P2: Atrocities were committed by the Soviet Union.
C: Atheistic regimes have committed atrocities.

Now, while I think C is a true sentence I’m entirely prepared to accept that it might be a misleading sentence in certain contexts.

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Hermes March 25, 2010 at 2:10 pm

The core argument Michael has repeated is intentionally divisive, regardless if he personally intended it as such.

The whole thing is one jacket strap short of an insane asylum.

As for the syllogism, the same applies to other governments as well;

P1: The United States is a representative democracy.
P2: Genocide was committed by the United States.
C: Representative democratic countries have committed genocide.

Does this mean we can conclude anything about democracies, let alone the United States today?

How about direct democracies, like ancient Greece? When Athens attacked Troy, do we conclude that dating women from direct democracies can lead to your city’s downfall? If that’s the case, then should men only date women from cities or towns that are smaller than where they live now and have the ability and will to preemptively attack? Should such people be brought up on charges? Are the women culpable?

On a different note, how about automobiles?

P1: People have cars.
P2: Cars have been used to murder other people by running them over.
C: People with cars have committed murder.

What we know is … what?

We know that these types of arguments are intended as smear tactics, not attempts at honest inquiry. They are effective to degrade others because they encourage latent bigotry.

As a closing thought;

P1: A husband, Jack, beat his wife.
P2: Wives are beaten by husbands.

C: Husbands beat their wives.

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Hermes March 25, 2010 at 2:15 pm

Go listen to Mr. Stevie Wonder. He’s got it right.

Plus, his song is on topic for this blog post unlike the other nonsense. Besides, who can argue against Sesame Street?

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Haukur March 25, 2010 at 3:20 pm

C: Representative democratic countries have committed genocide.
C: People with cars have committed murder.

Yes, those are true conclusions, obtained by valid arguments with true premises. (Your third example is not a proper syllogism.)

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Hermes March 25, 2010 at 4:09 pm

Yep. Noticed it wasn’t what I intended after I posted it.

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Hermes March 25, 2010 at 4:14 pm

OK. I’ll take that as a concession from all. Thanks for playing. Don’t let the headmaster see you in his office again.

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Bebok March 25, 2010 at 9:44 pm

But I think the Soviet Union was an atheistic regime under any reasonable definition. It was a regime where all the policy makers were required to be atheists, where the ruling ideology had atheism as a component, where atheism was promoted by the state and where other worldviews were actively suppressed (to various degrees at varying times)

But then the Soviet Union was, say, a dialectical materialist regime under any reasonable definition. There were a number of components of that ideology. For some reasons, nobody complains about dialectical materialist regimes that killed 100 millions of people.

Hermes,

One problem with your Greek argument may be that democracy in Athens began something like 700 years after Troy VIIa (usually identified with Homeric Troy) was destroyed.

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Haukur March 26, 2010 at 2:29 am

For some reasons, nobody complains about dialectical materialist regimes that killed 100 millions of people.

Oh, sure they do. Here, let me find you some quotes:

The dialectical materialism of Marx defined violence as a constructive force that helped human progress.

the communist concept of ‘dialectical conflict,’ which killed some 120 million people throughout the 20th century”

The sentence which started this debate was this one:

In the 20th Century, atheist regimes killed over 100 million people to make it the bloodiest century ever.

I still think this is a true sentence (though you could probably quibble over the exact number). I do think Michael was deploying this little bit of information in a problematic way to reach conclusions that were not warranted. But you should call him on that, not try to define “atheist regimes” in some far-fetched way which would make the sentence false.

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Hermes March 26, 2010 at 7:56 am

One problem with your Greek argument may be that democracy in Athens began something like 700 years after Troy VIIa (usually identified with Homeric Troy) was destroyed.

I agree with your post. One clarification on the above quote…

My tongue was firmly planted in my cheek when writing that. I intended it to be an example of how insane the whole argument was; both my sloppy Troy analogy and the ‘atheist regimes killed 100 million people’ are silly incoherent nonsense, thought he second one would also bring libel charges in Brittan if applied to an individual.

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Bebok March 26, 2010 at 9:01 pm

Hermes,

That wasn’t too brilliant of me, then.

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Hermes March 26, 2010 at 9:14 pm

That wasn’t too brilliant of me, then.  

Not at all. My first drafts are often obtuse, and this site is like a typewriter; locked into saving the first draft only. It’s like the last 30 years had not even happened.

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Bebok March 26, 2010 at 9:28 pm

I still think this is a true sentence (though you could probably quibble over the exact number). I do think Michael was deploying this little bit of information in a problematic way to reach conclusions that were not warranted.

I agree, basically. It’s just when I hear someone dragging up the “atheist regimes” story, they always seem to do that to reach the conclusions that are not warranted. Admittedly, it’s only my anecdotal experience, just like with millions of people slaughtered by dialectical materialism.

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Hermes March 26, 2010 at 9:41 pm

Nice. :-)

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Bebok March 27, 2010 at 12:45 am

My first drafts are often obtuse, and this site is like a typewriter; locked into saving the first draft only. It’s like the last 30 years had not even happened.

Imagine there are people for whom it’s the only place where they use English and there is no single case when they are quite sure if they should write “the”, “a” or no article.

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Zeus April 4, 2010 at 1:07 pm

Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day; teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime; give a man religion and he will die praying for a fish; give a man religion and he will kill or die twisting the logic of fishing.

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garmin April 27, 2010 at 5:39 am

you need to put some marxists ones in the top ten, you cant be atheos if you dont read the old charles.

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Bebok June 3, 2010 at 5:51 pm

This supposedly Seneca quote is actually an altered form of the quote from E. Gibbon’s “The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire”:

“The various modes of worship, which prevailed in the Roman world, were all considered by the people, as equally true; by the philosopher, as equally false; and by the magistrate, as equally useful.” (I 2)

http://en.wikiquote.org/wiki/Edward_Gibbon

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Laith June 19, 2010 at 6:31 am

He was a wise man who originated the idea of God.

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Brian September 5, 2010 at 7:14 pm

Alright you ignorant atheists… if there is no god, then HOW DOES THE SUN KEEP ORBITING THE EARTH? BAM!

Of course atheism is a religion, because it requires just as much FAITH to BELIEVE in it! They are FUNDAMENTALISTS!

If we came from Monkeys, then why are there still monkeys? My grandpa doesn’t look like a monkey!

Evolution isn’t a fact, it’s only a theory! Why should I believe that theory instead of the one I was taught at church?!

And on that note…

Dunt dun duuh DAAAAHHHH!

!!!!!!!!!MY ATHEIST STORE!!!!!!!!!

Aristotle’s Muse

This is my store. If you’re as irritated by this kind of mindless banter as I am, speak your mind. Maybe wearing an atheist T-shirt won’t change the world, but enough of them just might help.

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