(I’m back in my third-world hellhole, where I’m striving to make the world safe for democracy, so my response times might be somewhat slower than usual)
In some of my recent back-and-forths with atheists — some thoughtful and somewhat intelligent, some moronic and imbecilic — one thought has frequently surfaced from the atheist side:
The historical record is full of Christians doing terrible things, therefore Christianity itself is suspect as a belief system to support good relations between people.
I’ve batted this aside by calling it what it is: nonsense on the face of it. It’s obvious to me that Christianity absolutely, unambiguously forbids the initiation of hostility by a Christian against another person. The two commandments from Jesus: Love your neighbor as yourself, and Love your enemy, leave no wiggle room.
If your enemy has not attacked you (that’s a very big “if”), then it seems obvious to me that the Christian is absolutely forbidden to initiate hostilities. In no way, I think, could the initiation of hostilities, be considered a “loving” act toward your enemy!
The atheists’ responses — the ones that are not overtly stupid and ignorant — have usually been: “Well, that might be obvious to you, but not to me, as evidenced by the acts of some who call themselves Christians. And of some who are Christians.”
Well, here are some thoughts about Christianity and atheism that may provide some insights:
- To do bad things, Christians have to go against Christianity, They have to break God-given law. That shouldn’t be all that controversial.
- To do bad things, an atheist believes that he is, at worst, breaking only Man-given law. That also shouldn’t be all that controversial.
- In fact, to do bad thing the atheist believes that he has broken no law whatsoever given by anyone of any greater cosmic “rank” than he.
- The example we examined at great length in our exchanges, was that of Adolf Hitler. Hitler proclaimed himself to be a Christian frequently, and was able to convince some prominent Catholic theologians that he was a believing Christian. It shouldn’t be controversial, either, that he did bad things.
- Hitler also proclaimed himself to be a Socialist frequently, and was able to convince many prominent Socialists that he was a believing Socialist. Including many in America!
- Hitler then did many things that were unambiguously not Christian, as evidenced by the near universality of the post-war denunciation of Hitler and his régime by Christians. The ones who didn’t denounce him while he was doing his crimes, are those who (1) thought Hitler was unaware even that the crimes were being committed, or (2) didn’t understand or practice Christianity. However, there were plenty — probably a significant majority — of Christians around the world who denounced Hitler while he was committing his depredations.
- During his time as Chancellor, then Führer, of Germany, Hitler also established a very socialist state: Huge central power concentrated in his hands; monopolistic industries and businesses which appeared to be capitalist, but which operated in a very socialist fashion to stifle all competition; vast curtailment of basic human rights (as we understand them in the west). Hitler was a totalitarian, none will deny that. None will deny either that the term “totalitarian capitalism” is a nonsense term. There can be no such thing. Capitalism is all about limiting government power, and removing governmental restrictions on the people and, in particular, on commerce.
- Hitler was a liar. Hardly a reliable source for anything resembling truth or insights into his own character and beliefs.
- But…Hitler called himself a Christian, then did really un-Christian things. Hitler called himself a Socialist, then did really Socialist-type things.
- Unlike the famous riddle a liar doesn’t always lie. Likewise, Hitler didn’t always lie. From point #9, above, we can reasonably conclude the following: when Hitler called himself a Christian, he was almost certainly lying (there’s no such thing as 100% certainty when it pertains to the thinking of other people), and when Hitler said he was a socialist, he was almost certainly telling the truth.
- So, Hitler wasn’t a Christian. to argue otherwise is almost certainly to argue either (1) in bad faith, or (2) from ignorance.
- Was Hitler an atheist? That’s a more complex question. Here’s what Merriam-Webster.com says about atheism:
• a : a disbelief in the existence of deity
• b : the doctrine that there is no deity
Pretty simple, but there are two definitions and, as it turns out, they’re pretty much what I’ve been saying all along, and about which I even made a nice little Venn diagram to illustrate. (here) However, they are two different definitions. The first says: a person doesn’t believe in God. The second says: a person affirmatively believes that there is no God.
The second definition says that atheism can be an actual belief, not a lack of belief. Furthermore, the second definition says, there is an entire doctrine to “back up” that belief. That an atheist has access to the thoughts, philosophies, writings and other communications of people, all collected into a doctrine that they can use for whatever purposes they choose.
We can point to a vast collection of writings, speeches, presentations, etc., by a wide array of people such as Karl Marx, Friederich Engels, Vladimir Lenin, Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins and more, to confirm that there is, indeed, a doctrine of atheism.
Dawkins even believes in something he calls “militant atheism.” It’s an atheism that he hopes to impose on believers, forcing those people to take their belief underground and out of the public eye.
We’ve seen all too frequently throughout history, that those leaders who establish the political order in a country — and don’t believe in God, or believe there is no God, aka atheists — establish a cult centered on themselves as kind of an earthly deity. Who knows why? Massive ego? Sure. But also, surely, a deep-down, if unspoken, recognition that the natural condition of man is to seek God.
It’s hard to deny this. The one commonality that all races, populations, countries, groups, assemblages of human beings have is a constant preoccupation with their origins. And not just Mom and Dad either.
So, was Hitler, who started life as a Catholic but then rejected Catholicism, an atheist? Well, there’s no indication that he turned to some other faith. He didn’t reject Catholicism to become, say, a Hindu, or a Buddhist, or a Zoroastrian, or … If that had happened, then it’s a pretty sure that the convert Hitler would have mentioned it to someone, as it would have been pretty important to him. So, it’s safe to conclude that Hitler didn’t reject Christianity in order to adhere to another faith that believes in a god or gods.
Now, as the atheists argue, Hitler was not an atheist because, you see, he believed in himself as an earthly deity. Ipso fact, since he believed in a god — himself — he was not an atheist. An atheist, says the definition, does not believe in God. Any god.
Between you and me, that’s just playing with words in order to absolve atheism of its participation in the massive crimes committed by atheists in the 20th Century. An atheist who establishes a cult of himself in the country he leads, even if he tries to proclaim himself to be God, is still an atheist in good standing.
All the atheists we know of who were able to determine most of the fundamental characteristics of their countries did this. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, the Kims of North Korea, Pol Pot, Ho Chi Minh. However, even when they didn’t — the Castro brothers, the Eastern European vassals of the Soviet Union, Enver Hoxha — they displayed such a disregard for the value of human life — as they do now in contemporary society — that they could be said to have played God.
There is no fundamental difference between proclaiming oneself to be God, and claiming for oneself the terrain that belongs to God: life and death.
The only rational conclusion about Hitler, the only one that doesn’t involve playing silly games with words, or engaging in tortured sophistry to let one’s belief system off the hook, is that Hitler was an atheist who recognized that his atheism was not a characteristic about which he could be publicly honest and successfully attain power in 1930’s Germany, and who therefore loudly proclaimed himself to be a Catholic Christian in order to prevent his real belief from being an obstacle to the acquisition of power.
The Hitler thing was an interesting side note to the general conversation here, but it was a side note all the same. After the skirmish, I realized that I had allowed myself to be derailed from the main topic: Why or why not to believe in God.
However, I enjoyed the sideshow, because my side had a plethora of obvious advantages, both from the evidence side, and the plain ol’ thinking-it-through side. I think that Allallt, Arkenaten and Zande liked the sideshow as well, because it kept the discussion away from the topic where they had little more than feeble arguments.