I have had some atheist commenters lately. Initially, I try to post a provocative article to attract them, and then I make a conscious effort to be polite as they challenge my initial post. Recently, I had this exchange with a commenter called Robert, and I thought this was worth posting to see what you all thought of my style. Was I too mean?
I think it’s important that angry atheists who want to blame God for atrocities should actually know what God is like, as revealed in the Bible, and especially in the life of Jesus. For that topic, check out a post by Neil, on 4Simpsons blog, that expresses the problem that I am trying to resolve below.
Here is the initial post that generated the challenge, which talks about who is more responsible for the mass murders of communism: Christians Or atheists? (By the way, I see that Chad, on Truthbomb Apologetics, has posted a breakdown of the numbers murdered and who did the murdering)
Here is Robert’s first rebuttal:
Communism did not arise from atheism. In fact, some of the first communists were Christians, and there are even Christian communists today. Communism actually owes an intellectual debt to Christians and the Bible. You can read more in my article on atheism and communist atrocities found here. More articles debating Christian apologists Dinesh D’Souza and Dr. David Aikman can be found at my site too (yes, these guys actually responded to me).
It’s interesting you quote Dr. Rummel as a source for your views. Do you know what else he wrote?
Q: Is atheism the principal factor in democide, such as that committed by the “Big Three,” Stalin, Mao, and Hitler?
A: No. I find that religion or its lack – atheism – have hardly anything to do in general with wide-scale democide. The most important factor is totalitarian power. Whether a church, atheists, or agnostics have that power is incidental – it is having the power that is a condition of democide. Incidentally, some ideologies, such as communism, function psychologically and sociologically as though a religion. The only distinction is whether the subject is a god or a man, such as Marx, Lenin, Hirohito, Hitler, Mohammed, Kim Ill sung, Mao, etc.
Your view is explicitly debunked by the very scholar you use to support it.
And here is my reply:
I trust Rummel’s numbers, not his personal opinions about the numbers. All totalitarian systems that murdered massive numbers of people have been atheistic, because the content of the worldview (materialism) does not forbid it. Atheism does not have a ground for human rights, human dignity, etc. The content of the worldview makes the murders possible.
Communism is a system of economics built upon materialist atheism. No Christian can believe in atheism, the two are mutually exclusive. Marx himself wrote about atheism and he was an aggressive atheist. His economic views emerged directly from his metaphysics. That is why Marx wrote that “religion is the opium of the people”, while the New Testament says that if a man does not work, neither shall he eat. The New Testament values private, voluntary charity. Marx values redistribution of wealth by a fascist state.
Here is a citation from a communist web site:
In the body of his study Marx pointed out that: “The proofs of the existence of God are either mere hollow tautologies… all proofs of the existence of God are proofs of his non-existence.” (Marx, The Difference Between the Democritean and Epicurean Philosophy of Nature, 1841, MECW 1.)
…In 1841 Marx and Bauer planned to publish a radical philosophical periodical, Archives of Atheism. The views of some contemporaries give some indication of the scope of their project.
Arnold Ruge wrote: “Bruno Bauer, Karl Marx, Christiansen and Feuerbach are forming a new montagne and are making atheism their slogan. God, religion, immortality are cast down from their thrones and man is proclaimed God.”
And Georg Jung wrote to Ruge: “If Marx, Bruno Bauer and Feuerbach associate to found a theological-philosophical review, God would do well to surround himself with all the angels and indulge in self-pity, for these three will certainly drive him out of his heaven… For Marx, at any rate, the Christian religion is one of the most immoral there is.” (David McLellan, Marx before Marxism, 1970)
Flowing from his atheism, Marx opposed organised religion and the role of religion in politics. A flavour of Marx’s attitude can be gleaned from his journalism at the time.
…in “The Leading Article” in No. 179 of the Kölnische Zeitung (1842), Marx accused the Prussian state of disseminating Christian dogma, criticised the police and the censor for protecting religion and insisted that no distinction should be made between religion as belief and the religious establishment. (MECW 1)
Robert’s comment gives me a chance to plug Jay Richards’ new book from Harper-Collins. Now Jay Richards is a Princeton educated theologian and philosopher, who writes advanced books about the nature of God. Whatever he says about whether Christianity is more compatible with capitalism or communism should be considered authoritative for Christians. His specialty is explaining what is and is not compatible with orthodox Christianity, and he is the best.
Does capitalism promote greed? Can a person follow Jesus’s call to love others and also support capitalism? Was our recent economic crisis caused by flaws inherent to our free market system? Jay Richards presents a new approach to capitalism, revealing how it’s fully consistent with Jesus’s teachings and the Christian tradition, while also showing why this system is our best bet for renewed economic vigor.
The church is bombarded with two competing messages about money and capitalism:
* wealth is bad and causes much of the world’s suffering
* wealth is good and God wants you to prosper and be rich
Richards exposes these myths, and other common misconceptions about capitalism, and reveals the surprising ways that capitalism is, in fact, the best system to respond to the biblical mandates of alleviating poverty and protecting the environment. Money, Greed, and God equips readers to take practical steps in their own lives to conduct business, worship God, and serve others without falling into the “prosperity gospel” trap.
You can listen to a good lecture featuring Jay Richards on the agreement between Christianity and capitalism here.
And don’t forget agnostic historian/sociologist Rodney Stark’s book: “The Victory of Reason: How Christianity Led to Freedom, Capitalism, and Western Success“.
So, I think you’re mistaken. What is that noise I hear? The theme from Jaws? Oh, my God! Run! It’s ECM! He’s coming for you!
And here is Commenter ECM, who is a deist:
Communism did not arise from atheism.
I’d say he makes a more compelling argument than you do, unless we’re supposed to simply take you at your word.
In fact, some of the first communists were Christians, and there are even Christian communists today.
Wow, no kidding: you’re telling me that in a day and age when Christianity was as ubiquitous as the preening of religious atheists on the Internet that some of them might just be Christians? Wow, my mind is, like, totally blown.
Of course there is the sticky points that WK makes and the simple fact that, based on the quotes below (and writings and beliefs) of the arch-priests of communism that the two are painfully and obviously mutually-exclusive but, hey, you’re making a point here…I think…so to hell with intellectual honesty.
Communism actually owes an intellectual debt to Christians and the Bible. You can read more in my article on atheism and communist atrocities found here.
Again, so what? Most of the philosophies in human history owe a debt, no matter how potentially perverse, to the ones that came before and is, generally, what one might call ‘progress.’ (Though i’ll be the first to admit that ‘progress’ isn’t a good unto itself.) As a key example, does it bother you that science, as we understand it, owes a tremendous debt to Christianity, i.e. it wouldn’t exist in the terms we comprehend without its influence.?
More articles debating Christian apologists Dinesh D’Souza and Dr. David Aikman can be found at my site too (yes, these guys actually responded to me).
And (again!) so what? What does that have to do with what you’re arguing here? I mean, other than self-promotion and/or auto-ego stroking.
With all that said, though, I figured I’d pull some quotes from the leading lights on communism to show the depths of their tolerance and belief in religion and how that might make Christian communists (whatever they are) sorely confused at best and devious liars using Christianity as a foil to make converts at worst:
The foundation of irreligious criticism is: Man makes religion, religion does not make man. Religion is indeed the self-consciousness and self-esteem of man who has either not yet won through to himself or has already lost himself again. But man is no abstract being squatting outside the world. Man is the world of man, state, society. This state and this society produce religion, which is an inverted consciousness of the world, because they are an inverted world. Religion is the general theory of this world, its encyclopaedic compendium, its logic in popular form, its spiritual point d’honneur, its enthusiasm, its moral sanction, its solemn complement and its universal basis of consolation and justification. It is the fantastic realization of the human essence since the human essence has not acquired any true reality. The struggle against religion is therefore indirectly the struggle against that world whose spiritual aroma is religion.
Religion is one of the forms of spiritual oppression which everywhere weighs down heavily upon the masses of the people, over burdened by their perpetual work for others, by want and isolation. Impotence of the exploited classes in their struggle against the exploiters just as inevitably gives rise to the belief in a better life after death as impotence of the savage in his battle with nature gives rise to belief in gods, devils, miracles, and the like. Those who toil and live in want all their lives are taught by religion to be submissive and patient while here on earth, and to take comfort in the hope of a heavenly reward. But those who live by the labor of others are taught by religion to practice charity while on earth, thus offering them a very cheap way of justifying their entire existence as exploiters and selling them at a moderate price tickets to well-being in heaven. Religion is opium for the people. Religion is a sort of spiritual booze, in which the slaves of capital drown their human image, their demand for a life more or less worthy of man.
But, of course, religion is poison. It has two great defects. It undermines the race (and) retards the progress of the country. Tibet and Mongolia have been poisoned by it.
(Note: having read several of your blog posts, I am fairly certain you would agree with the statement ‘religion is poison’, yes? Incidentally, this is why most blogs like this one require comment moderation: far too many religious atheists are unable to be civil and decent in debate, even when they are busily assuring the rest of us that they have lots of “empathy” for those with which they disagree.)
Anyway, those are just a few of the big-time communists (you can, I’m sure, dig up more from, say, monsters like Pol Pot and Stalin) and how they view religion and not a one of them has a kind word for it. It’s also painfully clear that communism sees relgiion as an arch-rival that must be stomped out of existence with extreme prejudice, and that one of the pillars of communism is, obviously (yes, obviously), rabid, blood-thirsty, atheism–how anyone that’s read the Communist Manifesto or the writings and speeches of any number of communist leaders could believe otherwise calls into question the intellectual honesty of the individual in question.