The ‘No one kills in the name of Atheism’ Argument
In many debates between Theists and Atheists, a common strategy is employed by Atheists to silence their opponents. Commonly, they like to argue that in history and currently, no Atheists have ever killed people in the ‘name of Atheism’, yet it is claimed that many people who follow a religion, have killed in its name. Therefore, they conclude, that Atheists are somehow more prone to peace, or have less reasons to kill than Theists, and ‘therefore’ religion is more dangerous than Atheism. This is the ‘no one kills in the name of atheism’ argument.
This argument is based upon a subtle false comparison. The opposite of Atheism, is not religion, but Theism. Atheism is the denial of belief in a God, while Theism is the belief in a God. To believe in a God, or not believe in a God, does not by itself predispose a person to violence or to peace. Belief or disbelief in a God, is a neutral idea, without any practical significance without any further thought. Hence Atheism and Theism are comparable, but not Atheism to Religion. It literally is absurd to compare Atheism and Religion, any more than it is to compare Theism with with say Communism!
The issue is not Atheism or Theism, but rather what people ‘add on’ to these ideas, that affects their behaviour.
Religion is a system of beliefs, or a set or collection of linked beliefs, about the world in most cases based around a central concept of Theism. The beliefs of each religion forms the worldview of the Theist holding them. It is these worldviews that shape how the Theist treats other humans, whether helping others, or killing them. No Theist has ever ‘killed in the name of Theism’, but some may kill in the name of their religion, or they may twist the text of a prominent religion in their society to achieve social justification amongst their peers.
Likewise, Atheists may also believe in a set of beliefs that form their worldview. Usually these worldviews hold beliefs that deny, ignore or render irrelevant the need for God. It is these worldviews that shape how the Atheist treats other humans, whether helping others, or killing them. Worldviews based upon an assumed concept of Atheism, sometimes called ‘materialistic worldviews’ (like Communism, Social Darwinism), or based upon a worldview compatible to Atheism (Nationalism, Fascism, Secular Liberalism/Humanism) have had adherents kill, massacre, torture and force convert others in their names.
The difference between Religious worldviews and Materialistic worldviews is that Religious worldviews tend to be based around a fixed tradition, or set of books. These traditions or books are claimed to be from a divine or spiritual source, and constitute an obstacle for humans trying to justify their own vanities or desires in conducting morals actions. These obstacles may be bypassed by ‘twisting’ the texts, but these ‘twists’ are not easy or believable. However, Materialistic worldviews are not based upon any fixed traditions or books, and only possess authority of the humans that created them. Consequently, if an adherent to a materialistic worldview becomes convinced that their worldview is no longer convenient or decides to invent an exception, there is no fixed tradition or book that must be surmounted or twisted to achieve their objectives. This means that while religion does not prevent all injustices or wrongful killings, its absolute rules certainly provides more of a safeguard then a worldview based originally on human whims and desires, perpetuated by whims and desires and completely changeable at any moment according to whims and desires.
The real debate about who is more dangerous, is not between Atheism and Religion, but between Religion and materialist worldviews like Communism / Social Darwinism / ‘Humanism’ / Secular Liberalism / Nationalism and Fascism, that have killed millions, and been merciless upon the weak.
P.S. Not all Theists have a religion; some may believe in God, but nothing else, or they may even believe in a materialistic worldview that ignores or separates God from having any political or social importance or concern in the material world, like Deists and Secularists (despite their belief in God). The possibility of a Theist to believe in a materialistic worldview doesn’t mean that they don’t believe in God, it just means that they demonstrate the ability to compartmentalise one belief, and ignore its significances, and live by a completely different belief. This would probably cause Cognitive dissonance.
By Abdullah Al Andalusi
Source: www.abdullahalandalusi.com – The ‘No one kills in the name of Atheism’ Argument