Dangerous “fundamentalist” atheism?

Many people count Mao Zedong, Josef Stalin, and Pol Pot as “fundamentalist” atheists forcing their atheist worldviews on other people. There are many problems with this claim, and others like it (e.g., atheism is as dogmatic, irrational, intolerant, etc. as fundamentalist Christianity or Islam). This is a claim that is made ad nauseum in defense of religion, and it needs to be falsified.

Firstly, atheism is not a worldview in the same way as non-racism, non-astrology, and non-alchemy are not. It is neither a belief system, nor an outlook on life. Atheism is a word that is virtually without content. The term atheist should not have to exist in the same way we do not need a word to describe people who highly doubt that Elvis is still alive. If alchemists became ascendant in society, we would not need to describe ourselves as “non-alchemists.” We only need terms like “evidence,” and “common sense” to put them in their place.

No one can ever actually be a fundamentalist atheist. Atheism contains no idea that motivates people to kill others, even though some atheists may still be stridently against religion. This is not the fault of atheism alone. The whole of atheism is contained in this phrase: the non-belief in gods. That is it. If there is anything “fundamental” about atheism, it is just the definition of atheism. Atheism is not a reason to kill, ridicule, or torture other people. Some extra belief, motive, or proposition has to be operative in a person’s brain for this to happen.

Another claim is that all atheists want is to destroy religion even if this requires violence. This accusation completely ignores the spectrum of thought atheists have toward religion. Some atheists tolerate religion, others want it to be less dogmatic and mystical, and still others want it to be marginalized as much as, say, witchcraft so that it loses most of its functionality in people’s lives and thinking. It is important to note that these beliefs are not formed solely from the idea of atheism. There are other reasons for these opinions, and some are more tenable than others.

Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot committed their atrocities not because they doubted the existence of a divine Creator, but because they subscribed to a sort of secular political religion. They killed in the name of dogmatic political ideology. The problem with extremely dogmatic political systems is that they resemble orthodox organized religion in the ways they affect human thought and behavior. The essential problem that both atrocious political ideologies and religions share is dogmatism, which is a wrong-headed approach to interacting with reality that needs to made wildly embarrassing and untenable in the near future.

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~ by jsacc001 on April 4, 2008.

3 Responses to “Dangerous “fundamentalist” atheism?”

  1. Yes! This is absolutely correct! (Oh, you’ve been added to my blogroll btw.) If I remember correctly, Dawkins made atheist mass-murdering world figures analogous to mustached mass-murdering world figures. And we all know that having mustaches doesn’t make one evil.

  2. Atheism may well be spurred on by the refusal of religions to engage in self-criticism. I’ve just read http://deligentia.wordpress.com/2009/11/24/263/ on how foreign self-criticism is to religion, and, moreover, how religion misunderstands itself. You might be interested in it.

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