Six questions to ask and atheist: Part 3

 When people have embraced atheism, the historical results can be horrific, as in the regimes of Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot who saw religion as the problem and worked to eradicate it?  In other words, what set of actions are consistent with particular belief commitments?  It could be argued, that these behaviors – of the regimes in question – are more consistent with the implications of atheism.  Though, I’m thankful that many of the atheists I know do not live the implications of these beliefs out for themselves like others did!  It could be argued that the socio-political ideologies could very well be the outworking of a particular set of beliefs – beliefs that posited the ideal state as an atheistic one.

When people have embraced religion, the historical results can be horrific, as in the Crusades, Catholics vs. Protestants in Ireland, the Mormon War in America, anti-Semitism, anti-Muslim, anti-Christian, views all over the world, the Salem witch trials, treatment of the American Indians by European settlers in the name of Christianity, 9/11, the War on Terror, the Protestant led Ku Klux Klan, fundamentalist Christian anti-abortion violence,…  Many of those involved in these fights saw the “wrong religion” or atheism as the problem and worked to eradicate it.

My point is that violence is a human trait.  It isn’t correlated with atheism any more than with religion.  It just is.  The creation of in-groups and out-groups, which religions do beautifully, leads to conflict.  Not that atheists aren’t completely capable of creating in-groups and out-groups and fighting.  I watch it play out every day at work, on the Internet, on the playground and religion has nothing to do with it.  Both religious and non-religious people use their beliefs to justify hatred, intolerance, and violence; they also use their beliefs to encourage love, tolerance, and peace.

It could be argued, that these behaviors – of the regimes in question – are more consistent with the implications of atheism.

Yes, it could be, yet I find the argument flawed for the reasons I stated above.  I believe that both Christians and atheists are equally capable of good and terrible acts.

However, this brings me to another issue of ways Christians do hurt others in the name of Christianity. This is far less serious than mass murder, but it’s still a pet peeve of mine. I’m thinking of the Christian desire to “save” others and the terrible things done with this as the goal. Examples include whites taking Native American children to Christian schools, separating them from their families, language, and culture for the goal of making them Christian. Families adopting “heathen” children with the goal of raising them as Christians, saving them from the families and cultures they were born to. Missionaries whose primary goal is to convert rather than help, i.e. the helping is only done as a means to conversion, it isn’t done with respect for differences and simple desire to help.  It also smacks of dishonesty.  I don’t have a problem with missionaries who “preach to the choir” or help others as an expression of their faith with no desire to increase the flock.

Recently, Hubs and I were talking about this problem and I wondered, aloud, if there would ever be a solution.  He said, “sure, an alien invasion to earth.”  By George, that would bring us Earthlings together, wouldn’t it? Oh, maybe not.  We’d probably decide the Muslims, Republicans, atheists, gays (insert preferred outgroup here) brought them.  Darn it?  Why can’t we just get along?

It could be argued that the socio-political ideologies could very well be the outworking of a particular set of beliefs – beliefs that posited the ideal state as an atheistic one.

Happily, in this country, we are all protected, religious and nonreligious alike, to believe and practice what we believe is right.  This includes believing others are wrong, but it does not include the right to legislate belief systems.  I have and will continue to defend the rights of others to believe what they want and I appreciate those who do the same for me.  Sadly, I see many wanting to tear that protection away, forgetting, I think, what that could do for them if their exact beliefs are not the “right” ones that become legislated.

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