Not too long ago, just after I finished Dawkins’ The God Delusion, I spotted a review of the book by Mr. Asohan in The Star. While I do think some of the points are valid — truly, atheism has no monopoly over goodness just as religion has no claim over goodness — I simply have problem letting the following pass without a comment:

They’ll just refuse to look at how religion can be a force for good. They will also ignore the acts of famous atheists like Josef Stalin and Mao Zedong, and the atrocities committed throughout the years by revolutionaries and rebels fighting against religious and other types of institutions. [The dogmatic atheist. A. Asohan. The Star. December 30 2007]

Dear sir, you are committing an awful mistake.

They were atheists but they did not commit the atrocities in the name atheism. As an example, if a Christian murdered somebody, he may not necessarily kill in the name of Christianity; he may murdered somebody in the name of nationalism and thus, has nothing to do with Christianity. Or, another example, a man may kill a woman but that does not mean he killed the woman in the name of male chauvinism; it may do so in the name of religion. That are the cases for Stalin and Mao. It is communism, not atheism. This is unlike religious people and institutions — be them dogmatic Christian churches in the past, modern Islamist terrorists, Hindutva, or any other religious extremists — that killed others explicitly in the name of religion.

The difference cannot be overemphasized and the causal relationship has to be clearly identified. The cause has to be explicit and not made up because it is convenient to do so. What you have done sir is merely appealing to guilt by association.

6 Responses to “[1505] Of in the name of religion, in the name of atheism, or not”

  1. on 09 Jan 2008 at 10:11 Chang Yang

    It appalls me too how often people quote Mao, Stalin, Pol Pot etc as the example of atheism’s evilness. “Revolutionaries and rebels fighting against religious institutes” did so in the name of communism, and in order to establish cult of personality in themselves; instead of in the name of lack-of-belief in religion. If the author is to establish such tacky causal relationship, we might as well go out and clamp down on all unsuccessful artists, since Hitler was one himself.

    Anyway, regardless of the article’s hostility towards atheism, I personally agree that some of the atheists have gone too far in their militant anti-theism approach. Understandably, those people are likely doing so out of pent-up frustrations from the encroachment of religious extremism in politics and social structure. However, some people are taking it too far, and are committing the very mistake they are condemning in the first place.

    I am kind of an atheist, for the record. :)

  2. on 09 Jan 2008 at 16:22 moo_t

    Funny, if one claim to be real atheism, they will not fond to create a “man made deity” themselves. Stalin and Mao has make themselves “deity”, so it is funny to think they are atheism, even without the nationalism factor.

    Asohan ignore tyrannic icon such as Hitler, WWII Japan militarism that worship Shinto,etc, make him an oxymoron to attack atheism.

  3. on 09 Jan 2008 at 16:42 moo_t

    “how religion can be a force for good”?
    A. Asohan maybe a good writer, but definite not a good thinker. he has little chance to win if one need to lay list the facts on the table.

    The early Tao philosophy(e.g. Tao are unspeakable) and the later Buddhism Zen school(No inscription is written, straight to the heart) has notice the danger of mis-interpretation. Individual can be misguided or even abuse it.

  4. on 09 Jan 2008 at 20:11 sigma

    Can militant-atheists go too far? If you agree with Dawkins’ beliefs that religions merely equates to a belief in the tooth fairy, then logically they can never go too far on something that’s make believe.

    The thing is that many people, including Chang Yang himself, is still doing what Dawkins has identified: treating religion with kid gloves because a majority of people still believe it’s something ‘sacred’ and should not be criticized.

  5. on 09 Jan 2008 at 22:20 Anon

    Lend me the book? :)

  6. on 09 Jan 2008 at 23:35 Chang Yang

    Perhaps I did not make myself clear. I was in no way saying that atheists should not “touch on”, “criticise”, “comment on” or what not religions. In fact, I do it rather often, especially when religious extremists get too ridiculous or when faith-based policies encroach on my basic rights. When I say some people go too far, I don’t mean they go too far simply because “how dare they touch on sacred religious issues?!”; I mean they are being too snobbish and arrogant and do more harm than good to their cause.

    If you think that people are better without blind faith, you would naturally want to get people to understand your viewpoint better. Now, if you go front on with your audience by snorting and chiding how foolish they are right from your first sentence, how likely are you going to send your message across? This is what I meant by their “committing the very mistake they were condemning”, i.e. haughty and holier-than-thou in upholding own belief while disparaging others and creating tension in the process.

    Unfortunately the militant type of atheists is seen in many places nowadays, including places like Digg, youtube etc. There are also better atheists who are patient, polite and diplomatic, and they are often the one better received by theists despite coming from different camps. In comparison, the militant ones hold theists in contempt and simply want to show off their version of truth, and they really hurt atheism in the public’s eyes, as clearly demonstrated by Asohan’s sentiment.

    Arguing for the non-immunity of religion against criticism is one thing; wishing for people to be better-mannered in discourse is another thing. They are quite different. I might have confused you, for that I apologise.

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