The argument goes something like this: Marxism/Communism/Nazism are all based upon secularism or atheism. Hence the bloody massacres committed during the times of the Third Reich or the days of Stalin can be chalked directly up to atheism. Even accepting that the crusades and the inquisition were directly caused by Christianity, the number of deaths pales to insignificance compared to what atheism has inflicted upon the human race.
While it pains me to say it, arguments such as this are far from uncommon. Jezuzfreek777, a prominent YouTube creationist, put forward this video recently as a challenge to atheists.
Hitler is so often held up as an example of evil that by attributing some trait to him, it is implied that that trait must also be supremely evil. Thus, when an example of the perils of atheism is needed, Hitler is invariably thrown up.
Unfortunately, this claim is completely unfounded. Here are a few quotes from Hilter:
"I am now as before a Catholic and will always remain so."
-( Adolf Hitler, from John Toland [Pulitzer Prize winner], Adolf Hitler, New York: Anchor Publishing, 1992, p. 507. )
"Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord."
-( Adolf Hitler, Mein Kampf, Ralph Mannheim, ed., New York: Mariner Books, 1999, p. 65. )
Hitler's own words seem to suggest that not only is the claim completely unfounded... but also seem to imply that the reverse is true.
While writing this, I happened upon a post on RichardDawkins.net which summed up everything I would hope to say on this matter brilliantly. I've reproduced it, slightly cut down. Full credit to Atticus_of_Amber for this eloquent argument.
+ Show Spoiler [Atticus_of_Amber] +
It may surprise you to hear that my primary target isn't religion, or even theism as such. Indeed, as I'll explain later, there are some forms of religion (and even some rare forms of theism, specifically deism) with which I have very little problem at all.
So, what *is* my problem? My problem is with dogma. With the belief that it is acceptable, even admirable, to believe propositions without good evidence or without good reasons for believing those propositions to be true.
The forms those dogmatically believed propositions can take are potentially infinite. One might dogmatically believe in the historical inevitability of a communist utopia, under which the State will wither away, after a brief but necessary period of a dictatorship of the proletariat. One might dogmatically believe in the existence of something called the Aryan race, in its inherent superiority to all other races, and in the inherent inferiority and perfidy of the Jewish race. One might dogmatically believe that the Creator of the universe called one's religion to convert the world or take it by force through holy war, that death in the defence of (or attempt to reconquer) lands so acquired is the greatest of all actions, and that such martyrs will go to paradise after they die to be attended by 72 virgin brides and joined in due course be all their family and loved-ones. Or one might dogmatically believe that the creator of the universe condemns contraception as a mortal sin.
What all four of these beliefs have in common is that there is very little or no evidence for them and that there is much good evidence against them. Yet all four beliefs have at times been passionately, ardently believed and acted upon by otherwise rational, sane and educated people - often resulting in those same people performing some of the most irrational, insane and barbaric acts imaginable.
Thankfully, fascist, Nazi and Communist dogmas have been so discredited that almost no-one believes them any more. That is a development to be celebrated. But as the events of New York and Washington DC and Bali and Madrid and London demonstrate; as demonstrated by the genocidally stupid anti-contraceptive policies of the Catholic church in Africa and the homicidally stupid stem-cell policies of Christian churches in the US ; religious dogmas are alive and kicking and at work in the world.
Reason and evidence and empiricism and science and liberal democracy - in short, the forces of the Enlightenment - have destroyed Communist and Fascist dogmas. Now it is time to do the same to the dogmas of religious faith.
Also mentioned in the video, a common argument from American Christians, is that Christianity is "winning out" the "goodness" race. That they contribute more to society. Many great works are done by Christians, but the reason this tally might seem overwhelmingly in favor of Christians in the states, is that Christians are far and away the majority in America. One need only look at a secular nation such as France or virtually any country whose national motto is not "In God we trust" to see that Atheists, Muslims, Pagans and other minorities contribute just as much.
I'd like to leave you today
Catch you all next time.