No true “‘No true Scotsman’ fallacy” fallacy


The dialog between atheists and believers often goes this way.

Atheist: Religion causes great harm.  For centuries, Christians burnt witches and heretics at the stake, and killed Jews by the million.  Hitler’s ideology was based on centuries of Christian antisemitism.  Even to this day, they spread hatred towards homosexuals based on their beliefs not based in any reality.

Christian: But those people were not true Christians!  How can a true follower of Christ spread hatred instead of love and condemn instead of forgiving?

Atheist: You commit a common reasoning fallacy.  It even has a name.  It’s called “No True Scotsman Fallacy”.  You can read about it on Wikipedia.

Christian:  Wait a minute.  Wasn’t the carnage of the French and Russian revolutions committed by atheists?

Atheist: But how is this related to atheism?  How can lack of belief cause such things?  It only takes religion to commit such atrocities.  In fact, the Soviet regime had many attributes of religion.  Communists were not true atheists.

Christian: Aren’t you using the same ‘No True Scotsman’ fallacy?

Atheist: No, this is not a true ‘No True Scotsman’ fallacy.  My reasoning is completely different.

etc., etc.

Prompted by Daily Prompt: Groupthink

Inspired by “True” Christians

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82 thoughts on “No true “‘No true Scotsman’ fallacy” fallacy

  1. Actually, the argument usually goes:

    Christian: Communists, Stalin!

    Atheist: Their atheism was not the impetus of their misdeeds. Being atheist does not drive you to do horrible things, being that it is merely a disbelief. But religion dictates absolute morality, and if you aren’t independently morally aware, it will take you down the road of persecuting innocents for imaginary crimes against fictional gods. It will do it righteously, and be all the more vicious for it, because God is on your side.

    • Don’t worry. I get it. Lack of belief never drives anybody to do anything. It takes a belief of some sort to do something.

      Your beliefs define your vision of the world; they dictate your behavior; they determine your emotional responses to other human beings.

      — Sam Harris

      And, since atheism means an absence of belief, atheists can never be accused of doing anything. Whoever does anything, is not a true atheist because he must have been driven by a belief of some sort. It’s a bullet-proof defense. I don’t think, I would be able to penetrate this logic. 🙂

      And, don’t worry, I also understand that I am attacking a strawman because atheists do have beliefs, but their beliefs are always rational and grounded in reality. They can never cause any harm to anyone. If an atheist holds an irrational belief, he is not a true rational thinker. But this is different than the ‘no true Scotsman’ fallacy used by Christians because being rational is not as vague as being Christian. Rational people can always rationalize their beliefs. This is how you tell a true rational person from someone who pretends to be rational. 🙂

      • “…atheists do have beliefs, but their beliefs are always rational and grounded in reality. They can never cause any harm to anyone.”

        I can’t accept that either – an atheist can commit an act as heinous as anyone else, but he/she will do it because they a sick son of a bitch, not because they believe they’re following the mandates of some invisible, supernatural spirit.

        • 160. Self is the lord of self, who else could be the lord?

          The Dhammapada

          All deeds, good and bad, are commanded by the Lord, a.k.a. self, a.k.a. I am who I am, a.k.a. human conscience and passion. Where else do they come from? Atheists are not immune to this irrational “self”. It does not matter whether you believe it or not. I’d take this statement on faith because it’s circular (immune to rational analysis) and self-consistent. It’s a fairly benign tautology like “reality is real”. But it has an important consequence. People who realize their own irrationality don’t blame others for being irrational.

        • an atheist can commit an act as heinous as anyone else, but he/she will do it because they a sick son of a bitch, not because they believe they’re following the mandates of some invisible, supernatural spirit.

          Perhaps, you meant to say that atheists commit atrocities due to their own depravity and not because they lack belief in a deity. (Correct me if this is not what you meant).

          Almost verbatim, it can be said that “theists commit atrocities due to their own depravity and not because they believe in a deity”.

          As you see, if we strip the argument from emotional “sick son of a bitch” and “invisible blah blah”, and not confuse atheism with Stalinism and theism with Christianity, the language and logic are virtually identical and completely reversible.

          The opposite of atheism (a simple disbelief in existence of a deity) is not religion. The opposite of atheism is theism (a simple belief in existence of a deity).

          • ““theists commit atrocities due to their own depravity and not because they believe in a deity”

            So you’re saying that Islamic honor killings have nothing to do with a belief in a deity?

          • Islam is based on theism (belief in a deity). Honor killings are based on Islam and something else which does not follow directly from a belief in a deity.

            Stalin’s repressions were based on Lenin’s theory of “dictatorship of the proletariat” which is based on Marx’s concept of class struggle which, he believed, is at the core of social changes. Atheism is another tenet of Marxism (different from class struggle): Marx postulated that social relations and ideology are determined by economy and production of material goods which is based on materialistic worldview which, of course, is incompatible with theism and is, therefore atheist. So, atheism is one of the cornerstones of Marxism. However, I do not see that the idea of class struggle and all the chain of reasoning leading to Stalin’s repressions directly follows from atheism.

            In a similar way, theism alone does not lead to honor killings. As you mentioned yourself, you need the other “baggage” to arrive at this practical conclusion.

          • “Marx postulated that social relations and ideology are determined by economy and production of material goods which is based on materialistic worldview which, of course, is incompatible with theism and is, therefore atheist.”

            I must assume, from that, that those hoarders of wealth in the satin suits at the Vatican never read that part of the instruction manual.

          • If you read the NT, you will see that Jesus denounced the material possessions. So, yes, hoarding wealth does not seem to be very “Jeasusy”.

            Accumulating power and control over material wealth by party bureaucrats is also not exactly how Marx envisioned communism and the power of the proletariat.

          • Perhaps, you meant to say that atheists commit atrocities due to their own depravity and not because they lack belief in a deity. (Correct me if this is not what you meant).

            Yeah, that’s what he meant, sorta. You simplify, “following the mandates of some invisible, supernatural spirit,” into merely believing in a deity, when the mandates are what constitute the religion. And religion, of course, is what tells good people to do bad things and feel that they are good for it (along with other ideologies such as nationalism and economics, but we’re talking about religion here).

          • I read it as confusion as to what exactly you said, and that his removal of the graphic parts was to distill information from your rhetoric.

            He begins with an alternative of what you might have said, which I feel is somewhat accurate, but I clarify where I disagree with his interpretation, namely in substituting theism for religion.

            Perhaps, you meant to say that atheists commit atrocities due to their own depravity and not because they lack belief in a deity.

            His next paragraph is what he thinks you actually said, which is that you said atheist where you meant to say theist, and the remainder stems from that assumption.

            Almost verbatim, it can be said that “theists commit atrocities due to their own depravity and not because they believe in a deity”.

            Since we have not been talking about theism, we’ve been talking about religion instead, I think it is safe to assume that your comment was concerning the contrast between the motives of the areligious vs religious.

            Of course, I could be wrong about this. I did have to let my eyes unfocus and cross in order to make sense of the comment. It didn’t really… flow.

          • I wasn’t exactly in a flowing mood at that moment. I think, boiled to an essence, he’s trying to say that application of any accusations work both ways, with which I can’t concur.

          • I’m sorry, I meant his comment didn’t flow, but I’m sure, for him, neither did yours. I agree with you on what his apparent goal is. It just seems as though the source of his reasoning here is an assumed typo which transformed the word atheist into theist.

            Is it legit to translate your comment as, “Atheists commit atrocities due to their own depravity, unlike those who believe they are following their religion.” That is the manner in which I read it, as opposed to agrudzinsky’s two proposed options.

          • Yes, but I would add that theists have their own depravities, being, in that respect, no different from anyone else, but all too often, they are able to legitimize theirs via religious scripture or what they believe to be religious mandate – the burquah leaps to mind —

          • In this case, you will have to replace atheism with something else.

            I’m not against comparing apples and oranges. They can be compared. But you must compare a specific aspect of each fruit. Then you will correctly identify similarities and differences. You may find that apples and oranges have similar shapes and sizes, but differ from each other in color, texture and taste. You cannot compare the shape of an apple to the taste of an orange.

            Likewise, atheism is only one aspect of the world view. It can only be compared to theism which is only one aspect of religion. I hope, it’s fairly clear that theism is no better and no worse than atheism. And this is as far as discussion of atheism can go.

            We can discuss other aspects of religion — faith and dogma (epistemological aspects), traditions and practices, ethics, etc. But you need to have something equivalent on the other side of your comparison.

          • It’s not about accusations. It’s about correct reasoning. Your logic does not work both ways because you incorrectly juxtapose religion with atheism which is a false dichotomy. True dichotomy is atheism — theism.

          • “True dichotomy is atheism — theism.”

            Again, I must politely disagree – comparing atheism in general, to theism in general, opens the door to all of the other gods who have ever lived in the minds of Man, yet only a handful influence Man’s day-to-day activities today – we seem to have lost faith in Odin and his Asgard – Marvel Comics being the singular exception.

          • <

            blockquote>I must politely disagree – comparing atheism in general, to theism in general, opens the door to all of the other gods who have ever lived in the minds of Man

            I thought, the claim of New Atheists is that belief in any deity leads to harm. But you seem to acknowledge that this is not true. I agree with you there.

            I would go farther to say that if we consider the same deity, for consistency, not all beliefs about this deity will be equally likely to cause harm. Have you considered what specific belief in Islam results in honor killings? Why do people do that?

            Note, that this discussion can be easily held within Islam, without rejecting it as a whole.

            If you want to compare atheism in general to religion in general, which is an even more confusing comparison, you face the same problem. Which religion do you want to consider? Which aspect of that religion do you consider harmful?

          • “I thought, the claim of New Atheists is that belief in any deity leads to harm.”

            I can’t begin to tell you what New Atheists claim, it’s been quite a while since I was new. As for harm, I’m not sure I could consider any delusion harmless.

          • “What about Santa and Tooth Fairy?” – I don’t believe in them, do you?

            My little son believes in a Tooth Fairy. It does not seem to make him evil. It’s quite real for him and he has evidence for it in the form of a candy under his pillow.

            But more fundamentally, it’s really hard to tell reality from delusion. Once you believe something, most likely, it’s a delusion, because reality always turns out to be not quite what we thought. Life itself can be considered harmful because it results in death much more often than smoking or using drugs 🙂 It’s a meaningless discussion. It’s a delusion to think that you are not delusional in one way or another.

          • “It does not seem to make him evil.”

            “Evil” wasn’t in your question, it was, “harm.” And the tooth fairy doesn’t come with an instruction manual as to all of the things one may or may not do, at the peril of loss of a fictitious immortality.

            We all possess some degree of illusion, I’m inclined to avoid mirrors as much as possible, so I can retain some of mine.

          • And the tooth fairy doesn’t come with an instruction manual as to all of the things one may or may not do, at the peril of loss of a fictitious immortality.

            In multiple replies, you keep mentioning that your main issue seems to be with “moral mandates from a deity”. This seems to be the element which bothers you most in religions. Is this correct or did I miss something?

            Are you against moral mandates from any authority or only a deity? If only a deity, what moral authority do you accept? Should we have moral authorities and moral mandates at all?

          • It’s my opinion, that as we evolved into Homo Sapiens, in small tribes, we learned that cooperation was a useful survival technique. Over time, those expanded into what we today would recognize as laws, and ultimately, to make sure they would be obeyed, eventually their witch doctors/priests, put them in the mouths of their gods.

          • This is exactly my point. Yet again: Stalinism is not just atheism. Religion is not just theism.

            You can criticize religion and specifics from the Bible, but it does not have implications on theism (belief in a deity) as a fundamental philosophical position.

            New Atheists are against religion and its specific practices. Juxtaposing atheism to religion is incorrect. You need to juxtapose religion to a system of ethical beliefs and practices (humanism, for example). And that’s a whole different discussion.

          • Well, I’m learning from you, guys. You also simplify atheism into a mere “disbelief in a deity” thus separating it from the other stuff contained in Marxism. Which is correct, by the way. But have the integrity to apply your logic in both directions.

            So, let’s set it straight. Marxism is not “just” atheism. Religion is not “just” theism. If atrocities committed by Marxists were not caused by atheism, then atrocities committed by religious people were not caused by theism.

            Therefore, it is inconsistent to criticize a mere belief in a deity based on atrocities committed by religious people.

          • Agrudzinsky, I’d be lass than honest if I said I understand, so let’s just say that I realize that your early life was inundated with the tenets of Communism, and that inoculation has, in my opinion, forever linked the two in your mind. It is not so, with the rest of us.

            You have made this association:

            “If atrocities committed by Marxists were not caused by atheism, then atrocities committed by religious people were not caused by theism.”

            where I fail to see any. Must I go through the over 600 “transgressions” listed in the Bible, for which the punishment is death? Because I’d really rather not, when you can research them for yourself.

      • The point being that people don’t say Stalin wasn’t a real atheist. They say that his atheism isn’t why he was an asshole. You seem to be attaching a lot of baggage to the word, “Atheist.”

          • I would say it’s because both Islam and Christianity come with rulebooks, so if a person is Muslim or Christian, certain facts can be assumed about them according to their religion’s established belief systems, while atheism has only the one, a disbelief in gods.

          • OK. Let’s discuss the books. That’s, pretty much all Christians, Jews, and Muslims do in churches and temples — discuss the books. I see no problem with that.

            But agree that there is a long way from a simple theistic position “God exists” (which does not seem, by itself, to be a source of any immorality) and any specific claim of the Holy texts.

            I’d say, “the Bible” is to theism as Marxism-Leninism to atheism. You can discuss morality of specific claims made in the Bible or in Lenin’s writings, but theism and atheism appear to be equally valid philosophical positions, aren’t they? There is as much evidence or reason behind theism as there is behind atheism — none.

          • Analogies are in the eye of the beholder (see my previous post).

            I will explain what I mean in a separate post, if you don’t mind. It’s a bit involved.

      • Of course, Gods don’t kill anyone. Hurricanes, floods, and earthquakes are not true “acts of God”. They are accidents. If a truly omniscient God knew about them, He would not let them happen.
        Drugs don’t kill anyone. People who use drugs kill themselves.
        Automobiles don’t kill anyone. People driving cars kill themselves and others.
        Water is a source of life. Water does not kill anyone. Waterboarding is just a horrible misuse of water by evil people.
        Fire does not kill anyone… OK. Time to cut the nonsense.

        🙂 (Need to place smileys everywhere. According to the Poe’s law, without smileys, it’s hard to create a parody of idiocy that someone won’t mistake for “true idiocy”)

        • I don’t have any “smileys” left in me – let the weather get above freezing, and I may smile again. But you wouldn’t understand, you grew up in the Ukraine, where they have only two seasons, Winter and August.

    • When Christians use the NTS defense, they question the truth of the supporting statement (Christians commit atrocities) instead of questioning the validity of the whole argument “Christians commit atrocities therefore religion causes these atrocities.”

      When Christians realize that history has plethora examples of Christians committing atrocities, and NTS defense did not work, they try to use the same invalid argument against atheists: “atheists (e.g. Stalin) commit atrocities therefore atheism causes these atrocities.”

      Here, the atheists jump out in triumph “Aha! Non sequitur!” Come on, guys. OK. Right. You correctly point out the true problem with the logic, and the problem is not the “NTS fallacy” — you win. The problem is non sequitur. But this is the problem with your very own logic!

      Proving connection between two ideas, especially causality, takes a bit more work than showing a picture of two things together. I’ll reflect on causality in another post.

      • So you’re saying that we’re only observing correlation and not showing causation?

        How about the parents who viciously beat their children to the edge of death, and sometimes beyond, citing that the Bible is clear if you should spare the rod you will spoil the child?

        • And parents who allow their ill children to die, rather than take them to the hospital, because to do so, would indicate a lack of faith in their god’s healing power, or constitute an interference with his will? The list is long —

          • Again. Take a simple belief in existence of a deity. Where does it contain any hints to healing powers? Or any mention of a benevolent will?

            You are debating the “baggage”, not theism — much like Christians who debate Stalinism, not atheism.

          • In those instances, no one is referring to “a simple belief in existence of a deity,” but to the Judeo/Christian Bible with it’s countless instances of “miraculous healing.”

        • I don’t think there is even a correlation. If there were a correlation, we would see all or majority of believers beating their children to the edge of death. But this is not happening, as far as I know.

          To prove a correlation, you cannot single out cases perfectly aligned with your hypothetical trend. You need an unbiased statistical sample, the larger the better. 2 data points are always on the same line. Cases which contradict your hypothesis are far more important than cases that confirm it. Read Popper.

          • “If there were a correlation, we would see all or majority of believers beating their children to the edge of death. “

            We don’t see this, largely because there are as many varieties of “Christianity,” as there are “Christians,” which doesn’t mean that those who do beat their children to the edge of death, don’t feel they get their mandate from their interpretation of the Bible.

          • The issue with reframing religion into theism in the interest of a fair fight, is that religion is the centerpiece around which we are dancing. So you cannot reduce religion thus and have the argument retain its original goal. However, atheism does not have emergent phenomena in the way that theism results in religions. There is no higher order of thought that arises from atheism. Name a school of thought which owes its existence to the belief in the absence of a god in the way that religion owes its existence to the belief in gods. Humanism arises from ethical philosophy, determinism from physics, materialism from the success of science. Marxism, which you’ve been pushing on for a while as some kind of atheistic version of religion, is grounded in economics and sociology, not atheism.

            I don’t think there is even a correlation. If there were a correlation, we would see all or majority of believers beating their children to the edge of death. But this is not happening, as far as I know.

            You don’t need all or a majority of a population participating to show correlation, you just need to show one event mirroring the other in some way. However, we don’t need correlation because we have these very people citing religion as the cause for their actions. That’s one of the nice things about the righteous. When you feel you are doing right by God, there’s no need to hide what you’ve done from mere mortals.

            This is exactly my point. Yet again: Stalinism is not just atheism. Religion is not just theism.

            Science is not just atheism. Democracy is not just atheism. Capitalism is not just atheism. Reflexology is not just atheism. See how much fun it is pointing out the things which aren’t assumed by schools of thought? Christianity isn’t just a-faerie. Islam isn’t simply a-miniatureinvisiblepinkelephant.

          • The issue with reframing religion into theism in the interest of a fair fight, is that religion is the centerpiece around which we are dancing. So you cannot reduce religion thus and have the argument retain its original goal.

            Don’t you think that religion in general is too huge of a “centerpiece” to dance around? We might need to break it down into pieces to be able to chew and digest properly. That’s what I was trying to do. Belief in a deity is one piece. We seem to agree that it’s irrelevant to causing harm. What’s next? Dogma? Tradition? Ritual?

            You don’t need all or a majority of a population participating to show correlation, you just need to show one event mirroring the other in some way.

            To see a correlation, we don’t need all or a majority of data points, but we need a statistically significant sample which is representative of the whole population. Correlation is a statistical term. Statistics is about probabilities and probabilities also have levels of confidence. E.g. you may have a 90% probability, but only 50% level of confidence that the 90% number is correct. With larger samples, you can claim higher levels of confidence in your probability numbers. You cannot draw conclusions about correlation from isolated events picked specifically to fit a certain hypothesis.

            However, we don’t need correlation because we have these very people citing religion as the cause for their actions.

            But a great multitude of people who show examples of selfless altruism quote the very same beliefs as the cause for their actions also. How come that the same beliefs cause both good and evil?

            However, atheism does not have emergent phenomena in the way that theism results in religions. There is no higher order of thought that arises from atheism.

            This is even more puzzling because I don’t understand what alternative New Atheism offers to replace religion and which aspect of religion New Atheists disagree with.

            I think, we slowly arrive at the conclusion that these arguments are utterly meaningless. This debate is not going anywhere. It reminds me of the “revolution” in Ukraine which is going on now. For a fourth month in a row protesters require the government to resign. OK. Then what? Can you, guys, at least, offer some program?

            The irony is that as soon as atheists do offer an agenda and a program, they are back in the game of religion. They can no longer say their mantra “burden of proof” and hide behind their “lack of belief” empty facade. Even as a theist, I can sit and endlessly talk of what is not right. The fun starts when someone makes a claim about what is right. And that’s where atheism ends and religion starts.

          • “How come that the same beliefs cause both good and evil?”

            That’s not difficult to imagine, when you consider their reference manual contains both, “Thou shalt not kill,” and, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.

          • That’s not difficult to imagine, when you consider their reference manual contains both, “Thou shalt not kill,” and, “Thou shalt not suffer a witch to live.“

            So, if the Bible contains both, who is responsible for making the right choice? And how come that some people choose one while others choose the other? Or, perhaps, everyone chooses according to his own passion? Now, remove the Bible — forget about its existence. What will change? Will the choices go away?

  2. No atheist has ever killed a million people.
    Only religious people kill other people by the million
    Religious people can be defined as people who worship an entity which does not exist in reality, but which is used as an excuse to do evil and not call it evil.
    Some religious people start killing people and they say “I accept that murder is bad, but I’m not really committing murder because I’m not acting on behalf of myself, I’m acting on behalf of god. I’m just doing god’s will”
    Other religious people start killing people and they say “I accept that murder is bad, but I’m not really committing murder because I’m not acting on behalf of myself, I’m acting on behalf of government. I’m just doing government’s will”
    Neither god nor government exist in reality. Both are imaginary entities which only exist in people’s minds. The only thing which exists in reality is people. People know that murder is bad and cannot be justified. So they invent a fictitious entity and grant it the magical right to commit murder and then they pretend they are murdering ON BEHALF of that entity.
    Therefore no atheist has ever committed mass murder, only religious people do it.

    • No atheist has ever killed a million people. Only religious people kill other people by the million.

      So, Stalin and Robespierre were not real atheists. That’s what I said.

      Religious people can be defined as people who worship an entity which does not exist in reality, but which is used as an excuse to do evil and not call it evil.

      Cult of personality is a worship of real people. Blind obedience to the will of real people does not seem to make things any better.

      Some religious people start killing people and they say “I accept that murder is bad, but I’m not really committing murder because I’m not acting on behalf of myself, I’m acting on behalf of god. I’m just doing god’s will”

      Yes. They reject the idea that they have any moral choice or free will, just like Harris does.

      Neither god nor government exist in reality.

      Interesting. Try to stop paying taxes. You will quickly find out if government is real or not.

      Therefore no atheist has ever committed mass murder, only religious people do it.

      Of course. That’s by definition. People need beliefs to do anything, and atheism is a lack of belief. If atheists do anything, they don’t do it as atheists, but in some other capacity.

      • “…Interesting. Try to stop paying taxes. You will quickly find out if government is real or not…”

        In the past if you didn’t pay your tithe (tax to the church) God did not show up at your door demanding payment or else bolts of lightening. This is because god does not exist. Instead men who claimed to be acting on behalf of god showed up at your door dressed up in matching costumes, armed with clubs demanding payment. If you refused to pay up they would put you in a cage.

        Today if you don’t pay your taxes the government does not show up at your door demanding payment or else bolts of lightening. This is because government does not exist. Instead men who claim to be acting on behalf of government show up at your door dressed up in matching costumes, armed with clubs demanding payment. If you refuse to pay up they put you in a cage.

        The existence of churches, texts and men dressed up in costume does not make god real. The existence of parliament buildings, texts and men dressed up in costume does not make government real either. No god or government has ever imposed or enforced any tax, only PEOPLE have ever imposed or enforced taxes.

        “..People need beliefs to do anything, and atheism is a lack of belief….”

        I though atheism was limited to the non-belief in god(s). My point was that atheists have never murdered more than a handful of people, perhaps a few dozen tops. To achieve murders by the million requires belief in (and obedience to) some kind of imaginary entity and ‘authority’ which supersedes morality.

        Mass murder is less about the psychopath who starts it and more about the general population who do not stop it, and who invariably join in.

        Hitler was not ‘that’ evil and he probably murdered very few people. What happened was that the German people were indoctrinated by Prussian Schooling into worshipping the government (which does not exist) and placing government authority above basic morality. Once this belief was in place the rest was inevitable.

        Prussian Schooling was then adopted by the west and in the US schoolchildren even sing song or worship (hymns) to government (god) every day in school. And placing government (god) above basic morality is why the US has been at war continuously for over 60 years murdering millions of people in the process.

        In the west we all kind of sorta accept the idea that basic universal morality (don’t murder, don’t initiate force, don’t steal) should supersede government authority. But we are indoctrinated so heavily and from such a young age to worship ‘government’ god) that whenever people pretending to speak on behalf of government say “Let’s all go and start murdering brown people in some far away land” everyone says “OK”. Even those who have doubts still pay their taxes, vote and generally regard government as a legitimate authority.

        Even those who get mad at government and take to the streets still believe government exists.

        It does not. And protesting against government is no different to protesting against Zeus.

        • I take it as a way of thinking about things. I guess, there is no reason to argue with you because you make many valid points from the perspective that you take.

          If you have not read this essay, you might enjoy reading it:

          http://www.lewrockwell.com/1970/01/lysander-spooner/no-treason-the-constitution-of-no-authority/

          It’s interesting that when the Pledge of Allegiance was introduced, it was accompanied by a gesture similar to the Nazi salute and was later changed to the “hand on the heart” to avoid the association with the Nazis. But it’s just a gesture. It does not change the substance that making children say Pledge of Allegiance at school is a form of indoctrination similar to making them recite 10 commandments or “Our Father”.

          http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Pledge_of_Allegiance

          “Under God” in the Pledge and “In God we trust” on the currency was added in the 1950s.

          When I read a bumper sticker “Land of the free because of the brave”, I get a feeling that the car is driven by a person indoctrinated by U.S. government propaganda of which you speak.

          But your reasoning can be taken the other way. First, I would argue that even if we manage to eliminate religion from society, the same practices of indoctrination and ritualism will remain. If New Atheists achieve their goal, they will get rid of religion in the name only, but not in substance. And even if people would stop to worship God, they will inevitably find an object of worship.

          Second, by your reasoning, I can say that God is as real as the government. To say “God exists” makes as much sense as to say that “government exists”. Both exist as ideas which have very real and tangible effect on human lives.

          • Nazis borrowed heavily from Roman symbols. Swastika is also an ancient symbol which used to have very positive meaning before Nazis used it. A similar gesture is used in churches during prayers. I’m not sure of the origins and original meanings, but, intuitively, I read it as a body language for trying to reach or touch something or send/receive something, e.g. blessing or energy. Nazis used very powerful symbolism, as I think of it. It may be one of the reasons why these ideas spread and got any popular support.

            You see, religion uses all the same psychological tricks. But they can be used without religion as well. And they will work. These tricks work on a subconscious level. New Atheists bark at the wrong tree. One cannot overcome subconscious impulses with reason. “Bad” subconscious impulses must be overridden with “good” subconscious impulses. And what constitutes “good” brainwashing does not follow from reason alone. Perhaps, it follows from social evolution which does not necessarily follow any rational path.

            Just random thoughts.

          • “Swastika is also an ancient symbol”

            I have seen it painted on boulders in Arizona by 13,000-year old Native Americans.

            I always thought the Roman hand salute, in addition to indicating honor, was also intended to show that the one paying homage bore no weapons, but don’t ask me where I read it, it was years ago.

          • As far as I remember, the handshake greeting is meant to show no weapons in the hand. Taking off the hat or tipping it is said to have been a sign of trust when people wore helmets. Military salute of raising a hand to the temple is said to come from raising a visor of a helmet to show your face and also as a sign of trust. This is why it is only performed with the hat on. Right-hand traffic, I’ve heard, is adopted because most warriors, being right-handed, wore shields on the left hand. Right-hand traffic allows to pass strangers on the road with the shield facing them. Not sure about this one because it would imply that in England most warriors were left-handed. All those might be myths, though.

          • “..But your reasoning can be taken the other way. First, I would argue that even if we manage to eliminate religion from society, the same practices of indoctrination and ritualism will remain…”

            Then I would argue that you haven’t really eliminated religion.

            Simply believing in things for which there is no evidence (such as a god or a government or unicorns) is not the problem. It’s everybody’s right to believe in whatever they want. The problem arises whenever those people start coercing, murdering, torturing, persecuting and stealing while claiming their ‘special beliefs’ make them somehow exempt from moral rules that apply to everybody else. They do not!

            Murdering, stealing or coercing on behalf of a god, unicorns, government, the wibble wibble monster should all be treated as the same crime. A crime committed due to a delusion (a mental illness) perhaps, but a crime nonetheless.

            If I go to Iraq and machine gun an Iraqi family just because I believe they are a threat to me then I am rightfully viewed as a murderer. But if I join the religion that believes in ‘government’ and dress up in the special costume of a ‘soldier’ I am not legally or morally judged as a murderer….. in fact I will be viewed as a hero and given a shiny badge as a reward.

            The difference between the first and second scenario is that in the second scenario I had (apparently) acquired the legal/ moral ‘authority’ or ‘right’ to murder that family. How did I acquire that authority or right? Who or what granted it to me?

            As PEOPLE we do not have the right to commit murder. We can only kill in extreme cases of self defence (eg somebody running at you wielding an axe). The family are obviously not in that category, which is why any civilian who killed them would be rightfully charged with cold bloodied murder.

            So where does a ‘soldier’ (a person) get the moral/ legal authority to kill the family from? It can’t be from other people because people do not have the right to commit murder. People cannot grant other people rights which they do not have themselves.

            That means ‘voters’ (people) cannot possibly grant ‘politicians’ (people) or ‘presidents’ (people) or ‘priests’ (people) or ‘generals’ (people) the right to murder, steal or coerce. And that means ‘politicians’ (people) or ‘presidents’ (people) or ‘priests’ (people) or ‘generals’ (people) cannot grant ‘soldiers’ (people) or ‘police’ (people) the right to murder, steal or coerce either.

            People cannot grant other people the right to steal, murder or coerce! 🙂

            We all understand this. It’s not exactly rocket science.

            The soldier who kills the family quite plainly has no right to do so, which makes it an act of cold bloodied murder.

            Everybody who believes he has the right to kill the family is deluded. And that collective delusion is called ‘statism’. The delusion is based on (1) the irrational belief in a fictitious entity called a ‘government’ (2) the belief that this entity has the right to murder, coerce and steal (3) the belief that people can be granted, on occasion, the right to murder, coerce and steal by this fictitious entity called a ‘government’.

            We all understand that Apple employees do not have the right to murder, steal or coerce. They are just people, after all. But if we could be tricked into believing ‘Apple’ was an entity, like a god, and that this entity had the right to murder, steal or coerce then we might also allow Apple employees to murder, steal or coerce because they are acting on behalf of Apple.

            But thankfully, we realise that ‘Apple’ is just a bunch of PEOPLE who design, manufacture and sell computers.

            In the same way ‘government’ is just a bunch of PEOPLE who go around committing stealing half of everyone’s wages, murdering millions of people and generally coercing everybody in all aspects of their lives.

            There is no ‘entity’ called ‘government’ with special rights that people do not have. A government is simply a term to describe a group of PEOPLE within a geographical area who claim, and violently defend, the monopolistic legal/ moral right to initiate force to achieve their aims.

            “…..If New Atheists achieve their goal, they will get rid of religion in the name only, but not in substance….”

            Then they will not have gotten rid of religion. The substance is what counts the most.

            Everything else is just ‘rebranding’ of irrational, fraudulent and immoral behaviour. ‘Government’ itself is a rebranding of the ‘church’ and the ‘monarchy’ to suit a (slightly) more enlightened and scientific age. ‘Government’ and ‘democracy’ is just a rebranding of the ‘divine right to rule by force’. Instead of telling us they are our rulers they tell us they are public servants. But if you don’t hand over half your wages to them each week and do exactly as they say they still put you inside a cage. And if you resist they will shoot you.

            “… Second, by your reasoning, I can say that God is as real as the government. To say “God exists” makes as much sense as to say that “government exists”. Both exist as ideas which have very real and tangible effect on human lives….”

            Yes both exist as ‘ideas’ …… ideas with with no logical or evidential basis. Both exist as belief systems with no basis in reality. Both exist as ideas about things which do not exist and are not valid 🙂

            Mt Everest exists in reality.
            2+2=4 does not exist in reality. But as an abstract concept (mathematics) it has validity.
            ‘Government’ or ‘god’ do not exist in reality, and neither do they have any rational validity as abstract concepts.

            Government and god are NOT real and have NO tangible effects on human lives. How can they? – they do not exist!

            If I hit you on the head with a spade on behalf of the unicorn priestess, it is not the unicorn priestess who hit you on the head, it was me!

            What IS real and what DOES have tangible effects on human lives is DELUDED PEOPLE wandering about armed with guns, clubs, tasers and cages who believe ‘government’ or ‘god’ are (1) real (2) exempt from basic morality (3) to be obeyed at all times, even when that means committing theft, coercion or murder in cold blood.

          • Thanks for going into such detail. I would say that you articulate quite well my own vague thoughts on this issue. By your definition, there are no “true atheists” because everyone in society is indoctrinated into believing in some fictional authority figure, be it God or government. And this belief gives people legal and moral authority to rape, murder, and plunder on great scales. All good and well.

            But what’s the solution? Human society has a tendency to self-organize because organized groups are more powerful than individuals. Social organization grants members of the group protection from violence from other members within the group and from violence from other groups. By the laws of survival, organized groups will quickly dominate unorganized individuals who have no choice but join the group and enjoy protection or create their own organization to avoid being raped, murdered, and plundered. Creation of those fictional authority structures seems to be as inevitable as gravity. It’s seen on each and every level – from governments, to corporate business, all the way down to preschool cliques. Unless people create a way to organize without creating structures of dominance, it seems to be fundamentally impossible to eliminate the evils of corporate exploitation, and political and religious oppression. Communism failed because it simply replaced the system of dominance based on property ownership with system of dominance based on administrative control of the economy and ideology.

            Let’s imagine that we eliminate government as a social institution (the same reasoning applies to religion). What will you have?
            Without police and court system (“people in suits and costumes” bearing signs of “higher authority”), you will have the dominance of other structures and fictional entities like drug cartels, Cosa Nostra, Yakuza, and the like. So, anarchy is not the answer due to its inherent instability. Any peace under anarchy will be quickly destroyed due to this tendency to self-organization.

            With this broader view of the problem, the efforts of New Atheists to oppose religion seem like rearranging chairs on the deck of the Titanic. It’s fairly clear that the problem is much deeper than just “belief in supernatural”.

            Opponents of religion claim that religion condones slavery. I don’t think it condones slavery. I just think that slavery, domination, and oppression are central themes in religion because they are closely related to the themes of suffering and justice. Some passages call to obey authority within the group, others call to resist oppression when it comes from outside the group. It’s very understandable. Themes of suffering and justice create a powerful emotional resonance in human mind. This is why religion is so widely used to inspire all kinds of movements – from Nazism and Jihad on one end of the spectrum to the Civil Rights movement in the U.S. on the other. But the cause of these social movements is not religion, or atheism, or communism. It’s the very nature of society.

            How do you see the solution to the problem you so eloquently described?

    • “Therefore no atheist has ever committed mass murder

      I would qualify that to say, no atheist has ever committed mass murder based on atheism – that doesn’t discount the possibility of an atheist also being a psychotic mass murderer. Not all of us are perfect.

      • By mass murder I’m really talking about deaths by the thousands or millions. Not some freak serial killer. Freak serial killers are generally ‘broken people’ due to some kind of extremely abusive and traumatising childhood experience.

        The same is true of most tyrannical government rulers. As a child Hitler was beaten into a coma I believe.

        Perhaps I should have said, “Therefore mass murders have only ever been committed in the name of some fictitious religious entity/ authority (eg a god, a government)”

  3. “… By your definition, there are no “true atheists” because everyone in society is indoctrinated into believing in some fictional authority figure, be it God or government….”

    Well not everyone I hope! 🙂 It is possible to undo indoctrination. The antidote to irrational and destructive indoctrination is wider access to information and philosophy (rationality). The internet allows us to bypass the controlled media and education system and already this is having a huge effect. The general population’s dwindling support for, and interest in, being violently ruled is demonstrated by the government’s increasing use of ‘terror’ and other threats to convince us we still need them to rule our lives and take our money.

    Indoctrination only works if we already have a tendency towards belief in violent and coercive ‘authority’ (either god or government). That tendency is created by a violent and authoritarian upbringing. When parents beat or threaten or otherwise exert power over their children, instead of treating them as people and reasoning with them, it trains them to accept irrational ‘authority’ based on power/ violence. If we are raised by irrational, violent and coercive parents we either grow up to meekly accept always being victims of such people, or else we grow up to become like our abusers by becoming politicians or policemen or soldiers or whatever.

    Government schools are also based on irrational, violent and coercive rule. Children are segregated by age and made to sit in rows all day long, they’re not allowed to go to the toilet and they’re even trained to respond to the sound of a bell. This is all training to break down their sense of individuality and personal responsibility and accept being ruled like cattle by the authoritarian ‘parents’ of the state. And then there’s all that singing hymns of worship to government.

    A generation of children raised with basic human rights (ie hitting children = assault) and not herded about like cattle in prison-like government schools would be a generation NOT trained in the language of irrational, violent, authoritarian coercion. It’s not so much that this generation would ‘reject’ government authority (or any other violent authority), they wouldn’t even be able to comprehend it! It would be a completely foreign language to them.

    All irrational religions are ‘defeated’ when people can no longer relate to them. When enough people can no longer relate to the concept of ‘government’ (ie “Because I said so!”) there will be no need for any kind of ‘revolution’ …. it will have already happened.

    “…But what’s the solution? …”

    Home educating your children, not hitting your children or coercively ‘ruling’ them, the internet, philosophy, throwing out your TV ….. 🙂

    “… Human society has a tendency to self-organize because organized groups are more powerful than individuals…”

    Government/ religion is not self organisation. Ebay is self organisation. The dating scene is self organisation. The free market is self organisation. Rock climbing clubs are self organisation. Government is violent coercion. Coercion is the opposite of organisation.

    “…Social organization grants members of the group protection from violence from other members within the group and from violence from other groups…”

    Yes. But a government is not n example of this. Governments do not have ‘members’ because not being a member is never an option. Governments also do not protect society from violence or theft. Government protect THEIR OWN MONOPOLY on the LEGAL RIGHT to violently coerce and steal form the public. Naturally, when enforcing a monopoly on something you have to deter other people from competing with you. And government deters anyone else from competing with it. If you attempt to steal half of the population’s earnings at gunpoint the government will put you in a cage. If you attempt to violently monopolise the education system the government will put you in a cage. And so on.

    We are all trained to think of the government in these terms “Theft and violence is wrong. As your government we will make sure nobody is allowed to steal or initiate force. Anybody who we catch stealing or initiating force will be put in a cage”

    The reality is this “Theft and violence is wrong. As your government we will make sure nobody except us is allowed to steal or initiate force. Anybody else who we catch stealing or initiating force will be put in a cage”

    The difference is subtle, but profound.

    “…By the laws of survival, organized groups will quickly dominate unorganized individuals who have no choice but join the group and enjoy protection or create their own organisation to avoid being raped, murdered, and plundered. Creation of those fictional authority structures seems to be as inevitable as gravity…”

    There’s nothing wrong with organised groups. Government is not an organised group, it is a violent cabal. Apple is an organised group. Apple cannot become a violent and coercive group because society would never tolerate it. We would immediately boycott Apple products and they’d go out of business. Apple know that the best way for them to make money is to provide us with things that we value (ipads etc).

    If the population treated government as just another service provider (or rather, a collection of them) then they also would also be unable to act like a violent cabal. As soon as they did we’d boycott their service and they’d go out of business.

    There is no rational reason why we should hold Apple (or any other organisation in society) to a basic universal standard of morality (it’s wrong to steal and initiate force) but not government. We only support this huge contradiction because of the momentum of history topped up by the 15,000 hours of government schooling we all endured as children which literally broke our minds by teaching us that stealing and hitting is immoral, but that it is immoral to disobey government.

    “….Unless people create a way to organize without creating structures of dominance, it seems to be fundamentally impossible to eliminate the evils of corporate exploitation, and political and religious oppression…”

    The majority of society is ALREADY organised without structure of dominance. Most of day-to-day interactions (business and personal) operate in a state of anarchy. Instead of resorting to violent rule by force most of us engage in voluntary transactions, using two way, negotiated contracts. When people do try to initiate force or steal to get what they want everybody identifies them as bad people and treats them accordingly.

    Government and those they protect (corporations) are the ONLY group in society who reject the concept of voluntary interactions and social organisation according to rules. Government is not based on rules, it is based on rulers. Big difference.

    “…Let’s imagine that we eliminate government as a social institution (the same reasoning applies to religion). What will you have?
    Without police and court system (“people in suits and costumes” bearing signs of “higher authority”), you will have the dominance of other structures and fictional entities like drug cartels, Cosa Nostra, Yakuza, and the like….”

    Police and courts are just services, no different to any other. You’ve assumed (a) government actually provides a decent service in these areas (b) without government having a violent monopoly on these services we could not provide ourselves with those services.

    In a free market (ie no government) let’s say you and I are interested in doing business (sale of a house or some business deal). It makes sense to draw up a contract and insure ourselves. The contract can stipulate that in the event of a dispute we go to Smith’s Dispute Resolution Firm and abide by their decision…. or the insurance companies themselves might require us to use a particular dispute resolution organisation (DRO).

    Private DRO’s in a free market are going to have to compete for business (unlike the state court system) and so the whole DRO system is likely to be cheaper, fairer and quicker than the current court system.

    The same deal applies to police/ private security. In a free market police forces will have to compete. Any who fail to catch criminals, fail to deter crime and start beating up black people or students (or whatever) are going find themselves going out of business (unlike government police forces).

    Even if (worst case scenario) I rip you off in our business deal, and even if the DRO cannot resolve the issue and even if your insurance company does not compensate you adequately for your loss, what’s going to happen in a free society? …… Well…. I’m going to get a bad reputation. In a free market someone’s reputation is where everyone is going to look first. (a bit like ebay). Does this company/ individual have a history of ripping people off?

    Imagine a police force who must please their customers in order to stay in business in the same way that, say, mobile phone companies have to.

    “..So, anarchy is not the answer due to its inherent instability…”

    Anarchy just means no rulers. Anarchy is the only society which can actually have rules. In fact anarchy is the natural an inevitable consequence of having rules in society.

    If we as a society ever decided to embrace the rules “stealing is not a legitimate activity” and “Initiating force (murder, rape, coercion, torture etc) is not a legitimate activity” then government would cease to exist and anarchy would take its place.

    Rules = stability. Therefore anarchy is the most stable society it’s possible to have.

    I would argue that the most UNstable society is the one where everyone gives a small group of power mad psychopaths half their wages each week along with the legal right to initiate force, control the economy, control education, control the court system, control the police, control agriculture, control the environment and commit genocide.

    “…Any peace under anarchy will be quickly destroyed due to this tendency to self-organization….”

    Surely self organisation is what we want? With respect, your argument makes no sense. You’re basically saying if we had anarchy (no violent rulers) there is a danger that we might end up with statism (violent rulers) and that is why we need to legitimise violent rulers (statism) 😉

    “…It’s fairly clear that the problem is much deeper than just “belief in supernatural”….”

    My comparison of government to god is really just to make a point (that neither exist). The problem is not so much belief in supernatural (what harm does that do?)…. it is belief is ‘authority’. It all comes down to the simple question “Should the people who call themselves ‘government’ have a monopoly on the legal right to coerce, steal, murder, torture, defraud, assault, kidnap and extort to achieve their aims?”

    If these things are immoral and anti social then it makes sense that NOBODY should have the legal right to behave that way. Rape is immoral and it makes total sense that nobody has the legal right to commit rape. Enforcing laws against rape does not require us to grant ANYBODY the legal right to commit rape. In the same way enforcing laws against coercion, theft, murder, torture, fraud, assault, kidnapping and extortion does not require us to grant ANYBODY the legal right to commit those acts.

    When you take away all the euphemisms arguing for ‘government’ basically means to argue for a small group of people to have the legal right to commit those acts.

    “…How do you see the solution to the problem you so eloquently described?…”

    Perhaps the first step is to do what Confucius said and start calling things by their proper names. Perhaps that is the only step required.

    As a society we already reject the use of violence and coercion. We already reject theft. We already reject terrorism. We already live according to the principles of anarchy in our daily lives. It makes sense that simply by exposing the immorality of government we will, as a society, reject it.

    Our natural aversion to immoral behaviour is presumably why the government invents all of those euphemisms to begin with …. taxation (violent theft), public servant (violent ruler), peacekeeping forces (invading army), national defence (empire building), leader (violent ruler), enhanced interrogation (torture), national debt (fraudulent loans taken out in the names of the unborn), laws (commands backed by guns), security (insecurity).

    The anarchy that we have what we cherish the most. We (correctly) call it ‘freedom’.

    But we have been trained to fear the anarchy (freedom) that we do not have…. such as the freedom to own ALL of the money we earn and spend it (or save it) how we decide, or the freedom to decide how our children are educated, or the freedom to choose which currencies to use (or avoid), or the freedom to not fund genocidal wars or the numerous ‘wars on X’ if we don’t want to, or the freedom to have a baby and not be forced to abandon it to go back to work to pay taxes to fund the murder of babies in the middle east, or the freedom to no have our children born already hundreds of thousands of dollars in debt from loans taken out by politicians in their names.

    I’ve heard the root of the word ‘government’ is govern (control) ment (mind). That certainly makes a lot of sense! 🙂

    • Sounds good… in theory. But in practice, there are a few issues with what you say. I think, your views are somewhat idealistic. Communism also sounds great on paper.

      Well not everyone, I hope! It is possible to undo indoctrination. The antidote to irrational and destructive indoctrination is wider access to information and philosophy (rationality).

      Rationality is no help for irrational. Sorry. “Reason is and ought only to be the slave of the passions” (Hume).

      The internet allows us to bypass the controlled media and education system and already this is having a huge effect.

      You might think that you read what you want on the Internet. And this the problem. People tend to read and believe what they already “like” and believe. Also, by virtue of Internet tracking and search bubbling, you are likely to be steered to read things you already “like” while being fed a healthy doze of commercials which, according to the tracking engines, you are also likely to “like”. Internet is a good tool for communication, but does not seem to be efficient for changing anyone’s mind.

      The general population’s dwindling support for, and interest in, being violently ruled is demonstrated by the government’s increasing use of ‘terror’ and other threats to convince us we still need them to rule our lives and take our money.

      Don’t you think that increasing use of “terror”, surveillance, and “security” measures signifies an increasing support for and interest in being violently ruled? I see a lot of people ready to give up their privacy and let the government search their underwear in the airport out of fear that some “freedom fighter” would commit an act of terrorism.

      Indoctrination only works if we already have a tendency towards belief in violent and coercive ‘authority’ (either god or government).

      I think, indoctrination just works, without exception. Education = indoctrination. “All we know is just another brick in the wall”. Your own knowledge makes you deaf to alternative opinions, even though it wasn’t gained in a government school.

      That tendency is created by a violent and authoritarian upbringing. When parents beat or threaten or otherwise exert power over their children, instead of treating them as people and reasoning with them, it trains them to accept irrational ‘authority’ based on power/ violence.

      I think, upbringing techniques don’t work equally on everyone. All children (and adults) are different. Reasoning works only with reasonable people. There are children (and adults) who show initiative and take responsibility to take care of themselves and to help others, and there are children (and adults) who do not show such initiative and show disrespect and defiance when they are peacefully asked to help or show respect. Do you suggest to reason with such people or, perhaps, it’s more effective to put such person in a cage or some other “naughty spot”? Failure to show authority often results in perception of weakness and encourages more defiance and antisocial behavior. Have you seen a dog whose owner neglected to train it to obey commands and recognize the owner’s authority? What’s the result? An unruly large animal that poops where it likes, chases cars, bicycles, and cats, and is a nuisance to the neighbors. For rules to work, a child or an animal must be trained (indoctrinated or coerced) to obey the rules. Don’t you think? You can’t reason with a dog and you can’t reason with a 2-year old who has not developed the capacity to reason yet. The only language they understand is the language of dominance and authority. Even among adults, you can’t teach without authority. Even if you want to teach by reason, you still need authority (demonstrate your intellectual dominance).

      Government/ religion is not self organisation. Ebay is self organisation. The dating scene is self organisation. The free market is self organisation. Rock climbing clubs are self organisation. Government is violent coercion. Coercion is the opposite of organisation.

      This is where I see contradiction. Free market is self-organization which leads to concentration of more and more money and resources in the hands of fewer and fewer people until the concentration turns into monopoly capable of unlimited coersion and control over consumers. Consider Google. Consider Facebook. Consider even Ebay with its minion Paypal. You say, Apple is not coercive. Think again. Apple deliberately makes its products painful to use with anything except other Apple products and buy content anywhere except iTunes, an Apple service. Apple uses legal system to sue competitors. It also uses cheap labor in China where people have to work for pennies to keep themselves and their families for the lack of a better alternative. Apple fully enjoys the benefits of the system of violent coersion and is a part of it. Show me a corporation without authoritarian relationships. Also, how do you suggest to complete large-scale projects such as an interstate highway or launching a space ship using “community resources”, without involvement of government or large corporations? Are there examples of successful community projects of such magnitude?

      The reality is this “Theft and violence is wrong. As your government we will make sure nobody except us is allowed to steal or initiate force. Anybody else who we catch stealing or initiating force will be put in a cage”

      I’ve read these ideas in this book http://bastiat.org/en/the_law.html. I understand them. They seem to be true. But they also imply that all kinds of social benefits which are supposed to help sick, elderly, and poor, are fruits of plunder. Do you suggest to abandon social entitlement programs? If so, are you going to collect your social security paycheck when you are old? Will you say that a disabled person or a person using a public library is “sharing in the plunder”?

      Regarding your idea of competitive private DRO and security firms. Competitive private security firms are called “mafia” and their operation is called “racket”. A thug comes to your business and offers his “services” to protect you from other thugs. If you refuse to use his services because you think you don’t need them, well, now you do. You have a choice between hiring the thug or hiring another thug to protect you from the first one. Usually, the thugs work together, so they won’t interfere with each other’s “business”. Such “competitiveness” soon results in eliminating one of the thugs, so you still have no choice. Yes, the government is not much different, but alternatives to the government are worse.

  4. On the subject of leaders of what I like to call ‘political religions’… leaders like Stalin, I suggest you learn a little bit more about history and the subject of regimes. The acts of despotic rulers like him had nothing directly to do with anti-theism. This was promotion of political agenda and his ‘political religion’. He also targeted education, science and medicine in his quest for total domination. Stalin was raised Greek Orthodox and attended seminary school in his youth.

    Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge were composed of Buddhists and Pol Pot was a Theravada Buddhist. He studied at a Buddhist monastery and then at a Catholic school for 8 years. Cambodia’s communism was influenced by Theravada Buddhism. Mao Zedong was also a Theravada Buddhist.

    Now, let’s take a head count of atheists who are against education, science and medicine. Thought so…

    There is no such thing as state-imposed atheism. A state can ban or impose religion, but it cannot ban or impose atheism because it is not a belief, a faith, a set of doctrines or dogmas, and cannot be imposed on anybody. Atheism is an absence of belief, and you cannot ban or impose something that does not exist.

    I have heard the argument so many times from believers who think that atheism is a belief. They compare it to a religion. They say it takes faith. They accuse us of hating god. Believers really need to find another line of fire, as all of these arguments only serve to make them look like complete idiots. Atheists have a ‘lack of belief’ in any gods. It is not a faith and it is not a belief. Atheism is the opposite of religion. It is skepticism, doubt and irreligion.

    No people ever did anything in the name of their ‘lack of belief’. Those were dictators who committed atrocities operating regimes that were systems EXACTLY like religion. Unquestionable loyalty to their leader, combined with other irrational dogmas like bigotry, racism, classism, nationalism, communism, fascism, totalitarianism, etc. It is always believers who commit atrocities. How about looking at the statistics for behavior of atheists vs. the religious worldwide? In America, just counting Christians, they are almost a hundred times more likely to commit a crime or a homicide compared to atheists or non-believers. If you carry that out to all religious believers worldwide, the disparity is even greater

    As with religion, political regimes (or more accurately political religions) have surely led to the deaths of millions of people. That these leaders had any religious belief, or no religious belief, is of no more, and probably less, consequence than the fact that every sitting U.S. president has claimed Christianity. How many people have they killed in the Middle East in just the last few decades? If religious people wish to play the ‘guilt by association’ game, you will lose and lose horrifically.

    “Education = Indoctrination” …I’m still laughing at the stupidity of this statement.

    indoctrination - teaching someone to accept doctrines uncritically
    

    Teaching scholarly education and science is not indoctrination. You are not expected to accept things uncritically or to accept things without a basis in evidence. Science is correct because you can check that it is true. Religion is based on ignorance, superstition, fear and spiritual apprehension. Religion requires indoctrination. It can only be accepted uncritically.

    • The acts of despotic rulers like him had nothing directly to do with anti-theism. This was promotion of political agenda and his ‘political religion’. He also targeted education, science and medicine in his quest for total domination. Stalin was raised Greek Orthodox and attended seminary school in his youth.

      Right. This seems to imply that Stalin’s atheism wasn’t “true atheism” because it had attributes of religion. So, I would say that you use the “no true Scotsman” defence. If you argue that this is not a “no true Scotsman” defence, I suggest you read the title of the post :-).

      Now, let’s take a head count of atheists who are against education, science and medicine. Thought so…

      Stalin banned genetics as ideologically incorrect… Ah, yes, I forgot… he was not a “true” atheist. Apparently, anyone else who is against education and science is not a true atheist. So, yes, you are completely correct. All atheists are for education and science, by definition.

      There is no such thing as state-imposed atheism.

      When state prohibits or persecutes all religious practices as it did in the Soviet Union, for example, the state, effectively, imposes atheism, does it not?

      Atheism is an absence of belief, and you cannot ban or impose something that does not exist.

      You seem to imply that atheism does not exist :-).

      Atheism is not an “absence of belief” in general. “Absence of beliefs” in general is nonsense. We can only talk about absence of some specific beliefs. Atheism is an absence (or rejection) of beliefs in a deity. And rejection of belief can be imposed, can it not? It is possible to say “don’t believe X!” and that would be an attempt to impose a disbelief that X is true. If it’s impossible to impose a disbelief, why do you even argue?

      Atheists have a ‘lack of belief’ in any gods. It is not a faith and it is not a belief. Atheism is the opposite of religion. It is skepticism, doubt and irreligion.

      There is no “opposite of religion”. The only alternative to having some beliefs is to have some other beliefs. Having no beliefs is not an option. Only dead people do not have beliefs.

      In America, just counting Christians, they are almost a hundred times more likely to commit a crime or a homicide compared to atheists or non-believers.

      In the best traditions of skepticism, may I ask to support this statement by data?

      Teaching scholarly education and science is not indoctrination. You are not expected to accept things uncritically or to accept things without a basis in evidence. Science is correct because you can check that it is true.

      Science is only one subject in school curricula. A huge part of education is social studies. There is plenty of indoctrination in those subjects imposing the “official ideology” on young children. E.g. history is taught using facts, but facts can be carefully selected to support a certain opinion.

      Religion is based on ignorance, superstition, fear and spiritual apprehension. Religion requires indoctrination. It can only be accepted uncritically.

      I think, religion is a part of identity – individual, national, and cultural. People profess religious beliefs not because they are supported by evidence. I think, it is done as an expression of belonging to certain community or culture and acceptance of certain values. I don’t know how it is possible to accept religious teachings without thinking. E.g. “love your enemy” and “turn the other cheek” commandments are totally counter-intuitive. One has to deal with huge cognitive dissonance to embrace these things.

  5. Total paper tiger, because atheist simply means “without god”; there is no ‘atheist ethic’ or atheist anything else. Just a lack of belief in god(s). Other than atheists cover every variation the world can offer. Some intelligent enough to see through this faux debate, others silly enough to be drawn in … etc.

  6. What do you mean by atheist? If lack of belief is the only criteria then yes, atheism never led anyone to do anything. “New atheism”, which might better be called “rationalism”, is not free from belief. The minimal tenet seems to me to be that hypotheses based on science and logic are superior to claims based on theology or scripture. I happen to believe one can be an agnostic rationalist without being an atheist. I.e. I may not know that a god exists, believe that science and logic are superior to theology and scripture, and believe that a god exists all at the same time without contradiction. The sad thing about atheists is that most of them hold many irrational beliefs, Dawkins and Aaron Ra being good examples of this. Sam Harris, who wrote an excellent book on secular spirituality, is by far the most rational atheist I’ve come across. He admits there are things we don’t understand (which makes sense, because he is a neuroscientist, not a biologist like Dawkins), and seems to apply the same rational approach to everything he talks about.

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