This isn’t strictly a TIA post, but it is prompted by Vox Day’s remarks about what he calls the “bloody history” of atheism, and also by his complaints that it’s not fair to blame Christianity for things like the Crusades and the Inquisition and the Catholic/Protestant wars and so on. But first I want to talk about something much, much worse, an evil so vile and corrupt that it has killed, maimed, and tortured more people than atheism and Christianity combined. I am speaking, of course, of asantanism.
Not all Nazis were atheists, but they were all asantanists. Not all Crusaders were Christians, but they were all asantanists. Communists under Stalin, Lenin and Mao? Asantanists all. Witch-burners, inquisitionists, defenders of the faith in whatever form: asantanists. Every mass-murderer, everyone who became famous for the cruelty and inhumanity of his or her atrocities, was an asantanist. Of all the people whose names have become synonymous with injustice and evil, not one of them believed in Santa Claus.
I mention this because you so often hear Christians blame atheism for things like the Holocaust and the gulags, as though lack of belief motivated people to do evil things. But when you look at the history of evil, you will notice that the common thread is not a lack of belief in God, but a lack of belief in Santa. If you’re going to blame unbelief for the actions of unbelievers, therefore, you ought to be blaming asantanism, not atheism.
But that’s rather silly, isn’t it? People are motivated by what they do believe, not by what they don’t. Indeed, the whole point of religion is to change how people behave, by changing what they believe. Motivating people to good behavior, and to abstain from bad behavior, is what religion is all about. That’s why religion has weekly meetings at which believers are exhorted to turn from sin and to produce the fruits of faith, and why religions have full-time paid clergy to counsel with people and encourage them and rebuke them when they’re wrong, and why they have Scriptures and other teachings about how man ought to live to be pleasing to the deity or deities involved.
It’s perfectly appropriate, therefore, to look at the behavior of religious people to see if the religion is producing the changes it is supposed to produce. It’s no different from someone on a diet weighing themselves to see if the diet is producing the weight loss it promises. When you look at the behavior of religious people, you’re just checking to see if the religion is really being effective at what it claims to do. And if it doesn’t, if we see religious people burning witches and holding Inquisitions and leading Crusades and so on, then we’re justified in taking that as an indicator that religion is ineffective at best, if not an outright fraud.
When people blame unbelief for bad behavior, what they’re really claiming is that the person’s behavior would be better if they believed. When we look at the actual behavior of believers, however, we do not find this to be the case, because the believers’ record is no better. And even if the unbeliever’s behavior was worse, how would we know which unbelief to blame for their behavior? Lack of belief in God can be linked to only some of the notable crimes of history, but lack of belief in Santa is common to all of them.
Religion is designed to make a difference in people’s behavior. Atheism isn’t; it’s just the absence of belief in God. That’s why atheism does not have churches or preachers or Scriptures or any of the other things religion uses to guide and motivate people’s behavior. And that’s why it’s appropriate to evaluate religion in terms of the behavior of believers, and irrelevant to try and blame the behavior of unbelievers on their unbelief. And if you can’t agree with that, it’s probably because you’re one of those evil, lying, murderous asantanists. So there.