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Because this always comes up whenever we discuss atrocities committed in the name of religion

It's inevitable whenever we have such a discussion that someone will say something like "Well, look at Hitler, he was atheist and look at what he did" (never mind that Hitler was actually Catholic - facts rarely matter in such discussions) or "Communist Russia was atheist, and see how the people suffered."

There are so many flaws with such arguments, but I think this boils them down to a nice, easily managed nugget:

"People of faith often claim that the crimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were the inevitable product of unbelief. The problem with fascism and communism, however, is not that they are too critical of religion; the problem is that they are too much like religions. Such regimes are dogmatic to the core and genera...lly give rise to personality cults that are indistinguishable from cults of religious hero worship. Auschwitz, the gulag and the killing fields were not examples of what happens when human beings reject religious dogma; they are examples of political, racial and nationalistic dogma run amok. There is no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable."

-- Sam Harris

What do you think?  Is it the lack of organized religion that created such violent, human-rights-denying regimes?  Or do you agree with Dr. Harris?

Answer Question
 
jsbenkert

Asked by jsbenkert at 4:07 PM on Mar. 4, 2013 in Religious Debate

Level 37 (89,331 Credits)
Answers (12)
  • There is no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable."

    Lol-love this line! I guess I agree with Dr. Harris.
    sahmamax2

    Answer by sahmamax2 at 4:10 PM on Mar. 4, 2013

  • Im not sure it has anything to do with religion vs no religion. I think its a case of human being able to screw up anything they are involved in. Religion = there can be some messed up whack jobs who screw people over for their own gain. Atheist = same thing. Some total self centered nut jobs screw people over for their own gain. It doesnt take a religious or a non religious stance to do that. It just takes one charismatic, but messed up, person to run amok over something.. anything. .
    Nimue930

    Answer by Nimue930 at 4:16 PM on Mar. 4, 2013

  • I have to agree with Harris. Religion is just another form of a dogmatic practice and it doesnt matter if the dogma comes in the form of religion, politics, race, etc.
    KristiS11384

    Answer by KristiS11384 at 4:21 PM on Mar. 4, 2013

  • There is no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable.

    I agree with that portion of what Harris said.

    There are some human beings who are charismatic. They have an ability to encourage others to follow them, for good or evil. Some are religious; some are not. Some make the world better; some do not. I don't think religion can be praised or blamed for this, as a generalization. Some religious leaders use their skill to improve the world; some use their skill to worsen it. Again, it's human nature, not necessarily religion, that causes this.
    Ballad

    Answer by Ballad at 4:35 PM on Mar. 4, 2013

  • I agree with Nimue. I don't think the point is religion vs no religion. I think it comes down to individuals and the way that they use or abuse the systems (religion, nationalism, etc), and that it's not that those systems are blame worthy in and of themselves.
    bandgeek521

    Answer by bandgeek521 at 6:12 PM on Mar. 4, 2013

  • "What do you think? Is it the lack of organized religion that created such violent, human-rights-denying regimes? Or do you agree with Dr. Harris?"

    I think this is just another one of those attempts at claiming Atheist superiority. And thus is a brilliant one because not only does it take the fault away from Atheism, it actually manages to blame religion yet again by claiming that Atheism" was too "religion like". Pathetic.
    Fact is, atrocities are committed because human nature is fertile ground for selfishness and a desire for power and wealth. Simple as that. And just as religion has been the excuse for such atrocities, do has Atheism been a convenient excuse.
    momto2boys973

    Answer by momto2boys973 at 6:40 PM on Mar. 4, 2013

  • "There is no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable."

    I could've agreed with that if he hadn't tried to make religion seem as inherently unreasonable and less belief as increasingly reasonable. Fact is, non-religious people can be as fanatic and unreasonable as religious people can be.
    momto2boys973

    Answer by momto2boys973 at 6:43 PM on Mar. 4, 2013

  • Fact is, non-religious people can be as fanatic and unreasonable as religious people can be.
    ***********************************
    true but seeing as religious people are the majority, we see a heck of a lot more religious zealots than not.
    sahmamax2

    Answer by sahmamax2 at 7:08 PM on Mar. 4, 2013

  • Honestly, crazy people are going to do crazy things with or without religion. People want to blame religion or lack thereof, but in reality the only thing we can blame is insanity.

    anime_mom619

    Answer by anime_mom619 at 10:42 PM on Mar. 4, 2013

  • I agree. Religion has been used as a powerful tool for thousands of years. it's no wonder world leaders and governments continue to use it for persuading the masses to do what they want.

    It is not absolutely necessary since people can be persuaded by other means.

    Blame the monsters who are using the tools, not the tools themselves. I see parallels with this and gun control fixing mass shootings.
    anng.atlanta

    Answer by anng.atlanta at 12:31 PM on Mar. 5, 2013

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