Tuesday, December 26, 2006

Unrelated Note on Mass Murder and Religion

On Christmas Eve, I overheard a brief radio conversation between its Christian hosts, I believe in response to Sam Harris' book Letter to a Christian Nation, speaking to the fact that the most recent major mass murders (the Holocaust, Stalinist purges, and Mao's killing) were committed by atheists. Actually, Hitler was probably not atheist, at least according to many lines in Mein Kampf, though I'm sure his version of Christianity does not accord with the vast majority of Christians. The radio hosts were responding to the common atheist accusation that religion provides moral justification for atrocities such as the Crusades, the Spanish Inquisition, and so forth. Conveniently, the radio hosts forget to mention Christian dictators like Pinochet or the religously motivated killings in the Middle East. Both sides forget to mention the many wars and other atrocities that have little to do with religious affiliation. In actuality, arguing for or against religion by enumerating the murders committed by either side is an excercise in futility because it is a non sequitur. Simply because a Christian/atheist committed atrocities, it does not follow that Christianity/atheism causes one to commit atrocities. Besides, even if certain leaders, religious or not, committed an atrocity, would that say anything about the truth of religion or atheism? Obviously not. I think both sides would do well to avoid such specious arguments.

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