Friday, February 27, 2009

The Atheist Ad Campaign on The Agenda

 
TV Ontario (TVO) has a daily program called The Agenda with Steve Paikin. It's usually very good.

Last week they had a show on the atheist bus campaign featuring Justin Trottier of the Center for Inquiry and Robert Buckman, a well-known Toronto atheist. Here's the entire show. I don't think any one of the participants is particularly proud of their performance. But see below ....


At one point in the show, the Christian woman, Kathy Shaidle, brings up the "Stalin, the atheist, killed 30 million people (therefore God exists)" argument and Robert Buckman tries to answer in a reasonable manner. He doesn't do a bad job (excerpt below) but Canadian Cynic has a suggestion: What Robert Buckman should have said.

I caution Sandwalk readers that CC's language can be a bit crude ... but it sure is funny.





10 comments :

  1. As much as I love CC's response (and it would be completely warranted), there is only one proper response to this line of thinking:

    "So what if Stalin was an atheist and killed 30 million people? What does that imply? Is there a general trend toward secularism and violence? If there is, let's see the data. Stalin killed indescriminantly; he killed clergy and he killed non-believers. Moreover, the Stalin-era USSR was a cult of personality; dogmatic belief in the infalliability of a person or an ideology. As Sam Harris has put it, the gulags and the gas chambers were not the result of too much rational thinking.

    Secondly, and most importantly of all, even if Stalin, Hitler, Pol Pot, and the rest of them killed explicitly in the name of atheism; even if atheism led directly to absolute immorality and violence; even if Christianity was the one path to living a morally fulfilled life, this would still not provide even a shred of evidence that god exists. If this were true, we could at least have a decent argument about the inherent value of religious faith. But the fact remains that there is little evidence to suggest that faith has any positive correlation with morality at all.

    Some people are moral, and some are not. Our morality must derive from somewhere, and while we have theories as to the origins of morality, it does not follow (and cannot follow) that god has endowed us with morality, and therefore god exists; this merely begs the question. Circular arguments work because circular arguments work because..."


    Robert Buckman's answer was decent, but he should have been able to more thoroughly gut this odious line of thinking.

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  2. All this illustrates (once again) is the great difficulty of responding effectively and crisply to outrageous claims in real time.

    This of course is why people like Shaidle will never agree to any written exchange of views.

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  3. Dr Buckman is sadly in dire need of a history lesson.

    Buckman himself admits that Stalin killed many people because they were religious.

    In 1936, he also amended the Soviet Constitution in order to entrench both atheism and anti-religion within it.

    He enjoyed an extremely cozy relationship with the League of the Militant Godless, and with their support he dispossessed the Russian Orthodox Church of its properties and killed any clergy who opposed him.

    Like the LMG, Stalin believed that atheism was necessary for communism, and that communism could not be separated from atheism.

    To that end, Buckman's answer was incredibly ignorant of historical fact, and actually contradictory of his preceding argument -- the one in which he actually brought the religion/atheism kills argument into play -- in which he insisted that people are psychologically programmed to kill for the things they believe in.

    If a person believes in atheism instead of religion there's absolutely nothing that prevents people from killing for it.

    History bears this out. Stalin killed thousands explicitly in the name of atheism, and killed millions more in the name of something he believed couldn't be separated from atheism.

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  4. If a person believes in atheism instead of religion there's absolutely nothing that prevents people from killing for it.

    One could just as easily rephrase this to say:

    "If a person believes in Yahweh instead of human accountability to other humans, there's absolutely nothing that prevents people for killing for him."

    What is the evidence that atheism predisposes to immoral behaviour, except when "immoral behaviour" is defined based on obedience to the will of god or gods? Was it the abolitionists or anti-abolitionists who invoked god and the bible?

    "History bears this out. Stalin killed thousands explicitly in the name of atheism, and killed millions more in the name of something he believed couldn't be separated from atheism."

    And the people who did the actual killing did so because they believed in the cult of Stalin.

    What atheists are calling for is a return to logic and reason; to allow evidence to guide our decision making. You will find that the gulags are not the logical endpoint of such an endeavour.

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  5. "Was it the abolitionists or anti-abolitionists who invoked god and the bible?"

    In actuality, Mike, it was both.

    "And the people who did the actual killing did so because they believed in the cult of Stalin."

    And the people who participated in the oppression and murder of clergy did so with the approval and applause of the LMG, an atheist group.

    Still want to try and pretend that atheism had nothing at all do do with what Stalin did?

    How "logical" and "reasonable" is that?

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  6. In actuality, Mike, it was both

    Quite right. You can justify anything you want, any way you want, it seems. Religious faith is no guarantee of moral behaviour.

    Still want to try and pretend that atheism had nothing at all do do with what Stalin did?

    It makes absolutely no difference whether atheism was the cause of Stalin's actions.

    First, as I said in the very first comment, even if this were true, it provides not a shred of evidence that god exists. This should go without saying (but usually doesn't).

    Second, again even if this were true, it merely argues that people, religious or non-religious, are capable of doing horrible things in the name of bad ideas.

    Implying that secular dogmas have been just as bad as religious ones is not an argument for religion; its an argument for less dogma.

    I actually think 'atheism' is a bad word, in some cases. What we really want is rational thinking; religious faith is merely one manifestation of irrationality leading to bad decisions. Cults of personality (secular religions, if you will) are another.

    Our prisons are full of god-fearing people who have committed the most heinous crimes; they are also full of atheists who have done the same. Doesn't that suggest, at the very least, that morality is not at all correlated with religiosity?

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  7. Always forgotten in this debate about Stalin, Hitler, et al is the fact that they gained power in nations where the population had been trained to believe. Both of their careers could have been nipped in the bud if the good guys weren't so busy praying and believing that their "authority figures" were taking care of them. Don't forget, various Christian churches supported these despots in their rise to power.

    It gave validity to the old phrase of "evil triumphs when good men stay silent!"

    Just imagine how long Bush would have reigned in US America if all the good men came forth!

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  8. Interesting additional fact: Stalin
    was actually trained as a priest and spent a few years at a seminar.

    What does follow from that?

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  9. Thank you Larry for recommending Canadian Cynic's comment on Kathy Shaidle; CC really has a way with words: crude but accurate.

    Reading Canadian Cynic led me to this

    http://www.barbarakay.ca/ and her article "Fictional Drivel" where Kay says, "The Nazi Lebensborn program...grew out of anti-religious paganism allied with fascism." So, according to Kay, Hitler and his minions weren't Christians they were pagans.

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  10. So, according to Kay, Hitler and his minions weren't Christians they were pagans.

    Gott mit uns!

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