Sunday, February 27, 2011

Stalin and Mao

I mentioned in a previous post that the greatest horrors of history can almost all be blamed directly and justifiably on religion.  If one mentions this, the religious like to point to Mao and Stalin as examples of the evils perpetrated by atheists.  (They also like to point to Hitler, but as I noted before, several times, this is so blatantly false that it reveals the complete dishonesty of the religious and destroys all their credibility.)

First, it should be noted that many if not most of the communists' victims did not die as a result of direct persecution, but as a result of a forced attempt to bring about a radical change in the economic system to a system that was doomed to failure.  The majority of their victims starved to death as a result.

There is simply no comparison between this and the crimes of religion.  Religion regularly engages in the deliberate murder of those who disagree or who simply don't fit in.  Furthermore, the religious commit these murders in the most heinous ways they can imagine, torture, burning, stoning, etc. 

Consequently, you should reply to such arguments by saying something like:

"Most of their victims were not killed deliberately.  They died simply because communism doesn't work."

Second, the times when Mao and Stalin killed because of ideological disagreement, they did not kill because of atheism, they were motivated by communism.  Thus, to lay these crimes at the foot of atheism is simply incorrect.  If anything, such crimes are comparable to religious crimes in my mind.

Thus, another reply can be:

"Stalin and Mao didn't kill because of their atheism; they killed because of their communism."

I think of communism as a religion because it is an irrational belief system that caters to the emotional needs of its adherents.  I think it is irrational because of its assumptions about human nature.  I think one can legitimately make this point in debate with believers, though it will fall on deaf ears--at best--or be seen as simply an insult (even though it is true).

At its core, communism is based on an assumption that humanity can become nearly perfectly altruistic.  There are two schools of thought on this:  Some say that humanity is inherently good or altruistic and simply needs to have a system that allows this alleged basic nature to come out.  Others, including most communists, think that people are blank slates upon which their society can write any set of characteristics it desires.  Both of these notions are simply, demonstrably untrue.  Thus, communism is very close to being a religion because it is based on firmly held beliefs that are false.

Thus, another reply to the Stalin and Mao gambit can be:

"Communism is just a competing religion:  It is an irrational belief system that caters to the emotional needs of its adherents."

Third, remember that communism was a reaction to the systems of economic oppression that the church actively fomented for centuries.

For 16 centuries, at least in the West, there was an unsavory alliance between religion and those in secular positions of power.  The clergy and the aristocracy combined to enslave the rest of the population.  (And, make no mistake, that is religion's purpose--and a topic I will discuss in a later post.)  Was it not predictable that in places where a middle class was not permitted to rise that there might eventually be an upheaval brought on by the resentment of the poor?  If you aid in the perpetration of evil, don't be surprised if the victims hold it against you.

Religion literally declared war on communism, not the other way around.  If you look at the history of communist revolutions, the new governments never tried to eradicate religion.  They simply tried to shut down the brainwashing mechanisms and the state enforcement of tithing obligations.  They were a threat to the business of religion.  So, religion whipped up a mob and declared war.

Thus, when one hears these arguments, one can reply:  

"Your religion declared war on communism simply for trying to end religion's privileges and force it to compete in the marketplace of ideas.  If you declare war on someone, you don't get to complain when they fight back."

And, you can add:

"When Stalin and Mao killed because of atheism it was because those who opposed them for their atheism had declared war on them."

Finally, you can point out that the number of victims of Stalin and Mao have often been grossly overestimated by their religious opponents in the West.  Thus, you will hear from the religious people trying to make this argument such overblown figures as 40 to 60 million dead under Stalin, when the actual figure may have been 10 to 15 million, including 6 to 10 million who died as a result of famine. 

Finally, it is important to remember that Stalin and Mao lived in a different era, with huge populations and modern technology, which makes huge numbers of victims much less surprising.  If you adjust the numbers of victims of religious persecutions to reflect larger modern populations and modern methods of killing, then you can make a good argument that religion is deadlier than communism.  The differences in the sheer numbers of victims is thus not meaningful when judging the relative depravity of the two groups.

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