The Guilt By Religious Association Canard
Ken at Popehat has what our friend Kip rightly calls an “important post” up about PZ Myers’ latest crusade to blame all people who believe in a Higher Being for the unconscionable actions taken by others who believe in a Higher Being. Ken writes:
But his effort to lay the wages of religious extremism at the feet of anyone who has faith is silly, and not worth our outrage. It’s remarkably similar to the rhetoric of American theocrats who argue that atheism is responsible for the killing fields, and Stalin’s purges, and school shootings, and for nihilistic crimes by broken people everywhere. But people are not automatons wound up by a single motivation, and history is not a four-color panel in the comic books. Saying that Stalin or Pol Pot massacred religious people because of atheism is to credulously conflate ostensible motives with far more complex political motives. Laying youth crime at the feet of atheism is to make pathology a caricature. I suspect Myers would acknowledge all of that — about atheism. But the same can be said for facile efforts to lay the evils of history at the feet of religion. Religion has often been an excuse for inhumanity, but excuses are not the same as reasons.
The League’s consortium on atheism, theism, and the interplay between science and religion is here. It was one of our earliest discussions and, I think, remains one of our best. Particularly pertinent is Chris’ excellent post calling for an atheist theology, which points out:
The upshot of which is that there is no such thing as a non-believer….Since faith=trust, then calling someone an unbeliever is saying they are un-trusting. I’ve never met a human who does not trust in something or someone, even if they be (imo) the idols of money, sex, food, their own ego, status, or whatever. Everybody trusts that something will bring them salvation of one kind or another.
The bottom line is that atheism cannot disprove the existence of God(s) anymore than theisms can prove it – at best you can make imperfect philosophical arguments that God(s) does or does not exist while ultimately relying on some form of more or less blind faith. Assuming that the bad acts done by a handful in the name of God-ness or God-lessness prove the correctness of the opposite belief requires ignorance of the fact that plenty of undeniably evil acts have been done in the name of both. And as Ken suggests in the comments to his post, it also ignores that plenty of undeniably good acts have been done in the name of both. To say that a belief in God-ness or God-lessness inevitably causes (rather than merely being an excuse for) all the bad things done in its name is to say that it also must inevitably cause (rather than merely be an excuse for) all the good things done in its name.