Monday, May 23, 2011
["Haven't murdered anybody since breakfast?"- quote from "Inherit the Wind"; ridiculing the idea that evolution would corrupt morals]
One question frequently asked of atheists is: Since you don't believe in God, doesn't that mean you can kill people?
This is indeed not an idle question. No one disputes the fact that the greatest mass murders in history have been performed by avowed atheists, from the killing fields of Cambodia to the man made famine in the Ukraine. I would argue that the Holocaust as well was engineered by atheists. And then there have been a number of small scale, but still quite horrific, atheistic murderers such as Jeff Dahmer and Jim Jones. Sadly, as I write these words, about 200,000 innocent men, women and children are being tortured to death in atheist operated prison camps in North Korea. Just that atrocity alone makes the toughest Spanish Inquisitor or the most hardened Islamic jihadi sound like a big softy by comparison.
[By the way, atheists earnestly insist: no one has been killed "in the name of atheism". True enough. Atheism doesn't ask anyone to do anything. However atheism removes all barriers which would prevent murder; from that point, raw human nature takes over. This is similar to arguing that blowing up a dam would not be murder. The dam breaking does no harm. It's all that water behind the dam which is killing thousands of people and the bomber had nothing to do with that! Of course, such a ridiculous argument would not hold water in any courtroom.]
Clearly, atheists do have some explaining to do, and what they often explain is the following: Naturally, I love myself. Likewise, I naturally love creatures similar to myself. Therefore, I love other people. I feel a natural empathy for all humans. Even though, true, I do not believe in God, I do not believe that God commanded us not to harm others, I do not believe that I will suffer any adverse consequences from harming others provided that I can evade law enforcement (which is not an issue of course if the government itself is ordering the murders), nevertheless, I would not hurt an innocent person because I would empathize with the victim.
The basic problem with this argument is that it seems to provide little if any real deterrent to violence.
An atheist can easily calculate that in certain cases the gains from murder are so great that it's worth it to ignore feelings of natural brotherly love. He may also decide that for some reason the victim deserves to be hurt, and therefore he need feel no empathy. The victim somehow brought it upon himself.
An additional problem is that empathy, like all emotions, may vary widely from one person to the next. Many people seem to see anyone outside their particular nationality, race, religion, tribe, family, etc as being "not like me" and therefore having little if any value. Since the dawn of time, tribes attacked and killed each other constantly. In the present day United States, the government confers entirely different rights and privileges upon people who have a piece of paper proving "citizenship" - meaning somehow they are "one of us".
Bottom line: Humans, like all meat eating mammals, are naturally pretty nasty and without God everything is permitted.
Posted by jewish philosopher at 11:35 AM