I hope you all don't mind, but I'm gonna try to trim down some stuff here, otherwise I'll be spending 4 hours a day writing responses for this thread, lol.
Have you read Solzhenitsyn's One Day in the Life of Ivan Denisovich?...
I haven't yet, though I plan on doing so eventually. I just got a book for Christmas with various letters by (and about) Solzhenitsyn, so maybe what you are speaking of will be in those as well. I'll keep my eye out for it.
I tried to avoid this from moving directly to Hitler...
That's fair enough. It's not like Hitler hypnotized them from 1934 onwards. I still don't know that what he did was caused by, or even allowed by, atheism. I'm sure many seemingly religious nations throughout history would have accepted the systamatic murder of, or even mass murder of, a group of people, if they thought it benefited them; the sacrificed Incan children, or enslaved africans, were killed in societies in which religion was an important (probably the most important) thing. It seems to me that the more common cause is nationalism or greed or some other worldly self-interest, and religion or irreligion is just a covering. I think this works against some atheists as well. Dawkins, for instance, seems set on the idea that Bush only went to war because of (or at least primarily because of) his religious beliefs, which I think is untrue. Bush's rhetoric after 9/11 may have had a strong religious tone to it, but that doesn't mean that it is his only, or even necessarily his main, motivating factor. And I think it certainly is not the motivating factor for most people who support the war. (not trying to take this into politics, just bringing up a recent example of how religion, or irreligion, can be given an unduly exaggerated importance in the thought process/actions of a nation).
That still leaves the problem that rationally speaking, there is nothing immoral (if rationalism is the basis of our morality) about an euthanasia program to rid society of various burdens holding it back from progress.
Well, I could think of various reasons that an atheistic society might not get rid of those who some might consider burdens. Whether it is "rational" is, I think, like everything else in life (including religious faith), subjective. What is rational to one person (e.g., if we pray to God it will rain), is irrational to another; and vice versa. Having said that, a few reasons that I wouldn't support killing those with handicaps. While slippery slopes are not good arguments, I think it is nonetheless a valid point that it would be hard to determine where exactly the cut off point is for who is and is not handicapped. Is a war hero who loses a leg in the war handicapped? How about the 4 star general, a brilliant strategist, who loses his hearing from an explosion? Is the CEO who is an alcoholic handicapped enough to kill? The child born addicted to a drug? A child born deaf? What about someone who has residual (mild) schizophrenia? I think it is perfectly reasonable to let those who can live to live. Deafness, or paralysis, or mental illness, can be (obviously) debilitating, but it doesn't render a person useless. In fact, I would go so far as to say that no living person is completely useless. I used to go with my Mother (an LPN) to the houses old elderly people, and sometimes mentally handicapped people, who were unable to care for themselves. I can tell you that I learnt a lot more about myself, and humanity in general, from those visits, than I did from entire years of public education.
While all of these were violent and quick, the USSR was relatively long term. Even after religion had been greatly diminished, people sought to find something spritiual or spiritualize something to fill a seemingly inherent need.
Yes, and I would say that they should have been given spirituality back, not just as part of a war effort, but to whatever extent they wanted. It didn't matter how long the Soviet Union went on, the whole thing was that they had ripped the people's beliefs from them at the beginning. I wouldn't expect an atheistic push like that to work any more than a similar religious one (e.g., the Egyptian Akhenaten pushing monotheism). So, if I could clarify something from my last post, the atheism would not only have to slowly and naturally come into a culture, but would also have to be accepted by that culture. The people would have to be free to choose or reject that unbelief. That's something that I don't think anyone would say about the Soviet Union.
... yet this sort of universal values in society are ultimately from some sort of spiritual system.
Well I couldn't agree with that one. I mean, I can understand how you'd say so, since I assume that you believe that God gave the world morality, and thus any time someone is moral (even if they are only doing what is "written on their heart"), they are doing something spritual. Not believing in that particular God, I don't think my morality must come from him. I would say that there is a sort of moral compass in us, which manifests itself in similar primary moral beliefs across a lot of societies. Don't murder. Don't steal. And so forth. I don't think that there is a spiritual reason for this, just psychological, cultural, and biological reasons.
But I am arguing that atheism, by ignoring the inherintly spiritual nature of humanity is doomed to failure as a philosophy if it is ever allowed to be taken to its full conclusion.
Like I said, we'll see.
If atheism is incorrect for denying a spiritual nature, then it will ultimately be shown to be an untenable position. The problem right now is that atheism is just now beginning to reach some level of acceptability on a cultural level. It was not too many generations ago that you could be imprisoned, and even executed, for being an admitted atheist. Even now, atheist is often a fast lane to being disowned, losing your job, or being shunned by your neighbors. Why? Because for some reason, people honestly believe as welkodox does: that atheists are ultimately amoral and nihilistic. Being an atheist today has rightly been called "coming out of the other closet". So far from being disproved, atheism hasn't even been given a chance yet.
Ultimately it is [amoral and nihilistic], because there are no absolutes.
I think this is a thread all it's own, and something that's been touched on in the past, but I'll try to run down my reasons for not believing this. A lack of absolutes doesn't equal immorality or nihilism, unless you have been told by others that it does. There is no one, set standard of morality. If there was, there wouldn't need to be 1,001 Christian commentaries for every subject. Is contraception right or wrong? Divorcing a 4th time? Abortion when the mother's life is at risk? Is slavery inherently evil? Is racism evil? Is lying to people always wrong? Christianity seems to flucuate on these and many other moral questions, depending on the time, the people, etc. Of course, the obvious response is "Yeah, but what some people thought wasn't the issue. It's what God thinks". But that's exactly the point, everyone thinks that they know what God thinks, yet no one can prove it "absolutely". If there is a God, and she wanted morality to be crystal clear, then why did she write morality "on our hearts" (to quote Paul), and give such a disputed book of rules (the Bible)?
Also, do you really believe that atheists are amoral and nihilistic, or is that just an argument that you've heard and are now repeating? I mean, do you really go around every day expecting that there are 15,000,000 atheists around you, who at the drop of a hat might murder you or rape your wife, just for kicks? Whatever psychological issues you might have living in a world where there were no "absolutes," I'd have to think that it'd be even harder to live in a world where you thought that 15 million (and maybe some of the 15 million agnostics?) were out running wild, ready to harm or kill you at a moment's notice. If it sets your mind at ease, I can assure you that I don't want to hurt you, I don't think "woe is me!" every day, I might see some really good reasons to live, and I might even try to be moral.
How did they get to be better off and how do they survive now, through moral or immoral means?
Well that's a matter of perspective. Are we judging the person according to Orthodox moral belief? Buddhist? Islamic? Secular Humanist? According to some belief systems they are the most moral people on earth. According to others they would be some of the most immoral people on earth. You can't simply assume your own belief system as though it is self-evidently the superior set of moral beliefs.