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Author Topic: Evangelistic Atheism  (Read 4894 times) Average Rating: 3
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Kaminetz
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« on: July 03, 2006, 12:32:33 AM »

I think this is a must read, especially for people who are out there doing missionary work. This is excellent red-hot proof that Atheism is a religion, and what means and strategies are used to bring people away from faith:

http://ffrf.org/fttoday/back/evangel.php

Evangelistic Atheism:
Leading Believers Astray
By Dan Barker

Freethought is worth sharing with the world. If the conditions are right, it is possible for a freethinker to successfully evangelize a believer.

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« Reply #1 on: July 03, 2006, 08:50:36 AM »

An interesting link.  I've got a funeral to go to today, otherwise I would have read more than 1/2 the article.  As it stands, it sickens me a bit, only because Barker rightly points out that most Christians could probably be easily persuaded to align with their mode of thinking...
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« Reply #2 on: July 03, 2006, 11:19:53 AM »

Interesting.  I've read Dan Barker's deconversion testimony before, so I'm somewhat familiar with him.  Dan did make a few good points.  Many Christians don't know enough about their religion. 

Most atheists with an on-line presence in free-thought and apologetics forums make no bones about their goal of trying to deconvert Christians.  However, I wonder how many atheists would know what to make of Orthodox theology as it differs from the fundamentalist flavor?  I've met a few atheists on-line who really liked the Orthodox as compared to other Christians, but that doesn't mean they're going to convert.

Anyway, it's a good reminder that we should spend our time learning more about our faith.  Praying a lot wouldn't hurt either.  I used to post at Internet Infidels and ever so often there would be threads started trying to get people to stop praying.  If prayer were ineffective and people were just praying to an imaginary being then it wouldn't harm anyone and many times would actually have a positive psychological effect on the one praying.  However, the fact that Christian prayer really, really bothered people seemed to indicate (to me anyway) that there must be more to it.  There is no logical reason why an atheist would be bothered by something they consider stupid and ineffective.  Must be because prayer works.  Smiley 
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« Reply #3 on: July 03, 2006, 11:47:56 AM »

Some 'nuggets' from Barker (emphasis mine):

Obviously, freethought often involves direct and strong criticism of religion, and many believers will take it personally, accusing us of being abusive or hateful. Remind the person that you are not attacking them. Tell them that you think most Christians today are good people in spite of the bible. They are smarter than Jesus. They are nicer than God. Many of them have risen above the brutalities of Christianity to become good, caring people because they (like you) possess a respect for human values.

...

My journey out of religion started with a tiny taste of the forbidden fruit. Gradually I got hooked. The sheer joy of learning something new kept me coming back for more. Eventually, my heart could not embrace what my mind rejected.

Knowledge brings a power that is stronger than loyalty. Knowledge is stronger than faith. It is more powerful than emotion, tradition, or love. Yes, it is stronger than love: you can't love what you don't know.


...

Liberal Christians are impressed with refutations of apologetic arguments, with discussions of the meaning of religious language, pagan parallels to Christianity, the connection of faith to good deeds, and social issues.
...

Liberals, on the other hand, tend to be sensitive to unfairness. (That's why they're liberals.) They are likely ashamed of the history of their own religion.


...

What do we have to offer that can possibly take the place of religion? If you are going to entice someone out of the corral of sheep, what is your carrot? Why should they give up comfortable traditions, hope of eternal life, and the security of absolute truth? The only possible bait we have is the freedom of thinking for yourself.

...

The fact that indoctrination can be eliminated ... The fact that there is no universal dictator, no sin, no cosmic guilt, and no hell ... The fact that human beings possess the potential for good ... The fact that love can be truly shared between self-respecting peers with both feet on the ground ... The fact that human reason is capable ... The fact that intellectual integrity brings the only honest peace of mind ... The fact that there is no God ... All of this is truly Good News.
« Last Edit: July 03, 2006, 11:50:13 AM by Kaminetz » Logged
Justin Kissel
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« Reply #4 on: August 03, 2006, 12:10:17 PM »

Quote
I wonder how many atheists would know what to make of Orthodox theology as it differs from the fundamentalist flavor?ÂÂ  I've met a few atheists on-line who really liked the Orthodox as compared to other Christians, but that doesn't mean they're going to convert.

There are obviously huge differences between different Christian groups, but that in itself is a mark against Christianity in the eyes of many atheists/agnostics. So just trying to make the point "Yeah, but we're different than those fundamentalist types" only strengthens the perception that Christianity is a fragmented mess. The typical response would probably be something like "Oh, yeah, right. Just another group who claims that they have all the right answers". This type of thing just reinforces in atheists/agnostics the belief that Christianity is divided amongst itself and cannot give one, unified answer regarding what the truth is (like most groups claim they can).ÂÂ  

I will say that I do think that this tendency is a shame, because I would agree that Orthodoxy really does do the best job at preserving what Christianity originally was, so it's unfair to just lump her in with more recent groups and dismiss her out of hand. Some might say Catholicism instead of (or in addition to) Orthodoxy, I guess that's a matter of opinion. I have constantly noted while reading atheist/agnostic books that the authors almost always deal with European or American Protestantism (depending on the time/place of writing), and hardly ever speak to anything more traditional, except for perhaps a quote or two from Augustine, and maybe some other Father they accidentally came across (e.g., Tertullian). Actually I plan on attempting to rectify the situation, so if it makes you feel any better, there might be an agnostic book out next year dealing specifically with arguments from more traditional groups, with a particular focus on dealing with patristic arguments. Grin

So, as you might have guessed, it is my opinion that even if an atheist/agnostic did learn about Orthodoxy, there would not be IMO enough reasons to convert. As to the reasons, apart from the above, there are issues with the Bible (both it's accurary and it's morality), Church history, the character of tradition, theological concepts such as hell, etc. Orthodoxy is certainly (IMO I'm certain anyway) more stable and sensible than, say, the theology of your typical Protestant televangelist. But that doesn't make it right or the best choice.

Quote
However, the fact that Christian prayer really, really bothered people seemed to indicate (to me anyway) that there must be more to it.  There is no logical reason why an atheist would be bothered by something they consider stupid and ineffective.

Personally, I can understand this, and it doesn't have to do with people being bothered because of some subconscious idea that prayer really is effective. I'm sure that others like myself just get tired at how people treat prayer like a magic pill. Any time something goes wrong, it's "I'll pray for you".  You are a drunk... "I'll pray for you". You need to get a good grade on your test... "I'll pray for you".  You have cancer... "I'll pray for you".  You are thinking about becoming a Buddhist... "I'll pray for you". For someone who doesn't think that prayer works, hearing this on a daily basis can just about drive you bonkers. Think of it this way, if you believed that something was false, and you heard it unthinkingly promoted as true each and every day, wouldn't you get frustrated as well? Wouldn't you want to just grab your loved ones and friends by the collar and politely inform them that they'd been fooled? That they were wasting their time? That they should be trying to actually help solve problems, rather than waiting for the big man in the sky to fix things?

But it's hard to say that, because of the reaction that it will get. To tell someone such things would be a very personal insult to most people. Most people want to believe that prayer works. Most people want to believe that their family and friends are in heaven waiting to be reunited with them. Telling them that it ain't so is like a slap in the face. So, people come on the internet and talk about it with mostly like-minded people--just like many other groups of people. I personally don't hang around the II forum either, since it is not a place for discussion, but rather a place for attacking Christians and pretty much anyone who disagrees with the majority there. However, on this particular point I can understand where they are coming from.
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« Reply #5 on: August 03, 2006, 12:37:25 PM »

Actually I plan on attempting to rectify the situation, so if it makes you feel any better, there might be an agnostic book out next year dealing specifically with arguments from more traditional groups, with a particular focus on dealing with patristic arguments. Grin

And may your work soon receive from God the reward it deserves. 
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« Reply #6 on: August 03, 2006, 08:32:55 PM »

Actually I plan on attempting to rectify the situation, so if it makes you feel any better, there might be an agnostic book out next year dealing specifically with arguments from more traditional groups, with a particular focus on dealing with patristic arguments. Grin

Sounds like a lot of fun, but please tell me you're going to deal with more than just the fundamentalist and antiochian (read Judaizing) side of things. Any chance of addressing one of my pet dogmas? Perhaps Apokatastasis??? Grin Please? Maybe even a reference to Christianity being the Merger of Judaism and Paganism? (In a positive way, of course, like it is presented by St. Clement of Alexandria)...You can at least give us credit for preserving the Philosophy of Plato, Philo, Plotinus, and Proclus...Hey I got a name for one of your chapters...'Philo of Alexandria: The First Father of the Christian Church.' Not that I have any biases or anything, I just want to make sure you're dealing with real Orthodox Christianity Wink

Quote
So, as you might have guessed, it is my opinion that even if an atheist/agnostic did learn about Orthodoxy, there would not be IMO enough reasons to convert. As to the reasons, apart from the above, there are issues with the Bible (both it's accurary and it's morality), Church history, the character of tradition, theological concepts such as hell, etc. Orthodoxy is certainly (IMO I'm certain anyway) more stable and sensible than, say, the theology of your typical Protestant televangelist. But that doesn't make it right or the best choice.

Well, some take the hard way, others take the easy way; but that's ok, in the end we all get to the same place (see neo-platonic references in above paragraph). The Bible, our Tradition, certain theologumena may not be perfect, in some places it does better than in others. But in the end, what really matters is the unyielding and infinite Mercy of God.

Quote
Personally, I can understand this, and it doesn't have to do with people being bothered because of some subconscious idea that prayer really is effective. I'm sure that others like myself just get tired at how people treat prayer like a magic pill. Any time something goes wrong, it's "I'll pray for you".ÂÂ  You are a drunk... "I'll pray for you". You need to get a good grade on your test... "I'll pray for you".ÂÂ  You have cancer... "I'll pray for you".ÂÂ  You are thinking about becoming a Buddhist... "I'll pray for you". For someone who doesn't think that prayer works, hearing this on a daily basis can just about drive you bonkers. Think of it this way, if you believed that something was false, and you heard it unthinkingly promoted as true each and every day, wouldn't you get frustrated as well? Wouldn't you want to just grab your loved ones and friends by the collar and politely inform them that they'd been fooled? That they were wasting their time? That they should be trying to actually help solve problems, rather than waiting for the big man in the sky to fix things?

I tend to agree...when someone tells me that they'll pray for me the way I usually interpret it is that they're saying they're better than me or that they have a direct link with God...I personally find it a bit condescending, if you want to pray for me fine, but dont tell me, if your prayers truly work you dont need to tell me about them. Plus, I believe that when we pray we should either pray 'thy will be done' or 'Lord have mercy,' to things that we know, without question, will eventually come true. That way, our prayers are prayers of praise, exalting the divine plan for the ages, rather than simply the reading off of some wishlist to God as a kid sends letters to Santa before Christmas.

Now before anyone attempts to accuse me of hijacking this thread or something (such complaints have happened often enough for me to come to expect them Grin ); there is a valid reason for my post related to Asteriktos' last post...I just want to make sure that he's not judging Orthodoxy based on a few theologumena, but rather that he consideres the faith in it's entirety. Plus, anyone can provide simple logical and moral refutations of Augustinian Soteriology or Judaized Eschatology, but what would be far more interesting to read is an agnostic's logical and moral refutations of Apokatastasis and Neo-Platonic Eschatology.
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« Reply #7 on: August 03, 2006, 09:03:12 PM »

If you are going to write a book you will eventually have to learn the difference between its and it's Wink

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« Reply #8 on: August 03, 2006, 11:15:13 PM »

If you are going to write a book you will eventually have to learn the difference between its and it's Wink

Anastasios

Well Asteriktos, you'd better get busy...looks like you already have proof-readers and reviewers lined up Wink

Now wouldn't that be ironic, a book to debunk Orthodoxy from an Agnostic/Atheist perspective that was proof-read by an Old Calendarist Orthodox Christian and receives positive reviews from this Liberal Oecumenist one Wink...LOL...now you wont get that kind of support from evangelical protestants when writing against them. Grin
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« Reply #9 on: August 04, 2006, 12:58:48 AM »

Is Atheism a religion? Depends on how you define religion. If you look in most dictionaries, atheism qualifies as a religion under some definitions, and not others.


GIC,

Quote
...please tell me you're going to deal with more than just the fundamentalist and antiochian (read Judaizing) side of things. Any chance of addressing one of my pet dogmas? Perhaps Apokatastasis??? ...but what would be far more interesting to read is an agnostic's logical and moral refutations of Apokatastasis and Neo-Platonic Eschatology.

I do attempt to deal with the issues... though you will probably think that I've got everything bass ackwards. But then, that's normal. Wink

Quote
Maybe even a reference to Christianity being the Merger of Judaism and Paganism?

I'm gonna stick to the reasons I'm not a Christian, and that doesn't qualify. Wink


Anastasios
 
O eye no the diffrence i just donot care e-nuff to prufereed what eye tipe for gramatticalatical errs!  Grin
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« Reply #10 on: August 04, 2006, 03:12:38 AM »

I do attempt to deal with the issues... though you will probably think that I've got everything bass ackwards. But then, that's normal. Wink

Well, in the past you're presented some pretty strange ideas, such as an eternal hell and the lack of a final restoration of all which in the beginning emanated forth from the One back to the One (I'll concede, for better or worse, the preservation of the hypostases before anyone gets too excited)...so I just wanted to make sure you had things straight Grin

Quote
I'm gonna stick to the reasons I'm not a Christian, and that doesn't qualify. Wink

Well, as long as you concede that the roots of Christianity are platonic I'll be happy. Wink
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« Reply #11 on: August 06, 2006, 09:13:09 AM »

Asteriktos,

As one whose faith happens to rest strongly on my experiential and personal communion with the Saints (and this is something I admit proudly, knowing full well it may discredit me greatly in the eyes of many), I was wandering if you would have a chapter in your book addressing the Church's communion with the Saints as it is most intimately revealed in circumstances like this for example.
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« Reply #12 on: August 06, 2006, 09:37:23 AM »

GIC,

I wish hell were only a strange idea of some fringe element in Christianity... but I don't think it is. Wink


EKA,

Well, that's sort of a hard subject to deal with objectively... I mean, if you accept it then it's probably through faith/grace, and if you don't then how could you claim to have personal knowledge of it so as to speak about it? I was flirting with the idea of mentioning how late concepts like that came into the written part of Christian theology, but not going much further.
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« Reply #13 on: August 06, 2006, 02:26:06 PM »

GIC,

I wish hell were only a strange idea of some fringe element in Christianity... but I don't think it is. Wink

Well, if I believed that our All-Merciful God would throw men who were begging for his mercy into eternal damnation and torture and that their cries would fall upon deaf ears while he sat on his high throne mocking their suffering and feeling self-righteous along with his followers while others suffered...I would be an atheist as well. But, fortunately, that is not the view of God that I have, nor the one that I believe Chrsitianity Traditionally presents. It is a Judaizing abuse. So I just want to make sure that any presention of Christianity is fair and objective, recognizing the hellenistic philosophical influences; though I fear that you will, like so many other atheist/agnostic apologists, pick and choose from Christianity to make your arguments easier to make. It is trivial to argue that hell and eternal condemnation are inherently unjust, sadistic, and cruel and that these things conflict with the notion of being All-Merciful...it's far harder to make either an ethical or logical case against the Emanation of all things from and ultimate Restoration to the One.

I've seen a lot of books that make good arguments against Judaizing elements of Christianity, if you simply make another one of those you will add very little to the corpus of literature on the subject. But if you, instead, address the traditional Hellenistic Christia structures, forms, philosophies, and dogmas you will be creating something new and unique. Or at least something that would make me think, rather than something I could read through, agree with, and then simply dismiss as failing to address true Christian philosophy and dogma. Wink

Not that you probably even care what I think, but I thought I'd offer my two cents...I've never been one to wait until asked before giving my opinion Grin
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« Reply #14 on: August 06, 2006, 02:44:07 PM »

Well, if I believed that our All-Merciful God would throw men who were begging for his mercy into eternal damnation and torture and that their cries would fall upon deaf ears while he sat on his high throne mocking their suffering and feeling self-righteous along with his followers while others suffered...I would be an atheist as well.

Indeed.  Unfortunately this is the view that just about everyone in the (U.S.) secular world, and even many non-Orthodox Christians, seems to have in mind if one asks them.  The intellectual waters in society are so muddied these days with confusions, entertainments, half-truths, competing doctrines, and lies that it's a miracle that any American is still Christian even in name only.
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« Reply #15 on: October 07, 2008, 11:34:34 PM »

Are there any atheists on OC.net? I'd be interested to here what they have to say.
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« Reply #16 on: October 07, 2008, 11:56:28 PM »

I'm probably the only one right now...maybe we try a reverse of the above conversation with Asteriktos playing the role of the moderate theist. Wink
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« Reply #17 on: October 08, 2008, 07:08:43 AM »

So this Dan Barker is just a tyrant who become disillusioned with his former ideology of nominal Christianity and embraces a new tyranny of evangelical atheism under a false guise of "free thought." (a dredged up thread better left to rot)
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« Reply #18 on: October 08, 2008, 09:50:07 AM »

I have to say, though, that Dan Barker understands evangelism better than most evangelists/evangelicals.  He's right that it does absolutely no good to go into a conversation accusing your "recruit" (for lack of a better word) and belittling them.  But then he should know that, being a former minister.

Quote from:  Dan Barker
If you decide to be evangelistic, then ask yourself what you hope to accomplish. Are you trying to win an argument? To simply end an argument? To demolish the enemy? To chase bigoted theocrats from your door? If so, a combative approach might work. Ridicule might be an effective way to shut someone up, or to show them how strongly you feel.

However, ridicule is rarely effective in changing someone's mind. No one likes to be laughed at. No one wants to be told they are a loser. How do you respond to ridicule? Combativeness creates enemies. The purpose of an evangelistic atheist should be to make a friend. To win them over to the reasonableness of freethought. You can't browbeat a person into friendship. "Onward, Atheist Soldiers" is the opposite of freethought.

I find this interesting too (emphasis mine): 
Quote from:  Dan Barker
We think it is wonderful to observe how, if kept from the pressures of indoctrination, children in the natural state of unbelief feel confident in their thinking abilities, eager to learn, happy to challenge authority, willing and able to accept rational explanations, and capable of grasping right and wrong.

The fact that indoctrination can be eliminated ... The fact that there is no universal dictator, no sin, no cosmic guilt, and no hell ...

So children are capable of grasping right and wrong although there is no sin, no wrong? 

Mr. Barker also mentioned that he had a "taste of forbidden fruit" and learned something but never said what.  I'd be interested to know what it was.
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« Reply #19 on: October 08, 2008, 12:01:01 PM »

So children are capable of grasping right and wrong although there is no sin, no wrong? 

Right and wrong are social constructs necessary for the smooth functioning of the contract that formulates our society. The concept of sin is an attempt to attribute an absolute metaphysical significance to these social constructs. One can recognize activities that are necessary if society is to function without introducing metaphysical concepts such as sin and karma. In fact, I would argue that metaphysical constructs like sin and karma cheapen the significance of right and wrong within the context of the social contract. They suggest that we only refrain from 'wrong' activities because we fear bad things will happen to us; in the theory of social contract there is the reciprocative element, but more fundamental is the preservation of the contract itself, the preservation of society. It is a generally more sophisticated and complete approach to the concept of 'morality'.
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« Reply #20 on: October 08, 2008, 01:07:36 PM »

An extensive refutation of Dan Barker can be found here. http://tektonics.org/af/barkerd02.html
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« Reply #21 on: October 08, 2008, 01:14:51 PM »

Are there any atheists on OC.net?

Yes, there are. Quite a few people here deny the existence of Zeus. I personally find such denial of God appalling.
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« Reply #22 on: October 09, 2008, 06:00:55 PM »

Are there any atheists on OC.net?

Yes, there are. Quite a few people here deny the existence of Zeus. I personally find such denial of God appalling.

You imply that the spirit of Socrates is present here?  Wink
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« Reply #23 on: October 09, 2008, 08:02:37 PM »

So children are capable of grasping right and wrong although there is no sin, no wrong? 

Right and wrong are social constructs necessary for the smooth functioning of the contract that formulates our society. The concept of sin is an attempt to attribute an absolute metaphysical significance to these social constructs. One can recognize activities that are necessary if society is to function without introducing metaphysical concepts such as sin and karma. In fact, I would argue that metaphysical constructs like sin and karma cheapen the significance of right and wrong within the context of the social contract. They suggest that we only refrain from 'wrong' activities because we fear bad things will happen to us; in the theory of social contract there is the reciprocative element, but more fundamental is the preservation of the contract itself, the preservation of society. It is a generally more sophisticated and complete approach to the concept of 'morality'.
That's why atheist societies have been such paradigms of morality.
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« Reply #24 on: October 09, 2008, 09:57:25 PM »

So children are capable of grasping right and wrong although there is no sin, no wrong? 

Right and wrong are social constructs necessary for the smooth functioning of the contract that formulates our society. The concept of sin is an attempt to attribute an absolute metaphysical significance to these social constructs. One can recognize activities that are necessary if society is to function without introducing metaphysical concepts such as sin and karma. In fact, I would argue that metaphysical constructs like sin and karma cheapen the significance of right and wrong within the context of the social contract. They suggest that we only refrain from 'wrong' activities because we fear bad things will happen to us; in the theory of social contract there is the reciprocative element, but more fundamental is the preservation of the contract itself, the preservation of society. It is a generally more sophisticated and complete approach to the concept of 'morality'.
That's why atheist societies have been such paradigms of morality.
Exaclty. Don't communist goverments treat their people wonderful.  Roll Eyes
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« Reply #25 on: October 10, 2008, 01:58:53 AM »

That's why atheist societies have been such paradigms of morality.

As opposed to the utopias created by the armies of god, from the crusades to the jihadists. But the ideals of secularism, the ideals of the enlightenment, have created the only civilized countries in the history of the world. Even for Greece and Rome to ascend to the heights they did, the worship of the gods had to be minimized amongst the elite. Civilization and religion are inherently incompatible such superstitions are incompatable with the advancement of humanity.

Without religion, a state can be either civilized or barbaric...with religion, it can only be barbaric.
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« Reply #26 on: October 10, 2008, 06:19:56 AM »

That's why atheist societies have been such paradigms of morality.

As opposed to the utopias created by the armies of god, from the crusades to the jihadists. But the ideals of secularism, the ideals of the enlightenment, have created the only civilized countries in the history of the world. Even for Greece and Rome to ascend to the heights they did, the worship of the gods had to be minimized amongst the elite. Civilization and religion are inherently incompatible such superstitions are incompatable with the advancement of humanity.

Without religion, a state can be either civilized or barbaric...with religion, it can only be barbaric.
Tibet religious & isolationist. China non religious, expansionist & genocidal to Tibet. Cambodia destroyed its Buddhist religion & was ruled by the Khmer Rouge. France destroyed its religion w/ the French revolution & instituted the guillotine. Such hallmarks of human progress where religion was extingushed. Two sides to everything.
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« Reply #27 on: October 10, 2008, 12:25:20 PM »

Tibet religious & isolationist. China non religious, expansionist & genocidal to Tibet.

Tibet was a totalitarian theocratic regime...worth supporting only because of its opposition to an even greater threat: communist expansionism. And I would argue that communism is effectively a religious ideology in and of itself, it may not have gods and spirits (well, the common spirit of the proletariat could be regarded as this element), but it certainly has its saints and a very strong eschatological element to it...as well as an insistance that the ideology be accepted on faith, in discouraging free thought it behaves much like a religious ideology.

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Cambodia destroyed its Buddhist religion & was ruled by the Khmer Rouge.

The Buddhist monarchy in the person of Sihanouk, after being overthrown in 1970 by a pro-western secular government, allied itself with the Khmer Rouge in an attempt to regain power.

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France destroyed its religion w/ the French revolution & instituted the guillotine.

For all the horrors of the French revolution, the Republic was an improvement on the monarchy the French people had previously suffered under.

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Such hallmarks of human progress where religion was extingushed. Two sides to everything.

So you try to counter my statement 'Without religion, a state can be either civilized or barbaric...with religion, it can only be barbaric' with examples of secular states (not that a communist state can ever be truly secular, but that's another argument) that acted in barbaric manners? Take another look at your logic textbook then come back and try again.
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« Reply #28 on: October 10, 2008, 12:57:56 PM »

Tibet religious & isolationist. China non religious, expansionist & genocidal to Tibet.

Tibet was a totalitarian theocratic regime...worth supporting only because of its opposition to an even greater threat: communist expansionism. And I would argue that communism is effectively a religious ideology in and of itself, it may not have gods and spirits (well, the common spirit of the proletariat could be regarded as this element), but it certainly has its saints and a very strong eschatological element to it...as well as an insistance that the ideology be accepted on faith, in discouraging free thought it behaves much like a religious ideology.
So what? The people lived largely on the land & there was no institutional tyranny. Who is anyone to dictate as to how a society should live?

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Cambodia destroyed its Buddhist religion & was ruled by the Khmer Rouge.

The Buddhist monarchy in the person of Sihanouk, after being overthrown in 1970 by a pro-western secular government, allied itself with the Khmer Rouge in an attempt to regain power.
So ? What does that have to do with Buddhism?

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France destroyed its religion w/ the French revolution & instituted the guillotine.

For all the horrors of the French revolution, the Republic was an improvement on the monarchy the French people had previously suffered under.
Again, I do not fully understand what an oppressive institution of government has to do with a particular religion since the example in cambodia is an identical oppressive institution of government and its religion different.

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Such hallmarks of human progress where religion was extingushed. Two sides to everything.

So you try to counter my statement 'Without religion, a state can be either civilized or barbaric...with religion, it can only be barbaric' with examples of secular states (not that a communist state can ever be truly secular, but that's another argument) that acted in barbaric manners? Take another look at your logic textbook then come back and try again.
Well the claim that Rome progressed by minimizing its gods is to ask, "When?" Since the worship of the emperor as a god exemplifies the perfect example of human tyranny abusing the idea of religion for totalitarian rule. The fact that the early Christians were often referred to as "atheists" by pagan detractors shows that religion is not the villain it is made out to be. It may of been the impact of Christianity that actually & gradually de-emphasized emperor worship.


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« Reply #29 on: October 10, 2008, 06:14:00 PM »

I've been reading some of the comments above, mostly on the subject of atheist and religious governments. What many atheists like to do is accuse Christians, and other religions of oppressive governments, war, and persecution. Therefore, without religion, there would be more peace. I'm not denying that religions have caused war and violence, but atheists have also forced people to convert to their ideology/philosophy/religion (whatever they call themselves) in the past. In response to this, as I see above, and have seen in many places, atheists have argued that atheism had nothing to do with the persecution of religion in many communist regimes. Some have broadened the category, and say it was Communism acting as religious dogma, others have said that the state actually was religious where people worshiped their leaders, and some (less educated) say that the people in the Soviet Union were not killed for their religious beliefs, but for political reasons, or famines. Either way, I've run into very few atheists that will admit people were persecuted, tortured, and killed simply for not being atheists.

First of all, communist governments wouldn't persecute religious people unless it had that atheist element introduced by Marx. Maybe a similar comparison is the Holocaust. If Nazism wasn't Anti Semitic, it would not have targeted Jews. If Marxism wasn't anti religious, than there would be no need to persecute religious groups.

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And I would argue that communism is effectively a religious ideology in and of itself, it may not have gods and spirits (well, the common spirit of the proletariat could be regarded as this element), but it certainly has its saints and a very strong eschatological element to it
Doesn't America have its own saints? George Washington, Benjamin Franklin, Thomas Jefferson,Abraham Lincoln...etc. So is American Capitalism a religion? Where does one distinguish politics and religion?

Many have also argued that the Soviet dictators were treated as gods, and therefore the Soviet Union had a religious government. You could say that about many religious governments though. I myself could name some Roman/Byzantine emperors who had many heretics killed. Anyone here that knows the role of the Roman/Byzantine emperor knows that he was regarded as God's appointed ruler on earth. Were the people who killed the heretics trying to please the emperor or God? Was the empire exhibiting a sort of emperor worship?

And if the world would be so peaceful without religion, isn't that exactly what the Islamic terrorists say (in a different form)? The Islamic terrorists believe they are fighting for peace, because if everyone is a Muslim, then there will be no need for war. If everyone on earth was always a Christian, there would have never been any crusades, terrorist attacks (on Christians), or any religious persecution. If everyone were a Hindu, there would be no religious persecution. If everyone agreed on religion, there would be no religious persecution.  So it would obviously be the same case if everyone were an atheist.

My main point is, like religion, atheists are certainly capable of persecuting others for not being atheists, and it has certainly happened in history.
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« Reply #30 on: October 12, 2008, 01:29:15 PM »

So children are capable of grasping right and wrong although there is no sin, no wrong? 

Right and wrong are social constructs necessary for the smooth functioning of the contract that formulates our society. The concept of sin is an attempt to attribute an absolute metaphysical significance to these social constructs. One can recognize activities that are necessary if society is to function without introducing metaphysical concepts such as sin and karma. In fact, I would argue that metaphysical constructs like sin and karma cheapen the significance of right and wrong within the context of the social contract. They suggest that we only refrain from 'wrong' activities because we fear bad things will happen to us; in the theory of social contract there is the reciprocative element, but more fundamental is the preservation of the contract itself, the preservation of society. It is a generally more sophisticated and complete approach to the concept of 'morality'.

The two aren't mutually exclusive.  The society is necessary to the "metaphysic".

That's why atheist societies have been such paradigms of morality.

As opposed to the utopias created by the armies of god, from the crusades to the jihadists. But the ideals of secularism, the ideals of the enlightenment, have created the only civilized countries in the history of the world. Even for Greece and Rome to ascend to the heights they did, the worship of the gods had to be minimized amongst the elite. Civilization and religion are inherently incompatible such superstitions are incompatable with the advancement of humanity.

Without religion, a state can be either civilized or barbaric...with religion, it can only be barbaric.

Civilisation, barbarism, and advancement are relative to the society/"metaphysic".  They all imply morality, gods - as power sources, dogma - as ideology, and eschatology.
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« Reply #31 on: October 12, 2008, 03:05:43 PM »

The two aren't mutually exclusive.  The society is necessary to the "metaphysic".

Very true, society is necessary to the 'metaphysic'...but the 'metaphysic' is not necessary to society. Let's apply Occam's Razor and remove the unnecessary complexity.

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Civilisation, barbarism, and advancement are relative to the society/"metaphysic".  They all imply morality, gods - as power sources, dogma - as ideology, and eschatology.

These terms are relative, but merely relative to society. Metaphysics is merely an attempt at social abstraction (and a very poor one, I might add). There is no need for gods or spirits or even morality...we must merely be able to ask whether the quality of life is better in one society or another, would you rather live in the United States (or England, or Australia, or Canada, for that matter) or would you rather live in Iran, Sudan, or North Korea? Now I could spend pages setting up objective criteria from preservation of liberty to economic indicators (both of which generally go hand-in-hand) to relative global power to migration patterns. But I think you get the point that we can distinguish between civilized and barbaric societies on purely objective grounds.
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« Reply #32 on: October 12, 2008, 04:56:02 PM »

That's why atheist societies have been such paradigms of morality.

As opposed to the utopias created by the armies of god, from the crusades to the jihadists. But the ideals of secularism, the ideals of the enlightenment, have created the only civilized countries in the history of the world. Even for Greece and Rome to ascend to the heights they did, the worship of the gods had to be minimized amongst the elite.

Who was the Supreme Pontiff of Roman religion? Hint: Ave Caesar.

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Civilization and religion are inherently incompatible such superstitions are incompatable with the advancement of humanity.

Yeah, all those monks copying documents proved that.

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Without religion, a state can be either civilized or barbaric...with religion, it can only be barbaric.
Thank God Mother Theresa never came to power.
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« Reply #33 on: October 12, 2008, 06:44:42 PM »

Who was the Supreme Pontiff of Roman religion? Hint: Ave Caesar.

Yes, yes, religion is the opium of the masses and has been used and is used to control them. But I would argue that the opinion amongst the governing classes was more akin to Epicurus and Lucretius. Or do you honestly believe that the Senatorial Class, which grew up as peers to the eventual Emperor, actually believed him to be a god?

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Yeah, all those monks copying documents proved that.

Copying documents and preserving past accomplishments is hardly advancing humanity...the fact that they managed not to loose the majority of the knowledge handed to them is hardly to the credit of these monks.

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Thank God Mother Theresa never came to power.

If I believed there were some deity involved in that I would most certainly thank it. Though I believe I've already recently expressed my opinions concerning that hideous woman in another thread.
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« Reply #34 on: October 12, 2008, 08:15:40 PM »

Who was the Supreme Pontiff of Roman religion? Hint: Ave Caesar.

Yes, yes, religion is the opium of the masses and has been used and is used to control them. But I would argue that the opinion amongst the governing classes was more akin to Epicurus and Lucretius. Or do you honestly believe that the Senatorial Class, which grew up as peers to the eventual Emperor, actually believed him to be a god?

Given how Kim Sr. and Jr., Mao, Stalin, Hitler and Lenin were idolized by their circle, why not?

Remember a god, not the God.

But perhaps you are right, the senatorial class as a whole may have been too superstitious to be religious.

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Yeah, all those monks copying documents proved that.

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Copying documents and preserving past accomplishments is hardly advancing humanity...the fact that they managed not to loose the majority of the knowledge handed to them is hardly to the credit of these monks.

Always biting the hand that teaches you.

I'd list the various gifts of the monks to the advancement of man, but I'm sure you know then already.  Just refuse to give credit where credit is due.

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Thank God Mother Theresa never came to power.

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If I believed there were some deity involved in that I would most certainly thank it. Though I believe I've already recently expressed my opinions concerning that hideous woman in another thread.
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« Reply #35 on: October 12, 2008, 08:57:58 PM »

That's why atheist societies have been such paradigms of morality.

As opposed to the utopias created by the armies of god, from the crusades to the jihadists. But the ideals of secularism, the ideals of the enlightenment, have created the only civilized countries in the history of the world. Even for Greece and Rome to ascend to the heights they did, the worship of the gods had to be minimized amongst the elite. Civilization and religion are inherently incompatible such superstitions are incompatable with the advancement of humanity.

Without religion, a state can be either civilized or barbaric...with religion, it can only be barbaric.


This is soooo untrue.

The Old Testament was civil. Ancient China was civil. Bhuddist nations/countries were civil. Pre-modern Japan was civil. The Christian Church for the first 3 to 4 hundred years was way more moral and civil than the Pagan Roman & Persian State. Most Christians at that time were Pacifistic and they had a very high level of "Ethical MonoTheism". And alot of the Monks and individual Saints carried on that tradition for 16 or 17 hundred years.

And in the Protestant World, the Calvinistic/Protestant work ethic, along with the western christian addiction to Aristotle, made the western industrialism and rise of "natural" science possible.

With what you said, you would have to call, the Lutherian States barbaric, The Calvinistic Geneva State Barbaric, The English state Barbaric, And the American Colonies Barbaric. In the beginning stages of this Nation each state had it's own state religion....well all except for Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and maybe Maryland, although that was suppose to be Roman Catholic. But alot of the states had their own state christian denomination/religion. And you would have to call all of it "Barbaric".

And I heard stories, that some Eastern European cities were started by monks. The monks wanted to get away from soceity so they would move to an isolated place, the people who worked the fields would follow the monks, and the merchants who owned the fields would follow the workers, and thus a whole new town/city was build.

Now I don't know if this story is true, but what you said ignores alot of the civil benefits of religion.


So I disagree 100%ly.





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« Reply #36 on: October 17, 2008, 09:29:01 PM »

I have yet to see an atheist government that wasn't barbaric.
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« Reply #37 on: October 18, 2008, 12:11:21 AM »

I have yet to see an atheist government that wasn't barbaric.

Define "atheist government".
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« Reply #38 on: October 18, 2008, 03:43:00 PM »

Define "atheist government".

A government established on the principles of humanism rather than theism...a state that puts its citizens first and their gods don't even rate.
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« Reply #39 on: October 18, 2008, 04:03:34 PM »

This is soooo untrue.

Well, I was just going to let this topic die...but since some seem to want to continue the conversation, so what the heck.

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The Old Testament was civil.

LMAO...that has to be one of the most absurd things I've read on this site in quite some time, and that's saying something. The old testament is full of barbaric laws, genocide, slavery, misogyny, and tyranny...it is the epitome of everything that is evil and wrong about this world. You can make arguments about Christ having been a nice guy and having had some good moral teachings, fine, there are good arguments there...but no one is going to take you seriously if you try to defend the old testament, you might as well be defending the Koran or the Hadith.

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Ancient China was civil. Bhuddist nations/countries were civil. Pre-modern Japan was civil.

Yeah...maybe compared to the old testament, but not by the standards of post-enlightenment civilization. The very existence of a monarchy, and the aristocratic trimmings that go along with it, tends to move a society away from being 'civil' in the sense that it undermines individual liberty, freedom, and dignity.

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The Christian Church for the first 3 to 4 hundred years was way more moral and civil than the Pagan Roman & Persian State. Most Christians at that time were Pacifistic and they had a very high level of "Ethical MonoTheism". And alot of the Monks and individual Saints carried on that tradition for 16 or 17 hundred years.

So Christianity was pacifist when they had absolutely no power or authority and were a persecuted minority? Go figure. The real test of character is how people handle power and I fear that Christians haven't handled it any better than any other group and have handled it far worse than some (e.g. secular humanists).

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And in the Protestant World, the Calvinistic/Protestant work ethic, along with the western christian addiction to Aristotle, made the western industrialism and rise of "natural" science possible.

The pragmatism of their philosophy essentially allowed them to lay aside their religious beliefs long enough to accomplish something worthwhile.

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With what you said, you would have to call, the Lutherian States barbaric,

Yep...how many catholics were murdered by these states merely for their religious beliefs?

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The Calvinistic Geneva State Barbaric,

Yep...and I think Michael Servetus would have agreed.

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The English state Barbaric,

No problem...just look at English history from Henry VIII to William and Mary...hardly civilized.

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And the American Colonies Barbaric.

Salem Witch Trials...utter barbarism.

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In the beginning stages of this Nation each state had it's own state religion....well all except for Pennsylvania, Rhode Island, and maybe Maryland, although that was suppose to be Roman Catholic. But alot of the states had their own state christian denomination/religion. And you would have to call all of it "Barbaric".

Yes, I would call it barbaric...but the great thing is that we over came it, we rose above our barbaric past and are moving towards an enlightened future. Granted, we still have a long ways to go in establishing racial equality, ending misogyny, and granting equal rights regardless of sexual orientation...but at least we're moving in the right direction.

Quote
And I heard stories, that some Eastern European cities were started by monks. The monks wanted to get away from soceity so they would move to an isolated place, the people who worked the fields would follow the monks, and the merchants who owned the fields would follow the workers, and thus a whole new town/city was build.

Now I don't know if this story is true, but what you said ignores alot of the civil benefits of religion.

Actually sounds like an interesting story, I would be interested in reading more about it. But even if this is true, the fact that a few cities were built around something so fundamental to these people's lives is hardly a vindication of religion...especially if we consider how much more could have been accomplished if these people had dedicated their lives to science and reason instead of religion.
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« Reply #40 on: October 19, 2008, 03:37:37 PM »

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A government established on the principles of humanism rather than theism...a state that puts its citizens first and their gods don't even rate.

It seems to me as if you are trying to take every government with separation of church and state and claim it as being atheist. There is a difference from a religion neutral government and an officially atheist government. As far as I've seen, every government that has made atheism it's state "religion" has been pretty barbaric, and far worse than any religious government.

Atheists love to say religion is responsible for war and suffering, but atheism has acted the very same as a religion. Yes, I've seen several very odd arguments that somehow try and claim the Soviet Union wasn't an atheist government, it just doesn't work. It's like saying Nazi Germany really wasn't anti Semitic, or antisemitism had nothing to do with the Holocaust.
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« Reply #41 on: October 19, 2008, 04:11:15 PM »

It seems to me as if you are trying to take every government with separation of church and state and claim it as being atheist. There is a difference from a religion neutral government and an officially atheist government. As far as I've seen, every government that has made atheism it's state "religion" has been pretty barbaric, and far worse than any religious government.

A state that defines itself in opposition to a god is almost as absurd as a state that defines itself in service to a god. The simple fact of the matter is that there are no gods, no spirits, nothing metaphysical...it's just as silly to define the state as being anti-god as defining it to be anti-unicorns. The more reasonable approach to religion is just the one we find in American law...we neither outlaw it nor mandate it, infact it would be unbecomming to the dignity of our state to even acknowledge a religion, be it in support or opposition. Government should deal with serious issues, its opinion about vairous fairy tales should hardly come into play.

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Atheists love to say religion is responsible for war and suffering, but atheism has acted the very same as a religion. Yes, I've seen several very odd arguments that somehow try and claim the Soviet Union wasn't an atheist government, it just doesn't work. It's like saying Nazi Germany really wasn't anti Semitic, or antisemitism had nothing to do with the Holocaust.

The soviet union was technically atheist...but culturally Christian. Truth be told, Stalin was probably an improvement on the Tzars; granted, he committed the same crimes and atrocities as the Tzars and maintained the same culture of fear, but at least he didn't claim his reign to be sanctioned by some God and he couldn't claim that his evil tyranny would follow his subjects into the afterlife like the Tzars did. The culture that allowed for a Stalinistic reign was brought about by feudalism and the Russian Orthodox Church, without the tyranny of the Tzars and their Orthodox lap dogs the Communists could never have come to power...and even if they had come to power, they never could have ruled in the manner they did.

Of course, the real problem with religion isn't that it is directly responsible for violence and oppression...that's just the nature of man from our feral past. The real problem with religion is that it gives justification for people commit untold acts of evil and it can even be used by evil people to convince good people to support them in their evil and oppression...A no better example of this can be found anywhere than in the middle east today where otherwise good people are being brought to support tyranny and murder simply because their God says they should.

Religion is like anti-semitism...distasteful but harmless as long as it remains an ideology and is not acted upon. But once someone takes it seriously and acts upon it, it is capable of untold evil.
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« Reply #42 on: October 19, 2008, 04:26:10 PM »

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Religion is like anti-semitism...distasteful but harmless as long as it remains an ideology and is not acted upon. But once someone takes it seriously and acts upon it, it is capable of untold evil.

And yet the true outworking of the faith of a regenerated, godly man is something of great worth and beauty:

"Pure religion and undefiled before God and the fathers is this: to visit the fatherless and widows in their affliction, and to keep oneself unspotted from the world." James 1:27
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« Reply #43 on: October 19, 2008, 06:21:03 PM »

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The soviet union was technically atheist...but culturally Christian. Truth be told, Stalin was probably an improvement on the Tzars; granted, he committed the same crimes and atrocities as the Tzars and maintained the same culture of fear, but at least he didn't claim his reign to be sanctioned by some God and he couldn't claim that his evil tyranny would follow his subjects into the afterlife like the Tzars did. The culture that allowed for a Stalinistic reign was brought about by feudalism and the Russian Orthodox Church, without the tyranny of the Tzars and their Orthodox lap dogs the Communists could never have come to power...and even if they had come to power, they never could have ruled in the manner they did.

That's completely ridiculous, name one czar that killed even 1/50 of the people Stalin killed. No czar compares to anything of what Stalin did.

The culture before communist Russia was indeed very Orthodox, but to say it was responsible for the 1917 revolution is extremely ridiculous. Are we forgetting WWI? Religion wasn't hated by the common people, nor was it seen as an enemy. In fact, the first communists in Russia were also very religious. For example, on Bloody Sunday, the procession of people sung church hymns and carried icons. To you, it would have looked like a regular church procession. Atheism was forced on the masses by a few people, and they were tricked into it by Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin.
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« Reply #44 on: October 19, 2008, 07:44:06 PM »

That's completely ridiculous, name one czar that killed even 1/50 of the people Stalin killed. No czar compares to anything of what Stalin did.

You want to count beans...I'm arguing issues of quality, not quanity. Though I'm convinced that the only reason the body count was so much lower under the Tzars is because the technology and infastructure did not then exist to murder people in as efficient a manner.

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The culture before communist Russia was indeed very Orthodox, but to say it was responsible for the 1917 revolution is extremely ridiculous. Are we forgetting WWI?

You mean the war that Russia got into to protect what was essentially a religious ally?

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Religion wasn't hated by the common people, nor was it seen as an enemy. In fact, the first communists in Russia were also very religious. For example, on Bloody Sunday, the procession of people sung church hymns and carried icons. To you, it would have looked like a regular church procession. Atheism was forced on the masses by a few people, and they were tricked into it by Lenin, Trotsky, and Stalin.

Thanks for scoring a point in my favour.
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