Sunday, January 10, 2010

Atheism, Religion and Genocide - Part 2 - The Khmer Rouge

I've heard and read a lot of religious people argue that atheism leads to genocide, on the grounds that some of the most genocidal regimes of the 20th century were atheist movements.  (I object to that assertion and will get to it in another post.)  They invoke the names of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot of the Khmer Rouge, and argue that a large-scale atheist movement will no doubt lead to millions of deaths, as caused by these people/groups.

History is not my forte.  I know some of the basics, but not too much else about Hitler, Stalin and Mao.  However, I'm a bit more knowledgeable of the Khmer Rouge and their reign in Cambodia, as I traveled there 2 years ago.  For the less-intelligent religious population out there, I want to explain some of the many ways in which the vast majority of atheists are different from the Khmer Rouge.

The Khmer Rouge were radical communists and an oppressive regime.  Among their acts were the following:

  1. Executing intellectuals.  This included people who could speak foreign languages, had educations, or even people who simply wore glasses.  Ironically, the Khmer Rouge's leaders were foreign-educated intellectuals themselves.
  2. Expelling all foreigners from their country.
  3. Closing down all schools.
  4. Closing down hospitals.
  5. Closing down all banks.
  6. Eliminating currency.
  7. Closing down the postal system.
  8. Destroying private vehicles and other private property.
  9. Forcing the entire population to move out of the cities and work in forced labour camps in the countryside.
  10. Setting up secret prisons in which prisoners were tortured and made to confess, before being sent off for execution.  Being found innocent of charges was not possible.  In the most famous prison, S-21, only 6 or 7 of more than 12,000 prisoners survived, and that was because they had skills which were useful for running or maintaining the prison.
  11. Breaking off relations with foreign countries.
Now, it should be clear to you that the average atheist in society is not like this.  If you happen to know any atheists who think the above actions are good ideas, then that person is a freak.  If you think all atheists are like this, or that people becoming atheists in large numbers would lead to these actions taking place, then YOU are a freak (and an idiot, and shit-for-brains, etc.).

If you still don't get the point, then here are some ways in which I, and all atheists I know, are different from the Khmer Rouge:

  1. I like intellectuals.  I consider myself to be one.  I have a good education.  I occasionally wear glasses. 
  2. I like foreigners.  In fact, I am a foreigner for an average of about 51 weeks a year.
  3. I like schools.  I believe that education is important, and that all people should have it.
  4. I like hospitals.  They're helpful.
  5. I like banking.  Note that I didn't say that I like banks.
  6. I like currency.  It's useful and necessary for my life.
  7. I like the postal system.  Note that I didn't say that I like post offices.
  8. I like private vehicles.  I don't own one, but I respect your right to.  Although, I'd like to see a large-scale movement to mass-transit in the near future.  I also believe that people should be allowed to have private property.
  9. I like that we have cities.  I don't believe in forcing people to live in any particular place.  I don't believe in forced labour.
  10. I don't like secret prisons.  I don't like torture.  I don't think confessions made under torture are useful or reliable.  I believe in an open court system and fair trials in a speedy manner.  I believe in the principle of innocent until proven guilty.  I don't believe that capital punishment is helpful.
  11. I believe that international relations are important.

I hope you can see that the Khmer Rouge might have been atheists, but they were also extreme radical communists, bent on complete control of the population, demanded a population too ignorant to oppose their ideas, feared foreign influence, and didn't have any respect at all for human rights or life, not caring if the majority of the population died in order to create their utopia.  Perhaps it was those latter factors which contributed more to the situation in Cambodia from 1975-1979.  If you still think it was the atheism, then could I suggest that it might have also been the fact that they had dark hair?


Jim said...

I do know, from my research in defending atheists from genocide, that Hitler was raised a Catholic. He was publicly against Christianity, but he never denounced it in his private life. Sources indicate that he attended church and prayed. He also was rumored to have the secret support of the Catholic church for his actions because he was exterminating the Jews, who are believed by the Church to be the killers of Jesus. In any case, he never formally called himself an atheist. And the Catholic church never excommunicated him. Which is odd, seeing as how they excommunicate other people for committing lesser sins than full-blown genocide.

Stalin was Russian Orthodox. During WWII, he set aside his claim of atheism and persecution of religious leaders, claiming that he received a message from God. But some claim that he only did this to quell the masses. Either way, most historians agree that Stalin's religious beliefs bore little on his horrendous acts. Stalin claimed that communism was his religion.

Mao was an atheist. As was Pol Pot.

But this is besides the point. Aside from Hitler, none of the others claimed to commit their genocide for or against religion. They were doing these things for power and for communism.

While they might have been against religion, they merely wanted power. Anyone standing in their way, atheist or theist, was removed.

Anonymous said...

TO follow up on Jims comment on Hitler , I think if you read Mein Kampf by Hitler and his many quotes in it you can come away with no other conclusion that Hitler was a devout Christian or at least someone who thought he was doing a Christian gods bidding.

Cypher said...

Mao is a real sad story. He REALLY wanted to help, but he just couldn't make it work. The great leap forward went to hell and so did the country, because he had absolute power.
This is what a theocracy would do.
Hitler has been explained, and as for Pol Pot, well he was apparently a Buddhist gone mad:
Pol Pot himself was a communist and Theravada Buddhist. Pol Pot studied at a Buddhist monastery (1 year) and then later at a Catholic school (8 years). Cambodia’s communism was influenced by Theravada Buddhism (the belief system of 95% of the Khmer people) and its teaching to renunciation of the material world as Pol Pot with his followers organized perfectly by smashing cars and modern industrial equipment with hammers.
He didn't believe in god, doesn't mean he wasn't religious it would seem.

Cypher said...

Sorry forgot my quotation marks, they are at "Pol Pot himself..." to "...smashing cars."

Pinkydead said...

This same argument applies well to Hitler wrt the Jews.

If Hitler was an athiest (which he clearly wasn't) what particular facet of a Jewish person bothered Hitler so much that he killed 4-6 million of them. The physical difference is hardly something to get het up about. And mentally, for an atheist, a Jew is just as bat-shit crazy as a Christian.

The only explanation of this stupid argument I have come across, is the moral argument: That athiests have no one to answer to so they can get away with genocide - but if you read the bible you'd think that genocide in OT Isreal was a sport.

Cypher said...

'That athiests have no one to answer to so they can get away with genocide - '
Not taking a dig at you pinky, but even this doesn't work because most atheists do live in societies and have to answer to the ACTUAL law.

Jim said...

Hitler's chief grievance with the Jews was that he was claiming that they were controlling everything. The Jews, to Hitler, were like demons, taking control of the world for their own gain. In order for the German people to rule the world, the Jews (their biggest opposition in Hitler's eyes) had to be removed.
Not to mention that he believed they murdered Jesus.

Jim said...

One note on the moral argument.

Religious types love for some reason to claim that atheists have no morals. But here is an interesting counter:

Why do religious types follow the moral code of the Bible? Because God said so. Okay, but why are they doing what God says? To get into heaven. Fine. They are not following the laws because they want to be good people, but because they will get some reward for themselves in the end.

Sounds like one of those deadly sins I always hear about.

Greedy greedy.

Cypher said...

This God we're talking about impregnated a girl of FOURTEEN, who was basically raped(chances are she couldn't have said no). Don't even fucking START on how all good comes from this murdering paedophile.

Anonymous said...

One question I have for Christians/Catholics whatever, Is why is the "devil/satan/lucifer" so powerful? If the devil is the root of all "evil" why did god give him all that power? So... suppose if I get into heven and rebel will i get the power of evil aswell? LOL

Feki said...

So, imagining a god is better than not imagining one? Is a theist more "murderous" because he doesn’t have a god to be afraid of? Certainly not.

+ Executing intellectuals ---> Inquisition
+ Expelling foreigners ---> Expulsion of Muslims and Jews from Spain. More recently, expulsion of North Africans from Italy
+ Closing schools ---> Intervening in school curricula to include religion and religious-based subjects
+ Closing hospitals ---> Closing down abortion clinics
+ Closing banks ---> Wealth condensation, particularly intense during Medieval times
+ Closing postal system ---> Censorship and media manipulation (along with the fact that Christians often go "postal")
+ Destruction of private property ---> Destruction of private reasoning and private beliefs
+ Forced relocation and slave work ---> Forced indigenous people all over the world to work in the highly irrelevant task of building churches
+ Torture, imprisonment ---> Inquisition, again
+ No relations with rest of world ---> Holy See severs relations with various countries as it pleases

On individual and social levels religious people are far more dangerous than atheists (e.g. correlation between faith and violence is stronger than atheism and violence).

And ultimately, by plain observation of historical events within the last 1000 years, it is obvious that Catholicism wins hands down on any genocide contest, closely followed by Islam.

Dumb_hound said...

Well, I completely agree it is absurd to blame atheism ( the belief that the existence of God is extremely unlikely) for all genocides cited above.
As the author said, it would be as rational to blame the hair colour of the murderer.

However, I think the very same fallacy is frequently commited by atheists who give example of religious people doing bad things and conclude that ALL religions must be destroyed.

How does for example the terrorist attack of 09/11 proves that all religions are evil and that therefore one ought to fight the amish ? According to the same logic, the nazis could give example of jewish folks acting badly in order to then draw the conclusion that ALL jews must be eradicated.

Feki said...

My question really was:

Is an atheist more "murderous" because he doesn’t have a god to be afraid of?

Cypher said...

An atheist is not more murderous because unlike psychopathy it isn't a mental disorder. If you're a killer, you're a killer. We don't kill for our cause, not with any sanctioning.
I want religion gone because it detracts from reality. These lies have our planet in a stranglehold and be better hope to whatever would be most appropriate that the first aliens we meet aren't fucking crusaders.

Jim said...

"I believe today that my conduct is in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator."

-Adolf Hitler

Cypher said...

I get that feeling that could also have been Bush.

Jim said...

"God told me to strike at Al-Qaeda and I struck them, and then he instructed me to strike at Saddam [Hussein], which I did, and now I am determined to solve the problem in the Middle East. If you help me I will act, and if not, the elections will come and I will have to focus on them."

-George W Bush

Unknown said...


I'm what you and Feki have called a religious type yet I'm not suggesting in anyway that to be an Atheist means you're going to go bizerk and start killing people. Sorry if my questions come off that way.

At the same time I've been wondering about morality as it's a moving target, with flexible definitions based on those that use it (to be fair we religious types make the same mistake). Human Nature perhaps?

I've been reading Ask Carole for a while now and I've noticed that her stance on morality changes often. If morality can change frequently for smaller things like this - why wouldn't it change for larger, more controversial issues? Why can't Carole's readership (and everyone else for that matter) change their opinion of right and wrong regularly?

On Hitler
I agree with you on the historical examples you've provided. Anyone that was unfortunate enough to be in the way of these people Atheist or Theist were removed.
In his Mein Kampf said:
"If nature does not wish that weaker individuals should mate with stronger, she wishes even less that a superior race (like the Germanic race) should intere-mingle with an inferior (like the Jewish race). Why? Because, in such a case her efforts, throughout hundreds and thousands of years, to esablish an evolutionary higher stage of being, may thus be rendered futile." [emphasis is mine]

In Aushwitz the words of Hitler are clearly stated:
"I freed Germany from the stupid and degrading fallacies of conscience and morality...we will train young people before whom the world will tremble. I want young people capable of violence-imperious, relentless, and cruel." [emphasis is mine]

Please don't misunderstand - I'm not trying to shift the blame here. I do want to know what he meant by making a statement like this. If I'm indeed taking this out of context please let me know (and provide the full & appropriate context). It looks like Hitler is playing both sides of the fence here or I'm missing something.

On Morals
Jim I'll answer why I follow God's moral code (I can't speak for all"religious types").

1. I'm not following God's rules because I'm trying to get to heaven. I'm following them because it makes life easier, I'm healthier and happier on a number of levels (e.g. physical, emotional, mental, etc).
2. I want to be good. The problem is that we as humans seem to be unable to be good to each other. We choose sides behind an ideology (theist or not) and then we use it as an excuse to humiliate, be cruel, or unkind to each other. I've noticed that Christians seem to have a knack for repelling others. Personally speaking I am tired of people being cruel to each other, my own personal issues, my slip ups, and my failures. I want to make a difference in the world and to make others happy.
3. I'm not following God to get some reward. It's just not enough motivation. I've always wondered would living forever be a major difference? If the life after this is anything like life here and now - I'd prefer to die rather than endure the problems. Not suicidal just declining on an offer if it's gonna be more of the same. Doesn't change my allegiance to God though.

Unknown said...

I have absolutely no idea how someone can claim Mary's age (especially with no body parts to test). It seems odd to make that sort of claim when nothing in the bible supports that claim. What's worse is that Joseph already had kids - so imagine what that situation would be like if she was that young.

I'm a Christian (Protestant). According to Hebrews 2:5-7 We're created a little lower than the angels. My opinion is that angels are powerful out of necessity if they're going to function as messengers and enforcers for God. Just my opinion though.

satan's abilities came before he became evil. satan has free will to attempt to "prove" his accusations against God (his name means accuser or slanderer).

You're right Catholicism wins hands down if there's a genocide contest.

Dumb Hound,
I agree that it's absurd to blame Atheism for all genocides cited above. And I also agree with you that it's absurd to blame religion for all genocides.

How do you know it's all lies? Why is it easier to believe in Aliens instead of God? (If I'm off base here I apologize)

Your quotes also have merit. People frequently say God told them to do something and there's no way to prove that or not. It's misused frequently (I have made this mistake before as well). It doesn't mean that God *actually* said it.

Jim said...

Here's the rub.

IF there is a God, how do you know He didn't say it?

And spare me the "My God would never say that," or "I know God," and so on.

The truth of the matter is, if there is a god up there, you, or anyone for that matter, have no idea what it is thinking. In all actuality, he could damn well be telling people to kill other people. Hitler could have been acting on God's orders. A mother who drowns her kids could be talking to God. God could very well hate us all, or he could simply want to "fuck shit up" from time to time.

No one knows, and to pretend to know how an omnipotent mind works is the pinnacle of egotism. There is no way anyone can prove that the Bible, the Koran, or any number of religious texts, philosophies, or deities are real. And if they were, there is no way a simple human mind can know what they are thinking. It amazes me that people can not grasp a scientific fact like evolution, but can claim they know how god works.

As for human morality, this has been explained before. It is impossible for society and civilization to prosper without laws and moral codes. It only makes sense. I do not need a god to tell me that killing everyone would be bad for business. It is implied. This is why civilizations on the whole tend not to kill everyone, or steal everything. Sure, you have your whack-jobs who get in charge and do their own thing, but to assume that you need some supernatural being to hold your hand and tell you that killing is bad, well that is just offensive.

Cypher said...

Eillix, I like you, welcome back.
You are a nice challenge to meet.

The point on age of Mary:
"At the age of twelve she was required to give up her position and marry, but she desired to remain forever a virgin in dedication to God. And so it was decided to marry her to a close relative, Joseph, an uncle or cousin, an older man, a widower, who would take care of her and allow her to retain her virginity."
She was pregnant before the marriage was even completed so she would have still been about that age. Let's not even count the creepy factor of that quote.
As to the all lies, my absolute statement was incorrect(most likely), but almost all of this is so likely to be untrue that placing hope in it is complete idiocy.
It DOES detract from reality though, because we focus everything on the man in the sky, who there is no EMPIRICAL evidence or actual need for.
As for aliens, i think you may have misunderstood a little(no sarcasm, and I may have misinterpreted you here too), as I wasn't saying that aliens were actually God, just that if(when) we meet the first extraterrestrial race, we better hope they aren't here to convert or cleanse.
They are easier to believe in because they do not require any bending of the rules, just the same effects which brought about terrestrial life to occur elsewhere.
I may have degraded as I have gone on since this is so long, sorry if any misinterpretations have come up, flag them if necessary:)

ANTZILLA said...

People who have faith in the bible don't have faith in God, but faith in that the people claiming to have spoken to by God aren't full of shit?

I chose to belief people are full of shit.

Cypher said...

I still think this is sorta active, so anyway...
Just a thought, but last night I saw some guys come into the movies (where I was) and they were covered in tattoos saying 'My God will judge me.' 'Only my God can judge me.' and bible references. I was genuinely afraid, because someone who pronounces their faith so loudly probably wont' take kindly to a nonbeliever. Despite not being near them, my survival instinct kicked in and I avoided them the whole night. Just a thought, but if a christian (or otherwise) saw someone with tattoos of 'There is no God.' and wikipedia page references, would they feel anything like this?

Cypher said...

Where is the love here?

ANTZILLA said...

How many people have been killed for blasphemy? Atheist don't belive in blasphemy therefore don't kill because of it.

Feki said...

Cypher, you made a very interesting point.

Religious types could not feel physically threatened by atheists. I do not know of any direct aggresion from an atheist citizen to a theist one. However, I think atheism makes theists feel SPIRITUALLY threatened to which they tend to respond violently.

It may be out of fear/frustation that we so easily expose the ridiculous nature of their beliefs.

ANTZILLA said...

There is a blog on a theist website with this topic. "debunking atheists" blog title is allah = yahweh

I would really enjoy you going to town on these retards. Basiclly the blog admin "Dan" is advocating punishment of blasphmy as it is against Gods law. Your excellent and clear message would be great to see on that blog