In response to a series of posts on the proposition that evidence-based faith is not a morally acceptable justification for policies that deprive others of life, health, or liberty, a member of the studio audience choose to write:
I think that it might be more relevant to consider the irreligious people out there -- particularly the atheists -- who are calling for the sacrifice of my life, health, and liberty. The twentieth century is a catalog of atheist regimes regularly calling for such sacrifices on the part of religious people.
The purpose of such a quote is hate-mongering. There is no reason to make such an assertion other than an interest on the part of the person making it to promote an unfounded hatred and fear of atheists and, as such, to put atheists – as a group (regardless of the merits of any given individual) at a political and social disadvantage. It is, in short, an instruction to the reader to think of atheists as dangerous and morally inferior to "religious people".
To see this, we need to simply look at the fact that the author choose to identify these people as atheist. Is there, perhaps, some other quality that these people have in common?
One is that they were heleocentrists. Every regime that the author mentioned is one in which the leaders believed that the Sun was at the center of the solar system. And, yet, the author does not see fit to warn us of the injustices committed by heliocentrists. He does not think that we need a warning of the degree to which heliocentrists are disposed to take the life, health, and liberty of others.
Another quality that these twentieth century regimes have had in common is that their leaders all tend to be male. Yet, the author does not think that there is just cause to warn us against male leadership – against the fact that when males rule a country that our life, health, and liberty is at risk.
The reason for choosing atheist as the identifying characteristic, and not heliocentrism or being male, is because the author does not have the bigot’s interest in promoting fear and hatred of heliocentrists or males.
Indeed, we may assume that the author himself fits in both of these categories. His interest is in promoting hatred and fear of atheists. That explains why the author idenfitied atheism as the defining characteristic. This is the hatred and fear he sought to nurture with his argument.
The only avenues of escape for this author would be for the author to state that being an atheist is somehow relevant to the disposition to deprive others of life, health, and liberty, while being a heliocentrist or a male is not. When, actually, of the three, being male is more relevant to the disposition to deprive others of life, health, and liberty than either of the other two.
Yet, even recognizing this fact that males are more strongly disposed to take the life, health, and property of others than females, we still insist that it would be unjust to judge all males accordingly. People do not bring up the argument that violent crimes are almost exclusively commited by males is reason to hate and fear all males. Even though the premise is true, people recognize that morality still demands that each individual be judged on his or her own merits, and that the moral male is not to be condemned merely because one can point historically to great evils committed by other males.
Yet, even given this – even given the fact that a stronger link can be drawn for maleness than for atheism, and that with respect to males we do not allow the historical fact that males have committed great evil to be proof that all males must be judged culpable - the author of the above quote sought to make atheism the defining characteristic. He sought to portray the atheist as the person to be hated and feared, rather than the heliocentrist or the male.
Why is that? What desires lie in the heart of the person who would do such a thing?
What lies in his heart is an interest in promoting the unfounded hatred and fear of others – to promote their social and political denigration through whatever means necessary, regardless of whether reason or morality supports that position.
As I said, no other theory better explains the observation that the author sought to make atheism the identifying characteristic, when other common elements exist, some are more relevant than atheism, and in the cases that are actually relevant we recognize the injustice of making the type of argument that the author sought to make against atheists.