I have a comment from a member of the studio audience that I would like to use as a foil for discussing some principles regarding atheism, theism, and violence.
I am not sure you can compare atheism to religion, and a religious motivated murder to an atheistic one. Atheism provides no reasoning to kill religious people or anyone else. Many religious scriptures provides numerous reasons to kill others.
Notice that the author attempts to compare atheism with “many religious scriptures”. This is not a legitimate comparison. A legitimate comparison would be to compare atheism with theism.
I define atheism as “the belief that the proposition ‘it is not the case that at least one God exists,” is almost certainly true.” Theism, then, is defined as ‘the belief that the proposition ‘at least one God almost certainly exists’ is true.” The range between these two beliefs will qualify as agnostic for the purposes of this posting and will not be of any further concern.
The proposition, “It is not the case that at least one God exists” if true, would tell us absolutely nothing about what we ought or ought not to do. It is a purely descriptive statement and does not contain any value component whatsoever. In order to make value claims we have to add something to this proposition. Thus, it is true that atheism provides no reasoning to kill.
However, the proposition, “At least one God almost certainly does exist,” is just as empty. By itself, it tells us nothing about what we should or should not do. It is an entirely descriptive statement that has no prescriptive component at all. In order to make value claims we have to add something to this proposition. Thus, it is true that theism provides no reasoning to kill.
The other things that one can add to this proposition can include claims about reasons to kill. Yet, on this measure, the things that a person adds to the proposition that no God exists also can include claims about reason to kill. Here, too, atheism and theism are on equal footing. However, different bundles of additional propositions that one can add to atheism and theism may well be on different footings.
The author in this case commits the fallacy that atheists love to make when they want to promote an unreasoned claim of atheist superiority over theists. Instead of comparing atheism to theism, he compares atheism to “many religious scriptures.” Conversely, instead of comparing “many religious scriptures” to “many philosophies that hold that it is almost certainly the case that no God exists,” he compares “many religious scriptures” to “atheism”.
This is repeated where the author writes:
Unlike some religions, atheism is not culpable in the murder of a theist.
Here, too, we see atheism being compared, not to theism, but to “some religions.” The proper comparison for “some religions” is “some philosophies that contain the proposition that it is almost certainly the case that o God exists.”
However, some philosophies that include the proposition, “It is almost certainly the case that no God exists” is fully culpable for the murder of theists. The French Revolution and communism are examples. I agree and defend the claim that you cannot use Stalin as a reason to condemn atheism – and that attempts to do so are hate-mongering bigotry. However, I do not deny that you can use Stalin as reason to condemn certain philosophies that happen to include the proposition, “It is almost certainly the case that no God exists.”
The same is true of religion. 9/11 cannot legitimately be used to condemn theism. Attempts to do so represent hate-mongering bigotry. However, it provides us with a perfectly legitimate reason to condemn certain philosophies that happen to include the proposition, “It is almost certainly the case that a God exists.”
I agree that many religions get some of the moral facts wrong. However, many secular philosophies get some of the moral facts wrong as well. Ayn Rand Objectivism and Stalinism are two examples. Common subjectivism, act-utilitarianism, Kantianism, intuitionism, emotivism, all get some of the moral facts wrong as well. Because they get the moral facts wrong, they can all be used to inspire people to do things that, in fact, they should not do – or inspire them to refrain from doing something they should do.
If a desire utilitarian gets the moral facts wrong, then it, too, is a theory that inspires people to do that which they ought not to do, and to refrain from doing that which it ought. The fact that it is tied to the proposition that it is almost certainly the case that no God exists does not save it from the possibility that it is a godless ideology that might well be used to inspire people to commit murder.
In fact, every atheist philosophy either prohibits all killing or allows that there are cases in which a person may be legitimately killed. This is true by definition, and it perfectly matches what is true of religion. Every theist philosophy either prohibits all killing or allows that there are cases in which a person ay be legitimately killed.
And every act of killing that humans have written into scripture (which was invented by humans without any divine inspiration or intervention) can be written into a philosophy that does not include the proposition that God exists. Remember, humans invented the morality that they assign to God, and are perfectly free to invent the same morality and assign it to something other than God. Intrinsic values, perhaps,
There is no factual difference between the two.
The differences that are claimed are pure rhetoric. People do not embrace them because they have any roots in reason. People embrace them because they are useful pieces o rhetoric and, thus, have value to people who value the usefulness of a claim in promoting hatred more than they value truth and reason.