This is a topic coming up on the Christian boards a lot and I figured I’d turn to the TA community for some insight. In referencing the atrocities of the crusades, the inquisition, etc. the typical response that comes back cites Hitler, Stalin , Mussillini, Kim-Jong Il and Mao for committing similar atrocities in the name of atheism. They throw out the names but fail to cite specifics.
In my research, I found Mussillini to have converted from Catholicism to atheism and then back to Catholicism, Kim-Jong Il apparently subscribes to the Juche religion, which supposedly is based on Christianity, simply replacing the trinity with the leader and his family, and I can never understand why Hitler even makes it onto the list… He was Christian and acting in the name of god.
As for Stalin and Mao, they ran an atheistic state, but were the atrocities associated with each really done in support of an atheistic ideal, or were their motivations provided separate of their atheistic views?
I’m not much of a history buff and my research has yielded very little useful information.
Hitler was a Catholic and never renounced that faith. In fact "Mein Kampf" makes many very explicit references to Christianity. Germany was very much religious back then and as long as priests didn't speak out against the Nazis, they were more or less left alone. It read "God With Us" on the belt of every Wehrmacht soldier
Stalin and Kim Jong Il are the poster children of personality cults. People are supposed to worship them. Very literally. North Korea has that perfected to an absolutely perverse degree. There are many shrines to the dear leader. Kim Il Sung (his father) became the "eternal president" after his death. The son is only the leader of the party. It's clearly an ersatz religion.
Of course none of that happened in the name of atheism. All of them were dictators who saw the church as competition. So they either allied themselves with them (in case of the Roman Catholic Church, which has a long history including Franco in Spain and many South American regimes) or fought them. Lenin and Stalin also played into anti-Tzarist resentment, because the Tzar was seen as god's representative. It was about power for them. Nothing else.
Btw, Juche is not a religion. It's a set of political principles that guide the state.
Aside from the cult of personality, NK practices mostly Buddhism and Confucianism, though most people are probably non-religious
Steve, from my readings, Juche is actually considered to be a religion by many... one source suggested it to be the 5th largest in the world (not sure how accurate that is). This is some of what I was able to find on it:
the Juche religion is modeled after Christianity. Instead of God the Father, the Juche religion worships Kim Il-sung, North Korea's original dictator who died in 1994 yet continues to rule as North Korea's "Eternal President" and official head of state. The Juche religion teaches North Koreans that upon death, they will be reunited with Kim Il-sung and be with him forever.
Instead of God the Son, Juche worships Kim Jong-il, the current dictator, who reigns as a surrogate for his dead father. And instead of God the Holy Spirit, Juche worships Kim Jong-soko, the mother of Kim Jong-il and the wife of Kim Il-sung.
Juche requires North Koreans to bow down daily to the three Kims' portraits, which must hang on the “best” wall of their homes. Neglecting proper care of the portraits is a capital crime.
You can't reduce it just to the personality cult. It mostly refers to the political principles of independence, economic self-reliance (only in theory though) and a strong military. The country's political actions are derived from that. As such is more like a political movement such as Marxism, Leninism or Stalinism.
A result of that is absolute obedience to the party and as such to the leader. But that's a result. Not the point.
To me it’s a fine line, but I’m still leaning towards it being a religion. If it looks and sounds like one….
However, if given that my above findings are incorrect, then I am inclined to take your side. Would be interesting to investigate either way. I certainly don’t claim expertise on the subject.
Stalin did the bad things not explicity because of his atheism. He had a twisted view of politics, his communism was nothing more than a political religion. His views were totally irrational and the opposite of a clear-thinking mindset one would expect from an atheist.
Also, whenever I hear the standard "Hitler was an atheist", the following quotes usually settle the matter:
Secular schools can never be tolerated because such schools have no religious instruction, and a general moral instruction without a religious foundation is built on air; consequently, all character training and religion must be derived from faith ...we need believing people. - Adolf Hitler, April 26, 1933, speech made during negotiations leading to the Nazi-Vatican Concordant
Today Christians ... stand at the head of [this country]... I pledge that I never will tie myself to parties who want to destroy Christianity .. We want to fill our culture again with the Christian spirit ... We want to burn out all the recent immoral developments in literature, in the theater, and in the press - in short, we want to burn out the poison of immorality which has entered into our whole life and culture as a result of liberal excess during the past ... (few) years. - Adolf Hitler, quoted in: The Speeches of Adolf Hitler, 1922-1939, Vol. 1 (London, Oxford University Press, 1942), pg. 871-872
Thanks... I'll use those for sure.
The idea that people act in the name of atheism is strange: we don't and I think can't. Atheism is not believing something. Not believing in santa can't cause me to take many actions really. It might cause me not to take some. There might be some examples you could eek out here to disprove me technically, but clearly rejecting a belief in god does not then lead you to set up a totalitarian regime. Of course believing in god doesn't either in fact.
Setting up a totalitarin regime is likely to come from all sorts of causes, but rejecting a belief in the existence one of more unsubstantiated deities really is not the cause of any actions.
It would be a better argument if one could show that there was a strong correlation between such totalitarians and those who rejected faith. You might then posit a hypothesis about some common cause perhaps: something that caused both.
But history is pretty clear that there is no such correlation - faith and totalitarianism go hand in hand beautifully. At which point...the argument's trying to link atheism (as opposed to atheists) as a causal factor in genocidal freakery are just rubbish.
Using atheists here is weaker as an argument - and demonstrable rubbish too of course. Quite a few of these folks seem to have have had moustaches. Should we look for a link there too?
It is true that Stalin, Mau, and Pol-Pot were atheists in a very strict, limited sense. However, I would say that the reason they didn't believe in God is not for any rational reasons, but because they themselves wanted to be God. So it's not so much that God didn't exist for them, but that the idea of God was a threat to their quest for ultimate power.
That's just my $0.02, however...