it depends on who it is they're talking about. you may be able to demonstrate that in fact the person wasn't actually an atheist.
but even if they were, it doesn't matter because there's no dogma or doctrine inherent in atheism that would dictate evil actions to someone. you can't go from "i don't believe in god" to "therefore i must commit this evil act"
this is different than religion of course. we can point to any number of instances of someone going "i'm a [insert religion], therefore i must commit this (evil) act"
Sophia, you know what I say? I bring up Steven Weinberg's quote: "With or without religion, you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion"
In addition, I make sure the people they quote were really atheists. People tend to falsely claim Hitler was an atheist when he was an avowed Roman Catholic. Atheism was never a "prime mover" for Stalin - communism was. Religion has been the crux of evil since the beginning of time.
And in regards to that Steven Weinberg quote - I beautifully see it illustrated in one of my aunts - who normally is a loving person but she becomes evil due to her deluded Islamic religious beliefs (my only nutty aunt). In fact - 25-years ago or so - we had a couple of family members executed - a girl who was only 16 (and I'm sure she was raped before being executed so that she wouldn't die as a virgin because "virgins go straight to heaven") for the simple reason of passing out Mujahedeen flyers....and when I was in Iran I went to her father's house (my dad's uncle) and you can still see the pain in his eyes like he is suffering everyday even after all this time (his son was also killed) - and my aunt justifies the poor girl's killing even today (although not in front of her uncle who is the father of the deceased).
The usual "victims" of this are Hitler and Stalin. Hitler was a Catholic and Stalinism was a secular religion - just like what North Korea has today. He replaced worship of gods with worship of himself. NK is absolutely perfected that practice.
In any case, no one kills or commits atrocities in the name of atheism. Atheism is just a byproduct of their overall ideology. In many cases totalitarian regimes simply see organized religion as competition. So they usually make arrangements with them or suppress their political power. Eradicating them is very rare and never really works. The Orthodox Church still exists in Russia today, and even NK has state-approved churches and Buddhist temples
Point out the other 99% of evil religious people?
1. I'd want to ask why they see a correlation between the bad acts of a person and the fact that they are an atheist.
2. If they insist there IS a correlation, then I'd want to point out all the instances of:
- Catholic priests having non-consensual sex with minors,
- abortion protesters bombing and killing doctors in the name of saving lives,
- Christians hunting down and beating/killing other people who love other people of the same gender,
- all the wars fought in the name of "my religion is the only true religion and all the others are not only wrong, but I have to kill you for it."
I usually ask Theists when this topic arises “So is it only because your god gave you a commandment that you don’t kill people? I prefer to take responsibility for my own actions. See Dawkins
People like Stalin killed not because they were Atheists but because they were corrupted by power. Gods or lack of were not their motivators.
Depends on who they're talking about.
If they bring up Hitler, kindly point out how Hitler himself not only believed he was a Christian (whether or not he'd be considered a Christian by so-called "Biblical standards" is useless as it depends entirely upon how one reads the Bible), but made a concerted effort to wipe out atheism from Germany and banned quite a bit of scientific work, including everything having to do with evolution. And if they bring up the Table Talks, you can note how the English copies we have were translated from the French version, which includes not only deliberate mistranslations, but in fact claims that Hitler said things he never even said! I have sources if needed.
If they bring up Stalin, or Mao, or Pol-Pot, I would note that these men were not so much atheists as they were dystheists. They viewed the invisible sky-daddy as a threat to their power, as their goal was to be God. So while they did profess atheism, it was not so much that they didn't believe in God as they wanted to be gods, and Yahweh was, of course, a threat to their goals in that sense (I would also note that the government these men ran was not Communism but Authoritarianism... it bared little-to-no resemblance to what Karl Marx wrote about).
I try not to argue against the past evils of religion, actually. But when this is brought up I just remind them that I oppose faith first, then religion. Faith is how wicked leaders convince OTHER PEOPLE to do shitty things. Religion is just the flavor of faith some of them used. Nationalism works. So does racism and sexism. I am opposed to them as well, but I am first opposed to the shit thinking behind believing any of them.
Tomas de Torquemada -- First Inquisitor General of Spain, supported expelling the Jews from Spain in 1492 and had 2,000 "heretics" burned at the stake under his tenure.
Pope John XII -- Murdered several people and was killed by a man who caught the pope in bed with his wife.
Jim Bakker -- Multi-million dollar accounting fraud
Adolf Hitler -- Devout Catholic, responsible for the deaths of millions of Jews, invalids, homosexuals, and gypsies
When people bring up so and so was an Atheist as to discredit atheism as a whole is ridiculous. Now, the same may be said about theists, except when a religious person carries out a crime, it is usually in the name of their God. However, bad people will do bad things whether they believe in a god or not.
With that being said though, you can see all the atrocities that are carried out in the name of religion. Show me atrocities carried out in the name of atheism. Stalin, Pol-Pot, the Kims of NK, Mao, and all others wanted themselves to be Gods and worshiped.
In addition to a lot of the above: "How was [insert exploits of said evil person] any worse than flooding the whole earth? God isn't exactly a nice guy either."
If they were right I will say 'ya they were' : ) but usually I will point they were also communist. 99% of the time they are referring to Stalin, Mao Zedong, Po Pot...etc. or pulling the Hitler card which is easy to correct.