Friday, June 22, 2007

"Nobody expects the Spanish Inquisition!"

This short opinion piece by Kevin Myers is fascinating in it's central thesis that a belief in God, not necessarily the existence of God herself mind you, more often than not leads to a kinder, gentler society.

But here is the paradox. Rulers who believed in a Divine Creator have tended to create gentler societies than have atheists. The twentieth century was the first in which various avowedly godless states came into existence: and robbed of the inhibitions caused by a belief in the afterlife, the most astonishingly lawless regimes in world history emerged. The Aztec society which removed a heart each dawn from a teenage rib-cage to lure the sun-god from his couch, the Dahomey chieftain who daily dispatched a child to the afterlife to enquire after the health of his ancestors. Why, these were positively vegan compared to the godless butchers of the 20th century, the fine fellows who variously supervised human affairs from the Rhineland to Vladivostok, and from the Kamchatka Peninsula to the South China Sea. Their victims can be measured, not in the modest hundreds but in the hundreds of millions. The world has never, ever seen anything like the evil triumphs of the totalitarian secular states of the 20th century.

Which is not an argument in favour of the existence of god, merely one in favour of the belief in one: it is the social utility of a theistic faith which is appealing, not the fictions which lie at its heart.
It's a terrific argument but unfortunately grounded on tons of logical fallacies and historical oversights which Myers simply ignores.

First off the idea that religion and totalitarian dictatorships cannot commingle is ridiculous. I would suggest Myers check this page for just a couple of examples of how the Nazi state merged the Christian religion with the government. Hitler himself famously said "Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord." Another famous founder of a totalitarian state who later went on to found the Beatles, said "religion is the opiate of the masses."

Totalitarian states COUNT on the religious. They are the ones least likely to question, quick to dispense with personal morality when carrying out the greater will of the god/ state. I would argue that a large contingent of the faithful is a necessity to a fascist state.

Then there's the idea that the predominance of Christianity itself will lead to a kinder, gentler state. I'm sure all those who died in the crusades and inquisition would be quick to back up that idea. But violence and cruelty aren't limited to Christianity. What the hell is the Aztec sacrifice example that Myers uses if not as a demonstration of the violence of religion? Religion doesn't mean peace. It just means for more organized violence.


Don Snabulus said...

You can cherry pick history to prove just about anything (as long as you ignore the rest of it)...Barack Obama shouldn't be President because Idi Amin, Robert Mugabe, and other black men are responsible for the death of millions in Africa, so the tendency will be for Obama to do the same? Heck, only someone as stupid as Glenn Beck could say that with a straight face.

There has not been a kind or gentle government yet, so trying to compare forms of corruption and nasty in terms of religion is kind of stupid.

Dean Wormer said...

There has not been a kind or gentle government yet, so trying to compare forms of corruption and nasty in terms of religion is kind of stupid.


I think that's part of the genius of our own government that the founders recognized this and tried to put in place checks and balances towards complete corruption/ evil.

They could never imagine the men that would ignore those checks and that so many Americans would forsake their country in support of those men...

I'm looking at you Cheney.