Saturday, March 19, 2011

Some Atheists Are Wrong about Communism

In my opinion there is a large error being made my some atheists when they discuss Communism and any role atheism may have played in their actions against Christianity and other religions. One of the most notable that come to mind is Hector Avalos.

In his book Fighting Words: The Origins Of Religious Violence Avalos argues that, while political motivations were more of a factor, atheism did have a role in the actions of the Communists. Avalos writes,

Our discussion will show that Stalin’s reign of terror has as much to do with politics as it did with atheism. (325)

Despite this strong stance, Avalos later admits that,

[W]e cannot find any direct evidence that Stalin’s own personal agenda killed because of atheism [...] [h]owever, we also said that inference was also an allowable method to establish causation, and we can do the same with Stalin. Stalin did follow many antireligious policies that can reasonably be attributed to his atheism. (326)

This popular atheist is guilty of committing one of the same errors Christian apologists make when discussing this issue: the belief that anti-religious actions are inherently “atheistic” in some way.

As Avalos just admitted, there is no direct evidence that Stalin (and from my research, no other Communist) killed because he was an atheist. With atheism being a motivating factor out of the equation what else could be the cause? The Marxist Communist ideology. It is illogical to assume someone’s motivations by just looking at their actions while not taking into account how important another factor might be. This is especially true when we look at the writings of the Communists and study the ideology they supported and tried to implement, which gives us a very good insight into what the most reasonable motivating factor was: their belief that certain institutions hindered the socialist progress of man and one of those was religion.

Vladimir Lenin wrote,

The combating of religion cannot be confined to abstract ideological preaching...It must be linked up with the concrete practice of the class movement, which aims at eliminating the social roots of religion...It means that Social Democracy's atheist propaganda must be subordinated to its basic task - the development of the class struggle of the exploited masses against the exploiters. [emphasis in original] [1]

Lenin also wrote,

The deepest root of religion in the socially downtrodden condition of the working masses and their apparently complete helplessness in the face of the blind forces of capitalism, which every day and every hour inflicts upon ordinary working people the most horrible suffering and the most savage torment, a thousand times more severe than those inflicted by extraordinary events, such as wars [and] earthquakes. [emphasis mine]

- V.I. Lenin, The Attitude of the Worker's Party to Religion

Here are two more examples:

Religion is by no means the result of exceptional ignorance and darkness, just as it is not a question of simple logic, the result of false thinking. It has its roots in the social life, in the conditions of existence; it grows upon the soil of definite social relations and is determined by the class position in society of the one or the other group. - Communist Party Conference on Antireligious Propaganda, Article IX, April 1926 [2]

Here is another one:

To the query, “Does modern civilization need religion?” the Communist answer is “yes,” so far as decaying capitalist civilization is concerned. There, under the pressure of crisis, in an atmosphere of uncertainty and fear, religion serves as an escape mechanism for the classes which history has already condemned. - Julius Hecker, 1933 [3]

It was believed that religious belief was a necessary aspect of pre-socialist life but was not needed after the society transformed into a socialist one. The Communists’ attempts to create such a socialist society resulted in Stalin’s “Great Terror” and other atrocities since the population did not want to work on collective farms, and the Communists’ attempts to do away with all things they believed would hinder or be unnecessary in a socialist society, which included religion.

One thing you must ask yourself as you read through the above quotes: Do any of these mention atheism as the cause of their dislike of religion? No. It was their Communist ideology which caused them to believe that religion was a hindrance to their socialist utopia and therefore it had to go.

When I read the excellent book by Paul Gabel called And God Created Lenin: Marxism vs Religion In Russia, 1917-1929 he recounts many of the acts of persecution of religion and the murder of Christians that occurred in Russia by the Communists, and I can understand how reading these stories makes one wonder if perhaps atheism was an influence, though something Gabel does in his book that I haven’t seen in any other history book about Communism is explain Marxist ideology and how it relates to religion. This places the Communists’ actions, in a sense, in their historical and ideological contexts, rather than just telling story after story about how atheists murdered all of these religious people, which is exactly how the Christians like to frame the debate. However, to understand why the Communists did what they did you have to also understand their beliefs and then it becomes clear.

Because it’s never been demonstrated that atheism was a factor and all of the evidence points to the Communists’ ideology it’s my opinion that atheism was not a factor in motivating the Communists, and the Marxist doctrines look to be the sole cause.

Throughout the many books and websites dealing with this subject of atheism and Communism that I’ve read I don’t recall finding anyone making use of this very important and relevant information about the Communists’ ideology. With this post I hope that all atheists who wish to partake in this debate will take a little time to learn about the ideology of Marxism and Communism and this will hopefully raise the level of the debate on the issue because the subject of ideology seems mostly absent from this discussion, and I feel this argument is the best defense against this very common charge by Christian apologists.

In conclusion, I believe the error some atheists (and especially Christians) make when discussing this issue is they focus solely on the historical events of Communist Russia (the religious persecution, murder of clergy, and church closures) and not on the Communists’ ideological beliefs and how they were motivated by them. If one paid more attention to the latter subject I believe less people would be taken in by this Christian propaganda.

1. And God Created Lenin: Marxism vs. Religion in Russia, 1917-1929, by Paul Gabel, Prometheus Books, 2005; 90

2. Ibid.; 75

3. Ibid.; 75

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

David Marshall and I: The Saga Ends

A few days ago I noted a few comments about me and my review of The Truth Behind the New Atheism in the comments of David Marshall’s blog. I responded to Marshall on my blog and exposed his factual errors about his counter-argument, his hypocrisy, and his immature attitude.

Prior to this, in November of 2010, I had emailed Marshall in an attempt at trying to resolve our long-standing feud and I never received a much deserved apology from him, even though I apologized for my role in the dispute. Seeing his personal attacks and smears against me on his blog (his mentioning of the name change on and how I’ve supposedly “attacked” him all over the internet) reminded me of the emails and his false accusations greatly upset me, especially since I had apologized to him for my part in all of the drama. My hopes of resolving our dispute were badly let down when Marshall responded with a curt reply and refused to apologize to me for all of the rudeness and countless smear campaigns he’s subjected me to.

While I am very angry that Marshall refused to apologize to me, I was glad that he removed several of his very dishonest statements about me allegedly posting “pornographical posts” and other things and he apologized for the error. Though I don’t believe that single act can undo all of the ill will he’s shown me the last three years since we began our correspondence on the forums.

I apologized for my part in the disputes and he accepted my apology but doesn’t apologize to me. That really upset me. All I can say is that I tried to be the bigger man, apologize, and resolve our issues, but my hope that Marshall would act in kind was proven wrong with his reply.

Here is the email I wrote to him on November 13, 2010 titled “Truce.”

Mr. David Marshall,

This is probably long over due but I'd like to apologize to you for any wrong you might feel I've done to you. I admit that blurting out that you were a liar in some of our first discussions was not the smoothest way to handle the situation. I believed (and still do) that you weren't being honest in admitting some of your mistakes and I wanted to call you out on it. Looking back I should have handled the situation more delicately and I apologize. It seems to me that it was that particular situation that caused things to get out of hand and unfortunately we've never resolved it.

Despite my poor judgment you escalated the situation by beginning to call me a fool, among other put downs, and then you resorted to trying to harm my credibility by various means. Spreading around the fact that I made a mistake (which when it was pointed out to me I apologized immediately) in believing you had edited your post after the fact. Then, of course, your false claims that I'd never posted any arguments from my review on the Amazon forums. J.R. Fraser started this falsehood and you followed suit. Then, you've got your most recent statements I've found where you claim I've been sending you hate messages and something about “pornographical posts” on John Loftus' blog. I'm sorry, but I have not done anything like that. This is the only time I've emailed you so if someone is writing you obscene messages, I'm sorry, but it is not me. And as far as “pornographical posts” what in the world are you referring to?

Either someone else wrote you and you believe it's me, or you're outright lying. Unlike before, I'm trying to give you the benefit of the doubt, but I do not appreciate these dishonest things being spread about me. I also think the proper thing to do would have been to write to me first and ask about them instead of publicly posting these slanders.

I fully accept all responsibility for my name calling in retaliation for your above behavior and again I apologize. We are both to blame here so I would hope you'd accept responsibility for your actions towards me and apologize in kind. I do not know why you feel the need to continually spread these falsehoods but I'd like you to stop. I did nothing to deserve this behavior from you and it's obviously gotten out of hand.

We both allowed things to escalate to this level and I should have written you sooner, but with these newer statements you've been spreading about me I felt I had to intervene and confront you personally because this has to stop. I'm sure you wouldn't appreciate untruthful things being spread about you, so I'd hope you'd understand that I don't either. I'd be more than willing to talk about it and maybe I could even help you track down the person. No promises but I can do my best.

I'm willing to set the past aside and wipe the slate clean. Where we go from here I do not know. I just hope in the future we can move past all this and you can leave out the name calling and slanders when and if we ever correspond again. I wouldn't mind conversing with you, or even discussing issues in your book, but all I ask is that you treat me with respect and you will get respect in return. That is all I've ever asked for. That's not too much to ask is it?

I'm curious to hear your thoughts on the matter and hopefully we can resolve this amicably.



Marshall replies to me on November 14, 2010:


Thanks for apologizing.

I'll take your word for the fact that those messages came from someone else. I hope you can see why I thought it was you -- you have used a number of names to post, one of which was quite similiar to the one these were posted under, you have shown yourself clever about finding new on-line forums in which to attack me (and that is the right word), you have used foul language from time to time, I thought you were on the thread, and while going a bit further than you have in the past, perhaps, it was reminiscent of your worst comments to JR.

But I do not want to falsely accuse anyone. If you can remind me where I said that, I'll gladly delete or alter those comments.

I also apologize for getting this wrong, as apparently I did.

Considering all the vitriolic attacks you have posted against me in different forum on the Internet, I think that's about as far as I can go at the moment.

All the best,

David Marshall

I responded on the same day and I never received a reply. I wrote back:

Mr. Marshall,

Thanks for the reply. The two messages can be found here, one on Amazon and one on John Loftus' blog. Those are the two that I know of anyway. I haven't seen any others.

I appreciate your willingness to delete these. You mentioned a forum? What forum are you referring to? I'm curious to see these posts for myself and what handle the person was using. I was assuming someone emailed you and said these things.

I'm perplexed about your accusation since I've never “attacked” you. You've made this accusation many times and I do not understand why you think this. However, I think you are referring to the times I posted my review of your book on a few online forums, which I posted with my blog name, Arizona Atheist, and not any other so I don't know what you mean when you say I've used other names. I[n] fact, I believe there are only three places where I've posted my review of your book. On a forum called,, and Richard Dawkins' old forums, which are no longer. As far as changing my Amazon handle twice in the last three years I even mentioned the name changes in my profile and never denied changing my name. Because of this I find it hard to believe how you could think I did it maliciously in order to attack you.

In these posts all I ever did was ask people to critique my review...that's it. I never “attacked” you or any such thing. I wanted to get feedback on my review so I could correct any possible errors.That's the only reason I did it. Why you believe posting a review of a book to get feedback is an “attack” I just do not understand.

And, like I said in my first email, I'm sorry for my language but I was responding to your many insults and dishonest things you've spread about me and I simply got tired of it and lost my temper. The same with J.R. since he was the one who began that outright lie to begin with. My actions were in response to his attacks (and insults) against me.

I would really appreciate a sincere apology since I do fully believe I deserve one. I'm willing to put the aside the past and I don't see any reason why you can't do the same.

This is why I feel we must discuss this like men. You are accusing me of something (attacking you) when I've never done such a thing. My posts about you on Amazon were either 1. An attempt to have a debate with you; or 2. To expose the several false and misleading things you (and J.R.) spread about me on Amazon. There were no attacks, only several attempts to have an actual, civil discussion with you, and to set the record straight. If anyone has attacked anyone I'd say you've been attacking me for the last few years with the your actions I recounted in my first email.

Now, maybe you feel these are somehow attacks against you but I just explained my motivations. I also tried to make that clear in the posts themselves but for whatever reason you continue to feel differently.


I truly would like to resolve this.


In the links above Marshall did apologize on John Loftus’ blog and Amazon but his “apologies” were more of a defense of his actions than a true apology and he continued to post other false things about me, such as me wishing for the “death” of my opponent. This is just complete nonsense since the very person I supposedly said this to even admitted in a discussion I never said this!

On John’s blog Marshall wrote:

Note: It appears that I was partially wrong in something I said in this forum about another poster: “Angry Atheist" aka Ken?) A guy who, when confronted (not just by me) with the absurdity of his arguments, those he is willing to show, that is, laspses into fantasies about the death of his opponent, pornographical posts, and obscurity of the kind we all know and love -- I'm right because no one is going to follow me to THIS web site and prove me wrong? Ken tells me he is not Angry Atheist. If so, then he is not the one responsible for the pornographic hate mail. (He was, however, responsible for that other stuff I described.) There were reasons for thinking it was him, but I accept his word, and apologize for my error. I am glad to know Ken did not make those posts.

On Amazon Marshall said:

Ken: If you say it wasn't you, let's assume that's true. I apologize for my apparent error.

The apparent mistake was, let me point out, easy to make, since the pseudonym was similar, Ken has used several, the tone was similiar, and the posts came from a source that Ken participated in.

The rest of what Ken says underlines why the mistake (assuming it to have been one) was easy to make.

Anyone can do a word search for ¨David Marshall¨ and ¨Arizona Atheist¨ and see who has been ¨smeering¨ whom, and who has been (mostly) ignoring whom. Note, to begin with, the first article cited, dated well before the comment Ken objects to here.

Having corrected the error, I'll be happy to ignore Ken's posts again.

I responded to him on Amazon with the following:

I appreciate the willingness of Marshall to accept responsibility for *some* of his behavior but as for the post I linked to (which is in response to the post Marshall is referring) it's clear that post I had written called, I believe something like, the Lies and Distortions of Marshall, were again IN RESPONSE to several inaccurate and outright false claims spread by Marshall. As always my posts were in response to the distortions of facts that have been spread about me all over Amazon by Marshall and two of his buddies. While Marshall manned up and accepted responsibility for SOME of his actions he did not claim full responsibility for all of them. That is very telling.

His refusal to apologize has very much upset me. I tried to be the bigger man and tried to come to some kind of agreement, at least some kind of understanding where at the very least he stops his untruthful smears against me. I suppose all I can do now is to avoid making those mistakes again by not losing my temper and simply let Marshall, Fraser, and whoever simply flap their gums and make themselves look like the idiots throwing out insults and smears, and allow their actions to speak for themselves, rather then allow myself to get sucked into their petty and immature game. Anyone can view the evidence for themselves to see what happened and they can witness Marshall’s many unprovoked smears and outbursts over a number of years.

Sunday, March 13, 2011

David Marshall and I: The Saga Continues

I thought I had finally been done with Marshall but I was doing an internet search for any mention of me or my blog and I came across a short discussion between Marshall and I think another Christian asking about my review of David Marshall’s book on Marshall's blog in the comments.

The Christian wrote him inquiring about a few of my arguments and Marshall, in his usual dismissive and derogatory manor, simply dismisses me and Richard Carrier, all the while ignoring two out of the three arguments the Christian asked about! But that’s not all.

Here is the Christian’s first comment:

I found your blog after reading am alledged take-down of one of your books on this cite called az atheist and was expecting to find a response from you here but found nothing. Does the author's arguments hold water? Have you seen his complaints about your book?

Marshall’s initial reply:

Anon: Thanks for the question.

Ken (aka Arizona Atheist, aka Gifted Writer, etc) has been posting attacks on me on a variety of sites around the internet. After much prodding, I once read six or seven pages of one of his interminable "reviews" of The Truth Behind the New Atheism. There was, frankly, little in it that even seemed to address what was in my book . . . it meandered forever. Maybe later in the review he finally gets to the point, but I lost patience.

You can find my responses to Victor Stenger, Richard Carrier, John Loftus, Robert Price, Hector Avalos, and other serious or at least semi-serious writers on the Internet, in some cases on this site or at christthetao. Other critics I ignore, like Tim Beazley, who probably accounts for half a dozen of the "reviews" on the Amazon site for the New Atheism book. I'm inclined to ignore Ken. If you've read the book, though, and think any of Ken's criticisms strike home, I'd be happy to respond to the ones you think most telling. If you haven't read the book, I'd suggest you do that first -- my guess is most of Ken's criticisms will dissolve for most fair-minded and intelligent readers upon reading the book.

Marshall is still up to his old dishonest tricks. I’ve never “attacked” him and I can’t understand how posting a critique of a work could in any way be considered an “attack.” If all I did was insult him I’d agree but I don’t and I lay out many facts that demonstrably show Marshall to be flat out wrong on most issues.

Since Marshall didn’t even bother reading even half of the review he obviously didn’t see enough of it to make any kind of informed opinion and there’s his usual immature dismissive attitude again. I even made it a point to strictly address his main arguments, though I did also discuss side issues that I felt were related to the issues Marshall raised (which is likely what he’s referring to), but to say I didn’t tackle his main arguments is just ridiculous. Again, his lack of reading it in its entirety makes his opinion invalid.

The Christian replies by copying a few arguments of mine from the review:

Thank you for the quick response!

In his critique of the first chapter he argues that you’ve taken Justin Martyr out of context.

>>>>Marshall also quotes a few early christian apologists as to their views on faith. On page 21 Marshall writes, “Justin Martyr wrote, 'Reason directs those who are truly pious and philosophical to honor and love what is true, declining to follow traditional opinions.' Origen...argued that there was good evidence (in archeology, history, miracles, and prophecy) that the Christian faith was, in fact, reasonable."

It's odd, but Marshall doesn't even provide a direct quote for Origen so how can we truly know what Marshall is saying about about him is accurate? However, I do have a direct quote and it presents a much different view than Marshall claims. Origen said, "We admit that we teach those men to believe without reasons." [2]

As for Justin Martyr, Marshall neglected to quote the following from the twenty-third chapter of his First Apology:

"And that this may now become evident to you— (firstly ) that whatever we assert in conformity with what has been taught us by Christ, and by the prophets who preceded Him, are alone true, and are older than all the writers who have existed; that we claim to be acknowledged, not because we say the same things as these writers said, but because we say true things: and (secondly) that Jesus Christ is the only proper Son who has been begotten by God, being His Word and first-begotten, and power; and, becoming man according to His will, He taught us these things for the conversion and restoration of the human race: and (thirdly) that before He became a man among men, some, influenced by the demons before mentioned, related beforehand, through the instrumentality of the poets, those circumstances as having really happened, which, having fictitiously devised, they narrated, in the same manner as they have caused to be fabricated the scandalous reports against us of infamous and impious actions, of which there is neither witness nor proof – we shall bring forward the following proof." [3]

But what "proof" is he referring to? Nothing but the bible. Throughout his Apology the only "proof" he cites is scripture. Justin Martyr's argument summed up is not one of inquiry and evidence, but one of blind faith that the scriptures are true, and that's what he used as "evidence", when he never checked the reliability of such writings to begin with. According to Richard Carrier:

"You can read Justin's two apologies back to front and never once find any other methodological principle or source of his faith [other than the scriptures]." [emphasis in original] [4]

It seems it’s Marshall who has taken these early apologists out of context.<<<<

In the second chapter he says that you are wrong about Richard Sternberg and his persecution. He references a website that talks about emails contradicting Richard Sternberg’s accusations.

He also complains about your views on Intelligent Design.

>>>>I also cannot believe Marshall said that intelligent design can help to "keep evolutionary theory honest." How in the hell can it possibly keep the science of evolution "honest" when the people who advocate it use dishonest tactics in trying to get intelligent design to be accepted? The scientists that are misquoted [15] and taken out of context are a staple of creationist arguments; the often inaccurate and sometimes outright dishonest attempts at distorting scientific facts [16] are all very good reasons why intelligent design and its advocates should in no way be said to help the scientific community remain "honest." If anything that's an outright lie in itself.<<<<

The review is so long it would be impossible for me to mention everything I saw and I've already taken up two comments but these are a few things that jumped out at me that seem like decent challenges to a few of your arguments.

Marshall responds:

Anon: Are you Ken? If you are, that's fine -- I don't have time for a long debate, but I'll answer these questions, anyway. (I haven't even taken the time to read all Dr. H's challenges yet on other threads yet, still less reply -- and he's a friend!) But I'd prefer to know who I'm talking with.

I'm not taking Justin out of context. The issue is whether or not Justin thinks faith should be blind, believing without good reason, in other words, not whether his reasons are in fact good. So even if all his arguments stink, his position that faith should be premised on reason would undermine Dawkins' claim that Christian faith means "believing without reason, or in the teeth of reason." The quote I give shows that Justin does not think that, and so would arguments from Scripture.

It's also not true that Justin relies only on Scripture. Carrier is just wrong, as he is about many things, being something of a blowhard.

This is clear in the very next chapter to the one I cited -- chapter three of the 1st Apology, on the very first page of the book:

"But lest anyone think that this is an unreasonable and reckless utterance, we demand that the charges against Christians be investigated, and that, if these be substantiated, they be punished as they deserve . . . But if no one can convict us of anything, true reason forbids you, for the sake of a wicked rumour, to wrong blameless men . . . "

Justin is asking for a careful legal review of the evidence, which will show the charges against Christians are baseless. That is not an appeal to Scripture; Carrier is wrong. While an appeal to Scripture might be reasonable for Justin, given his premises, in fact that is not the context in which the quotation I gave is made.

The thing about Justin blaming demons for preempting the Gospel is a popular canard among Internet atheists. I sent an article partly on this canard to a magazine a week or so ago. Probably they won't print it, because naturally they don't want to get into a debate with people like Freke and Gandy (who seem to have popularized this.) If the article isn't printed, I'll probably post it here, eventually.

One of my main points in that article is that the Internet kills brain cells, by encouraging people to "read" people like Justin Martyr and Clement second-hand, rather than for themselves. You'll get hoodwinked that way every time, especially if you read someone like AA, who I don't think reads them for HIMSELF either, or Carrier, who is too much of a bigot to represent the facts fairly. So instead of answering your question about Clement, let me just suggest that you read the original -- which is well worth reading, as is Justin -- and make up your own mind.

There is so much that’s wrong here I don’t know where to begin. First off, it’s obvious Marshall has gotten paranoid in his old age, and he insults both me and Carrier to boot!

Second, did I say anything about demons? Nope.

Third, he did nothing to answer the objection because I’ve read Justin’s First Apology (and link to it in the footnotes in my review) and Carrier is correct that the only source for Justin’s beliefs and his “evidence” are the scriptures! Yes, he said that we should ‘investigate’ Christianity but just how does he want to go about that? He relies on what the bible says - that’s it. He did not check the validity of the things he had heard or read and therefore cannot be counted as an ‘investigation.’ Far from it! So, yes, I’d say Marshall takes Justin out of context.

Marshall claims that Justin doesn’t just provide evidence from scripture but I sure didn’t find any other evidence. And I did not just read Justin “second-hand”! I read the whole Apology myself - and more than once! And he insults Carrier twice without backing up his stupid assertion. This is yet another in a long line of examples of Marshall’s hypocrisy and is typical David Marshall...

The only other point that Marshall even mentions is the quote from my review about intelligent design:

On ID, I don't see anything there that needs a response -- it all seems subjective, ad hominem (and therefore boring) and tangential to my point.

Talk about ad hominem! Not only did I cite references backing up my claims but I simply said that what Marshall wrote was borderline dishonest...which it most certainly was! That’s not an insult...I’m stating a fact that’s backed with evidence. Because what I wrote was not in any way subjective - the evidence is cited right there in the footnotes - I can’t see how Marshall can make that statement with a straight face.

As far as what I wrote being “tangential” to his point, no it wasn’t. Marshall discussed a few things in that chapter but one of the main things is his belief that intelligent design shouldn’t be dismissed by scientists and should welcome the critiques and not just shut out the IDers and maybe evolution will be better off for it. So, again, no, that’s not in any way a diversion from the theme of the chapter. You can go read my take on chapter four and make up your own mind. You can also currently read nearly the entire chapter of Marshall’s book on Google if you don’t own it.

The other issue about Richard Sternberg was just ignored, as usual, just as when I’ve brought this error of his up in the past.

Marshall can’t even be honest with fellow Christians...

That just goes to show how poor Marshall’s arguments really are. He can’t - and won’t - even defend them when asked by Christians!