Sunday, September 22, 2013

How to Really Stop Terrorism

There seems to be a lot of confusion about how to go about stopping terrorism. Many people foolishly advocate a “Kill 'Em All, Let God Sort 'Em Out” attitude towards the Middle East and believe that violence is the answer. There is a large problem with the so-called solution of these war mongers, however. They do not understand the history of the region and their views are horribly short-sighted and counterproductive.

While I am by no means an expert on the Middle East, I've been reading a lot of books about US foreign policy the last several months, and the history of US involvement there, along with Middle Eastern history in general. I firmly believe I know what is driving many of these extremists and it's not mostly religion, as a few of my Skeptic Ink colleagues believe it is. How will I demonstrate this? By citing the very words of those responsible for the terrorist attacks and the mostly non-religious grievances the Arab world has against the US.

What Specific Grievances Does the Middle Eastern World Have Against the US?

I have covered this topic in relation to the drone war, but I have not discussed the long-lasting grievances that Muslims harbor due to US actions in the region for the last several decades.

Contrary to the US propaganda it is not a “hatred” of Western values or democracy or even freedom that causes much of the Muslim world to hate the US. As a matter of fact, the bulk of the Arab world want precisely that: democracy and freedom. In addition, contrary to many atheist bloggers religion is also not as much of a factor as is often claimed.

It is precisely the actions in the Middle East by Western powers that have so turned the Muslim world against the US. Such actions include: In Iran, in 1953, the CIA aided MI6 (Britain's Intelligence Service) in overthrowing the democratically-elected leader Mohammad Mosaddegh because he wanted to nationalize Iran's oil. Due to the US and Europe's interest in Middle Eastern oil (and nothing has changed since) these two governments did not like Iran pushing out US and European interests so they decided to overthrow Mosaddegh. In his place, the Shah, who was much more favorable to US and European oil interests, implemented a brutal dictatorship that committed many human rights violations, including torture. The Truman administration turned a blind eye to these atrocities. [1] To quote Fawaz A. Gerges, a professor of Middle Eastern Politics, on this issue:

American officials overlooked how Iranian opinion would view their intimate associations with the shah, especially (as his regime matured) his repressive policies and widespread violation of human rights. Iranians viewed America as an accomplice of their tormentor, as providing him with pivotal political and military support and bolstering his rule. Anti-American sentiment took hold of the Iranian imagination. [2]

An enormous factor that has enraged the Arab world against the US is the West's unwavering support of Israel. After the first World War Britain's control over Palestine became a heavy burden due to the opposition of the native Palestinians who wanted freedom and independence. Britain turned the problem over to the United Nations who convened a panel of eleven members to solve the issue. Australia, Canada, Czechoslovakia, Guatemala, India, Iran, Netherlands, Peru, Sweden, Uruguay, and Yugoslavia discussed how to resolve the issue. Eight out of the eleven members eventually decided upon partitioning Palestine into Arab and Jewish states. The states that voted against the resolution (Iran, India, and Yugoslavia), as it turns out, correctly predicted that this solution would lead to much more violence. [3] The US began to actively support Israel during the Truman administration, who lobbied Congress to partition Palestine into Arab and Jewish territories. [4]

Anger towards the US in the Arab world intensified after the 1990 invasion of Iraq into Kuwait, and the ensuing international coalition, lead by the US, nicknamed Desert Storm, to expel Iraqi forces. Despite the outward appearance of good intentions by the US, the fact remains that the US used this war as a pretext to “consolidate American control of the oil fields by establishing permanent military bases in the Saudi kingdom.” [5]

Enter Osama bin Laden and the rise of Al Qaeda.

It was after the invasion of the US during Desert Storm that Al Qaeda began attacking US troops stationed in the Middle East and attacking US interests in the region. The first attack came on December 29, 1992 in Yemen when Al Qaeda detonated a bomb at the Gold Mohur hotel, where US troops had been staying. The troops had already left earlier prior to the explosion, but the blast killed two Australian tourists. It was the belief of bin Laden and other Arabs that “American actions in the Gulf War and afterward” were “part of a US conspiracy to establish military bases and dominate Muslim lands and siphon away their oil resources.” [6]

However, it was ten years earlier when the US first earned bin Laden's ire. This was the US's support of Israel's 1982 attack upon Lebanon that slaughtered thousands of innocent civilians. Bin laden explains his reasoning behind his ideological shift:

The events that affected my soul in a direct way started in 1982 when America permitted the Israelis to invade Lebanon and the American Sixth Fleet helped them in that. The bombardment began and many were killed and injured and others were terrorized and displaced I couldn't forget those moving scenes, blood, and severed limbs, women and children sprawled everywhere. Houses destroyed along with their occupants and high-rises demolished over their residents rockets raining down on our homes without mercy […] [7]

This excerpt is just a small part of a transcript of a speech given by bin Laden, explaining his motivations for his attacks upon the US. Here is the bulk of that transcript. Pay close attention to his reasons. Does religion crop up as a main reason, or is it the murder of thousands of innocent people at the hands of the US and their allies?

The events that affected my soul in a direct way started in 1982 when America permitted the Israelis to invade Lebanon and the American Sixth Fleet helped them in that. The bombardment began and many were killed and injured and others were terrorized and displaced I couldn't forget those moving scenes, blood, and severed limbs, women and children sprawled everywhere. Houses destroyed along with their occupants and high-rises demolished over their residents rockets raining down on our homes without mercy […] [7]
This excerpt is just a small part of a transcript of a speech given by bin Laden, explaining his motivations for his attacks upon the US. Here is the bulk of that transcript. Pay close attention to his reasons. Does religion crop up as a main reason, or is it the murder of thousands of innocent people at the hands of the US and their allies?
People of America this talk of mine is for you and concerns the ideal way to prevent another Manhattan and deals with the war and its causes and results. Before I begin, I say to you that security is an indispensable pillar of human life and that free men do not forfeit their security contrary to Bush's claim that we hate freedom. If so, then let him explain to us why we didn't strike -- for example -- Sweden. And we know that freedom haters don't possess defiant spirits like those of the 19. May Allah have mercy upon them.

No we fight you because we are free men who don't sleep under oppression. We want to restore freedom to our Nation and just as you lay waste to our Nation, so shall we lay waste to yours. No one except a dumb thief plays with the security of others and then makes himself believe he will be secure whereas thinking people when disaster strikes make it their priority to look for its causes in order to prevent it happening again. But I am amazed at you even though we are in the 4th year after the events of Sept 11th. Bush is still engaged in distortion, deception and hiding from you the real causes. And thus the reasons are still there for a repeat of what occurred. So I shall talk to you about the story behind those events and I shall tell you truthfully about the moments in which the decision was taken for you to consider. I say to you Allah knows that it had never occurred to us to strike the towers, but after it became unbearable and we witnessed the oppression and tyranny of the American Israeli coalition against our people in Palestine and Lebanon it came to my mind.

The events that affected my soul in a direct way started in 1982 when America permitted the Israelis to invade Lebanon and the American Sixth Fleet helped them in that. The bombardment began and many were killed and injured and others were terrorized and displaced I couldn't forget those moving scenes, blood, and severed limbs, women and children sprawled everywhere. Houses destroyed along with their occupants and high-rises demolished over their residents rockets raining down on our homes without mercy the situations was like a crocodile meeting a helpless child powerless except for his screams. Does the crocodile understand a conversation that doesn't include a weapon? And the whole world saw and heard but didn't respond. In those difficult moments, many hard-to-describe ideas bubbled in my soul, but in the end they produced an intense feeling of rejection of tyranny and gave birth to a strong resolve to punish the oppressors. And as I looked at those demolished towers in Lebanon, it entered my mind that we should punish the oppressor in kind and that we should destroy towers in America in order that they taste some of what we tasted and so that they be deterred from killing our women and children. And that day, it was confirmed to me that oppression and the intentional killing of innocent women and children is a deliberate American policy. Destruction is freedom and democracy while resistance is terrorism and intolerance. This means the oppressing and embargoing to death of millions as Bush Sr. did in Iraq in the greatest mass slaughter of children mankind has ever known and it means the throwing of millions of pounds of bombs and explosives at millions of children -- also in Iraq -- as Bush Jr. did in order to remove an old agent and replace him with a new puppet to assist in the pilfering of Iraq's oil and other outrages. So with these images and their like as their background, the events of September 11th came as a reply to those great wrongs. (emphasis mine)

All of these historical events have created much hostility towards the West in the minds of Arabs across the Middle East. It has been these events, and the continuing drone attacks in the Middle East, and the continuing establishment of military bases there, that continue to inspire hatred against the US.

Having laid out my case (a very strong one I believe) that the root cause of Arab hostilities is US foreign policy in the Middle East I cannot forget the role that religion does indeed play. One of the greatest roles is the fact that US forces have occupied Muslim lands and they see this as an insult to their religion. A poll from 2007 highlights these political and religious reasons.

[A]n average of 79 percent of respondents in Egypt, Morocco, Pakistan, and Indonesia agreed that the United States had sought to “weaken and divide the Islamic world”; a similar percentage believed that America wanted “control over the oil resources of the Middle East.” An average of 64 percent contended that Washington wanted to spread Christianity in Muslim lands. Three-fourths of the respondents in the four countries supported the goal of getting American troops and bases out of the region. [8]

I wanted to give an overview (which do not even take into account many other actions in the Middle East, including Obama's drone wars and Europe's virtual theft of Iranian oil in the early 1900's [9]) of the various grievances the Middle East has with the US and how many people in the region perceive US actions. This historical context must be understood if we are to offer reasonable and long-lasting solutions to these conflicts.

Possible Solutions to the Conflicts

Now that we understand the historical backdrop of the current events we can discuss possible political solutions to these conflicts. First, I've already covered elsewhere why a law enforcement approach is the best way to stop and detain those who may or have caused harm to innocent people. It is more effective at stopping the cycle of violence and it helps to prevent the harm of innocent bystanders. Second, by going after the root of these conflicts a long-lasting peace is much more likely to be struck and maintained. Once past grievances have been put aside, the cycle of violence can stop, and healing can begin, and a newer future for these countries can begin.

1. Urge the US to attempt to make amends for past and current misdeeds, such as the overthrowing of the democratically-elected Mosaddegh in Iran and support for other dictatorships in the region, such as Hosni Mubarak (before his ouster at the hands of the Egyptian revolution), Libyan dictator Muammar Gaddafi (prior to his overthrow and murder at the hands of the National Transitional Council forces), and the current Bahraini dictatorship, which hosts the US Navy's fifth fleet.

2. Stop the economic and military support of Israel. I believe it would be most fair to move all settlements back to the pre-1967 borders, per the United Nations Security Council Resolution 242, which states:

(i) Withdrawal of Israel armed forces from territories occupied in the recent conflict;

(ii) Termination of all claims or states of belligerency and respect for and acknowledgement of the sovereignty, territorial integrity and political independence of every State in the area and their right to live in peace within secure and recognized boundaries free from threats or acts of force

Due to the US's large amounts of economic and military aid it should not be that difficult to force Israel's hand in the matter.

3. Remove all military bases and service members from the Middle East.

4. Pay reparations to Iraq, Iran, Palestine, and every other Middle Eastern country the US has harmed due to its foreign policy decisions (invasions, economic sanctions, sabotage (the Stuxnet virus that the Obama administration released upon Iran's nuclear facilities come to mind), etc.). [10]

5. Help prop up the economies of many Middle Eastern countries that have been damaged by US sanctions, US interventions, and terrorist activities. Raising up the economies will starve the radical Muslim population of the support they gain by the destitute living conditions and US actions. In this way, radical groups will be marginalized, rather than strengthened, as is happening now with the US's current policy decisions in the region. To quote Jeremy Scahill on the issue,

But, as happened in Afghanistan, Iraq, and elsewhere, this strategy appear[s] to fuel the movements that created those “bad guys” in the first place. “If you use the drone, and the selected killings, and do nothing else on the other side, then you get rid of individuals. But the root causes are still there,” observed the former Somali foreign minister, Ismail Mahmoud “Buubaa” Hurre. “The root causes are not security. The root causes are political and economic.” [11]


I've laid out the motivations of the radical Muslim groups and have shown that violence will not solve the core issues. What needs to happen is a stop to the cycle of violence and a true reconciliation. Only by following many of the above guidelines and resolving long-standing grievances can the tension and hostilities finally end.

1. Understanding Iran: Everything You Need to Know, From Persia to the Islamic Republic, From Cyrus to Ahmadinejad, by William R. Polk, Palgrave-Macmillan, 2011; 111-115

2. Obama and the Middle East: The End of America's Moment?, by Fawaz A. Gerges, Palgrave-Macmillan, 2013; 40

3. Treacherous Alliance: The Secret Dealings of Israel, Iran, and the U.S., by Trita Parsi, Yale University Press, 2007; 19-20

4. Obama and the Middle East; 31

5. Understanding Iran; 62

6. Obama and the Middle East; 63

7. The Washington Post: “Transcript: Translation of Bin Laden's Videotaped Message” November 1, 2004 - accessed 9-11-13

8. Obama and the Middle East; 7

9. Understanding Iran; 95

10. The New York Times: “Obama Order Sped Up Wave of Cyberattacks Against Iran” June 1, 2012 - accessed 9-13-13

11. Dirty Wars: The World is a Battlefield, by Jeremy Scahill, Nation Books, 2013; 494

Monday, September 16, 2013

The Cause of the 20th Century Atrocities Was Not Atheism

In today's post I'm going to tackle a very common tactic by Christian apologists. Nearly every Christian interested in apologetics nowadays brings up this alleged trump card against atheists. Rather than attempt to defend or deflect the common atheist complaint about the numerous atrocities committed in the name of religion, Christians instead take a different approach. While it is admitted that religion often causes a lot of harm, it's argued that atheism has caused more harm than Christianity ever has. In this absurd game of one-upmanship with the Communists-killed-a-bunch-more-people-so-atheism-is-worse-than-Christianity argument, I believe something has gotten lost.

Due to Christians largely dictating this debate with their focus on the brutality by the members of the Communist party against religious individuals and institutions, many people (even some atheists) tend to focus on the violence perpetuated by Communists and not enough on their ideology, Marxism.

The way Christians frame this debate today, they bring up one act of violence and oppression after another and some have seemingly bought into the belief that because the Communists were atheists and they attacked religion, the reason must be because they were atheists! Even noted scholars such as Hector Avalos has fallen for this trap when he writes in his book Fighting Words: The Origins Of Religious Violence,
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 he later admits the following,
[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)
While I greatly respect Dr. Avalos, and I believe he's done fabulous research on other topics, I strongly disagree with his views about the motivations of the Communists. He seems to have fallen for the ploy Christians use to frame this discussion, often arguing that atheism is the same thing as anti-religion. This isn't the case, however.

One Christian in particular touts his experience in speaking with Christians who were tortured and brutalized “for their faith” at the hands of the Communists, and firmly believes he has the facts on his side. This person is David Marshall and in his 2007 book titled The Truth Behind the New Atheism he tries his best to formulate his argument that atheism was the cause of the Communist atrocities. In The Truth Behind the New Atheism he writes,
The New Atheists understandably want to think atheism had nothing to do with all this [the destruction of “China's spiritual treasures” by Chairman Mao]. “There is no evidence that his atheism motivated his brutality,” Dawkins says confidently of Stalin:

Individual atheists may do evil things but they don't do evil things in the name of religion. Stalin and Hitler did extremely evil things, in the name of, respectively, dogmatic and doctrinaire Marxism, and an insane and unscientific eugenics theory tinged with sub-Wagnerian ranting.

With due respect to Dr. Dawkins, but more to the living and the dead, he should find another debating point.

First, why is it “insane,” from an evolutionary point of view, to kill people outside your genetic or community line? Male tigers do it all the time, and Dawkins tells us Jesus wanted us to do it, too. He's confused about that, but he knows it follows from his own premises.

Second, has Dawkins never heard of the term “dialectical materialism”?

Stalin didn't kill alone. Lenin, Mao, Pol Pot, both Kims, Ho, Castro, Ceausescu, and Honecker were also atheists. In one-third of the world, Communist parties announced the death of God on billboards, chalkboards, radio waves, and blank walls. Secret worship services in homes, forests, and caves were forcibly broken up, along with the faces of many who attended. Millions were Tortured for Christ, as the title of a book by Baptist ex-con philosopher Richard Wurmbrand succinctly put it. They had rats driven into their cells, were made to drink urine for communion, or were put into the “carcer” (a cupboard with sides studded by steel spikes) for writing the name Jesus on a cell wall. Children of religious parents were kidnapped by the state and taught atheism in truly “Darwinian” state orphanages. None of that counts against the atheist record, according to Dawkins, because in some undefined sense these crimes were not “for the sake of atheism.” (197-198)
Marshall then brings David Aikman into the discussion, arguing,
David Aikman, former Beijing correspondent for Time magazine, wrote his doctoral dissertation on atheism in the Marxist tradition. Aikman examined the spiritual lives of Karl Marx, Friedrich Engels, and Vladimir Lenin, the founders of communism. He showed that the “systematic assault upon religious belief in Communist countries” had deep roots in the anti-God culture in which these men developed their ideas. (198)
In his dissertation, The Role of Atheism in the Marxist Tradition (1979), Aikman argues that anti-religious views or hostility towards god and/or religion is synonymous with atheism, which is why Marshall put so much emphasis upon the “anti-God” culture of the Enlightenment. For example, in his dissertation, Aikman writes,
This, indeed, is the case. The hostility towards religion in the writings of Marx, Engels, Lenin, and many other Marxist writers, is a well-known characteristic of Marxist philosophy. Some scholars even when approaching the issue from a variety of perspectives, have concluded that anti-religion is the dominant characteristic of Marxism. H.B. Acton, for example, a distinguished professional philosopher, has put it this way:

“Marxism is an anti-religious philosophy first formulated by Marx and Engels, who did not, however, attempt such a closely reasoned account of their view as a whole as Plato and Epicurus or Spinoza did of theirs." [1]
Another example,
The anti-religious and anti-Christian expressions of Marx's thought, in their overt and explicit forms, are scattered throughout many of his writings of the post-1848 years, both in his correspondence and in his major works like Capital. They indicate that his atheism, though it ceased to be the specific topic of his writings, is a constant in his world view. [2]
And once more, Aikman says of Marx's poems written months before he converted to Hegelianism,
It is the thoughts they express, especially towards their own spiritual fates [the characters in Marx's play], that make Oulanem such a rich source for the understanding of Marx's own emergent rebelliousness towards God. [3]
Even in his 2008 book, The Delusion of Disbelief: Why the New Atheism is a Threat to Your Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness, Aikman argues that,
[…] the twentieth-century ideologies that produced the greatest totalitarian evils, communism and Nazism, both grew out of a sustained philosophical rebellion against religious faith - in essence, atheism. That philosophical rebellion was birthed in the eighteenth-century French Enlightenment and first gained expression in political life during the 1789-1799 French Revolution; it attained its apotheosis in the Bolshevik regime that came to rule Russia after October 1917. [4]
It should be more than clear the problems with this argument. First, atheism is defined as the lack of belief in gods: a “without” or “not” and theos “god.” Where does opposition to god/Christianity come into the picture? Atheism is nothing but a negative and contains no positive assertions, such as “I hate religion,” or anything else. Second, even without making use of this philosophical and logical blunder, Marshall and Aikman completely ignore evidence as to what caused the Communists to act as they did: their Marxist ideology.

Regarding the evidence that it was the Communists' ideology and not atheism all one has to do is look at history, and not the distortion of history as it's presented by these Christian apologists in Marshall and Aikman. When you look at the quotes of the Communists themselves you can easily see this influence. What follows are a handful of quotes by various Communists:

"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." [5]

Here is another quote of Lenin's from a pamphlet titled Socialism and Religion from 1905,
The economic oppression of the workers inevitably calls forth and engenders every kind of political oppression and social humiliation, the coarsening and darkening of the spiritual and moral life of the masses. The workers may secure a greater or lesser degree of political liberty to fight for their economic emancipation, but no amount of liberty will rid them of poverty, unemployment, and oppression until the power of capital is overthrown. Religion is one of the forms of spiritual oppression which everywhere weighs down heavily upon the masses of the people, over burdened by their perpetual work for others, by want and isolation. Impotence of the exploited classes in their struggle against the exploiters just as inevitably gives rise to the belief in a better life after death as impotence of the savage in his battle with nature gives rise to belief in gods, devils, miracles, and the like. Those who toil and live in want all their lives are taught by religion to be submissive and patient while here on earth, and to take comfort in the hope of a heavenly reward. But those who live by the labour of others are taught by religion to practise charity while on earth, thus offering them a very cheap way of justifying their entire existence as exploiters and selling them at a moderate price tickets to well-being in heaven. Religion is opium for the people. Religion is a sort of spiritual booze, in which the slaves of capital drown their human image, their demand for a life more or less worthy of man.

But a slave who has become conscious of his slavery and has risen to struggle for his emancipation has already half ceased to be a slave. The modern class-conscious worker, reared by large-scale factory industry and enlightened by urban life, contemptuously casts aside religious prejudices, leaves heaven to the priests and bourgeois bigots, and tries to win a better life for himself here on earth. The proletariat of today takes the side of socialism, which enlists science in the battle against the fog of religion, and frees the workers from their belief in life after death by welding them together to fight in the present for a better life on earth.

Religion must be declared a private affair. In these words socialists usually express their attitude towards religion. But the meaning of these words should be accurately defined to prevent any misunderstanding. We demand that religion be held a private affair so far as the state is concerned. But by no means can we consider religion a private affair so far as our Party is concerned. Religion must be of no concern to the state, and religious societies must have no connection with governmental authority. Everyone must be absolutely free to profess any religion he pleases, or no religion whatever, i.e., to be an atheist, which every socialist is, as a rule. Discrimination among citizens on account of their religious convictions is wholly intolerable. Even the bare mention of a citizen’s religion in official documents should unquestionably be eliminated. No subsidies should be granted to the established church nor state allowances made to ecclesiastical and religious societies. These should become absolutely free associations of like-minded citizens, associations independent of the state. Only the complete fulfilment of these demands can put an end to the shameful and accursed past when the church lived in feudal dependence on the state, and Russian citizens lived in feudal dependence on the established church, when medieval, inquisitorial laws (to this day remaining in our criminal codes and on our statute-books) were in existence and were applied, persecuting men for their belief or disbelief, violating men’s consciences, and linking cosy government jobs and government-derived incomes with the dispensation of this or that dope by the established church. Complete separation of Church and State is what the socialist proletariat demands of the modern state and the modern church. [6]
Here are a few more:

"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 [7]

"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 [8]

"And here is the answer to all the attacks of the clergy: the Social-Democracy in no way fights against religious beliefs. On the contrary, it demands complete freedom of conscience for every individual and the widest possible toleration for every faith and every opinion. But, from the moment when the priests use the pulpit as a means of political struggle against the working classes, the workers must fight against the enemies of their rights and their liberation. For he who defends the exploiters and who helps to prolong this present regime of misery, he is the mortal enemy of the proletariat, whether he be in a cassock or in the uniform of the police." [9]

"It cannot be asserted once and for all that priests cannot be members of the Social-Democratic Party; but neither can the reverse rule be laid down. If a priest comes to us to take part in our common political work and conscientiously performs Party duties, without opposing the programme of the Party, he may be allowed to join the ranks of the Social-Democrats; for the contradiction between the spirit and principles of our programme and the religious convictions of the priest would in such circumstances be something that concerned him alone, his own private contradiction; and a political organisation cannot put its members through an examination to see if there is no contradiction between their views and the Party programme. But, of course, such a case might be a rare exception even in Western Europe, while in Russia it is altogether improbable. And if, for example, a priest joined the Social-Democratic Party and made it his chief and almost sole work actively to propagate religious views in the Party, it would unquestionably have to expel him from its ranks. We must not only admit workers who preserve their belief in God into the Social-Democratic Party, but must deliberately set out to recruit them; we are absolutely opposed to giving the slightest offence to their religious convictions, but we recruit them in order to educate them in the spirit of our programme, and not in order to permit an active struggle against it. We allow freedom of opinion within the Party, but to certain limits, determined by freedom of grouping; we are not obliged to go hand in hand with active preachers of views that are repudiated by the majority of the Party." [10]

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. Several of these quotes even display their toleration of religion and dislike of religious persecution. However, once religion was believed to be a hindrance to their socialists goals they then began to turn against religion. This had nothing to do with their being atheists, but their political ideology. Aikman and Marshall's argument fails not only on logical grounds, but also historical.

Having failed with this aspect of his argument, Marshall tries another tactic. He attempts to link atheism directly to Marxism itself. Above I quoted him as follows,
[H]as Dawkins never heard of the term “dialectical materialism”?
Marshall seems to believe this somehow links atheism directly to Marxism but it's obvious Marshall doesn't understand what this term means. Dialectical materialism is simply a belief that nothing but the material world exists, which doesn't even imply atheism in the first place since atheism is only the absence of god belief, not the immaterial world. If this were true that atheism was synonymous with materialism we wouldn't see any atheistic religions, such as animsim, which also contains beliefs about an immaterial realm. This early religion doesn't contain beliefs in gods (theism) but does contain a belief in an immaterial dimension. Some atheists even believe in the supernatural, disproving the notion that atheism and materialism are one and the same. They are separate issues. Secondly, this is a theory, first and foremost about history. Therefore, this dialectical view sees historical change take place based upon the tension between thesis and antithesis, which results in an advanced synthesis. This belief about history doesn't even need to be materialistic, but for Marx it was. In other words, materialism doesn't even logically follow from this dialectical philosophy. [11]

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. 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 will effectively shut down any attempt to use 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. The Role of Atheism in the Marxist Tradition; 2-3 - - accessed 8-19-12

2. Ibid.; 210

3. Ibid.; 124

4. The Delusion of Disbelief: Why the New Atheism is a Threat to Your Life, Liberty, and Pursuit of Happiness, Tyndale House Publishers, Inc., 2008; 101

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

6. Socialism and Religion, by V.I. Lenin, 1905 - accessed 8-19-12

7. And God Created Lenin; 75

8. Ibid.; 75

9. Socialism and The Churches, by Rosa Luxemburg, 1905 - accessed 8-19-12

10. The Attitude of the Workers’ Party to Religion, by V.I. Lenin, 1909 - accessed 8-19-12

11. And God Created Lenin; 74-75; Making My Way, by Robert: “Was atheism the cause of 20th century atrocities?” - accessed 8-19-12