Sunday, October 27, 2013

Ten Common Myths About Atheists

1) Atheists Believe Everything Came From Nothing

Many theists believe there was once nothing, and then there was something—the universe—created by their god. And so they ask, “But if there is no god then how can something come from nothing?”

This question has been asked for thousands of years, but now Quantum physics has provided a basis for some atheists, such as Lawrence Krauss, to indeed believe the universe comes from “nothing.” But Krauss doesn’t speak for all atheists and he speaks of a very different kind of “nothing,” the kind where virtual particles are created from borrowed energy inside a vacuum. This is not even remotely close to what theists mean by the term “nothing.”

When asked about the universe, most atheists simply stop somewhere along the lines of “the evidence suggests the universe began expanding approximately 13.77 billion years ago.” Beyond that I’m fine with “I don’t know.” I don’t need to know. I do not believe the universe came from “nothing” in the way theists use the word or in the way Krauss uses the word. I don‘t think there’s enough evidence to reach a conclusion yet and I‘m fine with that. I’ve never met an atheist who believed everything comes from “nothing“ in the way theists use the word and in my experience, only a minority subscribe to the theory Krauss puts forward. Theists may believe the universe sprang from nothing, but they then have the burden of proving there was ever “nothing” and that “something” requires any gods at all.

2) Atheists Have No Morals

Humans are social beings, and as such we have morals. Some theists say atheists have no reason to be moral since we don’t believe in a god to instruct or punish us. This claim seems rather disingenuous when one considers that most theists who say this wouldn’t become immoral deviants overnight if they suddenly stopped believing in a god.

Studies have shown our morals are a product of multiple factors. The Milgram experiment shows authority plays a major role. The Stanford prison experiment showed the same, but also displayed the role of social hierarchy. The “good or evil” puppet test for babies suggests we are all born with a basic sense of fairness, justice, and unfortunately, bigotry. Human morality is too complex to be explained by religion or lack of it.

Millions of atheists across the globe live moral lives every day. Some don’t. Neither do some believers. There are atheist charities and atheist criminals. There are religious charities and religious hate groups. Religious people and atheists can both behave morally or immorally because of—or wholly independent of—their religious beliefs. One doesn’t necessarily lead to the other. Studies have shown the basis of human morality is present even before we’re exposed to religion.

3) Atheists Have No Meaning of Life

Even if humanity survives the next 5 billion years on this planet, the sun will balloon into a red giant, boil and possibly devour the earth before exploding and blasting out through the cosmos. The universe will continue to expand at an increasing rate, and eventually the force of gravity will be too weak for any new stars or planets to form. The universe will whither and die.

Some theists consider this and think without belief in an afterlife, nothing really matters in this life. Believing in an afterlife can influence one’s meaning of life, but a meaning of life doesn’t require belief in an afterlife. Some theists refer to Nietzsche’s nihilism as if Nietzsche were the be-all and end-all of existentialist philosophy. But humans generally define our meaning in the moments we enjoy and the goals we set. This was probably best articulated by Albert Camus in The Myth of Sisyphus.

I enjoy every moment I spend with my daughter, and one of my goals is to be a good father. I enjoy art, and one of my goals is to read, hear and see more of it. I like a large, hot cup of coffee while watching the dim glow of morning just before dawn. I love the serenity of canoeing on a sunny day and the soft crunch of fresh snow beneath my feet. I enjoy my friends and my family. Atheism does give life meaning because as an atheist, I understand this is the only life I’ve got.

4) There Are No Atheists in Foxholes

Yes there are. They even have a website. Nonetheless there persists among some this belief that atheism is generally disingenuous and that everyone cries out to “God” in times of need. This claim highlights a conflicting epistemology between the theist who is basing beliefs in part on fear and need, and the those of us who determine beliefs based on facts and evidence.

Their assumption also implies that when a theist cries out “Oh God,” they are literally trying to talk to “God.” I have several religious family and friends who say “Oh God” in all sorts of scenarios but are rarely actually trying to carry on a conversation with The Almighty. Even a theist saying “Oh God” in a foxhole is most likely not actually expecting divine intervention. The phrase is generally used in the same way as “Oh Shit,” which generally doesn’t involve any reference to actual shit. Even so, there are millions of people who’ve encountered life threatening situations and didn’t cry out about god, shit or anything else.

5) Atheists Just Hate God

About as much as we hate unicorns. Theists tend to make this claim when atheists assert moral opinions about supposed deeds of their deity. “How can you have opinions about something you don’t believe in?” The same way we form opinions about Darth Vader, Willy Wonka or the Wicked Witch of the West—according to their role within the story. It doesn’t matter if the story involves a Sith killing all the Jedi kids or a god killing a nation’s first born.

Just repeating the claim back usually gets the point across. Do Christians “hate” Allah? Do Muslims “hate” Jesus? Do Jews “hate” the FSM? Not believing in a particular religion is not dependent on a negative opinion of that religion’s deity or messiah figure. It’s simply the result of not being convinced because the burden of proof has not been met. I personally think Buddha and Lao Tzu both had great things to say, but I’m not a Buddhist or a Taoist.

6) Atheists Just Don’t Want to Submit to God

Well, one would first need to provide reason for believing there is anything to submit to. Lacking belief in deities doesn’t mean one doesn’t want to submit to what they don’t believe in. Like number 5, the point can be made rather easily by simply repeating this back to the theist. Does the Christian lack belief in Allah just because she doesn’t want to wear a hijab? Do non Catholics lack belief in Catholicism simply because they don’t want to submit to the Pope? Do Muslims lack belief Jesus was the embodiment of “God” simply because they want to continue justifying child marriages with the actions of their so-called prophet?

7) Atheists Are Angry

There once was a time when challenging religion was considered taboo. Some would like to hold on to that standard to save their religion from scrutiny. Those days are over, but that doesn‘t mean being skeptical of religion means skeptics are angry.

Being confrontational does not equate to anger. If someone told you Elvis was spotted buying T-shirts at K-Mart, their claims would be analyzed, scrutinized, debunked and in most cases, outright laughed at. I see no reason why it should be any different for religious claims.

8) Atheists Are Responsible for the Worst Atrocities in History

Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao were all atheists, so atheism must be responsible for the mass executions during said reigns—or so the accusation goes. This statement is usually a retort to blaming Christianity for the Crusades or Islam for terrorism. The fact of the matter is there have been Christians, atheists, Muslims and many others of different beliefs and non beliefs who have committed multiple atrocities throughout history. But there have also been some of the kindest deeds in history performed by people of all kinds of belief and non belief.

Stalin, Pol Pot and Mao did not execute people in the name of atheism, but rather for simply not submitting to them as if they were gods themselves. There is a long list of atheist politicians who never committed atrocities. Claiming atheism would lead to disastrous atrocities like those witnessed in the early Soviet Union is a hasty generalization fallacy which ignores all the good deeds of decent atheist politicians throughout time.

9) Atheists Are Guilty of “Scientism”

It must be difficult holding beliefs which cannot be justified with evidence. This leads some theists to conclude atheists all subscribe to “scientism.” This term is meant as an insult against skeptics for daring to ask for evidence when confronted with extraordinary claims.

Scientism is a philosophy which holds that science is the ultimate truth, and that science is the only way to truth. But preferring science to superstition doesn’t mean science is always correct. Scientists are humans and can make mistakes like anyone else. However, the methodology of science does work. That doesn’t mean science is the only way to truth. It just means it’s an effective method of attaining natural truths.

Many atheists are equally skeptical of science and religion. My first assignment in my college statistics class was to find three examples of misused data in the media. This same task had been given to each class for over a decade and no two people ever turned in the same three examples. I have also studied philosophy, including philosophy of science, and so I understand science can be wrong. I have yet to meet an atheist who believes scientists are infallible.

10) Atheists Are All Rational and Logical

This is one I hear mostly from other atheists. Some atheists like to consider themselves more rational than theists and ask why we should call ourselves atheists at all, as opposed to calling ourselves rationalists or some other such term.

But all atheists are not rational. Atheism is simply the lack of belief in deities. There are atheists who believe in homeopathy, ancient aliens, 911 conspiracy theories and a host of other completely irrational ideas unsupported by any stretch of logic. Just because someone arrived at the rational non belief in deities does not mean they are rational about everything else.

5 Things That Believers Can Do, But Atheists Can’t

Atheists actually miss out on a lot of activities that religious believers can participate in. Let’s go through the list, and see what you think.

1. Child Molestation

If you read the news at all, you will have seen country after country finally recognize that many Catholic priests abused, molested and in some cases raped children. This was often done over a protracted period of time. Very few of the individuals involved have been jailed (oftentimes because of an applicable statute of limitations), although many Catholic dioceses have had to pay some significant settlements, usually on an out-of-court basis. All too often, the offenders were not turned over to the police nor were the crimes admitted, even though these crimes were known to the higher authorities within the church. In some cases, repeat offenders were just transferred from one position into another. The senior authorities who were responsible for the cover-ups have, up until now, escaped justice altogether.

Fundamentalist groups often follow strict observance of physical punishment for children. These are the “spare the rod, spoil the child” types. Many Christians consider it their duty to apply corporal discipline to children. Some consider this practice to be imbued by the taint of “original sin.” Every year, we see reports of children brutalized under this doctrine (although some parents are being prosecuted now, if the harm is too egregious).

Jews and Muslims also ritually mutilate their sons’ bodies through the practice of circumcision. If an atheist sliced off the ear tips of their children, on the basis that kids never properly wash their ears, what would be the response? Just because someone claims that their god told them more than 1,000 years ago to mutilate their son’s penis, that makes it ok? We even allow Orthodox Jews to perform a ritual that involves the mohel, a “professional” practitioner of the circumcision ritual, to draw blood from the newly circumcised child by using his mouth. I can’t see an atheist putting his mouth on a 8 day old boy’s penis and not going to jail.

2. Animal Cruelty

It goes by the ritual name of being kosher or halal. Under this practice, an animal is slaughtered by slitting its throat so as to allow its heart to continue to pump the blood out of its body before it dies. Both Islam and Judaism prohibit their followers from consuming blood, so this is probably the underlying “reason” for the practice. Most developed countries require that the animal be stunned before being slaughtered, but give an exception to slaughter houses established for these “religious” practices.

I have read many apologist arguments that this is somehow not a cruel practice and that the animal dies very quickly. But this has never been supported by any independent study. I have seen animals slaughtered this way. It’s not fast. It doesn’t matter how sharp the knife is (which some authors contest is a critical factor in their support of this practice), the animal either dies from blood loss or asphyxiation if the windpipe has been fully severed. It is prima facie more cruel that stunning the animal first before killing it. If atheists killed animals this way, in most countries it would be illegal and we’d go to jail.

3. Practicing Medicine Without a License

Don’t you just love all the faith healers out there? Claiming to heal the sick,
claiming to throw out the demons whose presence caused you to miss that last promotion opportunity? The amazing thing is that if you are not healed, it’s not the preacher’s fault. God didn’t find you worthy of a cure. But then they don’t get “paid” to heal, they just accept donations...

If an atheist had a new “cure” for a medical condition and tried to sell it without going through the normal procedures for approving pharmaceutical products or medical practices—procedures designed to prove that they are safe and effective before they can be administered to the public—they would go to jail, or be sued, or fined for false advertising.

4. People Respect Your Opinions Without Evidence

Isn’t it wonderful how believers can justify a position they have on the basis that they are being guided by their faith? It would be rude to challenge them on this; after all, they have a “personal relationship” with their favorite god. Does this mean God leaves you voice mails on your phone? Maybe you’re his “friend” on Facebook? Why are they not worried about climate change? Because we are in the “end times.” How do they know this? Because of the “signs” that they interpret to be in accord with something someone wrote ages ago. Never mind that they have been wrong about this numerous times in the past.

How about evolution? No, they have creationism and intelligent design. Any evidence for this, like a new species just popping into existence recently? How about the great global flood? Any evidence at all? Archeology, astronomy, geology, biogenetics, and paleontology have conclusively demonstrated that:

1. The universe, earth and animal life were not created in 7 days;

2. Water did not predate the creation of the universe and the earth;

3. There was no global flood;

4. There was no exodus of the Hebrews from Egypt (or wandering in the desert for 40 years);

5. The Hebrews didn’t conquer Canaan, they were Canaanites already themselves, they spoke a Canaanite language, and originally worshipped El, a Canaanite god;

6. The moon never split in two;

7. There was no iron-using civilization in America with millions of people fighting huge battles before the advent of the Europeans;

8. and so on and so forth.

Yet when faced with a complete lack of evidence, religious believers expect others to “respect” their beliefs about these things and not laugh at them. Apparently, if you’re a believer, having faith is all about being able to believe the most patently ridiculous things, and not be criticized or ridiculed for it. There is no such thing as a peer-reviewed paper in religion. Anyone can interpret the holy books anyway they want, and there is no way to prove them wrong. If an atheist wants people to believe in something, they need evidence to back it up and any test results must be capable of duplication.

5. You Get to Take Things That Aren’t Yours, Because God Gave It to You

The whole state of Israel falls into this category, and not just the illegal occupation of the lands outside the 1967 borders. In every other context, invading another country, taking their land, and then putting your own people on it, is considered to be ethnic cleansing. It was ethnic cleansing when the Serbs and Croats did it to each other and to the Bosnians. It was ethnic cleansing when the Germans settled people in occupied Poland, Ukraine and Russia in WWII. The action is always the same—you kill the original owners, or drive them away, or make them afraid to stay. Any who remain lose their land rights to the new preferred settlers and usually get stuck in a sort of ghetto (like the Palestinian refugee camps now, or the limits on Palestinian building in occupied territories).

But when the Jews did it to the local Muslims (and some Christians too) at the time of the formation of Israel and subsequently, it wasn’t (and still isn’t) considered ethnic cleansing by much of the world–especially in the US. They are just going back to their “promised land” (even though the land promised by YHWH in the Hebrew Torah is different than the land occupied by Israel today). Never mind that the Egyptians controlled it on and off before the two small kingdoms of Israel and Judea ever existed. Never mind that it has been the property of many other nation-states over the course of recorded history. God gave it to them, so they are entitled to it.

Manifest Destiny

The American concept of “manifest destiny” falls somewhat into this category too. Although no one at the time said overtly that the Christian God had given the land to them, much of the writing during that time had heavy religious overtones. The Christian European settlers were more “entitled” to the land than were the Native American peoples, who were also heathens. There was also no small amount of racism in this as well. The same is true for the period of the Spanish and Portuguese conquests of South America, and the English occupation of Australia, Canada and New Zealand. Many of the horrors that were visited upon the local peoples were justified in the name of religion—a religion which was deemed superior to the beliefs of the native peoples, whose conversion (often forcibly) into Christianity was considered part of the divine plan.

I do not see atheists having any chance of being able to take over territory as their new “homeland” to save themselves from possible persecution by others, nor to be allowed to forcibly convert religious believers. One thing the Jews, Christians and Muslims can all agree on is that they don’t like atheists.

God-Men: Atheism & The Cults of Personality

One of the first things you might want to say while on a first date with an atheist is “but weren't Stalin, Mao and Hitler atheists?” It may be an attempt to direct his or her attention to a seemingly significant quandary, or it may be that atheism is a turn-off and you just don't want to spend the remaining twenty minutes until the meal is served learning more about the person or that branch of philosophy. Knowing that this question is not just for casual conversations but also raised in major debates, this particular individual will choose to eat a cold meal rather than let you score a debate point.

Atheism is an acknowledgment that there is no evidence for the existence of any god, deity or theistic being of any kind. While this is used mainly to apply to men who claimed to be gods several thousand years ago, it is not a static observation. Atheism is as much against the “cults of personality” that men like Hitler, Stalin, Mao and scores of others created. If you call yourself an “atheist,” that does not mean that you have the freedom to replace Jesus and Muhammad with your own good self.
Hitler the Deliverer

Adolf Hitler was not an atheist. He often criticized Christianity as being too “weak” for his taste, but that doesn't make him an atheist, because that is not what atheism is about, is it? By the same token, he spoke of Islam as the only religion he truly admired, and mused about how the German people would have been the natural leaders of the “Ummah” (Muslim world) had they adopted the religion of Muhammad. Hitler hated Hinduism because of the polytheism, idol worship and "inferior" race of its adherents, and rejected suggestions about bringing back the old pagan Germanic gods, as they had been clearly “defeated” by the religion of Christ. Notice that none of the reasons included the words “There is no evidence...”

Hitler believed in God, but in varying degrees throughout his life. When Hitler narrowly escaped death in the trenches during the First World War, he believed he had been saved by God in order to fulfill a greater purpose. From the 1920s, Hitler's speeches often included clear references to doing “God's work.” The Nazi SS took an oath to Hitler and God. Hitler's first political pact was made with the Roman Catholic Church, which agreed not to stand in the way of Hitler's dismantling of the Catholic Center Party (one of the key conservative parties in Germany) and permitted Catholic priests to lead a weekly prayer for the Fuhrer directly from the pew, in turn for Catholic Church monopoly over schooling in Germany. Hitler had revealed his secret plan for the destruction of the Jewish people to the Mufti of Jerusalem, Haji Amin al-Husseini, before he did to other senior Nazi party confidantes. He enlisted the Mufti's help to recruit thousands of Bosnian Muslim soldiers into the German army and even the Waffen SS. No atheist worth his or her name would ever contemplate making any pacts, let alone indulge in such sinister scheming as Hitler allowed himself to make with the leaders of multiple religions.

Hitler was not a follower, he was a leader—of a cult of personality. He wanted the German people and sympathizers of his cause everywhere to believe in him as a “godlike” figure. That would be his only failing if he were trying to qualify as a sincere believer in Christ or Muhammad—he wanted their spot. He had no quarrel with organized religions that agreed to serve his purpose. He sought to inspire the kind of loyalty that ultimately led us to witness young German boys and girls manning artillery in the roads of Berlin against the vicious Red Army. Defeats were never his fault—he could not be wrong. When it was clear that he could not win, he refused to allow the Germans to surrender and save their lives—he was prepared to sacrifice the entire German nation before himself or his ideology. They were too “sinful” and weak to deserve to live, if they could not defeat the forces of international Jewry...

Decades after the Holocaust, so many eccentric and bigoted pseudo-historians and politicians try to argue that Hitler “didn't know” about the Holocaust, and that he didn't really want to start a global war. Today, men and women of reason have the same problem with the believers of Muhammad, who argue their Prophet was a man of peace even though the Qur'an, like Mein Kampf, directly and repeatedly contradicts any such claim.

Stalin and The Holy Trinity

The Communists came to power in Russia with a searing vengeance, killing millions for ridiculous reasons. However, their opposition to organized religion was from the perspective of it helping keep the royal family and nobility in power for centuries at the expense of Russia's impoverished masses. It is true that under Stalin, many thousands of churches were ransacked, icons and Bibles destroyed, but that was the same fate that native religions suffered at the hands of Christianity and Islam when they came into town. Vladimir of the Kievan Rus ordered his pagan people to convert to the creed of the “Prince of Peace,” or risk being killed. Already, the Communists were merely following the footsteps of the faithful.

Josef Stalin had a difficult situation to handle when he came to power. With Lenin dead, the next most charismatic politician in the party was Leon Trotsky, and Stalin had only come to power by forging an “alliance” against Trotsky. After dispatching his political opponents, Stalin still had to overcome his lack of charisma and popularity in comparison to Lenin and Trotsky. To cement his power, he created a cult that you will find sounds very familiar…

First, he made Lenin the creator of this invincible State and party—Lenin's wisdom and leadership were unparalleled, and he insisted that he was right about everything. His body was preserved in a mausoleum and on display forever, allowing the masses to visit their Lord, to feel his “eternal presence” for generations in as mystical a sense as possible. Stalin was humble enough never to challenge Lenin directly, and settled for merely being his successor (historians have revealed that Lenin did not, in fact, trust Stalin at all and did not anoint him the successor). Lenin was dead, so his aura was effectively “ethereal.” As his chosen successor, Comrade Stalin was the righteous leader. To be loyal to Stalin was to honor Lenin, and to question him was treason with Lenin. The Party, certainly “omnipresent” and under totalitarian decrees, “omniscient” as well, was the spirit of Lenin's ideals and of the nation. It was all across Russia, and every patriotic Russian should aspire to be a part of it. The party controlled everything—from personal life to the economy to war and revolution. It was both the establishment and the revolutionary force all at once.

Thus, Stalin effectively replaced “The Father, The Son & The Holy Spirit” with “Lenin, Stalin & The Communist Party.” This system did not fail him during his lifetime, and allowed him to send millions of his own people—the Russians and Georgians and the other enslaved nationalities—to horrible slavery-until-death. The world outside Communism was already explained as inherently decadent and corrupt, but Stalin would decide when the time was right to take the righteous cause abroad with all the power of the State. The Communists had their own eschatology—when the whole world would be surrendered unto the one, true ideology and state of being—and their organs of international collusion to spread their effective “holy war” abroad. In the meantime, non-existent production surpluses and bumper crop yields were announced in miraculous terms to the overwhelmed public as irrefutable evidence of the correctness of the leader's way. A “counter-revolutionary” enemy was created, of course, to explain those cases of Russians rebelling against these absurd lies.

When lay Catholics publicly state their belief that Pope John Paul II “did not know” about the Catholic clergy abusing children, it reminds us of the many Russians who survived the Gulags and testified that when the police came for them, in the dead of night or even broad daylight, they genuinely believed that Stalin “did not know” what the State's police was doing. Stalin was still "right," even if you were being sent to your death, for how could anyone, in the Soviet mind, imagine replacing the scion of Lenin? “Stalin still loves you”—oh yes, and large numbers of young Russians are still convinced Stalin was a great leader, even though no single individual in history has been responsible for killing as many Russian people.

Perhaps it's forgivable—one of the key traits of religion is that the prevalence of reality (or if you like, “evil”) rarely disturbs the description of “all powerful and all-knowing” that is bestowed upon their God or Allah or whatever. Did you defeat your addiction to alcohol or drugs? God or Allah helped you do that. Why are children still starving to death in Somalia and Sudan? Its God's or Allah's plan to “test the faith” of their parents. Jesus or the Mahdi is going to come to put an end to all of that because Satan and disbelief is responsible for all of that. A perpetual, irrational hope via the suspension of reality is offered for the lack of answers. In most cases, human beings have taken it. Nobody asks why beating the addiction woes of a handful of people was deemed more important for the deity or savior or leader than the life-and-death struggle of millions of emaciated children. So—a bumper crop or high industrial yield achieved by farmers or workers? Credit to Stalin! Police picks me up in the middle of the night to be taken to be starved and worked to death—Stalin can't have known. Stalin still loves me.
Mao and the Emperor's Cult

China is one of the rare nations to be spared the scourge of Abrahamic religion, so perhaps the atheist argument is finally dented in the case of Mao? Yes, there was no deep-rooted superstition about a “Holy Trinity” to take advantage of. In fact, it was much simpler—Mao could have it all, with the Cult of the Emperor.

Since the days of the first Emperor of China, Qin Shi Huangdi, the monarch has been considered the “Son of Heaven.” The Forbidden City of the Imperial Palace is more than just a palace or city. It was planned and placed in such a way as to serve as the portal connecting the Emperor on Earth to Heaven. A totalitarian system of governance has been in place in China since Qin Shi Huangdi's chief advisor, Li Si devised “Legalism,” which made laws about everything, including the personal lives of individual Chinese. Li Si presided over a bonfire where thousands of books and manuscripts were thrown into the fire, and only the creed of the Emperor and his achievements were left. People were made expendable to the Emperor, and it was their duty just to serve him; millions are believed to have died working on the Emperor's “Great Wall,” the construction of Beijing and the Forbidden City and the various Emperor's mausoleums, so the experience of dying in process of the “Great Leap Forward” or the Cultural Revolution or any other disastrous Maoist schemes was not a new experience. The stars and signs were consulted when choosing the concubine the Emperor slept with that night, for it was not merely “sex” but a “holy act” that would have consequences for the health of the empire.

As if that wasn't enough, the serving clergy of this particular faith could not simply vow celibacy. They were castrated and made into eunuchs, for no male could live in the Forbidden City or stay beyond the hours of daylight. Concubines were murdered en masse if there was suspicion of sexual indiscretion, even with eunuchs, for they were not allowed to have relations with any man except and after the Emperor. Sound familiar, Muslims? Perhaps you have read the special Qur'anic verse warning you to stay away from Muhammad's widows, as they are not “ordinary” women… No problems with having four wives and sex slaves, but just not Muhammad's “possessions.”

Bumper crops and victories in war were directly ascribed to the Emperor's greatness. Defeats and depression were not reported. The “sinful” generals, eunuchs and other officials were immediately put to death, as they had failed the Emperor, not that the Emperor's orders were conceivably wrong. So what was it that Mao did differently—using the term “Chairman?”

The Kims and the 21st Century

Ultimately, neither Hitler nor Stalin or Mao were able to get past death. That is, until Kim Il-Sung. When the founder of the North Korean State died in 1994, his “death” was explained as a state of “sleep.” The Korean Communists had no difficulty invoking Korean religious mythology by telling the public of how “heavenly cranes,” who had descended to earth to collect Kim Il-Sung to take him to Heaven, were forced into a conference when confronted by the wailing Korean people, who could not stand losing their Great Leader. After long deliberations, they decided to leave the Great Leader in a state of “sleep” in his mausoleum on earth. The Korean Worker's Party immediately declared him the “Eternal President” of the state. Take your time to realize that North Korea's official equivalent to President Barack Obama is a corpse that ceased to live 19 years ago, but will continue in that post long after Mr. Obama has departed from the White House...

If Kim Il-Sung was not supposed to be “divine,” how else could one claim that he decided the measurements of the benches that were constructed for college students to use? Or that he personally wrote not mere “Little Red Books,” but entire textbooks about engineering, mathematics and other deeply technical subjects?

No Moral Dilemma Here

I wonder what will be the response of the theists to being informed that one of their core retorts (its not an “argument,” which implies that some thought has gone into it) against atheism has fallen apart. Clearly, none of these apples ever fell far from the tree. The Hitler cult used the creeds of Christ and Muhammad as well as the pagan Germanic belief systems, and Stalin designed his expressly on the Christian Trinity. Chairman Mao used China's oldest religious order that had never really died, and Korean mythology came swiftly to deify the Marxist-Leninist patriarch of North Korea. How any sane man or woman could ever imagine that any of these individuals were ever “atheists” can never be explained unless you are willing to admit that many people cannot identify hypocrisy even when it is taking place right before their very eyes.

Atheism is an arm of reason—it is not possible for it to co-exist with any ideology, organization or individual that suppresses free speech and thought, the very instruments that led to the inception of atheism. It is perhaps the refusal of atheism to become a political ideology that seeks to wed itself to the institutions of power, to “baptize” despots and mass murderers into its pantheon of heroes, that makes it difficult for large segments of the human population to take it seriously. After all, the Spanish Conquistadors were heroes of the Catholic Church, as were the “Ghazis” (Holy Warriors) that were Timur, Mahmud of Ghazni, Nadir Shah, to Islam, despite the fact that their cumulative kill total exceeds fifty million. Even though the Churches and Muslim Ulama have been consecrating the “divine right to rule” of single families over millions of people for several millennia, it is supposed to be a “Christian ethos” that has sustained American democracy for two hundred years. Let's even take it down the ladder – the Democratic and Republican parties enjoy massive loyalty and followings, despite the repeated cases of corruption, incompetence and bigotry that have prevailed in their activities and leaders for generations. Not for the believer in Camelot are John F. Kennedy's marital infidelities, the Bay of Pigs invasion or his mob connections; nor for the Reagan loyalist any mention of Iran-Contra...

Perhaps the cold reason of atheism is just too dull for these adventurous souls that find greater “peace” in lying down in unquestioning obedience for their Christ, their Allah and their respective rulers. Maybe it's easier than bothering to raise their voice to ask an odd question now and again. Too appealing to the human mind is the journey to “eternal happiness” and “peace,” which has inexplicably led us through repeated wars and holocausts; only when reason triumphs will the peace be deposited, but there is a lot for the forces of reason to overcome first. In the end, atheism just isn't hypocritical enough to entice the unquestioning masses...