[FoRK] Re: theism & atheism

Stephen D. Williams < sdw at lig.net > on > Wed Nov 22 15:05:22 PST 2006

Deists are very close to atheists/Atheists.  So close that in most ways 
the difference doesn't matter.  According to a recent Time survey, 
something like 60% of Americans are Deists/Atheists/Agnostics, or 
similar.  See my previous post.  This is why people often argue about 
fathers of America: religious people like to point out statements when 
they mention God, non-theists like to point out that they were mostly 

> *Deism* is a religious <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Religion> 
> philosophy and movement that became prominent in England 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/England>, France 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/France>, and the United States 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/United_States> in the 17th and 18th 
> centuries. Deists typically reject supernatural events (prophecy, 
> miracles) and divine revelation 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revelation> prominent in organized 
> religion, along with holy books 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_books> and revealed religions 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Revealed_religion> that assert the 
> existence of such things. Instead, deists hold that correct religious 
> beliefs must be founded on human reason 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Reason> and observed features of the 
> natural world <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Natural_world>, and that 
> these sources reveal the existence of one God 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/God> or supreme being.
That was a more reasonable viewpoint given the science and general level 
of education of the day.  I believe that those same people, operating on 
the same principles, would be Atheists with the knowledge that we now have.

The Third Reich was explicitly an attempt to construct a new Holy Roman 
Empire.  The First Reich == The Holy Roman Empire.
Even if the people at the top were not religious, and that seems 
doubtful actually considering that they coopted German Catholic leaders 
and they were often into the occult as another avenue to power, 
supporters of the Nazis were decidedly religious.  That area of Germany 
is so heavily religious, Catholic mostly I believe, that instead of 
"Guten Tag" (good day), everyone in that area says "Gruss Gott" 
(something like "God Bless" or "God is Great.").

> The Nazi Party 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/National_Socialist_German_Workers_Party> 
> used the terms /Drittes Reich/ and /Tausendjähriges Reich/ 
> ("Thousand-Year Empire") in order to connect the German empire they 
> wished to forge to the ones of old (the Holy Roman Empire 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Holy_Roman_Empire> and the Second German 
> Empire <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/German_Empire>) while alluding to 
> envisioned future prosperity and the new nation's alleged destiny. The 
> Holy Roman Empire, deemed the /First Empire/ or /First Reich/, had 
> lasted almost a thousand years from 843 to 1806. The term 
> /Tausendjähriges Reich/ was used only briefly and dropped from 
> propaganda in 1939, officially to avoid persiflage 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Persiflage> and possibly to even avoid 
> religious connotations. In speeches, books and articles about the 
> Third Reich after 8 May <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/May_8> 1945 
> <http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/1945>, the phrase has taken on a new 
> meaning and the early Nazi professions about a "thousand year" empire 
> are often juxtaposed against the twelve years that the Third Reich 
> actually existed.
So some believe they might have avoided religious connotations at some 
points, however a couple months ago I toured the Dachau Concentration 
Camp Museum outside of Munich.  That camp was the model and teach 
grounds for all of the other concentration camps.  The beginning of the 
exhibits include history, chronology, and much of the propaganda of the 
Social Democrats.  The gist is clearly that metropolitans, especially 
Jews, gays, etc., were not conservative, respectable, and holy enough to 
be allowed any place in their pure society.  The whole power of the 
movement was based on, or at least powered by motivating conservative 
religious people in Bavaria to support their attack on the 
non-conforming, non-(their)-religious.  I never learned much of this in 
US curricula, but it was very clear from the actual documents used to 
win the election that put Hitler in power.  One interesting thing is a 
short constitution from the period that seems completely modern and 
harmless.  The devil's in the details I suppose.  I have many pictures 
that I will post at some point.  It is interesting that online versions 
of the camp don't have the historical sections.

A lot of us worry about the inevitability of the slide into barking 
madness that willingness to ignore reality and rely on myth and 
imagination will lead to some percentage of the time.  Sure, most people 
will remain rational and reasonable for all practical purposes.  Most 
drinkers and drug addicts similarly survive OK.  The problem is when the 
religious try to impose their religion on everyone, which includes "blue 
laws" and social norms, and when they tend to cause enabling of social 
transgressions against other groups, up to and including war, terrorism, 
and genocide.

Have you ever been hounded by a barking mad, "THE END IS NEAR" 
"demonstrator"?  I have.  There's often someone in front of the White 
House, but the worst was outside the Alamo in Texas.  What do you 
think?  The guy is having some harmless fun?  He's just a little too 
enthusiastic with a good idea?  I worry that he could just as easily 
believe he needs to take me out for some "higher purpose".  One guy with 
a loud mouth I can deal with, one guy with a weapon or a group coming at 
me and I would start to feel like the hunted.

It's time to stop saying that religion is OK if there is even one 
instance in its dogma that commands others to stone, kill, shun, or 
otherwise affect others in a way that is not compatible with modern, 
rational, non-religious law.  Christianity and Islam fail this.


Malcolm Greenshields wrote:
> Having read many of the posts re theism vs atheism, I guess I am 
> mystified by the strange, decontextualized and maybe vain attempt to 
> identify the true roots of our present distress. Its passion is pretty 
> exciting, but it seems to ignore much of our recent experience. A lot 
> of it issues from universities that could be considered among the most 
> fertile offspring of the Church.
> I have always thought that two of the most violent and destructive 
> movements of the past century, Nazism and the various Eastern versions 
> of Marxism, were generally considered atheistic if not 
> antireligious;certainly their most enthusiastic members thought of 
> themselves that way. Much of the opposition to them was distinctly 
> religious. While this datum does not necessarily bear on the intrinsic 
> merits of atheist and theist positions, it certainly suggests that 
> religion as a source of so many ills may be overdrawn. Previous to 
> these movements, there was no time in which most persons were not in 
> some way religious. (Atheism was much feared and despised even by 
> eighteenth-century deists such as Robespierre, although the English 
> deist Tom Paine seems to have been less worried about it.) So it is 
> difficult honestly to attribute particular episodes of behaviour we 
> don't like to an influence whose significant absence cannot be 
> estalished for most of history. We just don't have many cases before 
> the twentieth century where we can show the effect of "no religion."
> A lot of the animus ( although again, not necessarily the intrinsic 
> worth of arguments) in the debate seems to depend heavily: a) on the 
> acceptance of the barking lunatics and ignoramuses who often pass for 
> religious leaders and spokesmen in the U.S., and their Islamic 
> enemies, as typical world representatives of religion. This despite 
> the fact that the fundamentalist/modernist controversy/scopes trial 
> etc. fuss has been historically almost exclusively an American 
> phenomenon since the Wilberforce-Huxley debates of the nineteenth 
> century,  b) given that acceptance, on the further belief that 
> millions of deperately poor and profoundly ignorant people led by 
> powerful demagogues and mountebanks are somehow representative of the 
> effects of religion rather than of poverty, ignorance, isolation, and 
> abuses of power from all sides.
> Currently religion may well sometimes be a sort of pathology, but it 
> is probably just as often another tool of pathological impulses, one 
> of those trite things that people repeat to sanctify some of the 
> idiocy in which they are engaged, part of a popular cultural tendency 
> to try to represent oneself with various unexamined pieties, whether 
> patriotic, scientific, ethnic or political, that empower. I really 
> enoyed the TV show (I think it was the Daily Show) where the faux 
> interviewer was talking to a politician who wanted to insert the Ten 
> Commandments into his State's laws in some way. Amazingly, or maybe 
> typically, when the guy was finally cornered, he had to admit that he 
> didn't really know the Ten Commandments.
> Malcolm
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