Atheism causes evil
Atheism as a Cause for Evil
This particular apologetic manifests similar to the following pattern:
- Pol Pot was an atheist was an evil murderer.
- Pol Pot was an atheist.
- Thus, Pol Pot's atheism has something to do with him being an evil murderer.
- Therefore, atheism causes evil.
It's not always Pol Pot that's the example. Sometimes it's Stalin, Hitler (Although they erroneously claim Hitler was an atheist), or whoever they can cherry-pick as a bad example of an atheist, often who also happen to be totalitarian dictators.
When asked to explain how atheism, the lack of a belief in a god, leads to anything, apologists will return with explanations such as the following:
- "Atheism only conducts itself from an empty ethic, which can neither support nor reject the action of murder. This means that actions can be brought about by disbelief. For example, to disbelieve in the existence of a good reason not to kill, would justify the opposing view. Disbelief gives rise to belief or is a form of belief itself, and thus the origins of causation, for a certain action, can be derived from disbelief. This fact falls into the historical narrative of Pol Pot, giving a legitimate case for why atheism, a disbelief in all religious dogmas and concepts of god, must assume a piece of responsibility in Pol Pot’s choices."
In an extremely loose sense, it can make sense on the surface to say that his atheism influence his decisions, but it's an optical illusion.
Yes, the fact he didn't have a positive belief that people shouldn't be killed does play a role. That lack of belief, however, is not the cause, which is the point they're trying to make. Only beliefs can be the cause of action, and in two particular ways - provocation and prevention.
- Provocation - I believe Bob was the one who killed my wife, so I'm going to kill him back.
- Prevention - I believe Bob is going to kill my wife, so I'm going to kill him before he can act.
The third position, lacking a belief, would not lead me to doing anything to Bob. Any decision I make about Bob always comes from beliefs I do have. The explanation is subtle, and to understand, one needs to may attention to the exact usage of the words.
- FredGod is a god that insists that his followers don't kill people.
- Believing in FredGod will cause Bob to not kill people.
- Not believing in FredGod only Not causes Bob to not kill people.
- Not believing in FredGod does not cause Bob to kill people.
- Without that prevention, something else may cause Bob to kill people, but the lack of prevention isn't itself the cause.
Preventing a Death
Let's say that a woman in town is struck by a car, and dies. I could have went into town and pushed her out of the way, thus preventing her from dying. I didn't.
What caused her death? She died because she was struck by a car, not because I didn't push her out of the way. The negligent car driver would be charged with vehicular manslaughter, not me. This is how it works in reality.
Deciding whether to Kill a Mosquito
- I don't believe that a mosquito's life has value. I don't believe they should be protected.
- I kill mosquitos.
- The reason I kill them is not that I don't value their lives.
- The reason I kill them is because they keep attacking me, sucking my blood, making me itch, and potentially carrying diseases like Malaria. Thus, I believe I need to defend myself against them, whether it's to swat one that's currently attacking me, or to premptively kill those I think are potentially going to attack me.
To say that the reason I kill them is because I don't value their lives, instead of being due to defense, is asinine.
If they didn't attack me, I wouldn't do anything to them, whether I thought their lives should be protected, or not.
If you want a more mathematical reason of why this reasoning doesn't work, it starts with an oversight.
- While we all have a finite set of beliefs, there's an infinite number of things we don't believe.
- Thus, according to this apologetic, every one of those non-beliefs is influencing me.
- I have finite decision making, and finite cognition, designated by amount - A
- The amount of influence each non-belief has on me is: A divided by ∞, which equals 0
We could try to list all the infinite number of beliefs Pol Pot didn't have, and point out that because we can't "rule out each's influence", that we should take note of them. That wouldn't be practical.