Claims that atheism leads to Nazism

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Claims that atheism leads to Nazism

Postby EnlightenmentLiberal » Thu May 09, 2013 7:19 pm

I've been catching up on the Non-Prophets and The Atheist Experience as of late, and this is one argument where the replies of our guys always annoys me.

I agree it is pedantically correct that atheism is merely the lack of a belief in gods, and there is no logical derivation from mere lack of belief to any action, and that there is a logical derivation from some of the beliefs of some religions to violence etc.

I don't think that's the argument the theists are making. I understand the theists tend to be horrible at making arguments and speaking clearly, but it does us and them no good if we do not address their point, and instead make some empty truism.

I think the argument they're making is something like:
1- The default condition of people is to rape and murder and otherwise be unpleasant.
2- Fear of justice (e.g. a god's punishment) is the only effective deterrence to violence from the default condition of people.
3- Atheists do not have this fear, because they lack a belief that gods exist.
4- Thus, we should expect that atheists should more frequently rape, murder, and otherwise be unpleasant.

This is a logically valid argument. It's valid, but unsound. And even if it were sound, you cannot go from this to arguing that any god exists, because that would be an argument from desired consequences.

Offhand, it's hard to pin down exactly which step or steps is broken in the argument. I think the simplistic phrasing hides very real complexities. I do think there is some truth in the argument, otherwise we wouldn't have John Gabriel's Greater Internet Fuckwad Theory (GIFT for short).
http://www.penny-arcade.com/comic/2004/03/19

However, I think it's deceptive and incorrect to say simply that the default condition of people is to be evil and uncaring, because that is a statement about the general case. I do think that people in general are uncaring and evil in some cases, but they're also good and giving and altruistic in other cases - they're both, and I tend to think that most people are more than good enough with a properly functioning police force.

Regardless of where the error lies, there is an error in the argument, because the evidence simply doesn't back up the conclusion. There is evidence against the proposition that atheists commit statistically significantly more crimes AFAIK. Hell, there's even really bad evidence that atheists are underrepresented in prisons.

Of course, this then quickly devolves down into the morality argument, which I'm sure has been done to death, though I would still love to jump in on that any time.
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Re: Claims that atheism leads to Nazism

Postby dobbie » Thu May 09, 2013 7:57 pm

EL wrote: I think the argument [theists]'re making is something like:
1- The default condition of people is to rape and murder and otherwise be unpleasant.
2- Fear of justice (e.g. a god's punishment) is the only effective deterrence to violence from the default condition of people.
3- Atheists do not have this fear, because they lack a belief that gods exist.
4- Thus, we should expect that atheists should more frequently rape, murder, and otherwise be unpleasant.

This is a logically valid argument. It's valid, but unsound.

The way I see it, the "syllogism" contains iffy premises--presuppositions. One is stated in "2- Fear of justice (e.g. a god's punishment) is the only effective deterrence to violence from the default condition of people."

I can challenge the notion that fear of God's justice is the only effective deterrence to violence.

Further, I say that Premise 2 has only got God's punishment in mind. That's why it talks about god in premise "3- Atheists do not have this fear, because they lack a belief that gods exist."

Thus these mark presuppositions and, therefore, controversy. I claim that fear of God's punishment isn't the only effective deterrence to violence.

One can advance a syllogism, yes, giving it the standard form characterized by premises and conclusion. Yet the logic of that syllogism can still be fouled up.

Your comment voices the objection: "I do think that people in general are uncaring and evil in some cases, but they're also good and giving and altruistic in other cases - they're both, and I tend to think that most people are more than good enough with a properly functioning police force."

As represented by the above argument, the theist argument is a one-sided argument.
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Re: Claims that atheism leads to Nazism

Postby NearlySane » Fri May 10, 2013 6:41 am

I think such arguments say more about those making the argument rather than who they are aiming the argument at. This might be a good side to theism, as I think these people should stick with it and not become atheist if this is what they think it can lead to.
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Re: Claims that atheism leads to Nazism

Postby sepia » Sat May 11, 2013 9:51 am

Those theists should be really, really quiet. They just damage themselves.

Just think about this: People tend to reject actions they consider as evil. Believing an action is evil is a reason, not to do it. If Nationalsocialism is only rejected by theists because of theistic reasons this position is as unreasonable, as the religious pro-human-sacrifice position.

So being against Nationalsocialism is like being for human sacrifice?

EnlightenmentLiberal wrote:1- The default condition of people is to rape and murder and otherwise be unpleasant.
2- Fear of justice (e.g. a god's punishment) is the only effective deterrence to violence from the default condition of people.
3- Atheists do not have this fear, because they lack a belief that gods exist.
4- Thus, we should expect that atheists should more frequently rape, murder, and otherwise be unpleasant.


You forget the theists being unpleasent because their god ordered it. In such cases they fear being kind, honest and pieceful. It is right that theists will find one argument more convincing, namely an argument concerning their god. But the argument can lead in both directions.
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Re: Claims that atheism leads to Nazism

Postby EnlightenmentLiberal » Sat May 11, 2013 2:32 pm

sepia wrote:
EnlightenmentLiberal wrote:1- The default condition of people is to rape and murder and otherwise be unpleasant.
2- Fear of justice (e.g. a god's punishment) is the only effective deterrence to violence from the default condition of people.
3- Atheists do not have this fear, because they lack a belief that gods exist.
4- Thus, we should expect that atheists should more frequently rape, murder, and otherwise be unpleasant.


You forget the theists being unpleasent because their god ordered it. In such cases they fear being kind, honest and pieceful. It is right that theists will find one argument more convincing, namely an argument concerning their god. But the argument can lead in both directions.

Oh, I didn't forget it. Please don't misunderstand. I think it's an incredibly shitty argument for a wide plethora of reasons. Still, I think it does no good to say trivially that "atheism as a lack of beliefs cannot logically entail any policy position" because that doesn't address their intended argument. If we do so, we just look like idiots to the theists, and the the theists think they've won that point, because we didn't address their argument and made a wild non-sequitir. We should instead address their intended argument, with the whole wide range of possible rebuttals.
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Re: Claims that atheism leads to Nazism

Postby Lausten » Sat May 11, 2013 6:03 pm

EnlightenmentLiberal wrote:Still, I think it does no good to say trivially that "atheism as a lack of beliefs cannot logically entail any policy position"

I get what you're saying here. I had the same frustration with ACA myself. I've listened to enough shows that I now have some idea of their political believes, so it doesn't bother me so much, but that doesn't do much for the casual listener.

I think atheism does lead to some political positions, but it is not as simple as having a platform. That is, there is no standard atheist answer to abortion. The whole point is that you are allowed to form your own position, so ACA may be erroring on the side of not wanting to give simple answers to whatever moral dilemma a caller may present.

Or looking at it from the other way, if we could list 10 rules to live by that everyone agreed on and that actually were fair and worked, we'd probably call it God given and not worry about it. The problem with believing in traditions and rules handed down from previous generations is that they don't work and they aren't fair. To be atheist means you've come to terms with not having all the answers. The kind of people that call in to convince others morality comes from God are definitely not comfortable with that. So I think it is a starting point, a way to get them to understand that first and foremost, we don't have AN answer and we don't all think alike.
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Re: Claims that atheism leads to Nazism

Postby sepia » Sat May 11, 2013 9:17 pm

EnlightenmentLiberal wrote:Still, I think it does no good to say trivially that "atheism as a lack of beliefs cannot logically entail any policy position" because that doesn't address their intended argument. If we do so, we just look like idiots to the theists, and the the theists think they've won that point, because we didn't address their argument and made a wild non-sequitir. We should instead address their intended argument, with the whole wide range of possible rebuttals.


I'm trying to adress the arguments presented. Unfortunately I often can't adress hidden premisses. I can adress your points 2 and 3 more precisely if you wish:

Fear of justice (e.g. a god's punishment) is the only effective deterrence to violence from the default condition of people.
Atheists do not have this fear, because they lack a belief that gods exist.


Of course you can create by appealing a god a strong argument for or against an action if the people already believe in this god. I see 2 benefits here:

1) It can unify people by destroying controversial topics which this argument. For example you can say "God is against abortion." and the abortion controverse will stop.

2) It can be make complex topics easy to understand. For example antinatalism. Antinatalism is often built upon an oversimplification of secular morality as a construct to avoid suffering and nothing else. So people believe we can aviod all suffering by collective suicide. However as opponents point out morality is also about flurishing and a dead person can't flurish. If appeals to deities were allowed you could just assume that God doesn't like antinatalism.

But I think the harm of religious moralty are superior to the benefits:

1) We obviously don't all believe in the same god. So there are a lot forms of religious moralities. The uniformity therefor fails.

2) Since there is no evidence for any god every appeal to a god is an unproven assumption. So if morality is more then just our opinion we are ignoring, what is really good and evil. (This point however stands and fails with the objectivity of morality)

3) We get always new moral problems we haven't thought about in the past. For example the atomic bomb. Befor this bomb it wouldn't have been so easy to destroy all life; so the question if we should use such a powerful weapon is rather new. Dealing with this in religious morality will be hard since the sources are old books. So to say: The questions change, but the answers remain the same.
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Re: Claims that atheism leads to Nazism

Postby EnlightenmentLiberal » Sun May 12, 2013 2:08 am

Hrrm. I said I'm not looking for replies to the argument per se because I know a lot of them already (but you're welcome to provide them anyway). I'm here to remind everyone that this is what theists mean when they make that stupid argument, and you should address their clearly intended argument and not look like an idiot by addressing an unrelated point.
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