Tuesday, November 28, 2006

Religion v. Atheism

Professor Dicklitch pointed out this article form the Christian Science Monitor in class and I thought was quite relevant to our discussions. The article by Dinesh D’Souza discusses both atheism and religion in connection to historical killings. The article addresses the argument that religion is “the most potent source of human conflict, past and present.” The article mentions Richard Dawkins’ assertion that the majority of recent world conflicts demonstrate the connection between religion and violence. However, D’Souza believes that Dawkins exaggerates the crimes that involve religion. D’Souza uses Hitler, Stalin, and Mao Zedong to illustrate how atheists could cause the deaths of over 100 million people. D’Souza recognizes that some claim Stalinism and Maoism were political religions, and that Nazism resulted from years of Christians disliking the Jews. However, D’Souza does not believe those ideas at all.
D’Souza believes that certain conflicts labeled as “religious wars” are not actually fought over religion. The Israeli-Palestinian conflict is mentioned as an example because D’Souza sees the conflict cause by ethnic rivalry. D’Souza does not understand why religion is made out to be a major cause of violence. Rather, D’Souza emphasizes how religion provides a moral code that condemns the slaughter of innocent people. Basically, D’Souza concludes that “religions of the world put together have in 2,000 years not managed to kill as many people as have been killed in the name of atheism in the past few decades,” making atheism the cause of historical mass murders.
D’Souza raises a very interesting issue. Is religion to blame for violence/murder? Is atheism? What about atheism pushes one to behave violently? Is there actually a direct link between atheism and violence? Does the fact that religious people have killed less than atheists mean that atheism is responsible for violent behavior? There are many questions to be asked, and can they ever be fully answered to reveal the truth?


jamie s said...

I have some issues with D'Souza's article, although he makes a decent article. The Palestinian conflict conflict is certainly a religious one! Especially given the religious significance of the land itself. Several of the examples of his argument involve conflicts that do involve differences in religion, however, D'Souza claims it is the ethnic differences that are the real cause. Making distinctions between whether a conflict is religious or ethnic is rather difficult since the two are often intertwined. Perhaps differences in religion are easier to distinguish thus intensifying the us v them mindset.

sms said...

This whole argument depends on your definition of “religion.” If you see it as a way of living that teaches you to be a good person and get the most from life, it is evident that such a thing could never cause wars. If you see it as a way to characterize and group people, that’s where you create the us vs. them distinction and problems arise. Few regard religion itself as evil; however, when religion is seen as a group’s identity, rather than an individual philosophy, conflict becomes likely. Although the article was interesting, I couldn’t help but think “so what” after reading it. So not as many deaths have occurred in the name of religion as we may have thought, but does that really mean anything? When wars are fought in the name of religion, the religion is simply used as a means to fuel the people and create loyalty to a common cause. Religion can create a strong meaning system (gotta love Dozier); however, the religion itself isn’t important or relevant. It is simply a means used by a murderous leader to his desired ends. Cultural or racial differences could be used in its place and it really wouldn’t make such a difference. What IS important is the way humans work: the fact that we are so quick to make these us vs. them distinctions and become so passionately loyal to destructive meaning systems.