A notion handed down from Richard Dawkins to assorted atheistic laypeople goes to the effect of this: the Inquisition and Crusades were mass killings in the name of religion; however Stalin’s (and other atheist dictators’) genocides of millions weren’t done in the name of atheism. Notice the subtle semantic dodge? Because Stalin et al. didn’t specifically state to the world their atheism as the reason for their genocides (most of which were kept secret at the time anyway), it must be a “false equivalency”. My my, how convenient.
Well, if you drill deep enough into any literal comparison, it becomes a “false equivalency”. For example, two slightly different isotopes of sodium are indeed slightly different at that level, and therefore, not truly identical. Nonetheless, they give you the same salty effects in molecular bond with chlorine, offering the same level of taste, electrolytic action and solubility. Of course, even that can be arbitrarily declared a “false equivalency” by someone who doesn’t like the idea. Just because somebody claims it’s a “false equivalency” doesn’t make it so. “False equivalancy” does happen: witness, for example, the ridiculous yet common comparison of homosexuality–a behavior–to skin color, an immutable genetic characteristic and not a behavior. Yet, “false equivalency” more often is a buzz-phrase used as a weapon to stifle discussion.
Self-proclaimed Christians killed many during the Inquisitions and Crusades, true. Self-proclaimed atheists killed many in the Stalin/Pol Pot/Mao regimes. True. Each set of killers was motivated by psychopathically warped version of their personal ideals (whether rooted in faith or lack thereof) which don’t represent the basic tenets of either Christianity or secular humanism/atheism, respectively. Really, those are two sides of the same evil coin. The atheists and Christians I’ve known would not murder millions, given the opportunity–but then again, I don’t make a habit of hanging out with cold-blooded killers.
The oft-repeated regurgitation of Dawkins’ “in the name of” semantic dodge, in the context of Stalin (as if Dawkins is an authority on anything in particular aside from genetic biology…but that’s another story) is popular, is viral, makes a nice catchphrase…and doesn’t stand the salty taste test, nor is it backed up by historical truth. To the contrary, I (no more nor less an authority than Dawkins on religious matters) have decided that the Stalin/Inquisition comparison is is NOT a false equivalency at its fundamental root. Here’s one example why: The League of Belligerent (or Militant) Atheists, about which Stalin’s loyal aide Yemelyan Yaroslavky said, “It is our duty to destroy every religious world-concept… If the destruction of ten million human beings, as happened in the last war, should be necessary for the triumph of one definite class, then that must be done and it will be done.”
That statement alone damns the notion that atheism was an irrelevant sideshow of the Stalin regime–not to mention the exemplifying behavior of the regime within which the “League of Militant Atheists” thrived. This group also participated directly in killing and fatal prison/Gulag exile of religious individuals, including clergy, bishops and monks*. Indeed militant state atheism was a central creed of the USSR, and the LMA was disbanded officially only under great pressure from the Allies in World War 2. Other purges of religious figures and believers followed, however–the death toll numbering in the millions as part of one of the largest genocides in history.
“NO evidence”? There goes that idea. The League of Militant Atheists, and the philosophy with which it was associated far beyond any official membership numbers, makes one hell of an “inconvenient truth” for the field of secular apologetics.
Yet the tiresome “false equivalency/in-name-of” tenet of atheistic catechism will persist for a long time, because it does make a tasty piece of gristle for militant atheists–the modern version, not as a capitalized league, and thankfully not genocidal–to latch on with fangs bared.
Personally, I’d like to see the mutual mistrust and animosity cooled off between atheists and the religious; we all have at least some common goals and interests and should be able to get along much better. If I somehow have contributed, through my unwillingness to let what I see as heretic falsehoods propagate, then please forgive me. I am idealistic in standing by my faith and in attacking an idea (not the person), and also wish no harm on atheists. Only God will deliver the ultimate, perpetually binding judgment of us all.
At the core, we all actually see the same fundamental order of creation, whether through science or the pages of Genesis. [Quite obviously, the writers of Genesis had access to some amazing insights not available to science for another couple thousand years!] Being a scientist who also is faithful, I see science as a great, God-given tool to understand His enchanting, marvelous and infinitely complex universe better and better, and see my role in contributing to science as fulfilling a God-given talent and ability. The more I read and work and play and observe in science, the more I see God’s handiwork.
Meanwhile, I say: God bless all atheists; for they, as for me and everyone else, religious or not, whether one chooses to have faith or not, are made in His image and have become imperfect through sin. Denying God won’t make Him disappear. Good thing I live in a place and time where I’ll not be burned at a stake by an Inquisitor or made to disappear by the Soviet League of Militant Atheists for saying that!
* For more information, I highly recommend this book: A History of Marxist-Leninist Atheism and Soviet Antireligious Policies (History of Soviet and Atheism in Theory and Practice, and the Believer), by Dimitry Pospielovsky. It’s a text, and very expensive, so if you can find the book in a major library (as I did when studying all sorts of material about the USSR during the early ’90s), that’s the best bet.