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Debating Richard Dawkins

2 February 2013

9:59 AM

2 February 2013

9:59 AM

I spent Thursday evening at the Cambridge Union debating the motion ‘This House believes religion has no place in the 21st century.’ I spoke against the motion.

My opponents on the opposite side included Richard Dawkins. My opponents on my own side were Rowan Williams and Tariq Ramadan.

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Anyhow – there has been a certain amount of press coverage and a number of readers have got in touch. This is just to say that I hope to post the video of the debate here as soon as it becomes available.

UPDATE: Video of the debate is available here.


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Show comments
  • Neideen

    Douglas, I love how you can hold objective and sometimes conflicting notions and always delivr them eloquently and intelligently.

  • scarpen8

    Ilove how Dawkins had his butt handed to him by an “anti-intellectual”. Atheism:the ea

  • scarpen8

    I loveHow Dawkins had his butt handed to him by an “anti-intellectual”. Atheism: the easy way out.

  • Fak_Zakaix

    Yes Dawkins will get us rid of “God”. We waited for so long for him. He is the Messiah of atheism.

  • http://twitter.com/Hughmanist Hugh

    The Holocaust was in line with the traditional Christian anti-Semitism. It was inititiated by the Roman Catholic Fuhrer and carried out by Christians.

    • Fak_Zakaix

      What rubbish.

      • http://twitter.com/Hughmanist Hugh

        Historically accurate. Are you claiming that Hitler didn’t initiate the Holocaust?

        • Fak_Zakaix

          No, on the contrary. Hitler was born in a catholic family. He was baptized a catholic. All against his free choice. But he was a vegetarian, a teetotal and a dog lover too by his own grown up decision. To conclude, I think that all vegans, teetotals and dog lovers should bear responsibility for the Shoah.

          Yes Christianity is anti-Semitic (anti-Judaism) and anti-Islam as Judaism is anti-Christian (read the Talmud, specific sections) and anti-Islam and as Islam is anti-Christian and anti-Judaism.

          Christianity has nothing against the Jews as a race. That is why many Jews reached prominent position in traditional Christian societies by conversion to Christianity. Conversions which could have been formal only.

  • Guest

    And an excellent job you did, too. Best speaker by far.

  • humeanbeing

    Just read Paul Berman’s essay in the New Republic, “Who’s Afraid of Tariq Ramadan?” The bit about the “moratorium” on stoning women to death is revealing, to say the least.

    http://www.newrepublic.com/article/who%E2%80%99s-afraid-tariq-ramadan

  • Eli
  • Simon Morgan

    For what it’s worth I thought you gave an admirable speech, even though you were playing ‘devil’s advocate’…..!

  • http://www.facebook.com/yeahbabyrb Russ Baker

    Those arguing that Atheism causes no harm and no wars try telling that to the 3,000+ babies killed each day in the UK alone thanks to Atheist Margret Sanger! So total up this from 1917 to present date and she took everyone!

  • http://twitter.com/calumcmacd Calum Macdonald

    Debate is now online – http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XpEjVlPFrs&feature=youtu.be – Douglas Murray, Lord Williams and Prof Ramadan winning by a convincing majority

  • Glo P

    I just saw your speech in the Cambridge Union debate. My personal experience of atheists speaking on the issue of religion has been that religion is likely to be ridiculed, laughed at and downright disregarded. Your respectful and balanced words have encouraged me that believers and non-believers can live together – even in the 21st century. Thank you so much!

  • Radford_NG

    Bio-chemist Rupert Sheldrake[double-first honours/Doctorate;Cambridge]provides a different prospective to Dawkins.In his book `The Science Delusion` he addresses the 10 dogmata of modern science.(The title is the publishers:he isn’t seeking to take-on R.D.directly.)As well as Sheldrake’s own site ,an article/interview on `The Science Delusion` may-be found @`forteantimes.com/features/fbi`.

    • Fak_Zakaix

      Dogmatic science is an oxymoron. But dogmatic “science” exists of course.

  • http://www.facebook.com/mdesalis Marc de Salis

    The debate is up on youtube now

    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-XpEjVlPFrs

    • Tim Reed

      Cheers, Marc.

    • OldSlaughter

      Thanks

  • http://www.facebook.com/william.mcguffog William John Mcguffog

    Religion should have no part in government and I have always disagreed with any of my taxes going to subsidise peoples immaginary friends. If religious groups want to run places of worship and faith schools etc, then they should pay for it all so taxes can be spent on proper schools, research and hospitals etc.

    • http://twitter.com/heraclesblack Heracles Black

      Bertrand Russell said that in the Middle Ages belief in the law of god was more important than belief in the law of the King. Hence the Church and the King were one and the same.

  • Tiger Power

    Historical evidence reveals the truth that missionary movements led by zealous leaders the likes of Dawkins, have left pain and suffering wherever they went. Science is a tool. Faith is a human response to filling a void in the experience of living. I used to wonder why the early church martyrs did not use violence to protect their faith. Faith, like love, is true only when you believe in a being better than yourself. That’s why a lover sacrifices self for the loved. Maybe we must suffer martyrdom for the Dawkins of today for them to understand faith in god.

    • pullover5

      I think you misunderstand martyrdom, I have no intentions of martyring myself. Putting up with silly remarks is not martyrdom and neither is talking to people who don’t want to hear it, about your religion, otherwise atheists are martyrs too. Their religion is also under attack and they defend it in exactly the same way. They also seek to propagate it to those who don’t want to hear it. Will that work on you? No me either, let’s not make martyrs of ourselves on their behalf then.

    • Baron

      excellent posting, Tiger, in particular the distinction between science and faith.’

      Two tenets of Christianity could never be replaced if the creed were to be scrapped: the fear of God, and the notion of afterlife. Replacing God with a policeman won’t do, one can kill the agent of the man-made law construct. The afterlife idea may defy rationality, but it does provide comfort, succor, spiritual sustenance to many, and not only those failed by life.

      Einstein, arguably the best mind the human race has produced so far, has been far from dismissive when it came to religion (‘science without religion is
      lame, religion without science is blind’). Baron would rather listen to him than Dawkins.

      • Tim Reed

        What a depressing outlook on life – the notion that people only refrain from wickedness in the belief that ‘He’ is watching and will seek to punish in some imaginary afterlife, rather than behaving justly and kindly for its own sake as a reward in itself. As a non-believer – one without that ‘fear of God’ – I ought to be willing to break those mere man-made laws with impunity. No, I have a pretty good idea of what’s right and wrong, and I haven’t even read The Bible!! Clearly, our morals and compassion must come from somewhere else if even those of us who don’t believe in (or fear) the supernatural are just as likely to behave decently.

        I don’t doubt that concepts such as an afterlife provide comfort to some, but it is a false comfort, based on wishful thinking. That something might provide comfort does not make it real, nor does it make it a truth, that others refuse to acknowledge. This is
        Professor Dawkins’ point – that religious believers often lay claim to
        the ‘truth’, without ever feeling the need to provide proof.

        • Baron

          you can point to Baron saying somewhere, anywhere ‘people only refrain from wickedness ..’, can you?

          Look at the cases of serious law breaking, murder, GBH, rape and stuff, avoid comparing this quarter with the one before, the same one a year ago or five. Look fifty years back, 80 years back…Crime then was miniscule compared with today’s level, yet people went hungry, genuinely starved, religion still mattered if not for going to Church then as a calibrating point in one’s life. Today, we have so much food four out of ten are obese, nobody starves but a third of us are grossly obese, religion’s out, Dawkin’s ‘let’s all shagg’ in, crime’s trending up, greed’s everywhere, no can hardly trust anyone in position of power….

          How come that not only the criminally minded don’t follow your ‘pretty good ideaa of what’s right and wrong’, ha? How and where does it kick in then?

        • Fak_Zakaix

          It is depressive indeed but true. We need an incentive to curb our natural egoism.

    • Fak_Zakaix

      Yes, atheism is aggressive. Agnosticism is passive.

  • el88

    There is no debate, regardless of belief religion is part of our nations history, claiming it should have no part in the 21st century is ludicrus! I have no problem with religion, I merely have a problem with others forcing their beliefs on me. So in essence Dawkins is just as bad as his opposition.

    • Simon Morgan

      Hanging, drawing and quartering is also part of our nation’s history. Dawkins doesn’t force his views on you – he invites you to look at the facts and wake up.

      • Fak_Zakaix

        What facts?

  • http://www.facebook.com/people/Human-Ape/100001623230964 Human Ape

    “I spent Thursday evening at the Cambridge Union debating the motion ‘This House believes religion has no place in the 21st century.’ I spoke against the motion.”

    Did you provide strong scientific evidence for your childish idiotic magic god fairy fantasy?

    Of course not. There is no evidence for your insane belief in magic.

    I don’t understand why Dawkins would waste his time debating idiots. What’s next, a debate with a flat-earther?

    darwinkilledgod.blogspot.com

    • Fergus Pickering

      Dear me, how cross you are. Could it be that you are unsure of the ground beneath your feet? So you should be. It is faery ground. Anyone who does NOT believe in magic is a poor wretched thing with no soul at all. Poor fellow! Poor fellow!

    • pullover5

      Sounds like you have a similar relationship with Richard Dawkins as others have to God. Or perhaps it should be R-ich-rd D-wk-ns. Is it unbefitting of him to debate with mere mortals?

      • Tim Reed

        “Sounds like you have a similar relationship with Richard Dawkins as others have to God.”

        Except that Richard Dawkins is real, and what he says is backed by evidence. So, no – there’s no requirement to have ‘faith’ in the man or his science. There’s proof for both.

        • pullover5

          My belief in a creator is backed by evidence and founded in reason. The fact that you are motivated to call others to your beliefs and refute the beliefs of others shows a level of faith in your convictions. You believe that happiness will result if others’ accept your beliefs. A heaven on earth?

      • Fak_Zakaix

        He is the St. Paul of Atheism after all…

    • http://twitter.com/frankiidoodle Frances Gibbon

      Can you provide strong scientific evidence against? Yes we believers can’t prove but equally non-believers cannot disprove it so why can’t everyone just agree to disagree? This applies to both sides, I can’t stand evangelical types and equally cannot stand angry atheists.
      On a side note, please don’t put Dawkins on a pedestal, he’s a terrible writer. His main argument for things appears to be that he said them.

      • MichtyMe

        Well, the evidence against would depend on which one of the numerous deities is to be disproved.

        • Fak_Zakaix

          Indeed, but RD talks only about “God”. What does he mean by this?

      • John Steadman

        The problem with this stance is that you set belief and non-belief on an equal footing. So absurd – science proves so much of what we know and what is capable of being proved – while there is to any reasonable mind a total lack of evidence for the existence of a god.
        Really, how can you argue against a belief in myth?

    • Daniel Maris

      When you and Dawkins can give a satisfactory account of the subjective experience of consciousness and can tell us where exactly in this four dimensional objective cosmos it is to be observed, then we may give you a hearing. Until then, to talk disparagingly of other people’s “magic” when you have no explanation for the most fundamental element in our experience (subjective consciousness) exposes how very, very tiny the scope of your mind must be.

      • Tim Reed

        So, because we cannot explain everything, we can dismiss nothing?
        Non sequitur.

        • C. Gee

          If I said God gave us consciousness, would that be a “satisfactory” account of the subjective experience of consciousness? Would it indicate great scope of mind?

          • C. Gee

            My response should have been to Daniel Maris, not Tim Reed, with whom I agree.

          • Fak_Zakaix

            It just makes one think.

      • John Steadman

        Oh dear, we can’t account for “the subjective experience of consciousness” – whatever that means – what a damning criticism of empirical science!
        I’m persuaded – God help us.

      • Matt Pryor

        Good post Daniel.

  • margaret benjamin

    You cannot underestimate the power of religion , very rarely does it have anything to do with the existence of G-d. Some have a very violent god who rewards those who kill as many as they can in one go.who rules by terror and fear, not for the faint hearted . then others say were is the proof,the science man! all depends who your god is.If like Dawkins you don’t believe anything humanism atheism then you reject the one and only true G-d. So those stories you may have heard when you were younger are true.Everybody is going to live forever,you have to make your choice now while you are able to determine were that will be.

    • Baron

      Quoted by the great Mark Steyn:

      In 1944, at a terrible moment of the most terrible century, Henri de Lubac wrote a reflection on Europe’s civilizational crisis, Le drame de l’humanisme athee. By “atheistic humanism,” he meant the organized rejection of God — not the freelance atheism of individual skeptics but atheism as an ideology and political project in its own right. As M. de Lubac wrote, “It is not true, as is sometimes said, that man cannot organize the world without God. What is true is that, without God, he can only organize it against man.”

  • Daniel Maris

    You can be an atheist and believe religion has a place in society. This isn’t a debate about God’s existence is it…

  • NBeale

    I’m told by a v well placed source that yours was “a virtuoso performance”. Do post/say more about your experience – this would be interesting independently of the video.

  • margaret benjamin

    Richard Dawkins that speaks volumes. The man who spends most of his life denying the existence of G-d.A man convinced against his will,is of the same opinion still!! Britain is a Christian country not Islamic,yes we live along side them but when Islam lifts its voice in the UK we don’t want to hear it.Their are enough Islamic countries without trying to impose any Sharia laws into the british system. True Christianity is an extension of Judaism for the church was birthed in Jerusalem not Rome as some imagine.People like Richard dawkins need prayer really the Lord Jesus Christ said even if someone from the dead rises and appears to them they still would not believe! out of the overflow of the heart the mouth speaks, its with the heart man believes unto righteousness. Personally I am not a religious person but I do live by Faith in Christ Jesus. my trust is in G-d not in man, Many denominations mistake another from certain aspects of the Bible that they choose to follow.G-d is not a denomination either.Jesus said I am the way the truth and the life.So any other way wont take you their.many theologians and religious so called experts come out with their interpretation of what they think people should be doing in life to please G-d. they seldom know themselves. the best way to know is Study the bible for yourself,and get to know the author in the person of Jesus.

    • Baron

      Margaret, good points.

      The views of this chap Dawkins prove conclusively that given enough time, a monkey could conceivably copy Hamlet, never create it.

      • margaret benjamin

        Agreed Shalom.

      • Fak_Zakaix

        Deep point. So you think that the Turing test is silly after all. But if a particular conception of “God” is pertinent (there are many conceptions) does that makes a particular theistic religion (because there are also atheistic religions) true?
        What interests me is whether Jesus Christ spoke the truth or not.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Human-Ape/100001623230964 Human Ape

      What’s this G-d business? My name is Bob. I don’t spell it B-b. I think perhaps you’re insane.

      Also, you misspelled Jeebus. Jeebus is spelled “Jeebus”, not “Jesus”.

      • margaret benjamin

        Jesus is Yeshua that means salvation ! the name of G-d is holy not to be taken likely or even written thought you might have known that bob!

        • AndrewMelville

          Stop being silly.

          • Fak_Zakaix

            RD is silly too. We should be free to be silly at our expense.

    • http://www.facebook.com/people/Human-Ape/100001623230964 Human Ape

      This is a good one: “Personally I am not a religious person but I do live by Faith in Christ Jesus. my trust is in G-d not in man,”

      As if an idiot who lives by “Faith in Christ Jeebus” is not religious. Perhaps you’re a liar.

      darwinkilledgod.blogspot.com

      • margaret benjamin

        Perhaps you are a Moron!

      • Fak_Zakaix

        What do you know?

    • AndrewMelville

      Stop saying G-d!

      Say Yahweh.

      • margaret benjamin

        Yes, Yahweh,HaShem,Elyon. Hear O Israel the Lord our G-d the Lord is one.Shalom.

        • AndrewMelville

          Just Yahweh is fine. Kill the silly verbal tricks: Hashem, Elyon, G-d and the like. God is not concerned with the trivial and silly.

          • margaret benjamin

            Silly verbal you should be very careful DO NOT TAKE THE NAME OF THE LORD YOUR GOD IN VAIN. G-d is known by many names, Go learn his ways.

            • Fak_Zakaix

              Can I convert to the universal religion of Judaism?

              • margaret benjamin

                Why what is your religion then?

                • Fak_Zakaix

                  Have you heard of Sigmund Freud? He is my teacher, my rabbi.

                • margaret benjamin

                  So you and Dawkins have the same conviction and what a load of old rubbish it is also,One day you will have no option but you will stand before the Lord,everybody will, are you ready!

  • Guy

    It’s a little surprising to me that Mr Murray spoke against the notion, considering his stance on equality and human rights. I’m guessing there’s some nuance here, and that his position on the place of religion in the 22nd century is different.

  • Vindice

    “My opponents on my own side were Rowan Williams and Tariq Ramadan” – thanks for that.

    I look forward to the video

    • Kernow Castellan

      Yes. I smiled at that too.

      Monotheistic religions generally breed schism (“if you don’t believe my variant you are a heretic and worthy of the flames”).

      There are very few conflicts driven by fundamentalist atheists.

      • Daniel Maris

        The 20th century says otherwise.

        • Kernow Castellan

          I can’t think of many actual conflicts. The communist world suppressed religions in the same way that theocratic regimes do, but were there many wars driven by atheism (as opposed to other reasons)?

          • Hugh

            So, once religion is out the way people kill each other for lots of other reasons – and your conclusion is that religion is the problem.

            Doesn’t seem very scientific.

            • Kernow Castellan

              No. You appear to be misunderstanding what I wrote. I am sorry for not being clearer.

              My point was that there are very few conflicts which are driven by a need of fundamentalist atheists to obliterate those who believe something different.

              Whereas there are a lot of conflicts, now and historically, which have been driven by a need of (monotheistic) religious fundamentalists to obliterate those who believe something different.

              I suspect there is something in monotheism which leads people to believe they are “right”, and everyone else is “wrong”. Given that faith is not derived from logic, people cannot be argued into, or out of, their beliefs (although that does not stop people from trying). This leads to intransigence, and hence conflict.

              I see this overly confrontational attitude a lot in comments on blog posts, to take an example.

              • Baron

                Would you care to explain to the East European barbarian what difference does it make to someone dead in a conflict if he’s killed by a religious fanatic or a rationally logical atheist?

                • Kernow Castellan

                  Once they are killed, it doesn’t matter to anyone how they died – they are dead.

                  However, that does not mean we should not try to reduce the instances of people being killed. And my original point has not been contested – that there have been many more conflicts int he name of monotheistic religion, than in the name of atheism.

                  Your bizarre logic could equally apply to medicine – everyone dies eventually(*), and once they are dead it doesn’t matter to them how they died. Hence all medicine is pointless.

                  (*) Although currently only about 93% of all people have died, so you never know….

                • Baron

                  you right, it is a bizarre logic, cul-de-sac argument : Kernow 1- Baron 0?

                • Kernow Castellan

                  You’re terribly competitive if you are awarding points. I find these discussions useful to develop, hone, and correct my ideas. :-)

              • Fergus Pickering

                Oh come sir. The atheistical Left are characterised by exactly this smug sense of sueriority. It’s what makes anyone of sensibility want to hit Dawkins in the mouth.

                • Kernow Castellan

                  True. But that is a consequence of the naivety of the left, not atheism. The religious left are just as smug, if not more so.

                • Reith Symonds

                  Irritating as he is, that sounds like the start of a VERY minor war perpetrated by a monotheist.

              • Hugh

                I don’t think I did misunderstand. You “suspect there is something in monotheism which leads people to believe they are “right”, and everyone else is “wrong”‘ and thus obliterate others. I know that the vast majority of genocides in the last century had nothing to do with religion. QED the “something” that leads people to feel the need to obliterate others isn’t to be found “in monotheism”; it appears to be in human nature.

                • Kernow Castellan

                  I am afraid I am still not being clear.

                  My point was this: more conflicts have been driven by religious zeal, than by fundamentalist atheism.

                  Now, and in the past.

                • Hugh

                  Yes, that’s true, but the majority of history recorded with sufficient clarity for us to identify the causes of conflict has been dominated by religion. Yet, as religion has waned more recently other philosophies have simply replaced it to drive conflicts. Perhaps I’m still misunderstanding you, but it seems you are trying to imply that atheism is likely to lead to a lower death toll and is therefore preferable. That doesn’t seem very well supported by the facts.

                • Kernow Castellan

                  I am not making that implication. You are inferring it.

                  And I see no evidence of monotheistic religion waning. Quite the contrary. Polytheism is rising too, but their zealotry (e.g. BJP) is more nationalistic than religious.

                • Hugh

                  My mistake. An easy mistake to make, though, I’d argue: if you state that monotheism leads to conflict and contrast it with atheism, one is tempted to conclude you are suggesting more atheism would mean fewer conflicts. If that’s not the case, then sorry to have been a bore.

                  An interesting point about whether religion is waning. I thought that overall the proportion of atheists in the world was increasing, but on reflection I think I am just assuming that; I could well be wrong.

                • Kernow Castellan

                  I am interested to know *why* the facts are as they are. Until we know that, I cannot tell if more atheism would reduce conflicts.

                  Why is, say, monotheistic zeal more aggressive than atheistic zeal. Why is Dawkins not advocating that those who do not share his belief must convert or die, as so many monotheists have asserted through history. In other words, why is he simply boring, rather than dangerous?

                  On the decline of monotheism – there are more believers in it now than there have ever been, and a higher proportion of these are ardent, not “lip service”

                • Hugh

                  “Why is, say, monotheistic zeal more aggressive than atheistic zeal.”

                  It isn’t if the brand of atheism is communism, for example.

                  You’re not comparing like with like: First, you’re comparing lack of belief in a deity – largely a widespread phenomenon only relatively recently with particular brands of monotheistic belief with a couple of thousand odd years’ history. Moreover, the first question is whether there’s a God or not. However, you answer that you’re then still left with the questions of why you are here and what you should do. And on the evidence we do have, deciding there isn’t a God doesn’t seem to be any less likely to lead you to answer the second question in a way that’s unfortunate for humanity.

                • Kernow Castellan

                  That doesn’t explain why polytheism (older than monotheism) never drove the kind of purges like the Crusades or Islamic fundamentalism.

                  I would struggle to name any atheist currently saying “convert to my (non) belief or die”. Whereas it is all to easy to find monotheists saying this. Is this just coincidence, or is there something about monotheism?

                • Gareth

                  You make a significant category error in lumping all “monotheists” as one. If you’re discussing people who are strongly motivated by their beliefs, what they believe has to be examined closely first. It’s not difficult to point to examples of religious fanatics whose views have motivated them to kill, but equally, a balanced view would need to look at ways in which a faith has moved people away from committing harm.

                • Kernow Castellan

                  You’re right.

                  I meant the 3 Mosaic monotheistic religions. Other monotheisms, like Bahai or Parsi, do not produce the same degree of fanatics.

                  Thank you for the correction. :-)

                • Gareth

                  I think you need to break it down a great deal more than that!

                • Hugh

                  I would say it’s fairly obvious that you are less likely to murder someone for following a different god if you believe in many different ones yourself. You will instead, as noted, find another reason for killing them.

                • Baron

                  impossible to tell how many conflicts were driven genuinely by religious beliefs in the AD centuries, you have any numbers?, what is beyond question is that until now more people have died by the hand of atheists than religious fruitcakes. IIt may well be it was because there were more of us last century century, the weapons were more of a mass destruction kind, nevertheless it’s true that in no other century in the man’s known history more of us got massacred than in the 20th century.

                • Kernow Castellan

                  Other than communist suppression of religious belief, I am not aware of many, or any, conflicts driven by need of atheists to either convert or kill those who had a different faith.

                  Whereas history is littered with examples of monotheists doing just that.

                  I am interested in why this should be the case.

                • Simon Morgan

                  The answer (which I suspect you know) is simple. When you shove dogma down a child’s throat from a very early age (whether it’s communism, fascism or religion), you are potentially breeding the next generation of barking-mad fanatics (just see that film by Geert Wilders if you need any proof). That is why we must consign religion to where it belongs – to our primitive past.

                • Daniel Maris

                  Well that’s likely to be true in that atheism has only got a grip on societies in the last 150 years. But over the last 150 years, I would dispute that, or rather I would say you would have to analyse it closely.

                • Kernow Castellan

                  True. But polytheism has been around for millennia, and hasn’t been as strong a driver for conflict.

                  Perhaps it is the nature of the Mosaic deity, rather than monotheism per se. The first commandment instructs that no other beliefs can be tolerated.

                • Youbian

                  It is wrong to imply that all monotheistic religions are extreme. Do you really see the Church of England and militant Islam as the same?

                • Simon Morgan

                  No, one is far nuttier than the other. But they are two sides of the same coin. Whether it’s the ‘normal’ christians or the insane wahhabis, far better for humanity to move forward.

          • Daniel Maris

            Well if you know your politics, you’ll know that Lenin, Stalin and Mao (and all other Communist leaders) all claimed to be motivated by a scientific view of life called dialectical materialism. Materialism is an explicitly atheistic creed. To the extent that they political programme was about implementing dialectical materialism as a way of organising society you can certainly say all the wars they promoted were being promoted for atheistic reasons.

            They claimed they were socialists because they were dialectical materialists, not the other way round.

            • Kernow Castellan

              There are very strong arguments that communism, when held in its zealous form, is a form of religion, albeit not a deist one.

        • Tim Reed

          There may have been conflicts driven by leaders who happened to be atheists, but these were not wars driven by atheism.

          • Baron

            the wars in the last century, over 60mn dead in WW2 alone, 240mn in all conficts, were not driven by religion either, so what’s your point, Tim.

          • Guest

            My point was merely that atheism – a lack of ‘belief’ – is not a motivator in conflict. Religion, on the other hand, often has been in the past. That was all.

            • Tim Reed

              Damn – that was in reply to Baron.

            • Youbian

              Pol Pot and Mao were aggressive atheists and therefore anti all religion and they killed millions because of their beliefs. Any strongly held belief can start a war.

            • http://www.facebook.com/yeahbabyrb Russ Baker

              Erm would you like to do some more research on that?

      • http://twitter.com/heraclesblack Heracles Black

        Polytheistic cultures face schism within and conflict with other cultures too, as evident in the Iliad, but not necessarily caused by religious disagreements. But then I suppose Socrates was hanged for ”introducing new gods”.

        • Kernow Castellan

          if you believe in hundreds of gods, it is hard to get riled by someone else believing in the “wrong” god

          • Youbian

            How do you account for the Japanese in the last war? Not atheists but Shinto. Not a monotheistic religion.

            • Kernow Castellan

              Japans behaviour was not driven by religion but a sense of ethnic superiority. Converting to Shinto would not have saved gaijin.

            • http://twitter.com/bertmuscalaa matt magid

              The Japanese in WWII were following a god directly, as they were made to see it. The Emperor of Japan was a god in human form. That’s where the true issue arises there. We see a similar effect in the cult of personality among the atheist lead genocides of the 20th century. The first two, the Armenian Genocide and Holocaust were driven very much by religious purpose. However when the nations involved in mass killings were “atheists”, they were communist regimes where, much like the emperor of Japan, the leader was seen as near God status (Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot), they were all diefied. State was the religion.
              My point in this is to say, that there is something to be said about atheism being less likely to cause mass killing than religious nations. However, if you simply replace religion with an “all knowing, all powerfull” dictator, then they will act as god and kill who they see fit. This is not an atheist problem, it is a statist problem.

      • http://twitter.com/ianwalkeruk Ian Walker

        Wars tend to be driven by idealogical fundamentialists. Some of them are religious, others stick to dogma such as capitalism, socialism, communism, nationalism or fascism. The end result is depressingly homogeneous for the vast majority of the victims.

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