Dr. Joan Bushwell's Chimpanzee Refuge

Dawkins on O’Reilly

As noted in an earlier entry, Richard Dawkins was on the BO’R show last night. There’s some discussion of it by fellow sciblings here and here. I didn’t expect much and thus I wasn’t disappointed.

There is one item though that I would like to address and that’s the line often used by the hyper-religious and duly repeated by BO’R regarding the worst butchers of the 20th century (Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot) being atheists. Dawkins started to address the issue by noting that Hitler was Christian but this line was squashed in short order. Certainly one could go on about Hitler’s use of symbols and his own statements in support of this position, but that misses the point as much as BO’R did. It doesn’t really matter if those guys were atheists or deists or Christians or whatever. The salient characteristic of those regimes is that they were totalitarian structures that demanded fealty from the masses; that exhorted people to work solely for the good of the regime; and that would do all thinking for them. In short, the job of the citizenry was to obey blindly the unquestionable authority above all else. To me, that sounds an awful lot like the practical outcome of a theocracy. The fundamental difference is that the totalitarian regime places its leader as “god” (untouchable figurehead) instead of relying on a more abstract (and perhaps more fanciful) notion involving persons long dead.

Atheism? You might as well base your argument on the fact that those four men all had dark hair.

Comments

  1. #1 Demosophist
    April 24, 2007

    Actually your attempt to explain and describe totalitarianism is a little anemic. It’s possible for a theocracy to turn into a totalitarian regime, but the nature of the religion is rather important… and so far theocracies that were fascistic lack the kind of unqualified bloodletting that characterizes the totalitarian regimes that emerged from Hegelian philosophy (Marxism and Nazism). There’s also a fairly good case that in attempting to substitute for religion, which is at least moderated by intervening social traditions, atheistic totalitarianism throws the door wide open to the worst of human error and miscalculation. There’s a kind of profound arrogance lying behind the “visible man syndrome” that most religions manage to minimize.

    It seems to me, however, that Islamofascism has the potential to become totalitarian, in part because it was so heavily infected with the totalist twisted Hegelian virus in the 1930s and 40s. (Wright, in The Looming Tower, makes this observation as well.)

  2. #2 Henry Culver
    April 24, 2007

    I was recently translating my grandfather’s military booklet and ran across a website with an identical booklet for Hitler. I know its already a well established fact that Hitler was Catholic, but here is a link anyway:

    http://www.nizkor.org/ftp.py?people/h/hitler.adolf/oss-papers/images/gif/00010800.gif

    Notice item 3.

  3. #3 JimFiore
    April 24, 2007

    Yes, I’ll agree that the nature of the religion can make a difference (I don’t think we’ll see a Zen Buddhist fascist state anytime soon), but as far as mass bloodletting goes, the afore-mentioned men had 20th century technology on their side for “economies of scale”. Can’t ignore that fact in a comparison.

  4. #4 Ahcuah
    April 24, 2007

    Atheism? You might as well base your argument on the fact that those four men all had dark hair.

    Or that both Hitler and Stalin had moustaches.

    (Which is the example Dawkins used.)

  5. #5 quork
    April 24, 2007

    When Dawkins pointed out that Hitler was not an atheist, O’Reilly’s comeback was that he didn’t think Hitler (and Stalin, etc.) had any moral foundation. So he was making the atheism = immorality lie. Which then becomes circular, because he was using Hitler as an example of the bad things caused by atheists.

    O’Reilly was, of course, entirely wrong. Hitler, Stalin, Mao, Pope Urban II and pretty much all the nastiest people in human history are Mormons.

  6. #6 JE
    April 24, 2007

    I despair of scientists who may be competent in their field and then forget all standards when moving outside of it. Hitler was not a Christian in any meaningful sense of the word. Read any of the serious biographies of him. Hitler and Goebbels successfully recruited a majority of German churches to support Nazism in the 1930s because of their fear of the Communists. Once in power, the Nazis successfully intimidated most German Churches through fear and nationalism and persecuted and killed their Christian critics. Has anyone on this blog even heard of Bonhoffer, much know what he said and did?

  7. #7 quork
    April 25, 2007

    Hitler was not a Christian in any meaningful sense of the word.

    You apparently are one of those bigots who insists that Mormons are not Christians.

  8. #8 quork
    April 25, 2007

    Once in power, the Nazis successfully intimidated most German Churches through fear and nationalism and persecuted and killed their Christian critics.

    How does that differentiate them from any number of prominent and undeniably Christian leaders; e.g. Martin Luther, John Calvin and numerous popes? (Many of whom are Mormons.)

  9. #9 JimFiore
    April 25, 2007

    Folks, you’re missing the point. It doesn’t really matter whether or not Hitler was Christian (or atheist). He could have been either (or other) and still perform as he did. It’s the totalitarian nature, the demand for non-thinking allegiance, that makes it all possible.

The site is undergoing maintenance presently. Commenting has been disabled. Please check back later!