Video - The Trouble With Atheism - Part 1 Review

Part One:

It's odd to say that atheism is as intolerant as religion. What exactly are we doing besides rebutting claims made my theists, endorsing critical thinking, promoting skepticism, and encouraging people to think about their beliefs in fair conversations?

What is "intolerant religion" doing in the United States? Religion insists that gays can't marry, hates people who uphold the idea of separation of church and state, causes an extreme amount of divisiveness, threatens free speech, halts stem cell research, offers people a false view of the universe, teaching children that the world started with Adam and Eve about 10,000 years ago, convinces people that faith is a good thing, leads parents to think that their children don't need medicine because God will heal them....

Atheists aren't dogmatic as the video suggests...what's there to be dogmatic about? We don't accept the claims of believers, therefore we don't believe. If believers offer some evidence for their claims, we'll be more than happy to join their camps. When do you ever hear theists saying things like this about atheists? Theists will often start with the idea that God exists and ad-hoc their way to defend it instead of viewing both sides and making a decision of their own.

We also don't insist that all religious people are stupid. Many religious individuals are well-educated, intelligent, and studious. I don't think that the people are "stupid," but their beliefs are certainly nonsense.

"If we all become atheists tomorrow, will the world become a better place?"
It's quite an odd and improbable proposition, but let's just imagine that tomorrow every news outlet published a definitive argument that convinces everyone that God is imaginary. Do you think that we'd continue all of our religious-based conflicts or do you think we'd realize "Wow, what a waste that was?" Paul said it himself, "If Jesus didn't come back from the dead, our preaching is in vain."

"The people they so despise."
I don't despise religious people. I despise religion. I do, though, despise people who use religion as a tool to behave poorly, inflict harm, shield their positions from judgment, take no responsibility for their actions, and claim that the bad things they do are justified because God says so. I may disagree with the run-of-mill theist, but I don't despise them.

"Atheism is becoming its own religion"
Let's get this straight. An atheist is simply someone who doesn't believe in God. That's it...there are no ceremonies, no prayers, no sacred texts, no leaders, no rules... The video is dishonest saying that atheism is a religion and points to...a physics building. Really?

"Stalin, an atheist leader, killed so many people"
Stalin was simply a leader who is believed to be an atheist. This, though, has no bearing on his actions whatsoever. There is no logical connection from "I don't believe in God" to "I'm going to set up gulags, set up a personality cult, brainwash my nation, send people to death, etc." It's like saying this, "Hitler had a mustache, this mustache leader killed so many people" and trying to blame it on the moustache.

More on Stalin from IronChariots.org:

He attended an Eastern Orthodox primary school. This was not out of the ordinary as nearly all primary schools were administered by the church. Then he attended seminary at Tbilisi. There are many stories about him leaving seminary, some with scandal, some with conspiracy. Regardless, he "left" seminary at the end of his final year. There are accounts that he was ordained as a priest, and others that he was not. These accounts are so specious because Stalin silenced many of his former classmates and teachers, in fact he did not like it known that he came from Georgia at all. Little is known about Stalin's life until the age of 44 when he became the head of the Communist Party.

As the de facto ruler of the USSR, he initiated many purges. Many clergy were killed and this is often cited as Stalin's anti-christian mark. However, like Henry VIII he did not simply remove clergy, he replaced them. He established a new national church of Russia, which of course answered to him. He considered the church very important to extending control from Moscow to the satellite nations. Stalin's church was called the Russian Orthodox Church or The Moscow Patriarchate; and the suppressed church was called the Russian Orthodox Church Outside Russia. They have a bitter history.

That Stalin was many things, a former theologian, the head of the national church, and one of the most brutal dictators ever. His own views on religion are difficult to guess. Many scholars think of Stalin as a ruler you envisioned himself as a god. To claim that he was an atheist is overly simplistic.

Furthermore, there is the concurrent claim that the USSR was an atheist nation. While the Communist Party suppressed religious fervor, it did so only out of jealously of loyalties. The Communist Party demanded loyalty to the itself above all others even God. Russia has always been an intensely religious nation. They consider the leader of the Eastern Orthodox Church to be equal to the Vatican's Pope; or even above the Pope. To claim that Russia became atheistic overnight in 1917 only to emerge deeply religious in 1989 is incredibly ignorant.

"Atheism...a belief in a negative."

This misunderstanding of the definition greatly undermines the credibility of the video's author. Atheism simply means "without theism." It's not a belief - it's a response to claims being made by theists. Would you say that bald is a hair color? Would you say that someone who is a Muslim has a belief in the negative about Zeus?

"How could such a blank position show us how to live our lives?"

Another definitional misunderstanding...atheism says nothing about how to live life. You don't get from "I don't accept the claims of theists about God's existence" to "Here is how to live life." When looking at morality, though, from a non-theistic perspective, one may find that this life is more worthwhile because it's so limited and finite, we should focus on human-based ethics, we should insist open debate on important ethical issues and not limit the conversation to what we think God wants...