Home > History, Humanism/Atheism, Religion, TV Reviews > Flogging a Dead Dictator

Flogging a Dead Dictator

There are few things more depressing during a healthy debate about an important subject than the slow realisation that no matter what you say to your opponent, they are utterly incapable of comprehending the argument you’re making. I don’t mean incapable of agreeing with it – fair enough, people disagree, whatever. Here I refer to those arguments that, no matter how frequently or eloquently they’re put across, are still met with an almighty ‘urrhhh?’ from certain groups of people.


One of these arguments appeared in full effect this very morning on BBC1’s The Big Questions, hosted by Nicky Campbell. Incidentally, this is man who I wouldn’t trust to answer the phone, let alone ‘the big questions’, but nevertheless. To the argument! Anyone who’s ever debated atheism vs. theism has heard it. You already know what it’s going to be, don’t you? Yes indeed, it’s the good ol’ ‘Stalin was an atheist’ gambit! In this incarnation it was made by a chap from the Christian think tank Theos (it’s difficult to know if a ‘Christian think tank’ has its work cut out, or very little to do at all. I can’t decide): ‘Stalin and Mao were atheists,’ he blustered, ‘and they were very intolerant! Therefore atheism is intolerant!’ At this, I was poised to smash my very face into the TV screen, which would have actually served to reduce the pain of having to listen to this appalling bullshit.

But wait! To my surprise, there in the audience piped up a friend of mine, Chloë Clifford-Frith of the AHS! I leapt to the remote and ramped up the volume. The glorious light of reason began to fill the room at last. ‘Stalin didn’t do all those things because he was an atheist,’ Chloë said, ‘he did them because he was evil! How can you be so intellectually subnormal not to realise this?’ (Actually, I added the last bit myself because it’s what I would have said had I been there). Mr. Theos responded in a somewhat curious fashion, firstly decrying the fact that atheists sometimes say religious people do bad things in the name of their religions. Let’s deal with this one first. This has all been said before, but I’ll spell it out because these people just will not understand:

Really rather obvious point #1: Religions are conclusions from which loads of if-then rules follow, such as ‘if this person is homosexual, then they are immoral’, and ‘if someone doesn’t believe, convert them’. Atheism is a conclusion without any if-then rules. Religious people have done some horrendous stuff in the name of religion, because they were following the if-then rules of their particular denomination. This is a logical impossibility for an atheist. There has to be something else involved to spur atheists on to commit atrocities. I wonder what it could have been in the case of Stalin and Mao? Possibly an insidious brand of ultra-authoritarian communism which demanded they silence all organised resistance? Possibly.

Curiouser and curiouser. Mr. Theos then went on to entirely wreck his own argument. ‘Stalin and Mao replaced religion with the state! It was profoundly religious!’ he shrieked, completely unaware of the logical consequences of his argument. This fool, this balloon, just hit the nail on the head – completely unintentionally. Which leads us to:

Really rather obvious point #2: The so-called ‘New Atheists’ (Dawkins, Hitchens, etc), about whom Mr. Theos is so incensed, are not just against religion. They are against all irrational beliefs. Stalin’s Russia and Mao’s China are not examples of a perfect atheist utopia. They were so hellish precisely because an irrational belief system took over. Communism in the hands of Uncle Joe and Chairman Mao was a religion in all but name. They had personality cults, evil satanic outsiders who were to blame for everything going wrong (e.g. Trotsky and other ‘counter-revolutionaries’) and even encouraged magical thinking with Lysenko’s ‘miracle’ crops and Mao’s invention/codification of what we now know as ‘Traditional’ Chinese Medicine.

Is it possible that maybe, maybe one day we will stop hearing these pathetic arguments? There is one glimmer of hope: Mr. Theos today failed to mention the last member of the ‘Atheist Dictator Trilogy’, Hitler. Peradventure our religious friends have noticed that Hitler was in no way an atheist, and will now stop invoking his name in their usual shrill fashion, as if to say ‘I have just won the argument by the mere mention of this name’.

So, my religious friends. Take note of the above. When you next debate an atheist, try to make some intelligent criticisms of their position, and let this feeble, moribund, super-epic fail of an argument die at long last.

  1. AlexMagd
    August 2, 2009 at 7:26 pm

    Haha funnily enough I just wrote a note about this very topic, along with a couple of other arguments that popped up on the show that need to be taken out behind the shed and shot, for being rubbish.

  2. AlexG
    August 2, 2009 at 11:40 pm

    We should convert them all to radical atheism, using the technology and ethos of the “Necromongers” from “The Chronicles of Riddick”.

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