Conversations: Dogmas Run Amok


Galene
I once heard someone say that Stalin was an atheist. They did not say much else, but I understood their statement to be critical of atheism, suggesting there must be some relation between atheism and totalitarian cruelties.

Sappho
This is a silly stab at trying to reach some sort of moral high ground; it is commonly employed by the more orthodox and fundamentalist theist.

Helena
Throughout history, totalitarian regimes have either embraced a religion, or rejected all existing religions and replaced it with a new one; the problem with totalitarian regimes is they behave too much like religions – they embrace utterly dogmatic systems of thought to validate the regime’s claim to power.

Galene
That seems a little strong.

Sappho
Really? Consider this: is too little faith really the problem with nations such as Turkmenistan, Zimbabwe, or North Korea? Is too much sceptical inquiry what is wrong with these societies?

Helena
Indeed, Auschwitz, the Gulag, and the killing fields are not the product of people ‘not believing’ in a supreme being, state, idea, et cetera; they are the product of dogmas run amok: nationalism, blood debts, racial hatred, god-like leaders, et cetera.

Sappho
In fact, I put it to you, has there ever been a society in human history that has suffered because its population became too reasonable?

Helena
Well said. I have read that somewhere as well. I believe it was Hitchens who said something along these lines, “find me a state or a society that threw off theocracy, and threw off religion, and said ‘we adopt the teachings of Lucretius, and Democritus, and Galileo, and Spinoza, and Darwin, and Russell, and Jefferson, and Thomas Paine; their scientific and rational humanism will be our teaching.’ Find me such a society and show me how it fell into tyranny, and slavery, and famine, and torture, and then we will be on a level playing field.”

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