On so-called atheist regimes

October 4, 2011 | By | 4 Replies More

At the blog of Sam Harris, Steven Pinker points out that there is no legitimate frame of reference for characterizing murderous regimes to be “atheist,” despite their lack of religiosity:

First, the premise that Nazism and Communism were “atheist” ideologies makes sense only within a religiocentric worldview that divides political systems into those that are based on Judaeo-Christian ideology and those that are not. In fact, 20th-century totalitarian movements were no more defined by a rejection of Judaeo-Christianity than they were defined by a rejection of astrology, alchemy, Confucianism, Scientology, or any of hundreds of other belief systems. They were based on the ideas of Hitler and Marx, not David Hume and Bertrand Russell, and the horrors they inflicted are no more a vindication of Judeao-Christianity than they are of astrology or alchemy or Scientology.

Second, Nazism and Fascism were not atheistic in the first place. Hitler thought he was carrying out a divine plan. Nazism received extensive support from many German churches, and no opposition from the Vatican. Fascism happily coexisted with Catholicism in Spain, Italy, Portugal, and Croatia.


Category: Politics, Religion, War

About the Author ()

Erich Vieth is an attorney focusing on consumer law litigation and appellate practice. He is also a working musician and a writer, having founded Dangerous Intersection in 2006. Erich lives in the Shaw Neighborhood of St. Louis, Missouri, where he lives half-time with his two extraordinary daughters.

Comments (4)

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  1. Tim Hogan says:

    The WWII German Army (Wehrmacht) belt buckles were inscribed “Gott mit Uns” (God with us or God be with us).

  2. Tony says:

    Steven Pinker surely doesn’t know his Russell:

    “By far the most important aspect of the Russian Revolution is as an attempt to realize Communism. I believe that Communism is necessary to the world, and I believe that the heroism of Russia has fired men’s hopes in a way which was essential to the realization of Communism in the future. Regarded as a splendid attempt, without which ultimate success would have been very improbable, Bolshevism deserves the gratitude and admiration of all the progressive part of mankind.

    In all this, I am at one with the Bolsheviks; politically, I criticize them only when their methods seem to involve a departure from their own ideals.”
    The Practice and Theory of Bolshevism – Bertrand Russell

    Russel goes on to criticize Bolshevism, but notes that “to oppose it from the point of view of a supporter of capitalism would be, to my mind, utterly futile and against the movement of history in the present age.”

    And giving the impression that the ideas of Hitler and Marx are on par? Yeah, right.

  3. Ellen says:

    ‘State Athiesm’ has existed. It is defined. To say that it has not existed is false.

  4. Ellen—then by all means, provide examples. Theocracies are not politically definable by the presence of god but by the state sanctioned and enforced act of worship. This is the only viable way to characterize them since no one can tell who really is or is not a believer. All anyone can go by are actions. Structurally, then, all the totalitarianisms have been theocracies—all of them have been based on worship of The Leader and expounded by cults of personality. No doubt many of the people within such regimes were and are believers in a god, but for the purposes of the state that is immaterial, whether it be Iran or North Korea.

    Tony—excellent point concerning the asymmetry between Marx and Hitler. But the comparison would have to be between Stalin and Hitler, as Marx was never a state leader.

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