Mailvox: three questions

Thimscool poses a triad:

1) Atheism has not been a significant political force for very long, so it’s hard to say what the empirical evidence will be two thousand years from now.

Agreed, but its track record thus far is astoundingly appalling. Given that the first formally atheistic government produced The Terror, the second one produced the Leninist and Stalinist slaughters, the third launched a vicious persecution that sparked the Cristero rebellion and gave birth to the fascistic PRI that ruled Mexico until very recently.

One would be irresponsible to leave out the massive atrocities under the officially atheist governments of China, Vietnam and the Khmer Rouge as well. Indeed, it is hard to think of an atheist government – as opposed to a merely secular one – which doesn’t occasionally slaughter a significant percentage of its people.

I note that the Scandinavian countries which are famously populated with atheists have never had atheist governments, for example, the Lutheran Church of Sweden was the state church as recently as 2000.

2) Atheism, by itself, offers very little support upon which to build a cohesive society, much less a civilization. Atheism was a tenant of communism, but atheism does not imply communism, or nihilism. It simply doesn’t have much to say. The point of secular humanism is to construct a ‘religion’ or a way for society to organize, based in part on atheism.

Agreed, for the most part. However, atheism certainly does imply nihilism, it’s worth recalling that Nietzsche derived his philosophy of nihilism from the postulate that God was dead. Given the millenia of philosophical recognition that civilization requires a basic belief in some form of deity in order to thrive – recognition which includes Christian, pagan, agnostic and atheist philosophers alike – the burden is on the atheist to demonstrate that this is not the case.

I have yet to see anyone even begin to build a reasonable case for it. Given that the most famous atheist philosophers, Nietzsche and Sartre, argue to the contrary, I think this would be a difficult task. Certainly I was unable to do so during my years as an agnostic.

3) I am still curious what you think about Kant’s system, and its consistency (or lack thereof).

Not much. I’ve read two of his works and if I recall correctly, I found them to be consistent but largely beside the point. Given that I believe there is a surfeit of empirical evidence demonstrating that Man is not a rational animal, I consider the concept that reason can be relied upon to provide a universal basis with which to dictate behavior to be fallacious. Kant came up in a discussion a while back; the White Buffalo performed a pretty amusing demolition of the Categorical Imperative that some regulars here will remember.

I don’t remember much about how it went, except for the funniest moment when an atheist Champion of Reason finally lost it and posted something that can be summarized as: “If you don’t stop pointing out how my morality is reducible to might makes right, I’m going to break your teeth with a rock!”

Anyhow, the WB’s brother-in-law is writing his PhD thesis on Kant, perhaps he can take a break and enlighten us with his thoughts on the matter one of these days.