Debate:In The Name of (Yes/No)

From RationalWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
Debate.png This is a Debate page.
Feel free to add your own spin on the story. Please keep it civil!
Information icon.svg This debate was created by Gameboy.

Hey everyone. I'm here to pester you again!

The Beginning[edit]

Okay, stop me if you've heard this one before;
"Can you say an atheist has ever (insert atrocity here) because of atheism?"

My answer to that question is "no".

I honestly cannot think of an occasion in which bad things were done in the name of atheism.


This leads to a much more interesting question; "Can you say that a theist has ever (insert atrocity here) because of theism?"


At 21:52 (UTC) on the 27th of March 2011, user DeltaStar pointed out something that I feel the need to address.
"the original statement was not "in the name of theism", but "because of theism"."

In the above section, I used the word "because".

"Can you say an atheist has ever (insert atrocity here) because of atheism?"
"Can you say that a theist has ever (insert atrocity here) because of theism?"

This detail, while small, does potentially change the question.
Due to my love of clarity, I shall specify what I meant in order to avoid further confusion.

When I used the word "because", I was asking if theism/atheism was "the root cause of" as opposed to "a factor in" the atrocity.

I apologize for any confusion my word choice may have caused. - Gameboy (talk) 22:32, 27 March 2011 (UTC)

Let the Debate Begin[edit]

This is not just me being a smartass. After thinking the question over I have decided that theism has not caused any more suffering than atheism. The reason for this view is that theism is merely a statement that god(s) exists (and is still active in the world). How one feels about that fact, and the significance of it, is a different matter entirely.
Anyone who disagrees with me on the matter is, as always, welcomed and encouraged to post their opinion and reasons. - Gameboy (talk) 01:26, 26 March 2011 (UTC)

Straw man. Nobody argues that people do bad things because of "theism": that's not even a concept that really gets talked about alot. What people do talk about alot, and what has, unarguably informed/inspired/justified lots of nastiness is religion--not quite the same thing as "theism". P-Foster (talk) 01:34, 26 March 2011 (UTC)
Well, so far my only response has been you, Mr. Foster. This does not give me much to respond to, but I will try nonetheless.
Why did you immediately call "strawman"? I have met atheists/antitheists (in person) who have argued that theism itself is a major cause of evil activity. Perhaps they were not as common as I had believed, but people who hold that view do exist, and I was willing to debate them if any responded to this post.
Nonetheless, I appreciate your response, and hope that my future debates are more to your liking. - Gameboy (talk) 20:27, 27 March 2011 (UTC)
Could you define your understanding of theism in the context of this debate? Concernedresident omg!!! ponies!!! 20:30, 27 March 2011 (UTC)
As has been stated above. "theism is merely a statement that god(s) exists (and is still active in the world)". - Gameboy (talk) 20:43, 27 March 2011 (UTC)
In which case the answer is a solid no. There's no reasonable way to seriously draw a link between theism, in this very broad sense, and any specific atrocity. Specific religions, yes, but not theism in the very broad sense. Concernedresident omg!!! ponies!!! 20:50, 27 March 2011 (UTC)


As an anti-theist, allow me to give you the answer you are fishing for: Yes. The blokes that flew planes into the World Trade Centre would not have done so were it not for theism; they genuinely believed that they would be rewarded by a magical sky-pixie for doing so. Granted, they may have been motivated by other things, mainly religion rather than theism per se, (and maybe a bit of geopolitics) but the cold hold facts are that were they not theists they would not have committed that murder-suicide. DeltaStarSenior SysopSpeciationspeed! 21:04, 27 March 2011 (UTC)

Perhaps. Perhaps not. While a major factor in the attacks of 9/11 was a belief in Allah, if the terrorists had been atheists, yet believed on a political level that the West were cruel invaders who had violated their sovereignty by sending the military into Afghanistan, they could still have decided that such an attack on their enemies would serve their cause. However, if this were the case, atheism would not be the root cause, but rather whatever philosophy they held that justified the slaughter. - Gameboy (talk) 21:29, 27 March 2011 (UTC)
It seems to be a debate that can't go anywhere unless people begin to ascribe some characteristics and beliefs to some aspect of theism. Would anyone truly mark themselves out as being a theist and nothing more? I have in mind a religious person who'll rename unnamed. He's a theist; so what can you tell me about him? Sure, there are some pretty vague theistic beliefs out there, yet even the most wooly headed theists ascribe attributes to the deity(s) in question. This could be something as asinine as claiming some kind of mysterious unknowable magical force that is somehow relevant to us. That's the point at which it becomes possible to discuss how the belief informs their actions. Concernedresident omg!!! ponies!!! 21:36, 27 March 2011 (UTC)
Gameboy, if those people were not theists, they wouldn't have flown those planes in to buildings. It really is that simple when you strip it down. Debate over, let's go home. DeltaStarSenior SysopSpeciationspeed! 21:48, 27 March 2011 (UTC)


I'm not exactly used to taking the side of theism, but I have to say the motion is correct. When you reduce theism down to what it actually is; a statement about the existence of a deity, it can't be held responsible in itself. Theism does not necessitate the belief in an afterlife or that the deity has anything to say about what is right and wrong. It is only when you add additional beliefs to initial statement that you can justifiably say that atrocities were done in the name of such beliefs. To do anything in the name of theism in itself is just absurd. Also; Is-Ought problem --Danfly (talk) 21:40, 27 March 2011 (UTC)

Ah, but the original statement was not "in the name of theism", but "because of theism". See my point above. DeltaStarSenior SysopSpeciationspeed! 21:52, 27 March 2011 (UTC)
That's an interesting distinction. I'll admit that I didn't notice the difference in his wording. I'd still stick with no, or change my position to "who cares", purely because theism is far too vague a thing to discuss in any kind of useful manner. People do stuff for their gods, not simply because they think they exist, but because they think they know what that the gods would like them to do.Concernedresident omg!!! ponies!!! 21:59, 27 March 2011 (UTC)
I still stand on the no side, since doing anything because of theism in itself is still absurd. I suppose you could argue that theism established the groundwork upon which other beliefs were built, but you could easily do the same for strong atheism. --Danfly (talk) 22:04, 27 March 2011 (UTC)


We have to separate the fundamental concept of atheism/theism from the instructional accompaniments of that concept. Any theoretical belief is in itself never going to be responsible for an action; I can believe that Abraham Lincoln was an alien, but that in itself is not going to make me do anything. What matters is not the theoretical, but the instructional. If my belief that Lincoln was an alien came with a belief that all books referencing him should be burned, than we could reasonably say that it was my Lincoln-Alienism that caused me to burn the books. Similarly, though atheism in itself does not imply any action, the atheism of the USSR was accompanied by militant anti-theism; the two beliefs are inseparable, because you cannot have the instructional (militant anti-theism) without the theoretical (atheism).

Another example. Anyone can be an anarchist; anarchism in itself is theoretical, and is not going to cause atrocities. But if you are an militant anarchist, you can commit atrocities (like shooting a federal judge and a congresswoman) in the name of anarchism. What matters is not your theoretical belief, but the instructional beliefs that accompany it.

To the original point, theism, as it is a theoretical belief, never has caused any atrocities directly. However, the Spanish Inquisition came from theists because of their instructional application of Christianity. Atrocities committed in God's name are committed because of theism, not because of the theoretical belief in theism, but because of the application of theism.

There. I'm done. Uke Blue 22:41, 27 March 2011 (UTC)