The Will to Power or any other label you want to place on human greed is not fundamentally atheistic...
I think you're missing Nietzsche's point, which was that in the absence of God and religious morality, mankind (at least certain, superior men) would be unshackled from the rather effeminate values that had permeated Western civilization and would finally be able to return to the more naturalistic values of strength and power--values typified by Lenin, Stalin, and others.
For Nietzsche, the Will to Power is absolutely a good thing. Of course you may disagree with Nietzsche: you may denounce these men as "bad" or "greedy" or "self-interested" men. But really, isn't that just a value judgment?
Now, taking God out of the picture doesn't necessarily mean you can't make value judgments, but it does leave those value judgments without any natural authority to take the place of the divine authority that the atheist has banished from such arguments.
Authority in nature is indeed exactly as Nietzsche observed. It is based on strength: the ability to force one's will upon another. Absent a God, your only natural complaint about Stalin reduces to something along the lines of, "Well, he should have known better than to trust the Germans." And likewise, Hitler should have known better than to invade Russia.
Again, you can distance yourself from Stalin and Hitler all you want by talking about the value of human life, but why should we accept your values over Stalin's?
If arbitrary values are not in play, then we are left with naturalistic values. And then we revert to Thomas Hobbes and a consideration of exactly which rights man has in a state of nature, etc. etc.
I think you’d be hard pressed to find anything that compares to the deaths caused by WWII. WWII was caused by WWI, and WWI wasn’t caused by religious reasons. Although complex, WWI was caused by imperialistic and nationalistic reasons.
Adding to Coel's thoughts could be a discussion of the 1971 Stanford Prison Experiment on authority and how man's value is so easily corrupted. This also explains the Bystander Effect and how good (dare I say religious) Germans could allow the holocaust to occur. It's easy to see that whatever morals are defined by a society (secular or religious) can be quickly removed under certain circumstances.
Absent a God, your only natural complaint about Stalin reduces to something along the lines of, "Well, he should have known better than to trust the Germans." And likewise, Hitler should have known better than to invade Russia.
That is quite bizarre. I don't find that to be the only natural complaint at all, absent a god.
Who do we have on the non-religious side of the ledger? Pot, HItler, Stalin.
In private Hitler may have been critical of Christianity, but publically he declared himself to be a Christian, used Christian language and rhetoric openly to promote Nazi ideology, and spoke openly about his villification of atheists:
In reply to:
In his book Mein Kampf Hitler made numerous religious pronouncements... "Hence today I believe that I am acting in accordance with the will of the Almighty Creator: by defending myself against the Jew, I am fighting for the work of the Lord."
Before his ascension to power, Hitler stated before a crowd in Munich: "My feeling as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter."
In a speech delivered in Berlin, October 24, 1933, Hitler stated: "We were convinced that the people needs and requires this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations: we have stamped it out."
In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was his fight against the Jewish poison. Today, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed his blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice. ...And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly, it is the distress that daily grows. For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.
Per Steven Pinker, Harvard psychology professor and author of The Better Angels of Our Nature: Why Violence Has Declined:
In reply to:
"Need I remind you that the “atheist regimes” of the 20th century killed tens of millions of people?"
This is a popular argument among theoconservatives and critics of the new atheism, but for many reasons it is historically inaccurate.
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... They were based on the ideas of Hitler and Marx, not David Hume and Bertrand Russell...
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...
...many religious massacres took place in centuries in which the world’s population was far smaller. Crusaders, for example, killed 1 million people in world of 400 million, for a genocide rate that exceeds that of the Nazi Holocaust. The death toll from the Thirty Years War was proportionally double that of World War I and in the range of World War II in Europe.
When it comes to the history of violence, the significant distinction is not one between theistic and atheistic regimes. It’s the one between regimes that were based on demonizing, utopian ideologies (including Marxism, Nazism, and militant religions) and secular liberal democracies that are based on the ideal of human rights.
Hitler tapped into the anti-semitic writings of Martin Luther (and the general anti-semitic sentiment of Germany and most of Europe) when calling for violence against Jews. I wonder how many Lutherans are aware of that? I doubt the church brings this up in Sunday bible class.
As I recall, Martin Luther was a rather prominent religious figure and even has a branch of Protestantism named for him.
In private Hitler may have been critical of Christianity
That's one way to put it. More particularly we can say that Hitler seems to have had one message about Christianity that was intended for public consumption, and another message for those closest to him. Another way to organize Hitler's ideas is to divide them between those uttered by Hitler the aspiring politician in the 1920s and the early 1930s, versus those spoken by Hitler the dictator from about 1935 on. Hitler the aspiring politician understood the need to accommodate Catholics in his political speech, especially in light of the waning power of the SPD and the emerging threat from the KPD and the far left after the economic crash of 1929. Hitler and the Catholics found common cause in their opposition to Communism.
I would submit that it becomes far more difficult—though probably not impossible—to find Hitler speaking positively about the Church in the late 1930s, when the holocaust was getting underway. It is notable that the first victim of the holocaust was not a Jew, but a German child—so-called "Baby Knauer"—who was born with one leg and part of one arm missing, and who was euthanized in 1939. In fact, several hundred thousand "useless eaters" were euthanized by the Nazis prior to the beginning of the Jewish phase of the holocaust. While a connection between Christianity and anti-Semitism might be attempted with some success, I severely doubt that Perham1 is going to regale us with stories of how Martin Luther spewed violent hatred toward the deformed or the retarded. Hitler's holocaust included anti-Semitism, of course, but it was also beyond anti-Semitism.
In fact, anti-Semitism was hardly thought to be a uniquely German phenomenon prior to the 1930s. We need look no further than the Dreyfus Affair in France, or the pogroms of Tsarist Russia, or even Henry Ford's weekly publication, the Dearborn Independent, in the U.S. There was certainly virulent anti-Semitism in all those places, and there was certainly Christianity in all those places. What there wasn't was a holocaust against "useless eaters" or Jews. And the reason that the holocaust didn't take place in those places was because none of those places were controlled by a dictator who was devoted not only to the theory but also to the aggressive practice of eugenics and racial Darwinism.
Now I certainly don't blame Darwin for the holocaust. I trust that Darwin would have been appalled to learn that his theory had been twisted in such a way, and at such a cost to humanity. But it's only by understanding Hitler's racial approach to the concept of a collective "survival of the fittest" that we can make sense of Hitler's violence against both "useless eaters" and Jews. Perhaps faith has much to answer for in explaining the anti-Semitic undergrowth of Europe, and of Germany in particular. But it took science to suggest the grim efficiencies of assembly-line murder for the greater good of the Volk.
As for Hitler and Christianity, let's look at the following quotes:
In reply to:
The heaviest blow that ever struck humanity was the coming of Christianity...The deliberate lie in the matter of religion was introduced into the world by Christianity.
In reply to:
I'll make these damned parsons feel the power of the state in a way they would have never believed possible. For the moment, I am just keeping my eye upon them: if I ever have the slightest suspicion that they are getting dangerous, I will shoot the lot of them. This filthy reptile raises its head whenever there is a sign of weakness in the State, and therefore it must be stamped on. We have no sort of use for a fairy story invented by the Jews.
Or this one...
In reply to:
So it's not opportune to hurl ourselves now into a struggle with the Churches. The best thing is to let Christianity die a natural death. A slow death has something comforting about it. The dogma of Christianity gets worn away before the advances of science. Religion will have to make more and more concessions. Gradually the myths crumble. All that's left is to prove is that in nature there is no frontier between the organic and the inorganic. When understanding of the universe has become widespread, when the majority of men know that the stars are not sources of light, but worlds, perhaps inhabited worlds like ours, then the Christian doctrine will be convicted of absurdity.
Originally, religion was merely a prop for human communities. It was a means, not an end in itself. It's only gradually that it became transformed in this direction, with the object of maintaining the rule of the priests, who can love only to the detriment of society collectively. Christianity, of course, has reached the peak of absurdity in this respect. And that's why one day its structure will collapse. Science has already impregnated humanity. Consequently, the more Christianity clings to its dogmas, the quicker it will decline.
All three quotes come from Hitler's Table Talk. The book is a collection of transcripts that record Hitler's conversations and witticisms between 1941 and 1944 as the holocaust was reaching its peak. (It was Martin Bormann's idea that Hitler should have his private conversations recorded for posterity.)
Now, let's look closer at Pinker:
In reply to:
The death toll from the Thirty Years War was proportionally double that of World War I and in the range of World War II in Europe.
I'm not sure I'm prepared to concede to the suggestion that human death is now to be rated according to proportional value vis a vis total world population at the time of the deaths. Nor has it been an argument of mine that deaths in warfare are to be counted as a part of this calculus that we do. If we're going to go down that road, then we'll of course have to expand Hitler's indictment to include several million more human beings beyond those who died in the Holocaust, and Stalin's, and Lenin's, and of course many others.
The other point about the Thirty Years' War, which I suspect Pinker probably remembers but doesn't care to register because it's not a part of his dichotomy, is that the last 13 years of the war—also known as the French intervention phase—were characterized by the Bourbons of Catholic France fighting the Habsburgs of the Catholic League (i.e. the Holy Roman Empire). The point being that religion had ceased to be the prime motivation for warfare; power politics had taken its place. The Bourbons, though Catholic, considered the Habsburgs—also Catholic—to be their prime rival for political power in Europe. This is one of those milestones in history, whereby secular motivations began to outweigh religious concerns.
In reply to:
When it comes to the history of violence, the significant distinction is not one between theistic and atheistic regimes.
Well, that is partially correct: The significant distinction is not between theistic and atheistic. Instead it is between those devoted to religion and those devoted to science (or at least what they believe to be science). And the math demonstrates that religious devotees have caused far less death than scientific devotees.
That would be true, by the way, even if we shifted Hitler to the religious side, and even if we put the entire Thirty Years War on the religious side as well. Neither of which, of course, is warranted.
And the reason that the holocaust didn't take place in those places was because none of those places were controlled by a dictator who was devoted not only to the theory but also to the aggressive practice of eugenics and racial Darwinism.
Now I certainly don't blame Darwin for the holocaust. I trust that Darwin would have been appalled to learn that his theory had been twisted in such a way, and at such a cost to humanity. But it's only by understanding Hitler's racial approach to the concept of a collective "survival of the fittest" that we can make sense of Hitler's violence against both "useless eaters" and Jews.
While you claim to absolve Darwin from blame for the holocaust, you continue to perpetuate the falsehood that Hitler even based his ideas on Darwin or on the Theory of Natural Selection.
In reality there is no reference to Charles Darwin in any of Hitler's writings. Even in the Nuremburg Trials, where they actually went through the personal libraries of Nazi leaders to find the origins of the ideas behind the Third Reich, none of Darwin's works were found, and there were no reference to Darwin in any of the testimonites or transcripts whatsoever.
Even when Hitler made reference to anything resembling biological arguments for his racial ideas and policies, he clearly showed that his understanding (if you could even call it that) of the subject was psueodoscientific and Lamarckian, not Darwinian.
In countless cases, Hitler's views on race and biology did not simply present a "twisted" version of Darwin's Theory of Evolution; they directly contradicted it in extremely basic and fundamental ways:
In reply to:
Hitler stated that "racial purity" was "God's Will". Darwin showed that there is no such thing as racial purity in the first place, and that secondly, races and species are not formed by God.
Hitler said that segregation of species and races is a "rigid law" of nature. Darwin showed that there are no such rigid laws in nature.
Hitler said that species only naturally mate with members of their same species. Darwin showed that many species naturally hybridize (in fact, research now shows that more than 10% of "species" hybridize in the wild).
Hitler said that species are uniform in character. Darwin showed that there is a high degree of variation within species.
Hitler advocated the use of race laws to favor only "Nordic" peoples. Darwin stated that no such laws should be made.
Hitler despised sympathy and said that sympathy should not extend to all races. Darwin stated that sympathy was the highest moral value, that indeed sympathy was an important attribute for human success, and that we should extend our sympathy to all people.
Clearly, Hitler's views reflected the traditional "pre-Darwinian" views of nature. Hitler viewed race as sacred, he viewed the Germans as "God's chosen people", and he justified racism, genocide, and eugenics through his sacred views. The sacredness of race is what made race worth fighting for to the Nazis.
...you continue to perpetuate the falsehood that Hitler even based his ideas on Darwin or on the Theory of Natural Selection. In reality there is no reference to Charles Darwin in any of Hitler's writings.
I have my doubts that Hitler ever read Darwin at all; I have no doubt that he was completely clueless—as are most people—on the finer points of Darwin's evolutionary theory. That's not the point. The point is that Social Darwinism was a fact of late-19th and early 20th century thought, and nowhere did that line of thinking reach such extreme expression as in the minds of Adolph Hitler and his Nazi followers, men like Ernst Rudin, who wrote the Law for the Prevention of Genetically Diseased Offspring (1934) that ushered in the sterilization campaign, and also physicians like Josef Mengele. Both Rudin and Mengele were heavily influenced by evolutionary naturalism.
If merely invoking Darwin's name hits too close to home for you, and you prefer that we divert our attention to Lamarck instead, then I'm fine with that. But I'm not sure how it helps your argument, since Lamarck was also a proponent of evolutionary naturalism. If the roads lead back to Lamarck, then they still lead back to science. I'm even willing to use the term pseudoscience, if that's easier for you to accept. Either way, the rationale for sterilization and mass murder was rooted in ideas of evolutionary naturalism.