Tuesday, September 03, 2013

Ms. Corbella Argues That Atheists Are Bad People

In her column in today's Calgary Herald, Licia Corbella gets on her high horse about atheists.

The title of her column is ridiculous enough:  "Will Atheism Be Held To Account Like Other Creeds?"

Well, hallelujah, praise the Lord! At long last, atheism is being declared a creed and is endowed with the same religious protections as Christianity, Judaism, Islam and other faiths in Ontario schools, anyway. 
So, what’s a good Protestant girl like me doing celebrating such a ruling by the Ontario Human Rights Tribunal? This may be a leap of faith, but here’s hoping that maybe now, atheists — many of whom have proven themselves to be a highly motivated evangelistic group accustomed to ramming their minority religion down the throats of the majority — will face the same scrutiny of their beliefs as traditional faiths have been undergoing for decades in Canada at their behest.
On Aug. 13, a tribunal ruling called R.C. versus District School Board of Niagara, declared that not believing in a deity must be a protected belief under the Human Rights Code.
 
The ruling stems from a complaint by Rene Chouinard, a Grimsby, Ont., father of three children, who describes himself as an atheist. 
In November 2009, when his youngest daughter was in Grade 5, a note was sent home informing parents that Gideons International was offering free New Testaments to all Grade 5 students. If parents wanted their children to receive the free mini Bible, they had to sign a permission form and the book would then be distributed only to those children after school hours. 
Chouinard was “offended.” He contacted the school principal and asked that he be permitted to distribute a book called, Just Pretend, which promotes atheism and compares God to Santa Claus.
“He believed that other parents might be upset about being asked to consent to their children receiving such materials in the same way he felt offended in being asked to consent to his children receiving the Gideons’ materials, and it would encourage a change in policy to eliminate the distribution of religious texts,” states the ruling.
 
And that’s exactly what ended up happening. At a school council meeting of parents on Nov. 30, 2009, it was decided that neither the Gideon Bible nor Just Pretend would be distributed.
But that wasn’t enough for Chouinard. He pushed to have the rules changed. Already the rules allowed any other religious group to do what the Gideons have been doing for decades. But no others had applied, except for this persistent father. However, his request was declined for two reasons: First, because “atheism is not a religion” pursuant to the criteria being followed at the time and second, because Just Pretend is “a secondary publication as opposed to a globally recognized sacred text or authoritative source of any religion (or even any belief).”
 
Which brings us to the Aug. 13 decision. “Protection against discrimination because of religion, in my view, must include protection of the applicants’ belief that there is no deity,” wrote David A. Wright, associate chairman of the tribunal. 
While it appears Wright’s decision is flawed, in that the Bible is a sacred text and Just Pretend is not, the ruling is a relief, nonetheless. 
Atheism is indeed a belief system that holds mighty power. Let me explain. Atheists, like Richard Dawkins, are fond of claiming that religion “ruins everything” and is to blame for promoting conflict and violence. However, they rarely study the role atheism has played in creating wars and killing.
As Dinesh D’Souza writes in his New York Times bestselling book, What’s so Great About Christianity, “five hundred years after the Inquisition, we are still talking about it, but less than two decades after the collapse of ‘godless Communism,’ there is an eerie silence about the mass graves of the Soviet Gulag. Why the absence of accountability? Does atheism mean never having to say you are sorry?”
 
Let’s look at the Inquisition, as an example. According to Henry Kamen’s book, The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision, over a 350-year period only about 2,000 people were killed. That’s just 5.7 people per year. In communist China in 2009 alone, however, it is estimated that 5,000 people were executed by the state, many for adhering to beliefs other than atheism, such as Falun Gong. 
“In the past hundred years or so,” writes D’Souza, “the most powerful atheist regimes — Communist Russia, Communist China and Nazi Germany — have wiped out people in astronomical numbers.” Stalin wiped out 20 million, Mao Zedong’s atheist regime killed 70 million of its own citizens and “Hitler comes in a distant third with around 10 million murders, six million of them Jews,” states D’Souza. 
Add to that the killing regimes of other atheist poster boys like Lenin, Khrushchev, Pol Pot, Nicolae Ceausescu, Fidel Castro and Kim Jong-il, to name just a few. Pol Pot’s Khmer Rouge, the Communist Party faction that ruled Cambodia from 1975 to 1979, murdered 1.5 to two million citizens — or one-fifth of its population. 
As D’Souza writes, in just a few decades atheism has killed more people than all religions combined since time immemorial. So, yes, atheism is a powerful creed. But it’s powerful in another way, too. Think about this. Since these atheists have been successful in wiping out virtually any mention of the true meaning behind the national holidays of Christmas and Easter in our schools, for instance, doesn’t that mean that their minority religion is the one being adhered to in our schools to the exclusion of all others? Doesn’t that mean, then, that the creed of atheism is more equal than all other religions and that it is Christianity, primarily, which as the founding and majority ethic and creed of this country that has been discriminated against? 
Those are questions worth pondering. 
Licia Corbella is a columnist and editorial page editor.

If Ms. Corbella's thesis wasn't ludicrous enough, what she proceeds to derive is almost laughable.

First, let's be clear about something.  Atheism is in no respect a "religion" per se.  It lacks all of the key features that typically are embodied in a religion.  There is no belief in a higher power, there are no "sacred texts", no rituals.  In the most classical of understandings, atheism literally means "without god" - in other words, an atheist simply does not accept the notion that there is a god - or any other supernatural being - and certainly would question the validity of claiming that some text is the word of some god or another.  However, more so than Christianity, being an atheist is a highly individual thing - there are not exactly sects of atheism per se.

Atheism is indeed a belief system that holds mighty power. Let me explain. Atheists, like Richard Dawkins, are fond of claiming that religion “ruins everything” and is to blame for promoting conflict and violence. However, they rarely study the role atheism has played in creating wars and killing.As Dinesh D’Souza writes in his New York Times bestselling book, What’s so Great About Christianity, “five hundred years after the Inquisition, we are still talking about it, but less than two decades after the collapse of ‘godless Communism,’ there is an eerie silence about the mass graves of the Soviet Gulag. Why the absence of accountability? Does atheism mean never having to say you are sorry?” 
Turning to Dinesh D'Souza for a critique of atheism is, to put it mildly, laughable.  I'm not even sure that the last Pope (Benedict XVI) would agree with D'Souza on much.

D'Souza's attempt to pin the deeds of Stalin, Pol Pot and others on atheists has become quite the fashionable thing to repeat among religious apologists.  However, it falls flat for a few very good reasons:

1.  The Crusades, or the Inquisition were done very much "In the name of Christ".  In fact, the Inquisition was guided by a mysterious little tome written by a couple of monks called "The Malleus Maleficarum".  A book which when read through modern eyes is filled with circular logic and poor reasoning.  The Crusades were very specifically backed by various Popes.

2.  While Stalin, Pol Pot and others certainly carried out atrocities, they did not declare their actions as being done in the name of atheism.  In other words, like despots throughout history, their actions were largely guided and driven by their own lust for power and control.  No more, no less.  In short, Stalin is culpable for his actions, Pol Pot for his.  Pretty simple.

Let’s look at the Inquisition, as an example. According to Henry Kamen’s book, The Spanish Inquisition: A Historical Revision, over a 350-year period only about 2,000 people were killed. That’s just 5.7 people per year. In communist China in 2009 alone, however, it is estimated that 5,000 people were executed by the state, many for adhering to beliefs other than atheism, such as Falun Gong. 
Wow.  So you want to play the "magnitude" game?  Five people per year, that's no so bad, right?  Wrong.  When the reasons for it are nothing less than challenging the official religion's dogma, five is five too many.

When we talk about China, guess what?  It is another case not unlike Stalin.  It is a country that does not have Freedom of Religion in its legal canon.  Further, it has made practicing religion illegal in a number of circumstances.  China also executes thousands of people for lots of other reasons besides religion.  This is a totalitarian state which sees threats in many corners, and moves drastically to eradicate them.

Is this because China is officially atheist?  No.  It is because China's government is paranoid like other totalitarian governments before it.  The desire to retain power has led them to enacting laws which are appalling to any objective observer.

Ironically, the very fact of the Inquisition demonstrates the religious flip side of this.  To the Medieval Church, heresy was every bit as big a threat to the power of the Church - a very real, political power at the time.  The church itself moved very harshly to eliminate this "threat" in the form of the Inquisition.  (Notably, the Inquisition has not really been disbanded, but rather renamed in the Catholic Church)  Ultimately, this is an example of power corrupting, and doing so absolutely.

Should the Chinese be held accountable for this?  No question about it.  That said, trying to pin it on "atheism" in general is ridiculous.
Since these atheists have been successful in wiping out virtually any mention of the true meaning behind the national holidays of Christmas and Easter in our schools, for instance, doesn’t that mean that their minority religion is the one being adhered to in our schools to the exclusion of all others?
Really?  It hasn't been the greed and avarice of commercialization that has erased the religious meaning of Christmas and Easter?  Last I checked, that has very little to do with atheists - Christianity has been gradually shedding its hold on the meaning of those holidays for decades.  That has been going on ever since the beginning of the Baby Boom era, and was well underway when I was born.

What has really happened here is that Christian religion has lots its grip on the collective mindshare.  While atheism has been growing, and has become more vocal about things, that has more to do with a clarified understanding of what "Freedom of Religion" means:  It means that religion is a fundamentally personal matter.  The official arms of state have gradually shed the various artifacts of religion gradually - schools have been the last to truly do so.

Doesn’t that mean, then, that the creed of atheism is more equal than all other religions and that it is Christianity, primarily, which as the founding and majority ethic and creed of this country that has been discriminated against? 
Oh yes, the argument that the majority is the only rule that matters.  Sorry, but the minute that we granted protection to all religions in the form of enshrining "Freedom of Religion" in the constitution, the "majority" religion lost any special status.  Yes, I'm sure the majority of the original colonists in North America were Christian.  That was some 300 years ago now.  Time to move on.

Freedom of Religion includes Freedom _FROM_ Religion






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