The Wrong Reaction
Nietzche wrote, “God is Dead, and we killed him.” I will not pretend to understand what he meant. However, it is undeniable that the rise of atheism (or at least secularism) has had enormous and sometimes catastrophic consequences for the world. Perhaps this entire post attempts (and fails) to understand what Nietzche meant in that one sentence.
The Christian apologist says, “Hitler, Stalin, and Mao were atheists. Atheism is responsible for some of the world’s most horrific genocides.” This is a ridiculous argument – of course there have been individual bad atheists.
There is a stronger point here. Take Russia. In prehistoric (~ 1800s) Russia, the Orthodox church held dominion. Within the span of one generation, Western thought came flooding in, tearing the social fabric apart. Dostoevsky was the bannerman of this era: on the one hand the naturally chaste but intellectually challenged Alyosha, on the other hand the immensely intellectual but morbidly nihilistic Ivan, but finally and together the wild and bitter Raskolnikov and Fyodor. Wild: because there is no God I am free. Bitter: because there is a God and he has let me down.
God jokes to his son, the greatest of the New Atheists is not Christopher Hitchens or Sam Harris but Ivan Karamazov, a figment of one Christian’s imagination.
“Rebellion? I am sorry you call it that,” said Ivan earnestly. “One can hardly live in rebellion, and I want to live. Tell me yourself, I challenge your answer. Imagine that you are creating a fabric of human destiny with the object of making men happy in the end, giving them peace and rest at last, but that it was essential and inevitable to torture to death only one tiny creature- that baby beating its breast with its fist, for instance- and to found that edifice on its unavenged tears, would you consent to be the architect on those conditions? Tell me, and tell the truth.”
“No, I wouldn’t consent,” said Alyosha softly.
We saw the bitterness of a Karamazov written all across Siberia in blood. It was not just Stalin who was atheist, but Lenin, and Trotsky, and all of Bolshevism was founded on the same brand of Marxist atheism. Religion is an opiate for the masses, and a generation of Russians grew up in withdrawal. If modern Europe was founded on rationalism, Asia on Confucianism, then modern Russia was founded on nihilism.
And did not exactly the same tale play out in China? Mao was China’s Dostoevsky. Mao the destroyer, who razed every single institution, bourgeoisie or otherwise. Mao destroyed the enemies of China, the time for peace came and went, but Mao just kept on killing – his own people. Mao the hero: military genius, egalitarian, liberator. How many remember that he almost single-handedly dismantled the (actual) feudal patriarchy of 1900s China? Who else could claim credit for the eradication of polygamy, arranged marriage, and footbinding in a single generation?
God jokes to his son, the greatest of the Feminists was not Susan B. Anthony or Gloria Steinem, but Mao Zedong.
There is no God, but where did we go wrong?
How (not) to Atheist
Atheism is a reaction. There are infinitely many belief systems that are not theist, but one of the worst is reverse theism, and that is a trap all too many atheists have fallen into. It is written: reverse stupidity is not intelligence.
The atheist says, “All the atheists I know are smart, conscientious, and nonviolent. Obviously you can be moral without God.” The atheist fell into a big, glaring trap.
Why are people atheist today? They become atheist, through no small effort, because they are moral people who are unhappy with the ugliness and abject evil of religion. They became atheist, through no small effort, because they are smart people who are discontent with the intellectual poverty of religion. Thus atheists are (relatively) smart and moral people, but atheism did not make them smart and moral.
What happens when we make stupid, evil people atheists?
What happens when we beat the faith out of Fyodor with the intellect of Ivan Karamazov?