I now want to examine some atheistic monsters, particularly Stalin and Lenin.
Atheists tend to withdraw from Lenin’s and Stalin’s atrocities (particularly Lenin, who has many apologists on the political left) and claim that their atheism was incidental to their political views. They will claim that the Soviet Union’s atrocities were an issue of Communism (or many will raise false distinctions, claiming it was not “real communism”). Thus, many atheists assume that their murders were incidental to their atheism. Of course, there are numerous problems with this equivocation.
Marxism is clearly rooted in an atheistic worldview. While some Christian communities have experimented with communal living (such as the first English Separatists in the New World or the early Monastic movement), the concept of the proletarian revolution is a distinctly Marxist ideology. In fact, while Christian communal experiments were clearly failures, membership in these communities was clearly voluntary. This cannot be said about Marxism.
Marx was the first to develop “Dialectical Materialism” which was refined by Engels and Lenin, and is the atheistic worldview at the core of Marxism. In many senses, he is one of the more important proponents of enlightenment era atheism. Lenin’s views in many ways mirrors Western Social Darwinism, and the connections he made between Marxism and atheism is explicit.
This should come as no surprise, Marx’s discussions of the “dangers of religion” in any form was similar to that of the New Atheists.
Therefore, while the Soviet state tolerated religion at times (if properly controlled) the concept of religious freedom or theism were rejected outright, and atheism was the state-sponsored Soviet worldview. This is why religious persons were specifically suppressed by the regime. For example, on December 25th, 1919, Lenin issued an edict that workers who did not report for work were to be shot because Christianity was contrary to the spirit of the October Revolution. Atheists may quibble that not all atheists are Marxists, and while this is true, atheism is not incidental to Marxism. It is a philosophical necessity, since Marxism requires an a priori commitment to atheism and evolution.
This does not, however, answer the question of consistency – one could argue that Marxism, as a whole, misrepresents atheism. But, Lenin’s and Stalin’s slaughters do appear to be logically derived from their worldview.
If God does not exist (as naturalists presuppose), then rights cannot come from God, and man is merely an animal. From this, earlier, theistic beliefs that man possesses natural rights (as accepted by Christians and Deists) must be rejected. To put it another way, the idea that our rights are innate, and inviolable is a distinctively Christian idea that has a purely Judeo-Christian origin; while others in society may try to borrow these libertarian concepts they are ultimately importing something from Christianity. If these do not come from God, they do not exist except if granted by some other authority – such as the state.
If the state can grant rights, then the state is free to remove them. Within the confines of dialectical materialism, the collective becomes the center of existence. To the Communist, an individual’s value is only as great as his contribution to the good of the collective. In fact, the communists views of the origins of morality are similar to those espoused by men like Richard Dawkins – they believe that ideas develop along evolutionary principles, and our ideas of society evolved to help societies (and the individuals in those societies) to survive where other ideals have failed. Dawkins discusses the dissemination of ideas along genetic lines, and refers to them as “memes” in an attempt to resurrect enlightenment era epistemology in a post-modern world. The individual is ultimately therefore insignificant in the realm of ideas.
Collectivism only works if everyone sees the collective as the highest good; dissenters take resources away from the collective. Therefore, to make Communism work, dissenters must be viewed as a threat, lest they become a detriment to progress. Because they are a threat, they must be removed from that society if they will not abandon ideas that are contrary to the collective.
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