This is the sound that sends shock-waves throughout the world of the internet – we already know the Theist/Atheist debate is one that is often drizzled with mockery, suspicion and tension. Yet common words we hear coming from the Atheistic band is that “Religion is the root of all evil” and that “Religion poisons everything” or furthermore “The world would be peaceful without religion”. Let me be the first to admit, that as a Muslim i am more than honest to admit that religion has played a very deep part in our history- both positive and negative– indeed it has been an entity that has brought the world some good and some evils.
The common idea is that religion is a harmful force and we often hear that atheism has never been the cause for any worldwide atrocities- this half baked assumption is a very weak argument. The fact is if the wrong man or woman is given power- despite their creed it is a recipe for disaster. Although it is fair to say that no Atheist can claim to have committed wrong doing based on “atheism” – simply the lack of a belief in a God. We tend to forget that a branch that stems from Atheism is ANTI-theism, and this cause has spread much mischief around the world throughout history and i will highlight some classic examples below.
A person that is Anti-Theist quiet literally has a strong opposition against religion, they find religion harmful to society and believe it should be eradicated. When you have this mindset and a person with such hardline ideas is given a position of power, then hall hath no fury- prepare for instability, discrimination, oppression, murder and social deterioration. These anti-theists clear hatred for religion impacted their decisions- their belief that religion should be wiped out could only come from a person who initially had atheistic roots- remember you must first be an Atheist (disbelieve in Gods) in order to become an ANTI-Theist and once an Anti-theist is given political presence then state atheism is a direct threat- just as much as any extreme religious elements are.
Let us look at some GENUINE historical Anti-Theist people and groups plus their terrible impact on our society- and hopefully we can be more observant before laying all claims of evil to the religious.
1) Plutarco Elías Calles (1877-1945)
An Atheist Mexican general and politician. He was president of Mexico from 1924 to 1928, but he continued to be the de facto ruler from 1928–1935, a period known as the Maximato. Calles is most noted for a fierce oppression of Catholics that led to the Cristero War (90,000 casualties) – a civil war between Catholic rebels and government forces. He was raised by his uncle who was devoutly atheist who raised Plutarco with a searing hatred of the Catholic Church. His Anti-Catholic actions included outlawing religious orders, depriving the Church of property rights and depriving the clergy of civil liberties, including their right to trial by jury (in cases involving anti-clerical laws) and the right to vote. Catholic antipathy towards Calles was enhanced because of his vocal atheism. 4,000 Priests were killed or expelled- Catholics were hung on powerline poles. He later apparently declared himself a “spiritualist” in his later life- and it is said he had some ties to the Freemasons.
People’s Socialist Republic Of Albania
Religion is banned post World War 2. The Agrarian Reform Law of August 1945 nationalized most property of religious institutions, including the estates of monasteries, orders, and dioceses. Many clergy and believers were tried, tortured, and executed. All foreign Roman Catholic priests, monks, and nuns were expelled in 1946. Campaign against religion peaked in the 1960’s and 70’s. All churches, mosques, monasteries, and other religious institutions were either closed down or converted into warehouses, gymnasiums, or workshops by the end of 1967. As the literary monthly Nendori reported the event, the youth had thus “created the first atheist nation in the world”. The clergy were publicly vilified and humiliated, their vestments taken and desecrated. More than 200 clerics of various faiths were imprisoned, others were forced to seek work in either industry or agriculture, and some were executed or starved to death. Officials tried to entrap practicing Christians and Muslims during religious fasts, such as Lent and Ramadan, by distributing dairy products and other forbidden foods in school and at work, and then publicly denouncing those who refused the food, and clergy who conducted secret services were incarcerated.Catholic priest Shtjefan Kurti had been executed for secretly baptizing a child in Shkoder in 1972.
“The State recognizes no religion, and supports atheistic propaganda in order to implant a scientific materialistic world outlook in people.”
-Article 37 of the Albanian Constitution of 1976.
The Soviet Union
State atheism in the Soviet Union was known as “Gosateizm” and was based on the ideology of Marxism-Leninism.
Marxism-Leninism has consistently advocated the control, suppression,and, ultimately, the elimination of religion. Within about a year of the revolution the state took all church property, including the churches themselves, and in the period from 1922 to 1926, 28 Russian Orthodox bishops and more than 1,200 priests were killed (a much greater number was subjected to persecution).
From the late 1920s to the late 1930s, such organizations as the League Of The Militant Godless ridiculed all religions and harassed believers. Anti-religious and atheistic propaganda was implemented into every portion of soviet life, in schools, communist organizations (such as the Young Pioneer Oganization), and the media.
Khmer Rouge Rule Of Cambodia
The Khmer Rouge period(1975–1979) refers to the rule of Pol Pot, Nuon Chea, Ieng Sary, Son Sen, Khieu Samphan and the Khmer Rouge Communist Party over Cambodia.
Article 20 of the 1976 Constitution of Democratic Kampuchea guaranteed religious freedom, but it also declared that “all reactionary religions that are detrimental to Democratic Kampuchea and the Kampuchean People are strictly forbidden.” About 85 percent of the population follows the Theravada school of Buddhism. The country’s 40,000 to 60,000 Buddhist monks, regarded by the regime as social parasites, were defrocked and forced into labour brigades.
Many monks were executed; temples and pagodas were destroyed or turned into storehouses or gaols. Images of the Buddha were defaced and dumped into rivers and lakes. People who were discovered praying or expressing religious sentiments were often killed. The Christian and Muslim communities also were even more persecuted, as they were labelled as part of a pro-Western cosmopolitan sphere, hindering Cambodian culture and society. The Roman Catholic cathedral of Phnom Penh was completely razed. The Khmer Rouge forced Muslims to eat pork, which they regard as forbidden (haram). Many of those who refused were killed. Christian clergy and Muslim imams were executed.
Mongolian People’s Republic
In 1936, and especially after Japanese encroachments had given the Soviets enough reason to deploy Soviet troops in Mongolia in 1937, a whole-scale attack on the Buddhist Faith began. At the same time, Soviet Style Purges took place in the Communist Party and in the Mongolian army. Mongolia’s leader at that time was Khorloogiin Choibalsan , a follower of Joseph Stalin who emulated many of the policies Stalin had implemented in the Soviet Union. The purges led to the almost complete eradication of Tibetan Buddhism in the country, and cost an estimated 30,000–35,000 lives.
North Korea’s government exercises virtual total control over society and imposes state sanctioned atheism, the cult of personality of Kim Jung Il and Kim Il Sung, described as a Political Religion Although the North Korean constitution states that freedom of religion is permitted, free religious activities no longer exists in North Korea. A minor example was in the late 1940’s – 166 priests and religious people were kidnapped or murdered.
Ladies and Gentlemen these are only a few examples of the atrocities and horrors that were committed due to people who held Anti-theistic views. We know that peoples beliefs were not always the main and sole cause of these wars, yet the fact that these men in power and policies allowed the eradication, destruction of religions and the religious- allowing massacres and mass oppression is enough for us to realise that NO- religion is not the root of ALL EVIL. Evil is something incumbent on mankind- regardless of their religion- and just as a religious person can commit an atrocity and blame God- an anti-theist can commit an atrocity and blame religion- in the end let us open up to the fact that religion is not the root of all evil. There are many examples of how simple Atheism could feed Anti-Theism which in return when coupled with powerful positions and politics could be just as catastrophic as any extremist organization running the show.
Peace, Salam Alaykum