The bad seed: Peter Hitchens blames atheism for Stalin and Hitler

We needn’t go over this dumb anti-atheist argument again, except to note in passing that Peter Hitchens, the One Who Went Wrong, has an extremely MILITANT column in the Mail Online called “Atheism kills, persecutes, and destroys. Wicked things are done in its name.”  This man obviously has no sense of nuance. That’s also evident from how he begins his column, with an attack on a pseudonymous commenter, possibly fictional, named “Mr. Bunker”:

And I long ago recognised that there is simply no point in trying to debate with Mr ‘Bunker’, as I still think of him.  Whenever I encounter his debating style,  a picture forms in my mind of a mossy, weed-grown, lichen-blotched, dank concrete structure, in some twilit corner of a fallow field, with a lot of voluminous vests, greyish thermal long-johns and track-suit bottoms flapping heavily from an improvised washing line outside, as a thin stream of smoke, perfumed with bacon fat (or perhaps the aroma of supermarket lasagne),  issues from an even-more-improvised chimney.  A three-wheeled motor car stands not far away.  Next to this sad decay, a large peeling sign proclaims, with enormous letters ‘Bunkerism. World Headquarters’ This is, I should state, my image of the mind of Mr ‘Bunker’, not of the chap himself. No doubt he is a handsome and well-dressed person, living in a normal home.

This is simply bad writing: a heavy-handed, tedious, and overwritten depiction of a stereotype.  Whatever genes for good writing segregated in the Hitchens lineages, Peter didn’t get ’em.

He goes on (and I’ll mercifully omit the text) to refute Mr. Bunker’s claim that “no crime has ever been committed ‘in the name of atheism.'”  Hitchens trots out the usual tropes about the Bolsheviks, quoting others to show that they made “this defiant and dogmatic atheism the basis of their action.” Certainly some religious figures were persecuted by the communists, but I doubt that the Doctors Plot was motivated by atheism. And they didn’t get rid of modern genetics—and persecute and execute scientists like Vavilov—because they were religious.  Really, the harm done in the name of atheism is miniscule compared to the harm done to keep Lenin and Stalin in power. Contrast that with the harm done directly in the name of faith in the Inquisition.

Stalin killed at least 20 million Russians, Lenin millions more. How many of those died simply because they were religious?  And was Stalin a murderous tyrant because he was an atheist, or simply because he was an evil man? I opt for the latter. Atheism does not turn good people bad.  In contrast, as we know from Professor Weinberg, “for good people to do evil—that takes religion.”

Hitchens then segues to the Nazis, but that canard has long ago been made into confit, so I’ll pass it over. Hitchens ends his piece in a way that’s far more “militant” than anything ever said by Richard Dawkins. Remember the following words when you hear the tired old phrase “militant atheist” shoved in your face:

The  exasperating and yet comically unshakeable conviction (held by Mr ‘Bunker’)  that the assertion of atheism is not a positive statement, that it is a mere passive absence, is directly contradicted by the death-dealing,  violently destructive, larcenous and aggressively propagandist application of their own passionate and positive atheism by the Soviet authorities, as soon as they had the power to put their beliefs into action.  If atheism is merely an absence, why on earth should it need to do these things to those who did not share its allegedly passive, non-invasive beliefs? And why, I might add, were both the Bolsheviks and the National Socialists so profoundly hostile to the idea of the Christian God (or, as Mr ‘Bunker’ would sniggeringly put it  ‘gods’ )?

Well, because these people, imagining mischief as a law,  have set themselves up as their own source of good, and cannot tolerate any rival to their own beliefs,  in the minds of men. One thing you can say for them : they understood very well what it was they believed.

Hitchens notes that he goes into greater detail about atheist evil in his 2010 book, The Rage Against God. I think I’ll give that one a miss, but I’m sure some brave readers have wallowed through it.


  1. spud2006
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 10:14 am | Permalink

    Hitchens minor never did manifest the existence of any cojones by engaging with you further in the recent spat beyond a couple of witless rpelies, did he?

  2. gbjames
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 10:20 am | Permalink

    Witless Phichens.

    Would that we could do a swap for the Hitchens who made sense when he wrote.

    • Posted April 13, 2013 at 12:29 pm | Permalink

      “…except to note in passing that Peter Hitchens…”

      When I read those words, much too quickly in that order, I admit that I first thought this post was reporting on some sudden good news.

      • Gordon Munro
        Posted April 13, 2013 at 5:27 pm | Permalink

        As temporary solace remember the Noneyahweh worketh in mysterious ways & somtimes sooner rather than later.

      • gbjames
        Posted April 13, 2013 at 7:23 pm | Permalink

        You’re so mean!

  3. ae
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 10:22 am | Permalink

    Let’s drink a toast to Christopher Hitchens’ birthday today.

    • gbjames
      Posted April 13, 2013 at 10:26 am | Permalink

      +1. Toasting Christopher Hitchens’ birthday is a much better use of this day’s time than reading his brother’s drivel.

    • rodgerma
      Posted April 13, 2013 at 10:37 am | Permalink

      + 1!

    • darrelle
      Posted April 13, 2013 at 9:07 pm | Permalink

      I did. With some pretty fine bourbon.

  4. Posted April 13, 2013 at 10:24 am | Permalink


  5. Dan
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 10:38 am | Permalink

    How is that man Chris’s brother?

    • Dan
      Posted April 13, 2013 at 10:38 am | Permalink


      • Craig
        Posted April 13, 2013 at 12:40 pm | Permalink

        You had it right the first time. 🙂

        And I think he preferred to be called Christopher.

        • jwthomas
          Posted April 13, 2013 at 6:44 pm | Permalink

          Actually they’re both right. The “corrected” one is just simpler.

  6. rodgerma
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 10:41 am | Permalink

    “Whatever genes for good writing segregated in the Hitchens lineages, Peter didn’t get ’em.”
    Unfortunately, Peter lacks the ability to realize this.

    • gbjames
      Posted April 13, 2013 at 10:57 am | Permalink

      Ya. He missed out on the self-awareness genes, too.

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted April 14, 2013 at 8:15 am | Permalink

      Score another point for Dunning & Kruger.

  7. Posted April 13, 2013 at 11:16 am | Permalink

    I don’t believe that Phitchens is unaware of the objections to that argument raised by his late brother (Mr Bunker?), so I assume the reason he didn’t address any of them is because he doesn’t have an answer.

    The idea that the Nazism is atheistic is particularly vicious and stupid, even by Phitchens’ high standards. Here is an article about a church, built in 1936 not far from where I live, in Berlin Germany.

    It’s one of the last remaining churches where Nazi propaganda has not been removed from the displays. The first graphic at the link shows a depiction of a Nazi soldier walking as an apostle with Jesus.

    The fate of Max Sievers is also worth mentioning. Chairman of the German Freethinkers Society, which had 600,000 members before the Nazis closed it. He attempted to flee to the US but couldn’t get a visa, and was eventually executed by the Nazis in 1942 for treason.

    I only choose those two examples because they’re both vivid examples and seldom referred to.

    • lanceleuven
      Posted April 13, 2013 at 1:16 pm | Permalink

      Excellent links. Cheers for the interesting info.

    • Posted April 15, 2013 at 9:43 am | Permalink

      One is reminded of the Italian-community church in Montreal that still has Mussolini up!

  8. Posted April 13, 2013 at 11:30 am | Permalink

    The Rational Wiki has a well-written entry on the flaws in the common anti-atheist arguments and misconceptions:

  9. Posted April 13, 2013 at 11:33 am | Permalink

    The second someone cites the Nazis as an argument against atheism, they lose their credibilty entirely. Strike one against them is that anyone who knows anything at all about the Nazis knows that they were overwhelmingly Christian and that almost all of them believed in God. Strike two against them is, that without bothering to check out the facts, they have labelled the Nazis as atheists because they can’t believe that theists could behave in such an evil way.

    • Posted April 13, 2013 at 2:04 pm | Permalink

      Strike three is that they can’t fathom how acting in the name of a particular (perhaps secular) dogma is not equal to atheism. No dogma is equatable to atheism, and they confuse “equatable” and “compatible”. (We have to accept that Hitler’s dogma was compatible with atheism. It just wasn’t intelligibly derived from or borne out of it).

      • Posted April 14, 2013 at 12:54 am | Permalink

        We have to accept that Hitler’s dogma was compatible with atheism.

        Sorry, no it wasn’t. Hitler’s ideology was explicitly theistic. In essence he was a creationist, believing that the Aryan were God’s “highest handiwork” master-race, and that other races (Jews, blacks, Slavs, etc) were separate creations, literally sub-human races.

        He then considered that the Aryans were under threat from inter-breeding with the other races, which he saw as threatening the God-ordained order. He thought that allowing this would be an ultimate sin, and that God’s will required that he prevent this destruction of God’s master-race by inter-breeding. Thus he arrived at a “final solution” to that problem. All of this is explained at length in Mein Kampf.

        And, no, it is totally INcompatible with atheism.

  10. Posted April 13, 2013 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    It should be remembered that Peter Hitchens is employed by the Daily Mail as a professional troll.

    It is his job to write garbage to draw attention to the Daily Mail.

    It’s what he’s paid for. It’s what he does.

  11. Posted April 13, 2013 at 11:46 am | Permalink

    Does anyone know anything about the religious views of Pol Pot? I would have thought that someone who was born and raised in Cambodia would have had some typically Far Eastern religious beliefs. Not the kind of beliefs that Western Christians would regard as theistic, but not the kind of beliefs that Western atheists would regard as atheistic.

    • matthew
      Posted April 14, 2013 at 1:43 pm | Permalink

      Pol pot and the Khmer Rouge are generally recognized as anti-religious and often described as atheistic. However, I have never seen any original material from Khmer Rouge sources promoting atheism.

      It’s important to remember how secretive the Khmer Rouge regime was. The leaders of the inner circle were mostly unknown for much of the time they were in power. Even when they were known, their relative authority could only be guessed at and their actual directives are only know second hand.

      As to their beliefs, It’s not nearly as clear cut as atheist bashers would like to have it. Most, though not all, were educated in the West, particularly Paris, so they may well have grown away from the predominant Buddhism of Cambodia. They certainly persecuted Buddhists and Muslim Chams, but then again, they were apparently trying to create a new society consisting almost entirely of ethnic Khmer agrarian peasants. To this end they went after almost everyone; the educated, city dwellers, anyone who worked for the previous Lon Nol regime, etc. The also had a vicious, though selective, racism; ethnic Vietnamese and others were targets but some minorities which were perceived as loyal suffered less.

      As the regime progressed, loyalty, real or perceived, seems to have been a major factor in who they killed. As their control became greater and their methods more brutal, the center of power became more and more paranoid which lead to waves of purges of the party itself.

  12. Eohippus
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 11:54 am | Permalink

    I wonder if the Mail would run an opinion piece titled, “Islam kills, persecutes, and destroys. Wicked things are done in its name.“

    • cuttle
      Posted April 13, 2013 at 12:22 pm | Permalink


  13. Maud
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 12:28 pm | Permalink

    Even Stalin studied for the Orthodox priesthood. He didn’t kill people in the name of Christianity, however. Some Christians really don’t seem to see the difference between a religious person saying “I will kill because the Bible proves their wickedness/the world needs to be purged from evil for salvation”, and another religious person saying “I will kill because they are threats to our national security”. In this case, both are religious, yet only the former kills in the name of religion. Does the latter kill in the name of atheism? Even though he is pious, he’s come to the conclusion of killing on his own (apparently the first one did too, but the cloak of the divine is always a nice touch for the dictator). Maybe that’s his argument.
    How on earth can one kill in the name of “I don’t believe in a God”? It makes no logical sense. Could one argue that Obama is sending drones because of his lack of belief in Krishna? Well, he’s not a Krishna, and he participates in killing people. Tight argument.
    So, now atheists are secret authoritarians. Obviously, Robert Nozick, John Maynard Keynes and Tom Paine were just a herd of like minded authoritarians.
    I can’t get that argument of “they *say* that atheism means “not believing in a God”, but here’s what they all think secretly: plunder, massacre, power.”
    I guess they take that one on faith too?

    • Posted April 14, 2013 at 5:51 am | Permalink

      Around 1995-2000, I saw a BBC documentary on Stalin. In it was a segment where one of Stalin’s guards, a man in his nineties, guided the narrator through Stalin’s quarters in the Kremlin. At one point, he entered a small, ancient chapel. He said that Stalin would come to pray there once a week or so, while the guard waited in the hall. If true, this would have implications concerning Stalin’s atheism. Do any of the readers know of this documentary?

      • Julia Fenton
        Posted April 15, 2013 at 1:00 pm | Permalink

        Simon Sebag Montefiore’s excellent biography of Stalin does not mention anything about this. In that book, Stalin is both a true atheist and a true Communist throughout his life. His religion is Marxism. He does not pray to anyone. Perhaps you have misremembered.

        • Posted April 15, 2013 at 4:21 pm | Permalink

          Misremembering is a possibility, but I see that others have also noted this statement in what seems to be the same documentary. I think the more probable explanation is that the former guard is simply not a reliable source.

  14. Posted April 13, 2013 at 12:44 pm | Permalink

    From Peter Hitchens’s article:

    I will not here reproduce the exact words of a typical Hitler Youth song (recorded by Olivia Manning in her Balkan Triology)

    Err, hello?? That is a *novel*, a work of fiction. Is that supposed to be a citation???

    As is J.S.Conway’s ‘The Nazi Persecution of the Churches’

    And that’s largely a work of fictional propaganda also, with very little actual original evidence.

    why were … the National Socialists so profoundly hostile to the idea of the Christian God

    So hostile in fact that their armies marched into battle with “Gott mit uns” on their belt buckles.

  15. Jeff Johnson
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 12:47 pm | Permalink

    Beside the fact that nobody argues that atheists are incapable of committing crimes, Hitchens totally misses the point made when atheists enumerate the many horrible sins committed in religion’s name: religion claims to be the paragon of virtue, the keeper of all moral authority, the vital link to the greatest and most pristine power in the Universe. Atheism makes no such grandiose claims, so there is no equivalent standing to apply such arguments to atheism. To make an interesting case, Hitchens would have to pursuasively argue that were Stalin, Mao, or Pol Pot religious, then they would have avoided all that cruelty and violence. I doubt such a case could be made, especially since there are abundant counterexamples of religiously ideological leaders who have committed such atrocities.

    In the atheist view, we are all human beings, flawed and full of weaknesses, whether we are religious or not, and we are equally capable of doing good or bad, whether we are religious or not. Hitchen’s arguments fly past this simple observation about human nature, missing by a mile, and jet off into some arena of conflict created in his own imagination.

    Further, if a Pol Pot, a Stalin, or a Mao commit atrocities, it is not in the name of atheism, which is incidental to their political aims, it is in the service of some political program that is in fact an article of faith, inspiring zeal without bounds. In other words, these men effectively transformed a political ideology into a kind of religious totalitarian ideology of the kind that has led to the horribly cruel and violent excesses of religion over the centuries. They are merely repeating the same human errors that religious authorities committed back in the bad days when they were unfortunately granted absolute power in the affairs of society.

    It is a simple fact that if a human being is capable of something, then the religious or the atheist are all capable of it, since religion actually adds no real difference besides a muddled and confused picture of reality. If religion could even dream of living up to its claims, then religious humans should demonstrate a vastly superior morality to that of the non-religious. No such thing is the case.

    Hitchens’ brother Christopher was expert at countering this kind of attack, and if Peter Hitchens carefully read all of his brother’s work, and watched all of his debate performances addressing this topic, he should feel thoroughly chastised for venturing into this well worn territory.

    Evidently Peter is taking advantage of his brother’s passing to step out of the greater man’s shadow in hopes of gaining even a fraction of the attention his brother received. Being so thoroughly unoriginal and hashing over bad arguments that have already been laid to rest is not going to achieve that sad and pathetic goal.

  16. Posted April 13, 2013 at 12:50 pm | Permalink

    Wow, that is just verbal masturbation. I’m actually embarrassed for him. Peter should keep that s*** behind closed doors. If he thinks he shares the bard’s gift with his brother, he is sadly mistaken.

  17. Posted April 13, 2013 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    Stalin killed at least 20 million Russians, Lenin millions more. How many of those died simply because they were religious?

    We need to be a bit careful about how this argument is worded. Yes, to some extent, communists did oppress people because they were religious. That is because communism was a totalitarian ideology which could not accept any competing loyalties. Thus they suppressed any competing power base (independent trade unions, other political parties, religions).

    So, for example, Mao’s communists oppressed Tibetan Buddhism (a non-communist loyalty) even though Tibetan Buddhism was fairly atheistic. That example shows that it wasn’t atheism persecuting theism, it was communism persecuting anything non-communist.

    Thus lack of religion (atheism) was a consequence of communism, with communism being the motivation. (It is flat-out false to claim that communism was a consequence of atheism, with atheism being the motivation.)

  18. Faustus
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 12:51 pm | Permalink

    I would agree with Jacob Bronowski that it is certainty that underlaid the horrors of Nazism and Stalinism (see youtube /watch?v=VIViXWmtFQA). Something all too easy for the religious to slip into.

    I wonder if Peter has ever considered that he might be wrong?

    • Gordon Munro
      Posted April 14, 2013 at 10:16 am | Permalink

      Pee Bro will not get the message even after the Multiverse reaches the Omega Point. Some times beyond time inductive evidence reacheth deductive truth (without the -iness).

  19. Posted April 13, 2013 at 12:53 pm | Permalink

    We should all agree to call this poser “Peter” rather than “Hitchens.” It seems such a disservice to Christopher, the worthy Hitchens.

    • Jeff Johnson
      Posted April 13, 2013 at 1:02 pm | Permalink

      Perhaps, though Christopher may have loved his brother nonetheless, despite his shortcomings or their disagreements. It’s evolution that gives us such love, after all.

      Maybe he could be called “Phitch”. That’s full of rough consonants and has enough Anglo-Saxon abruptness to suggest something profane, though it is an innocent contraction of his actual initial and name.

      • Posted April 13, 2013 at 2:20 pm | Permalink

        Maybe he could be called “Phitch”.

        I could settle for “Jock Hitch”.

        • HaggisForBrains
          Posted April 14, 2013 at 1:09 pm | Permalink

          I see what you’re trying to do, but I’m not too comfortable with the use of a common nickname for a Scot in this context.

          • Posted April 14, 2013 at 1:24 pm | Permalink

            I’m not too comfortable with the use of a common nickname for a Scot in this context

            Hey, I’m a Scot! If I can take it, why can’t you?

            • HaggisForBrains
              Posted April 14, 2013 at 3:46 pm | Permalink

              Fairy Nuff.

  20. deadweasel
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 1:17 pm | Permalink

    According to most Christians, God created humans as part of his grand plan for creation, to accomplish… I dunno. He also has plans for every individual human, as well.

    So: was Atheist Stalin part of God’s plan or not?

    If he was, then God is a monster who oppresses his own creation. If he wasn’t, then God sat by while Atheist Stalin murdered millions of his own followers, interfering in God’s plan for those people. If that’s the case, God is a weakling who betrays his own believers. Which of these, monster or coward, does Peter Hitchens worship?

    At any rate, according to Christian doctrine, Atheist Stalin’s victims went to paradise if they accepted Christ, Hell if they rejected him, and children were “ushered into the presence of the Lord.”

    No harm, no foul.

  21. alexandra
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 1:50 pm | Permalink

    Consumed with rage at Christopher, Peter is a roiling soup of envy, anger, narcissistic defiance that HE is not the much admired, adored, brilliant, funny member of the Hitchens family – a successful writer, happily married, beloved for his admirable courage during the last year. And an atheist! It was inevitable that Peter would wield religion as a weapon against his brother – and adding fuel to the resentment fire,the religion was a futile
    All quite pitiful and sad….

  22. Dave
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 1:53 pm | Permalink

    “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.”
    -Adolf Hitler (Mein Kampf)

    He was a strange kind of atheist,that Hitler bloke!

  23. Mary Canada
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 2:24 pm | Permalink

    Nothing but rhetorical evidence for the ignorant.

  24. deadweasel
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 2:30 pm | Permalink

    Every time somebody tells me “20th Century atheists killed millions!” I reply, “Then don’t screw with us, because for all you know, we’re just getting started.”

  25. Sastra
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 2:42 pm | Permalink

    The exasperating and yet comically unshakeable conviction (held by Mr ‘Bunker’) that the assertion of atheism is not a positive statement, that it is a mere passive absence, is directly contradicted by the death-dealing, violently destructive, larcenous and aggressively propagandist application of their own passionate and positive atheism by the Soviet authorities, as soon as they had the power to put their beliefs into action.

    Ah, so Phitchens is trying to argue against “dictionary atheism” by pointing to totalitarian regimes which were neither inspired by nor derived from atheism, but which used it as an identity token in order to do what could just as easily (more easily) have been done from a religious orientation: “kill the infidel?”

    Dictionary atheism is indeed morally sterile — meaning neutral. But gnu atheism, secular humanism, and other versions which emphasize atheism as a CONCLUSION and not an IDENTITY would not and could not have motivated a destructive totalitarian mindset. As Sam Harris has said, “No society has ever gone wrong by becoming too reasonable.”

  26. Uncle Ebeneezer
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 4:25 pm | Permalink

    So what’s the tally of deaths under atheist leaders who aren’t also violent dictators? Perhaps it’s the dictator part of the equation, not the atheist part that kills people.

    But since atheism so clearly leads to mass killings I think I’ll just go read up on the Scandinavian Holocaust.

  27. Gordon Munro
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 5:14 pm | Permalink

    What percentage of KZ commandants were neither baptized Catholics or Lutherans? How many were unbabtized atheists?
    Erste Antwort: Gleich Null.
    Zweite Antwort: Gleich Null.

  28. Posted April 13, 2013 at 6:11 pm | Permalink

    Hitler was a Catholic and even explored becoming a Priest. Stalin grew up Orthodox and went to an Orthodox school.

    HItler never gave any indication that he lost his faith, though he didn’t (like most Catholics) follow his faith strictly. Stalin, OTOH, may have never had it, lost it early, and in any case turned the USSR, for all intents and purposes, into the Church of Stalin…

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted April 14, 2013 at 8:22 am | Permalink

      And if someone wants to claim that Hitler was no longer Catholic, all they have to do is show us some evidence of his excommunication.

  29. Dawn Oz
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 6:21 pm | Permalink

    I wish Peter Hitchens would wash his neurosis in private. Grrrrrroan!!!!

  30. Posted April 13, 2013 at 7:08 pm | Permalink

    Can it be argued that Naziism, Stalinism and Maoism (was there a Pol-Potism?) were religions? Personality cults, certainly. Someone who knows about these things might do a detailed breakdown of how those cults were similar and different from more mainstream (theistic) religions. If anyone knows of such a study, perhaps they could give a link.

    Something that piques my curiosity is how those cults dealt with the afterlife. When you’re keeping the people miserable, one good way to keep them on your side (and willing to die for you) is to promise that it’ll be all be much better after they’re dead. A socialist utopia they won’t live to enjoy doesn’t have the same appeal to selfishness about it.

    • Reginald Selkirk
      Posted April 14, 2013 at 8:27 am | Permalink

      Communism has certainly been called a religion, by Bertrand Russell and others.
      Cruel persecutions have been commoner in Christendom than anywhere else. What appears to justify persecution is dogmatic belief. Kindliness and tolerance only prevail in proportion as dogmatic belief decays. In our day, a new dogmatic religion, namely, communism, has arisen. To this, as to other systems of dogma, the agnostic is opposed. The persecuting character of present-day communism is exactly like the persecuting character of Christianity in earlier centuries…

  31. SteveC
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 10:07 pm | Permalink

    “… a picture forms in my mind of a mossy, weed-grown, lichen-blotched, dank concrete structure…”

    Presumably the inhabitant of this structure has moldy straw protruding from his pantlegs, shirtsleeves, and the opening where his head ought to be.

    • HaggisForBrains
      Posted April 14, 2013 at 1:11 pm | Permalink

      Nice one!

  32. graeme
    Posted April 13, 2013 at 11:25 pm | Permalink

    I haven’t read “Rage against God” but I have had it cited to me by various theists who explain “you atheists are only atheists because you are angry at god. Peter Hitchens said so in his book and he used be an atheist, so there. Check mate, atheists!”

    Whoever they are trying to convince with this argument it certainly isn’t me, given that I am an atheist and have never been angry at any god.

    • Dawn Oz
      Posted April 13, 2013 at 11:53 pm | Permalink

      They have one theory and everything has to fit into it. They can’t understand that the term ‘god’ becomes irrelevant – it merely registers as a linguistic code, however a nuisance in terms of separation of church and state.

  33. Posted April 14, 2013 at 9:37 am | Permalink

    What I find so beautifully simple about the construction of religion in America is its mirror in practice to the law of the land. If you do not obey your “elected” officials, and the laws created, you have the fear of going to prison, and if you do not obey the laws of the church, you have the fear of going to hell. It is just silly.

  34. Peter Hitchens
    Posted April 15, 2013 at 2:43 am | Permalink

    I shall be replying to this ill-argued and poorly targeted diatribe on my blog (Google “Peter Hitchens Blog”), later today (Monday 15th April). I shan’t bother to reply here because it is a sad dead-end of angry closed minds, motivated by emotion more than by reason, and the only response will be yet more explosions of green bile and spittle-bombs. But contributors here are welcome to engage in rational argument over at my place.

  35. Posted April 15, 2013 at 4:16 am | Permalink

    Hitler may or may not have renounced his Roman Catholicism but, by any definition, Nazism itself was built up into a religion:
    The above website is a fascinating compendium of prayers, hymns, graces before and after meals, etc. They even have the rhythms and cadences, the “look and feel” of Christian liturgy, which would have made them easy to accept by the overwhelmingly Christian (Lutheran or Catholic) population of Germany at the time.

    This one, for instance, is clearly modelled on the “Our Father” Lord’s Prayer, with a whiff of the Nicene Creed thrown in:

    “Adolf Hitler! We are united with you alone! We want to re­new our vow in this hour: On this earth we believe only in Adolf Hitler. We believe that National Socialism alone is the saving faith for our people. We believe that there is a Lord-God in Heaven, who created us, who leads us, who directs us and who blesses us visibly. And we believe that this Lord-God sent Adolf Hitler to us, so that Germany may be­come a fundament for all eternity.”

    Incidentally, the fact that Hitler never renounced his baptism means that he would be counted as a Roman Catholic in the demographic statistics used by that church to boast about its numbers. They cannot have it both ways. Either Hitler was not a Catholic, in which case millions of lapsed Catholics all over the world should not be counted in Catholic statistics. Or those millions should be counted as Catholics, in which case so should Hitler.

    Stalin probably really was an atheist, but there were similar “prayers” and invocations to him, unmistakably Christian in tone, which were used to appeal to the Christian-educated Russian populace.

  36. Chris
    Posted April 15, 2013 at 6:51 am | Permalink

    Looks like he’s replied to this article. Quite a good reply, too.

  37. Diana MacPherson
    Posted April 15, 2013 at 8:32 am | Permalink

    You’re right, you’d think Peter would be a little more nuanced. Why trot out the totalitarians again? Were they really fighting their cause in the name of “atheism”? If so, I fail to see that depicted in their statues & and highlighted as the key motivation in their manifestos. He really does seem to miss that dogma is dogma – sometimes it’s political and sometimes it’s religious but sociopathic totalitarians use both quite effectively. Atheists – if also rationalists aren’t usually sucked into these dogmas – I’d even wager their one of the first to be killed off.

    Geeze, if this atheists are evil were true, you’d think the +90% of scientist non believers would have rioted & burned their cities long ago!

    • gbjames
      Posted April 15, 2013 at 9:36 am | Permalink

      From his writing it is pretty clear that Phitchens isn’t capable of nuance.

      • merlynleroy
        Posted April 15, 2013 at 10:52 am | Permalink

        I can’t really generalize this in the same way he bleats about atheists, but so far 100% of people named “Peter Hitchens” are complete prats.

  38. lisa
    Posted April 16, 2013 at 9:05 am | Permalink

    I can’t imagine that anyone who cannot distinguish between bacon and the aroma of supermarket lasagne can even spell ‘nuance’. And anyone who would refer to the actions of the Nazi and Bolsheviks regimes as ‘mischief’ cannot be worth hearing.

    • Jeff Johnson
      Posted April 16, 2013 at 9:25 am | Permalink

      There is a long history of bigots using what people eat as an ad hominem attack against them. Hitchens use of this, as you point out, certainly does diminish his own credibility right off the bat. What seems like an attempt by Hitchens to entertain himself with his own word play only serves to obscure any valuable ideas or insight that might be buried in the heap. If he spent less time on this self-stimulation and more time focused on clarity, he could probably succeed in construct something challenging and worth reading.

      We all recognize such strident anti-atheist rhetoric immediately as a straw-man fallacy when it pretends that guilt by association with the evil of Stalin, Hitler, or any other totalitarian murderers, qualifies as a valid criticism of atheism itself.

      It really surprises me that Hitchens has so completely lost control of his emotions that he would commit such an amatuerish error.

      • gbjames
        Posted April 16, 2013 at 9:44 am | Permalink

        I was quite confused by this comment until I realized that there was a missing “P” before every occurrence of the word “Hitchens”. “Hitchens” by itself always carries an implicit preceding “Christopher” in my mind.

        • Jeff Johnson
          Posted April 16, 2013 at 9:50 am | Permalink

          Oops. Maybe we could adopt the convention of identifying the lesser Hitchens as “hitchens” in lower case.

          I definitely was talking about the article under discussion, and its author Phitch the lesser hitchens.

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