More on religion & morality

In my recent debate (“Is faith necessary for ethics?”) the Christian representative argued that, if religion is guilty of some crimes, atheist regimes like Hitler’s and Stalin’s have been even worse. Yes, playing the good old Hitler card.

First, the Nazi regime was not atheist. Hitler frequently invoked God, he was a declared Catholic all his life, and never left the church. And the Vatican never excommunicated him, nor ever even uttered a word of criticism.

As to the other totalitarians – Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and the like – this is all really just religion under a different name, with all the attributes including worship of a God figure, an absolutist ideology of revealed truth, and a willingness, nay, a zeal, to punish and kill heretics and apostates.

I have a magazine called China Pictorial which I was sent in 1966 because as a kid I was silly enough to write to Mao Zedong. It is full of pictures, and not one – literally, not one – doesn’t have Mao in it. Tell me this is not religion.

Do you know who the president of North Korea is? No, it’s not Kim Jong-il – it’s his father, Kim Il-sung, who’s been dead for 15 years. The country’s chief occupation seems to be worshipping the father and the son. They’re just one short of a trinity. Tell me this isn’t religion.

None of this is at all what humanism is about. Humanists reject religious dogma in all its forms, and instead want every person free to seek his or her own path. And the one country that most nearly conforms to that secular humanist ideal is the United States of America.


9 Responses to “More on religion & morality”

  1. John Says:

    As a side note,

    Your statements about Hitler are false. Though Hitler did periodically express a beleif in “divine providence”, he was not a religious man in the conventional sense.

    Nothing demonstrates this more than his motivations for the holocaust. Hitler’s mass murder of the jews was not motivated by religious ideas ie “Christ Killers”, but rather secular ideas of “inferior” races and unavoidable racial conflict.

  2. John Says:

    “Stalin, Mao, Pol Pot, and the like – this is all really just religion under a different name,”

    Your attempt to remove these tyrants from consideration as humanists is akin to someone saying “the 9-11 hijackers were not true muslims so they cannot be considred as religious men” or perhaps, “the crusaders who pillaged Jerusalem were not true Christians, ergo they cant be called religiously violent”.

    At the end of the day, Mao, Hitler, Stalin, Pol Pot etc were humanist tyrants and the various religous tyrants and terrorists are accurately described as religious men.

  3. Allen Barnes Says:

    Sorry John, Franks statements regarding Hitler were absolutely true. Hitler thought that he ruled by divine “providence”. Hitler did make deals with the Catholic church, the church never said anything against Adolf Hitler. Hitler was no humanist. He wasn’t a practicing Catholic in his adult years, but he really believed that he was chosen by God to lead Germany to greatness. Calling Hitler a “Humanist” is simply not a correct statement.

  4. bruce Says:

    Hitler was not a humanist. He was a catholic.

  5. John Says:


    I never said Hitler did not believe in a “divine providence”, I did say that he was not a practicing Christian in anywhere near the conventional sense.

    Hitler never used his nominal Catholicism as a justification for his crimes.

    Your definition of “religious” is too broad. Was Saddam Hussein a religiously motivated despot (nominal Sunni Muslim), or Pol Pot (nominal Buddhist)?, or Idi Amin? (nominal Sunni Muslim).

  6. John Says:


    At the end of the day, avowed Humanists such as Mao, Pol Pot, Stalin, and Ciescescu (sp) have caused immense human suffering.

    Humanism simply does make the world any safer than theistic religion does. In fact, if the 20th century is correct, humanists are more dangerous than theists.

  7. John Says:


    Please feel free to merge my comments for clarity.

    “None of this is at all what humanism is about. Humanists reject religious dogma in all its forms, and instead want every person free to seek his or her own path.”

    Would a Muslim be correct is saying “9-11 is not at all what Islam as a religion is about. Those attackers were not Muslims?”

    Just as theists cannot honestly modify definition of “Christian” or Muslim” because they dislike a particular adherent, humanists cannot change the definition “humanism” or “religion” to exclude humanists that they do not find appealing. Communism, in all its forms was and is a humanistic movement.

    I am always amazed that progressives argue with the same semantic tricks of their opposites.

    FSR RESPONSE: I cannot agree that Communism in any way deserves the label “humanistic.” As an active member of a large local humanist group and attendee at an international humanist congress, I think I can say that I have not met any humanists who would regard Communism as in accord with their basic values; certainly not the Communism practiced in the USSR, China under Mao, Cuba, or North Vietnam. To suggest that the crimes perpetrated by these regimes somehow besmirches the humanist philosophy is ridiculous. (Ditto for Nazism. “Gott Mitt Uns” was one of their slogans.)

  8. spoing Says:

    @John is confused. Humanism as a system of thought – a philosophy if you like – that has nothing at all to do with (in fact it SPECIFICALLY REJECTS) religious beliefs.

    Humanism and communism have no dependent relationship on one another, though they may co-exist.

    The early Christian church was one of the first communist movements.

    “All that believed were together, and had all things in common; And sold their possessions and goods, and parted them to all men, as every man had need.”
    (Acts 2:44-45)
    “There was not a needy person among them, for as many as owned lands or houses sold them and brought the proceeds of what was sold. They laid it at the apostles’ feet, and it was distributed to each as any had need. ”
    (Acts 4:34-36)

    Conflating humanism for communism is typical of the woolly-headed thinking of right-leaning (usually American) conservatives who struggle with the nuances. It’s like mistaking capitalism for democracy, or assuming that these have co-dependent relationship of some sort.

  9. spoing Says:

    sorry that was meant to be “Humanism IS” not “Humanism as”

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