Sunday, January 06, 2008

Hitler was a vegetarian, Stalin an atheist, Osama bin Laden a Muslim


I am sure you all at one point or other have heard (or, worse, deployed) an argument like this: Hitler was a vegetarian, ergo something got to be wrong with vegetarianism (vegetarians are probably all more or less on the verge of becoming genocidal mass murderers); or: Stalin was an atheist, ergo atheism is responsible for the pogroms Stalin presided over; or: Osama is a Muslim, ergo Islam is responsible for the mayhem currently taking place all over the world.
It will not come as a great surprise to readers of my blog that I am quite content with exonerating vegetarianism and atheism, but I am uncertain as to Islam. The reasons for this are fairly simple, neither Stalin nor Hitler used atheism or vegetarianism (respectively) as their ideological rationale trying to justify their murderous activities. Say, Hitler didn't go about saying, 'because I think eating animals is unethical, I think we should slaughter plenty of Jewish people'. These two things were unrelated. The same is true for Stalin. Stalin also did not justify his mass murder with reference to atheism. He murdered millions of Russians for entirely unrelated reasons.
The same, however, cannot be said with regard to Osama bin Laden (and many like him), whose main frame of ideological reference and justification for their continuing terrorist activities is indeed their religion - Islam. The same holds also true for fundamentalist Christian fanatics who have killed people working in reproductive health facilities in the USA.
So, the argument that Stalin was an atheist and that therefore atheism is a bad thing is false, while the argument that Osama bin Laden is a Muslim and therefore Islam is a bad thing cannot be brushed away in the same vain. One would probably have to show that Osama bin Laden's interpretation if Islam is false, which does not seem to be easily done, or else he would not have the number of followers he seems to have all over the world.

19 comments:

  1. Well I think we can all agree that no matter the religion its the fanatasism of anything that leads societies to justified murder

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  2. Brian EnglishJanuary 13, 2008

    Hi Udo. I've seen more than a few christian bloggers state that Stalin and the commies were persecuting and murdering people in the name of atheism as a way of equating atheism with intolerance. (Did they persecute in the name of atheism by the way?) That atheism is like religious fundamentalism.
    My response is to say atheism is the opposite of theism. It's not a religion, so an atheist can't be motivated by his lack of belief in god. He might be motivated by a totalitarian communistic ideology, but that isn't part of atheism. A religious person on the other hand, a muslim for example, can be motivate by his creed to smite infidels or apostates. That is part of religion.

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  3. re Hitler being a vegetarian, to my knowledge this isn't actually true. There are reports from chefs et al that say he did eat meat - he was particularly fond of squab pie (pigeon?) and also ate sausage products. the site that I found suggested that his supposed vegetarianism was part of Nazi propaganda about his purity and health. http://www.all-creatures.org/mfz/myths-hitler-rb.html

    Hope you find this of use.

    I also wondered where you stood on Buddhism - which is a non-theistic religion. Matthew Ricard is a French scientist and Buddhist monk who has written some very interesting ideas on the workings of the human psyche and the impact of regular meditation - scientifically measured. The phsyicist Fritjof Kapra also wrote a book called The Tao of Physics which attempted to link science with mystical experiences. Not sure how well these bear scrutiny in the scientific community but I'd be very interested in feedback.

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  4. Anti-atheist propaganda. What people should realize, it is humans who commit evil acts. By saying that person was a theist or atheist and he committed that crime, you are just trying to find and excuse to justify human behavior.

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  5. As I best know, Stalin and Hitler were Christians. Stalin expressed his Christianity f ex in a dialogue with Churchill under WWII

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  6. You are right, KristjanT. It is incredible, since marxism is against religion, but Stalin was a Christian.

    He studied to be a priest. His education began at the Gori Church School; afterwards he enrolled at the Georgian Orthodox Seminary of Tiflis. All his life he insisted that he was a Christian, believed in God; there are people who say that he declared himself to be a Christian in order to gain support from the Orthodox Church to his war efforts. However, in his own writings (that I read) he seems to be sincere. Stalin was a deist (he believed that God does not interfere in human afairs).

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  7. Both Hitler and Stalin had moustaches. For this reason I suspect all people with hair on their upper lips!

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  8. "So, the argument that Stalin was an atheist and that therefore atheism is a bad thing is false, while the argument that Osama bin Laden is a Muslim and therefore Islam is a bad thing cannot be brushed away in the same vain."

    Yes it can! You've just contradicted your own arguments! Whether or not Islam is a bad thing has nothing to do with Osama bin Laden. It's a bad thing because it is a religion. Osama bin Laden is a bad person because he kills indiscriminately. The two are not related.

    Just like any other religious group, Islam has its good people and its bad people. You are attempting to argue that because Osama bin Laden is a bad person and he is a Muslim, all Muslims are bad people.

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  9. Osama bin Laden has publicly stated his reasons for the terrorist attacks that he has carried out against the United States: We have troops stationed on their lands, and we abandoned them to the Russians after promising to defend them.

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  10. Depends how you construct the argument Paul. a) it could well be that Islam is a bad religion regardless of Osama bin Laden's activities. b) My argument is not that Islam is a bad religion because of what he did. My point is that unlike Hitler he uses the religion as a means to defends his actions and as a motivational force to rally his followers. If it is impossible to demonstrate incontrovertibly that Islam cannot reasonably be used for either such purposes, one would have reason to be concerned about that ideology.

    Tyler, I have no way to check whether Osama bin Laden said what you claim he did (any reference/evidence for your claim?). Either way this makes little sense, because he would have chosen to attack the USA way AFTER the Soviet troops left the country.

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  11. Hi Udo,

    if I might offer a rebuttal. Osama bin Laden relating to his followers through the bond of Islam is completely unremarkable. The history of war is full of leaders employing religious propaganda to keep the populace on side. It is in fact one of the few effective propaganda tools available.

    I don't quite understand your last sentence (first paragraph), but it seems you are suggesting that people should be concerned about Islam because it can be used as a propaganda tool. As such an argument can and does apply to all organized religions (even Buddhism) I fail to see your point. Perhaps you could clarify?

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  12. Thanks for yours, Paul. That (your last para) was/is my point. Unlike humanist/atheist thought that by necessity relies on reason, logical and scientific argument and the like, most (possibly all) religions leave the door wide open to nasty people employing/deploying them for their genocidal purposes. As it happens, it's in the nature of the authoritative documents of these ideologies that you can't prove the genocide mongerers wrong beyond reasonable doubt. That is where I see a significant difference between naturalism/rationalism and theism.

    I did not mean to suggest at all that Islam is any better or any worse than, say, Christianity. Today it causes more problems, but really there's nothing in principle that would distinguish Christianity from Islam with regard to this particular issue.

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  13. There are people who labour to get much mileage out of the fact that Hitler and a few other mass murderers were vegetarians. Of course they do not do the required balance with a report like that and list all the meat eating mass murderers, especially other 20th century culprits, Mao and Stalin who each possibly killed more people than Hitler, and there are those that disagree that Hitler was a vegetarian. There are 29 more, listed mass murderers on the 20th century list. Probably most if not all meat eaters. I would also add to their half truths that they should seriously consider that it could be argued that vegetarian mass murderers could possibly kill so many because they were aware that people everywhere were actually all part of a "lust for meat conspiracy." therefore it was easy for them to do likewise to human beings. Of course vegetarians generally believe in the sanctity of all life, and that no creature, man or other, should ever have to feel pain, terror, grief or fear and definately not agony nor horror.

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  14. Maybe it's all about being in a minority and (too) strong identification with it. Anyone who is not able to achieve the balance can became biased freak. In each group it is possible, and in each group - that you quoted - it does exist, only a scale and resources differ.

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  15. Hitler's vegitarianism was based on his anti-semitism, and it provided another reason for his hatred of them. Thank the wonders of wikipedia.

    Vegitarians are fascists though - one comes to your house and you are expected to provide them with vegitables, but go to a vegitarian's house and do they ever give you meat? A meal without meat is no more than a snack!

    Most vegitarians compromise themselves too - wearing leather shoes or failing to live up to their own ethical values in some other way. Any idealist who compromises themsleves cannot be trusted - the climate campaigner who flies the globe, the socialist who drinks champagne, the athiest who wouldn't wear a garment that was previously owned someone evil.

    So, it is true, the only vegitarians who are trustworthy are those who are vegitarians because they don't like the taste meat, at least they aren't hypocrites.

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  16. mister jinglesMarch 27, 2011

    i'm a vegetarian for over 45 years now and feel great! i know that there are many great vegetarian celebrities (just go to have a look on 'vegetarian and vegan elite'! there are also many bad vegetarian personalities like stalin, castro, pol pot, khomeiny, robespierre, goebbels and politicians like prince charles, zipi livny, arafat and so on! but i don't care about all this! for me it's ok to be meatfree and i think that one could say: good people are animal friends but not all animal friends are good people! furthermore vegetarianism is not a sign of holyness but of intelligence! so stated alva edison by going veg he could make a better use of his brains - but he electrocuted elefants for his electricity invention! so i think that people who kill other people or animals (like veg hunter prince charles) are actually not vegetarians even if they are not eating meat because vegetarianism includes a violence-free lifestyle towards the whole creation!

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  17. AnonymousJuly 11, 2013

    If christians want to make that analogy then Columbus was a Christian. He massacres and sacrificed up to 3 million natives. Estimates do vary quite a bit but his atrocities are well accepted.

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