Often, people bring up the argument that atheism or religion lead necessarily to evil. Here, I assert that both history and logic support the arguments that atheism and certain kinds of religion (Divine Command religion, specifically), combined with man’s predilection for abusing power, DO lead to violence, both logically and evidentially.
However, Christianity, in a form that does not involve a commitment to Divine Command theory (such as St. Thomas Aquinas‘ view), does NOT lead necesarrily to evil, and perhaps necessarily to GOOD.
Further, this contention is supported by both logic and historical evidence, with exceptions, of course (we argue from the norm, not the exception). Syllogisms examined below.
ATHEISM LEADS TO VIOLENCE
- Belief in atheism logically requires a commitment to subjective morals (no external referent)
- Belief in subjective morals leads to justification of exterminations of dissidents ‘for the sake of the whole’ (often, bolstered by Social Darwinism)
- Therefore, atheism, when scaled up to a majority, logically ends in exterminations and cruelty.
This is basically an ‘ultimate power corrupts ultimately’ argument. You may disagree with either of the first two premises, but I think history supports the reality of them. I am aware of atheists who believe in objective morals, but the problem is, though they (rightly) are able to identify objective morals, their atheistic presuppositions give them no LOGICAL means of making those assertions.
RELIGION LEADS TO VIOLENCE
- Religion asserts objective morals by Divine Command without logical support for its claims
- Without reference to reason, religions can claim any moral grounds they want, including genocide and sectarian superiority
- Therefore, religion leads to violence.
This again, seems an ‘ultimate power corrupts ultimately’ argument. I think this argument has merit for a Divine Command religion. However, Islam creates violence for more than just this reason, and Christianity, I would argue, is NOT a Divine Command religion.
Christian morality is NOT merely based on Divine Command, but also on such principles as the value of human life and flourishing, racial equality, etc. It asserts that, though we rely on revealed truth in determining what is right, we also confirm and clarify with reason and experience. (For those who want to go deeper down this rabbit hole, Christianity, as William Lane Craig argues, sees the Euthyphro Dilemma as a false dilemma, and splits the horns of this dilemma, thereby not committing to either Divine Command or objectivism).
Again, I would argue that history shows that Reformed Protestant Christianity has produced such goods as abolition, the valuing of human life, the founding of hospitals, universities, and service organizations, and much more (see How Christianity changed the world by Alvin Schmidt), and perhaps logically so based on it’s ideas and values.
Other religions, specifically Islam, produce violence, not merely because RELIGION or DIVINE COMMAND produces them, but because the direct teachings of Islam and the life of Mohammed directly teach violence.