Monday, January 26, 2009

Let's Talk About Bad History

In a debate over whether or not God exists at the University of Alberta tonight, PZ Myers and his debate opponent, Kirk Durston, explored one of the more insipid questions used to answer the question over which ever is superior:

The question of which has been responsible for more deaths: religion or atheism.

By drawing upon the body counts amassed by the five most bloodthirsty atheist societies -- which, for the purposes of debate, was defined as societies in which atheism was a central and encompassing tenet -- Durston concluded that between Cambodia, China, North Korea and the Soviet Union atheism has allegedly killed more people than anything else.

Myers objected to the argument under the basis that Durston was classifying all atheists as mass murderers -- but conveniently fails to overlook that fellow famed atheist Christopher Hitchens applies the same argument to religion, by Myers' standards suggesting that all religious people are mass murderers.

He then went on to insist that Adolph Hitler was a Roman Catholic. Accordingly, history's most despised mass murderer -- despite the fact that Joseph Stalin actually killed many more people -- was religious.

Unfortunately for Myers, his assertion is flagrantly false.

Those who paid close attention to history know know that Myers' assertions -- the one thing he excelled at during the debate, with the exception of boring people with a lecture about Hox genes -- know that this is bad history.

Hitler may have been raised Catholic. But in truth, Hitler lived the last decade of his life as a bizarre occultist.

It's well known that Hitler and the other senior members of the Nazi party believed that Aryans were the master race. What is less well known is that they believed Aryans were descendents of Atlantis, who lost their godlike powers due to mixed breeding with the members of "lesser" races.

And while Myers is entirely correct to note that Germany was -- and remains -- a predominately Lutheran and Roman Catholic country, and correctly notes that the Roman Catholic Church holds some complicity in the events of the Holocaust due to its lack of intervention, his argument falls short on one important point.

There is a stark difference between complicity and complete and sole responsibility.

(Interestingly, Pope Benedict seems to be set to welcome Richard Williamson, a Catholic Bishop who denied the Holocaust, back into the Church.)

But Myers should double-check his history before the next time he accuses a debate opponent of peddling bad history.


  1. I heard the odd story about Nazi mysticism, but to hear that Hitler and his goons believed themselves to be descended from Atlantis is entirely new to me.

    Just as a sidenote, I wonder what the view of atheists like Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens is towards smaller religions like Wicca or Neo-Paganism. Some adherents of these faiths, and related believers in New Age concepts, like psychics and fortune-tellers, have been criticized by skeptics, but the skeptics claim their supposed powers and abilities are unverifiable by science and therefore false.

    I just find it interesting that, for instance, Aboriginal spiritualism doesn't face the same kind of venom from guys like Hitchens and Dawkins that Christianity and Islam do. Do they attack all religions, or just the ones that are easy targets?

  2. They may be less hostile to Wicca. While it contains a lot of quaint spiritualist elements, it also has a strong focus on naturalism -- particularly on the medicinal properties of plants.

    I highly recommend watching the video. It's absolutely fascinating.


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