© Freethought Today, October 1992
By Michael Hakeem, Ph.D.
"The fool says in his heart 'There is no God.' They are corrupt, they do abominable deeds, there is none that does good."--Psalm 14:1Christianity casts a deep and pervasive shadow over the Holocaust. "If . . . then" is an intriguing game some historians like to play. It is tempting to posit this hypothesis: If there were no Christianity, then would there have been the Holocaust? It is not meant to say that if there is a connection it is actually and necessarily a direct implementation of an explicitly formulated Christian doctrine that orders the killing of the Jews. It is rather meant to affirm that "ideas have consequences." Hitler's "final solution" was the culmination of a Christian idea that nourished the soil and planted the seed of anti-Semitism over a period of two thousand years.
The Nazi Holocaust is a specific event in time. But Christianity, a movement with a dreadfully bloody history--and a bloodier one to come when its end-time judgment of destruction is pronounced on all who do not join it--has had much experience with fathering holocausts on earth, as will be documented in due course. The Holocaust alone--leave aside the other holocausts and the additional horrors of the faith--should have shamed the clergy into silence and put a stop to their penchant for self-righteously pointing the finger of blame and scorn at nonbelievers as the fountain of all that, according to their lights, ails the world. There is something obscene about members of a movement whose central premise is that those who do not join it deserve to be tortured and destroyed having the gall to make judgments about the morality of others. The clergy's irrepressible persistence in spreading intolerance, subtly and not so subtly, toward atheists has been documented here on a number of occasions.
It is not possible to exaggerate the extent of the antipathy and the strength of the anathema directed at atheists the clergy give voice to. Professor Paul Edwards knows that. He says, in the article on "Atheism" he wrote for the eight-volume Encyclopedia of Philosophy of which he is Editor in Chief: "One could fill many volumes with the abuse and calumny contained in the writings of Christian apologists, learned no less than popular. The tenor of these writings is not simply that atheism is mistaken but also that only a depraved person could adopt so hideous a position and that the spread of atheism would be a horrifying catastrophe for the human race." He gives some choice examples.
Freethinkers must be fully aware of how often atheism is identified with communism. The Reverend Robert A. Morey is one among many clergy who seek to warn people of the horrendous dangers posed by atheists: "What the atheists have done in Russia, Cuba, China, etc. provides a graphic lesson in what happens when the infidel is in control." Spelling it out, he teaches that "anti-theists in the West call for the same suppression of religion which the Communists use in their lands."
Pat Robertson, important because he possesses vast resources and is an indefatigable advocate and activist in the cause of making Christians a potent voice in the political realm, flatly and unhesitatingly equates atheism with communism. He contends that the signers of the Humanist Manifesto "were not avowed communists as such, but they believed everything the communists believed." Soviet communism, he claims, was "the model for the humanistic world view." He has held explicitly that atheists are not fit to be in public office. He has ruled that "there is absolutely no way the government can operate successfully unless led by godly men and women operating under the laws of the God of Jacob." He warns that the atheists' aim is to silence all who believe in God.
Pastor X, who will soon make his first appearance in the ". . . And Intellectually Fraudulent" series, can represent any number of clergy who point to the horrors of communist Russia as the inevitable product that atheism leads to. Pastor X liked to reel off the evils that allegedly stemmed from Russia's following the path of atheism rather than the Way of God: the rulers' killing of their own people; waging war; tyrannical rule over the citizenry; not allowing freedom of religion; withholding civil rights; keeping people in poverty; allowing special privileges for the elites; censorship of news and literature; spying on people and interfering with their private affairs; and so on.
Thinking persons know that they are required to subject their own assumptions to critical analysis, to look for defects and deficiencies in the logic of their conclusions, to examine alternative explanations, and to present evidence to support their claims. None of the irresponsibly wild and reckless indictments sampled, or any of the other known ones, are credible, and they are made because the clergy making them do not exercise the skills requisite for reasoned deliberation.
The reasons why government regimes, communist or any others, do the things they do, including the killing of their own people, are very complex. To say, as so many of the clergy do, that the only reason that the Russian communists did the beastly things they did is their lack of belief in God is naive and confused in the extreme. It is true that Russian communism subscribed to atheism, and it is true that it opposed and suppressed religion, and it is true that the Russian regime persecuted the clergy and harassed the churches, and it is true that Stalin had millions killed. But surely most of these killings were for political reasons and had nothing at all to do with religion or atheism. In the earlier years of the communist takeover, which was probably the period of most intense persecution of the clergy, leading to the imprisonment and killing of some of them, the hostility of the revolutionary regime was instigated by some of the clergy's active resistance to it and their support of the imperial state. Indeed, if the textbooks on the history of Russia are correct, the post-World War II period saw a relaxation by Stalin of the suppression of religion because of the patriotic behavior of the clergy and their support of the war. In short, political considerations must be taken into account in the communists' treatment of the matter of religion, and it is a matter far more complicated than the simple-minded contention that it is all explainable by the lack of belief in God.
The Russian communist state lasted a mere seventy years. For just a little short of two thousand years, the history of the Western world tells a story of a catalogue of nations that were not only dominated by Christianity but had many countries in which the Church and the ecclesiastical leaders were closely allied with the civil authorities, and It is sometimes difficult in their history to distinguish between state and church or to determine which was exercising more power. Yet these nations have chalked up an appalling record of slaughtering of people, a proclivity to engage in war, tyrannical rule, virtual enslavement of massive populations, deprivation of human rights, oppressive living conditions, absence of religious freedom, excessive privileges for the ruling elites, and control over the private lives of people. These duplicate the very things the critical clergy bemoan as occurring in Communist Russia and which they attribute to its "atheist philosophy." But there they are where Christianity reigned supreme and where atheism was hardly significant.
There is still another alternative way to look at the origins of communist Russia. By the clergy's own endlessly repeated pressing forth of one of their Christian doctrines, it is fair to conclude that God rather than the atheists should be held responsible for bringing the despised atheist Russian communism into being. Who has not heard the clergy proudly proclaim that all that happens is the work of God? Pat Robertson wrote a whole book, The Plan, to spread the idea. God has a plan for the world and a plan worked out for each individual. Robertson teaches that God's "plan for you begins in the womb." Does it not follow that God's plan for Stalin was for him to become communist and rule a communist Russia? No less an authority than the Reverend Richard C. Halverson, Chaplain of the United States Senate, affirms the doctrine. He says Reform theology, the theology he deems to be correct, declares: "The decrees of God are that God foreordains whatever comes to pass. Predestination is not a humanly contrived dogma; it is derived from the word of God."
In a number of extensive analyses of the playing out of the end-times scenario deduced from the Bible, professors in the seminaries, particularly those who are specialists on biblical prophecy like Pentecost and Walvoord, have described the crucial role that communist Russia is scheduled to play. The theologians see its role as the attacker of Israel in Armageddon. They read it all in the prophecies of the Old Testament. They identify communist Russia there, though not under that name. Surely it is blasphemous to assert that the atheists inscribed it in the Bible rather than it being God's revelation. The inescapable conclusion is that God created communist Russia for his own purposes.
The rejoinder will be that God would not have created "the evil empire." Those who say that are not arguing with, but just ignoring, the theologians who claim that he did. "God creates only good things," goes the constant refrain of the objectors. They are ignoring God who himself admits to being the author of evil, and he should know himself: "I form light, and create darkness: I make peace, and create evil: I the Lord do all these things" Again, "Shall there be evil in a city, and the Lord hath not done it?" The evil deeds of God that abound in the Bible are so monstrous that his putting Stalin in charge of communist Russia and letting him commit the abominations he did is a peccadillo by comparison. God once destroyed the whole human race except for one family; Stalin never did that.
It has been found necessary to follow a long and circuitous route before arriving at the demonstration of Christianity's implication in the Holocaust. Part 2 will consider a number of genocidal ventures of the Christians. It will also show that during the 1500 years, more or less, of Russia's existence before the communist takeover, the Christianity that was a powerful dominating force in the lives of the people, and the ecclesiastical establishment that exercised considerable influence in and out of the government did not keep the masses of people from living a most miserable existence, and all the conditions that the clergy deplore in communist Russia and blame on atheism were present in the same or greater degree in Christian Russia. A choice to live under Stalin or under the czars who preceded him is a choice between a rock and a hard place.
Michael Hakeem, Ph.D. is emeritus professor of sociology at the University of Wisconsin--Madison.