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A Dehumanizing Ideology Unsurprisingly Catalyzes Violence


Evolutionary biologist Jerry Coyne, who denies the existence of free will and has endorsed social control of human beings that is hardly distinguishable from animal training, insists that religion is a significant motivation for violence.

Coyne, who claims that in human affairs “reason is no different from a kick,” is of course right, in a sense. There is no question that religious belief can motivate and has motivated violence. We are currently experiencing violence in many parts of the world motivated by Islamic beliefs, and historically many faiths and ideologies have at times motivated wars and repression.

He writes:

…[O]ver at [Why Evolution Is True] we don’t find it so hard to understand that religious beliefs could motivate violence. After all, other ideologies like Communism or Nazism, are well known for promoting violence… Wed that to religion’s claim of absolute truth and its promulgation of a moral code, and you have an automatic recipe for “othering”.

Yet Coyne omits candid discussion of the violence — the extraordinary violence — caused by atheist ideology during the past century. He refers to “Communism,” but if we are to single out “religion” for violence, we must compare it to “irreligion,” not merely to “Communism.” And it is precisely the metaphysical commitments Coyne has championed that have catalyzed atheist violence — the denial of an objective moral law, the denial of eternal accountability for transgressions, the reduction of human beings to animals or even to meat robots, deprived of free will or of any claim to human exceptionalism. These are all tenets of atheist belief, and Coyne himself is one of the loudest salesman for the dehumanizing ideology inherent to atheism.

Just how violent and repressive can atheism be? The most inhuman tactic of Islamic terrorists — suicide bombing — was first employed by atheist Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka. John Gray in the Guardian notes:

Islamists owe as much, if not more, to the far left, and it would be more accurate to describe many of them as Islamo-Leninists. Islamist techniques of terror also have a pedigree in secular revolutionary movements. The executions of hostages in Iraq are copied in exact theatrical detail from European “revolutionary tribunals” in the 1970s, such as that staged by the Red Brigades when they murdered the former Italian prime minister Aldo Moro in 1978.

Many of the inhuman tactics used by Islamists today were first used systematically in modern times by the atheist Left. In the past century, a number of nations have been governed by explicitly atheist governments. Atheist governments murdered more than 100 million people during the 20th century. See here for a comparison of violence and political repression between nations with established Christian churches or cultures, Islamic nations, and nations governed by atheist ideologies during the 20th century.

Looking at modern history, we see: Christian culture creates reasonable and tolerant democracies. Islamic regimes create repressive theocracies. Atheist regimes create totalitarian hellholes.

The denial of free will and the other anti-human inferences inherent to atheism are not merely theoretical affronts to humanity.

The fact is that atheism is the most violent ideology in the 20th century, and given its short run and unprecedented rate of state-sanctioned murder, it is also the most violent and repressive ideology in human history.

Photo: Tamil Tigers, women’s division, by marietta amarcord (Flickr) [CC BY 2.0], via Wikimedia Commons.

Michael Egnor

Senior Fellow, Center for Natural & Artificial Intelligence
Michael R. Egnor, MD, is a Professor of Neurosurgery and Pediatrics at State University of New York, Stony Brook, has served as the Director of Pediatric Neurosurgery, and award-winning brain surgeon. He was named one of New York’s best doctors by the New York Magazine in 2005. He received his medical education at Columbia University College of Physicians and Surgeons and completed his residency at Jackson Memorial Hospital. His research on hydrocephalus has been published in journals including Journal of Neurosurgery, Pediatrics, and Cerebrospinal Fluid Research. He is on the Scientific Advisory Board of the Hydrocephalus Association in the United States and has lectured extensively throughout the United States and Europe.