Thursday, March 07, 2013

Mother Teresa et. al.

I've been reading lots of online posts from atheists condemning religion as the cause of almost every atrocity in history and arguing that systems of ethics formulated without reference to any idea of the divine are by definition more humane.  I do not question that there are ethical atheists and that there may even be ethical systems based in an atheistic understanding of the universe that are positive.  I also have no illusions about the history of religion and know that many atrocities have been and continue to be committed in the name of just about any religion you can think of. 

So, here's my question... if atheism can produce the same or higher quality of person as a religious system why is it that we see no atheist Mother Teresa's, Gandhi's, or the like?  Granted the list of such folk coming from religious backgrounds is not a huge one, but it does exist and includes many less famous folk who have given themselves to make the world a better place.  I'm not aware of any atheists who have made similar ethical impact in the world.  On the other hand, we can find atheist leaders who have committed the same kinds of horrific violence that has been attributed to religious folk.

What do you think?

1 comment:

RJ said...

I'm surprised you say that. The abolition movement is one of the few civil rights movements where the Church was in the vanguard. Most other times, the Church was hand-in-hand with the oppressors so most early civil rights leaders were atheists because no church would have them.

Also, I think it's much easier for a monastic to seem pure than most other people and there isn't an atheist equivalent so one needs to keep that in mind.

There are many atheist humanitarians in the Latin American Socialist/Communist movements. Even leaders like Hugo Chavez, Evo Morales and Daniel Ortega have accomplished an incredible amount for their people. I'd even argue that Fidel Castro did a lot for the Cuban people and much of the negative side of his actions wouldn't have happened except for the US's continuing attempts to bring down the Cuban government.

Other examples include Margaret Sanger of the US, Carmen Argibay of Argentina,

US suffragettes were often atheists, e.g., Elizabeth Cady-Stanton and Susan B Anthony.

Then there are LGBT activists: Cleve Jones, Peter Tatchell, Harvey Milk.

Even in India, Nehru didn't believe in God.