There was a serial killer here in BC when I was a teen. Robert Pickton. He slaughtered prostitutes by the dozen. Some estimate his victim tally to be well over 100 women. He went largely unnoticed for many years, out on his pig farm in Port Coquitlam, allowing him free reign to kill. It went on so long, and affected so many people, that nearly every person in the Greater Vancouver area has a story about a woman they knew who went missing during that time.
A series of slip-ups on Pickton’s part eventually led police to issue a search warrant for his farm. What they found were the personal items and remains of several missing women. Further searches uncovered the DNA of more missing women, who, it was alleged, had been fed to his pigs. The discoveries kept coming, and when all was said and done, the excavation of Robert Pickton’s pig farm cost $70 million dollars and lasted over a year. From Wikipedia:
Forensic analysis proved difficult because the bodies may have been left to decompose or be eaten by insects and pigs on the farm. During the early days of the excavations, forensic anthropologists brought in heavy equipment, including two 50-foot (15-meter) flat conveyor belts and soil sifters to find traces of remains. On March 10, 2004, it was revealed that Pickton may have ground up human flesh and mixed it with pork that he sold to the public; the province’s health authority later issued a warning.
All of this earned Robert Pickton the title of the most prolific serial killer in Canadian history. If more of the evidence found on his farm had been viable, the potential is high that they could have proven Pickton was the most prolific serial killer in the modern history of the world.
When a letter from Pickton to a prison pen pal was leaked, we found out he said (with awful spelling and grammar),
I know I was brought into this world to be hear today to change this world of there evil ways. They even want to dis-re-guard the ten command-ments from the time that Moses in his day brought in power which still is in existence today.
You can be sure that no immoral, impure or greedy person will in-herit the kingdom of God …. Don’t be fooled by whose who try to excuse these sins, for the terrible anger of God comes upon all those who disobey him.
From this, we can pretty safely glean that Pickton had religious motivations. He slaughtered upwards of a hundred women and fed them to his pigs… for God.
There is no need for speculation here. No need for mental gymnastics, conjecture or reaching. Pickton admitted, in his own words, why he killed all these sex workers. To cleanse the world of sinners for the almighty himself.
While Pickton was killing women with complete abandon, in nearby Abbotsford, another man was assaulting and killing teenaged girls. Terry Driver, aka the Abbotsford Killer, wreaked havoc on Greater Vancouver. I remember the principal of my school announcing over the PA that no girls ought to be walking to or from school alone. I recall having nightmares and being afraid to close my eyes at night. The entire Lower Mainland shuddered in terror as Driver taunted police with phone calls, letters and vandalism. He had only managed to take the life of one girl, but he was attacking teen girls brutally with a baseball bat, crushing skulls and terrorizing the community.
It was nothing short of horrific.
Eventually, Driver’s taunting became sloppy and he was caught when police were able to take a fingerprint off the tape on one of his notes. He was arrested, charged, and is in a psychiatric hospital now.
When prompted for a motivation, Driver claimed variations of insanity. Not once did God come up. Not once did he refer to any passages in the Bible. Driver did this because he was fucked up. End of story.
Now, it is very possible that Driver was religious. Abbotsford is one of the most religious communities in all of BC, so the odds are pretty good he was raised a Christian. 61% of Abbotsford’s population identifies as some denomination of Christianity. The next largest is Sikh, so the odds get even better when you add race to it. Caucasians tend not to be Sikh. Terry Driver was caucasian, making the likelihood he was raised a Christian even higher. In fact, it would be strange if he wasn’t at least from a Christian family.
If we wanted to, we could find evidence to link Driver to some form of Christianity. Of this, I am almost positive. We could make the argument that he came from a Christian community and so, therefore, Christianity helped motivate Driver to do what he did. But, why would we? We already have a clear reason why he committed the crimes he did. Not just in his own words, but in subsequent evaluations by mental health professionals, it was determined he was unwell. We have a reason. The reason may be difficult to understand or to figure out how to prevent, but we have a reason nonetheless. There is no need to blame the Christian community he came from.
Right here in the neighbourhood where I grew up, we have one example of crimes clearly inspired by religion and one example of crimes not inspired by religion, even though both men came from faithful communities.
There is a correlation here, but clearly no causation.
When religious people assert that “atheistic regimes” have been responsible for the largest genocides in modern history, they’re seeing a correlation and ignoring that it doesn’t necessarily mean causation.
Like Driver, we have a clear reason why Joseph Stalin did the things he did. He was hungry for power.
Dictatorships don’t work if you have to share power with another institution. This is why it’s called a dictatorship. It’s also why many dictators tried to get rid of religion. Stalin could not afford to have people revering any power but himself. His motivation was not to make everyone an atheist. That was his method. His motivation was to take absolute control of the country, and all the hearts and minds within. Getting rid of the church was just silencing an opponent.
Yes, Stalin became an atheist. Yes, he ran anti-religious terror campaigns. But he did not do it for religious reasons, like Robert Pickton. He did it to take more control.
Christianity is prescriptive. Christianity comes with a doctrine and an expected mode of behaviour. Christianity is dogmatic. Christian leaders preach about how to live to obey God. Christianity has had millions upon millions of texts written about what constitutes a “good Christian.” There are laws, rules and rituals, consequences, rewards and sin. Christianity makes claims about how you ought to behave. Not only can this be cited endlessly, but it can be cited with little to no effort. Christianity is prescriptive.
Atheism does none of these things. There are no atheist texts written about how to behave, who to love, what to wear. There is nothing written down for atheists that determines who we ought to hate and who we ought to support. There are no dogmatic consequences for the things we do, as atheists. We are left to our own innate morality to determine what is right and what is wrong and for the most part, we do alright. Sweden, Denmark, Norway and other countries with large numbers of atheists are evidence of this.
There have been people in history who have committed heinous acts because they understood from the Bible or the Quran that it was what they were supposed to do. They have found calls for their actions written in the one book they are supposed to follow and never question. They can justify it with verses from holy texts. They often do justify it with verses from their holy texts.
Take Ephesians 5:5 for example:
For you can be quite certain that nobody who actually indulges in fornication or impurity or promiscuity — which is worshiping a false god — can inherit anything of the kingdom of God.
Does that sound familiar? That’s because Pickton mentioned it in the letter I quoted at the beginning of this post:
You can be sure that no immoral, impure or greedy person will in-herit the kingdom of God …
Do you see how clear this is? He was inspired directly by the word of God, there can be no mistaking.
When you look for justification for Stalin’s actions in atheist texts, you will find none. There are no calls to action in Richard Dawkins’ The God Delusion. There is not one suggested behaviour in Hitchens’ God Is Not Great. You can’t find rules to live by in the End of Faith by Sam Harris. There are simply no texts within atheism that tell us how to live, how to act, and who to hate.
I actually had one person tell me the other day that I was wrong about that, and that all I had to do was read the Communist Manifesto. I laughed. Not only have I read all whopping 40 pages of the Manifesto, but it is also simply a call for the workers of the world to unite. You know, he seed idea behind unions. Further, the Communist Manifesto is not an atheist text. It’s a communist text. Communism is an approach to society in which the means of production being publicly owned is valued. Examples of publicly owned property in modern America? Amtrak. OPIC. Legal Edge. NeighborWorks. The sidewalk in front of your house.
Not only did Stalin not kill for atheism, but he also didn’t kill for communism… go figure.
Stalin was a power-hungry monster who killed to further his rule. We all know this.
We also know there have been religiously inspired atrocities that would never have happened if that religion didn’t exist. The Crusades. The Salem Witch Trials. Charlie Hebdo. The slaughter of Christians by ISIS.
It is not conjecture to say these awful events were inspired by religion. We have overwhelming evidence, including admissions – even boastful ones – from the perpetrators themselves. We know, beyond any shadow of a doubt, that faith inspired these killings.
We also know that Hitler slaughtered to “purify” the species. We know that the Japanese killed millions in WW2 to expand their economic resources. We know Atilla the Hun killed to expand his territory.
We know that Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot slaughtered people in great numbers to keep their grips on totalitarian dictatorships.
It is just a passing fact that they may have been atheists. Just like it matters very little that Hitler was a Catholic when he slaughtered millions or that Leopold II was Roman Catholic when he killed millions of Congolese, or that Hideki Tojo was Shinto when he led the Japanese to slaughter masses of people.
It doesn’t matter what religion these men identified with, because we know religion was not their motivation, unlike ISIS, Boko Haram or the Roman Catholic Church during the crusades.
There is no dogma, no doctrine, no belief and certainly no passages in texts about atheism that call for hatred, violence, murder or any action at all.
Atheism is just a response to your claim that there is a god. As a matter of fact, if you really are concerned about atheism, the best way to eradicate it from the globe is to simply stop claiming there is a god.
To those of you who still think Stalin killed because he was an atheist, I have a challenge. Cite an atheist text that calls for his action. Show me what atheist literature he must have studied to have come to the conclusion that he must begin slaughtering people, like Pickton found in Ephesians 5:5 or ISIS finds in sharia or the Puritans in Salem found in Exodus 22:18.
I eagerly await your responses.