I admit I get addicted to the arguments over at Strange Notions. And sometimes I hear some doozies, here is one from this discussion.
In response to the following:
The ten commandments are only a restriction on freedom to one that does not wish to be truly free or a fully flourishing human being 😉
Comes the retort:
So you claim. A Muslim would define a fully flourishing human being very differently. As would an atheist. Yours is only one voice among thousands – and one that causes anguish and suffering for many.
I’m not concerned with the original response, and I do not agree with it. For commandments 4 -10, sure, but I would not accuse a Hindu or a Shintoist an American Indian of not wanting to be truly free or a fully flourishing human being because of the first three items.
But I do find it illustrative to bring to focus the two alternatives he does bring to bear against Judeo-Christian belief. Perhaps the person would back away if he knew the implication of his sentence. Islam does not cause anguish and suffering for many? That is merely a matter of the daily headlines.
But it is the inclusion of atheism that is the doozie here in this context. We are talking about ideologies as they function on a cultural/social and governmental level, from a single law, to a community, to an organization (such as the Church which is the focus of Fr. Barron’s article) to government and how each of these necessarily is an imposition of will.
In such a context, we have only few examples of atheism being the basis of such widespread imposition as law, organization, community, government. To speak of anguish and suffering in relation to these few examples is to realize the futility of words to truly express reality. Namely we discover languages’ inability to fully capture absolute terror and horror… of hell.
I don’t really know if the commenter would back down if shown the implication of his remark. I have encountered again and again at Strange Notions (and elsewhere) the following attitude. SPANISH INQUISITION! THE CRUSADES! But a stifled yawn when atheistic regimes are brought up. It is as if people have this idea that the atheism of the Soviets (or of any communistic nation) was incidental to their religious persecutions. Or they have no idea of their existence.
Read about, Russia (and its Soviet satellites) Albania, China, Cuba, Mexico (although I don’t believe this was communist, but I could be wrong) North Korea. Read about the prison tortures. I even read one account of Christian prisoners being crucified, having their crosses laid on the floor while still alive while hundreds of prisoners shat and pissed on them. Priests forced to do communion with feces, etc, etc.
But it was not incidental. It was the explicit goal (among other goals) of such states. Atheism was integral to the communist state, integral to its very philosophy, and the tortures, murders and persecutions were merely the philosophy in action. And we are merely talking about official state atheism in its relation to religion, not all the other horrors inflicted in its name.
I am not saying atheism necessarily, nor even sufficiently, leads to such things. I was an atheist myself for much of my life (hell, I’m barely not one now!). There is even a phenomena as Christian Communists (probably just as horrifying). What I am saying is to think that atheism doesn’t have its hand in anguish and suffering is laughable.