God, Atheism & Evil

(Below is the rough transcript of Dr.Paul Kattupalli’s speech on God, Atheism and Evil)

When the news of school shootings in Newtown, Connecticut reached me I was in a shock for a few minutes. How could you take a deadly weapon, go into a school and unleash such horror on little children? I struggled with the question, how could such evil exist in a world created by God?  This is not the first time I had such questions in my mind.

Not long ago, I was working in the emergency room of a trauma hospital. It was mid afternoon, a 16 year-old teenager was brought into the ER with several injuries all over body, he was bleeding from both his thighs. He was unconscious but I could hear a painful groaning as he was struggling to breath. I was told a big truck ran over the lower half of his body as he was trying to cross the road after the school. We immediately started CPR and blood transfusion. Everybody was delivering their best to save his life. Despite all our efforts, after 15 minutes, his heart stopped. All the doctors and nurses and other staff working the ER that afternoon, we all felt sad that a young life was crushed so prematurely by a truck. As I was trying to get over the grief to concentrate on other patients, the younger sister of the deceased teenager entered the room. She was crying uncontrollably while leaning over the dead body of her brother. After a few minutes she said, ‘God does not exist, He is dead’. She repeated those words while other family members comforted her and walked her out of the ER.

‘God does not exist, He is dead’

I thought within myself, ‘this young girl, she is not a philosopher, she is not a scientist, she is not a theologian, she is just responding to the painful death of her little brother’.

She did not blame the truck driver who ran over her brother, she did not blame the doctors who failed to save his life, but she put the blame squarely on God, then she declared that GodW is dead.

We often hear the , ‘Because there is so much evil in this world, there must be no God’. Evil, Evil, Evil

What is Evil?

Why is there evil?
Which is Evil?

How can a good God allow and tolerate evil in the world He created so lovingly?

These questions frequently haunt us.

I think as human beings, we are exposed to evil at four different levels: The evil that happens somewhere around the world, the evil that happens in our communities, the evil that happens to our family and relatives, and the evil that happens to us at individual level.

How do you respond to the evil you hear about and read about, that happens around the world?

How do you respond to the evil that you feel around you that happens in your town?

How do you respond to the evil that happens to your relatives or friends?

How do you respond to the evil that strikes you personally?

  1. How do you respond to the evil you read about that happens around the world, in places like Sudan?

The founder of Apple Computers, Steve Jobs died recently. I love all my apple gadgets, iMac, iPhone, iPad and MacBook and I felt sad when I heard about his death. That evening I went to Wegmans to do some shopping and I picked Steve Jobs’ biography by Walter Isaacson. Steve Jobs was a man who revolutionized six major industries with his passion: personal computers, animated movies, music, phones, tablet computing, and digital publishing. Behind his great achievements, he led an emotionally sensitive life. When he was born he was abandoned by his biological parents. He was adopted by a caring family. Yet, throughout his life, he could not accept the fact that he was abandoned by his biological parents. That sense of abandonment permanently left an empty space in his heart. As a teeneager He used to listen John Lennon’s song Mother,

‘Mama don’t go, Daddy come home’

Mama don’t go, Daddy Come home

What a collection of heart tearing words!

Mama don’t go, daddy come home’

Steve Jobs spent his childhood in the home of his adopted parents in California. Jobs’ parents wanted him to a have a religious upbringing, so they took him to the Lutheran church most Sundays. In July 1968, when Steve Jobs was thirteen years old, Life magazine published a shocking cover showing a pair of starving children in Biafra, Africa.

Looking at the picture of those starving children, Steve Jobs was disturbed, and asked himself,

‘How could a good God allow such suffering in this world?’

Jobs took it to Sunday school and confronted the church’s pastor. “If I raise my finger, will God know which one I’m going to raise even before I do it?”

The pastor answers, “Yes, God knows everything”.  Jobs then pulls out the Life cover and asks, “Well, does God know about this and what’s going to happen to those children?”

The pastor replies, “Steve, I know you don’t understand, but yes, God knows about that”

Steve Jobs says, ‘I don’t have anything to do with worshipping such a God’. Steve Jobs never went back to church.

Just like Steve Jobs,  

Many of us question the goodness of God when we see children dying of famine and starvatio n.

and of violence.

  1. How do you respond to the evil that happens around you in your neighborhood or your campus?

I live in a town where we have an university that was home to one of the best known football coaches in America, Joe Paterno. In November 2011, he was fired by the university as a result of the child sex abuse scandal involving his former assistant coach Jerry Sandusky. I was walking around the university building as the story unfolded. All over this quiet town in the heart of Pennsylvania, a cloud of gloominess and anger descended over the people. They were asking questions like

How can this man abuse the children that were kept under him in good faith?

Why didn’t the university take precautions to stop such child molesters?

Some people were furious at  Joe Paterno. This man who has been walking in the hall of fame for many years for now, suddenly found his reputation hit rock bottom.

One lady asked me,

How can this man allow such evil around him, committed by his assistant coach?

Pennsylvania State Police Commissioner Frank Noonan issued this statement:

“This is not about a football team or a university; it is about child sexual abuse and the culture that allowed it to continue.  These children are scarred for life”

That is how people responded to the evil that happned in this small town.

in the small town I live that is how people responded to evil that happened in their community

  1. How do you respond to the evil that happens to your relatives or friends?

Put aside the evil that happens half way around the globe?

Put aside the evil that happens in your town?

How do you respond if evil happens to your relatives?

Joshua Halberstam is an Adjunct Professor of Philosophy at  New York University, New York City. This is the story he tells about the evil his family and relatives went through. I quote,

“For me, growing up in a Hasidic family, the central question was the Holocaust. My family – my aunts, uncles, parents – were survivors. For me, talking about God was always a problem because I not only had to accept a God, but I had to accept a God that let my cousins get gassed to death. I found this extremely difficult. I’d go to synagogue and sit next to one person who didn’t believe in God because he’d lost his family in the concentration camps. When I got older, he told me, ‘look, I come here because this is what Im familiar with, but I cannot believe in a God that let my children be gassed’. And the other man tells me that after losing his children he has to believe in God – otherwise life would be pointless. So any discussion of theology is a discussion now about a God that was able to stand by while His people were tortured. I stopped having an easy time praying and believing in any kind of traditional God when I was eighteen. While there might not be a God now, perhaps there will be one in the future”

People still ask that question, 70 years after holocaust, ‘How could a good God allow heinous acts like Holocaust where millions were slaughtered because of their race or ethnicity?’

  1. How do you respond to the evil that happens to you personally?

When I studied the life of Charles Darwin, one thing that endeared my heart is that he loved his children so much and it was difficult to read the passages I had to leaf through that describes how, as a loving father, Darwin had to endure the suffering of his little children as they were succumbed to deadly diseases. In one incident, we read about Darwin’s little daughter Anne. He loved her so much, that he called her ‘little angel’. During her short life time she became the ‘apple of his eye’. In 1849, she caught scarlet fever and after a prolonged illness, died in 1851. Eminent Darwin scholar, Janet Browne writes that when Darwin buried his little daughter, he buried his little faith in God. Darwin struggled with the question, ‘How can a loving God take away my little angel from me?’

so, the questions of evil persistently disturb us,

if not at a personal level, at a family level

if not at a family level, at a community level

it not at a community level, at a global level.

We have lot of atheism debates going around in our town. For the sake of simplicity, let us divide the argument into two groups. One group is made up of atheists, who say that God and religion is evil and they give us the list of all atrocities committed by the followers of religions. The other group is made up of Christians and other religious followers who say atheism is evil and give us the list of all atrocities committed by atheists.

First, let us listen to the atheists:

Famous atheist, Daniel Dennett in his book Breaking The Spell, wrote these words,

“The problem is that there are good spells and then there are bad spells. If only some timely phone call could have interrupted the proceedings at Jonestown in Guyana in 1978, when the lunatic Jim Jones was ordering his hundreds of spellbound followers to commit suicide! If only we could have broken the spell that enticed the Japanese cult Aum Shinrikyo to release sarin gas in a Tokyo subway, killing a dozen people and injuring thousands more! If only we could figure out some way today to break the spell that lures thousands of poor young Muslim boys into fanatical madrassahs where they are prepared for a life of murderous martyrdom instead of being taught about the modern world, about democracy and history and science! If only we could break the spell that convinces some of our fellow citizens that they are commanded by God to bomb abortion clinics!”

Christopher Hitchens died recently with cancer. In his book, god is not Great, How Religion Poisons Everything, he writes about all the evils committed by religions of the world, starting from chapter Two,which he entitled, Religion Kills, he chronicles all the evils perpetrated by religions of the world. From Bosnian crisis, the Middle East violence, Saddam Hussein’s pogroms, Sunni-Shiite violence, the Crusades, Spanish Inquisition, the religious wars in Europe, Salem Witch trials, the Kamikaze suicide bombers in Second World War the violence in India between Hindus and Muslims, the violence in Sri Lanka between Sinhalese and Tamilians, child slavery and killings by  Joseph Kony and his Lord’s Resistance Army in Uganda. Then he concludes religion is nothing but a form of child abuse.

Richard Dawkins (b.1941) is a British evolutionary biologist and atheist. In his book, The God Delusion, Dawkins says, I quote, ‘The God of the Old Testament is arguably the most unpleasant character in all fiction; jealous and proud of it, unjust, unforgiving, control-freak; a vindictive, bloodthirsty ethnic cleanser; a misogynistic, homophobic, racist, infanticidal, genocidal, filicidal, pestilential, megalomaniacal, sadomasochistic, capriciously malevolent bully’. Then he compares God to a virus, a dangerous virus that infected human mind which needs to be eradicated with disinfectant called reason.

Another atheist, Sam Harris, in his book End of Faith, argues that religions are intrinsically intolerant and that such intolerance is at the root of violent conflict among the religions. So, we have one group on one side, who are proud that they are atheists and are ready to give you a long list of atrocities committed in the name of God.

On the other hand we have believers in God who report that atheism is the main cause for so much evil happening in our world. Starting with the French Revolution, when the revolutionaries sought to de-Christianize France, when they emptied the Cathedral of Notredame of its Christian symbols and transformed it into a temple of reason, when their leader Maximilien Robespierre (1758 – 1794) advocated revolutionary terror which resulted in the guillotine and the killings of over 50,000 people.

–Then they talk about Social Darwinism, that replaced God as the Creator and taught Evolution and survival of the fittest, the Euthanasia, Scientific Racism, Biological antisemitism, how 60,000 people were sterilized in the between 1900 and 1960 in the United States alone in the name of Eugenics.

–They talk about Lenin, under whom over 10 million people were killed when the civil war broke out in Russia in the summer of 1918.

-Then they talk about Lenin’s successor, Stalin, who was expelled from Orthodox seminary in Tbilisi in 1899 because of his atheism. The Great Terror, the Gulag, The Soviet Union enforcing militant atheism, destroying churches, monasteries, and synagogues, executing tens of thousands of clergy members,

-Then they talk about Mussolini, the fascist Italian dictator who was influenced by Marx and Nietzsche, who used Blackshirt thugs to suppress freedom and democracy;

-Then comes Hitler and the cult of the Fuhrer, his racism and antisemitism, the Kristallnacht, the Blitzkrieg, the Eugenics, the Euthanasia, the Final Solution, resulting in the deaths of millions of people.

-Then comes Mao Zedong in China, the “Great Helmsman”, his Little Red Book, The Long March, the Great Leap Forward, resulting in the deaths of over 20 million people.

-Then comes Pol Pot in Cambodia, his Khmer Roughe, The Year Zero, wiping out 2 million people that amounts to 25% of Cambodia.

-Then we got North Korea, a totalitarian, single-party Stalinist dictatorship, built on the cult of personality around the Kim Jong family, enslaving millions of people, running a government based on atheism, and then firing missiles and rockets towards South Korea and the United States.

-Whoever doing the killings, the central fact of the 20th century is its violent record. Political scientist R.J.Rummel of the University of Hawaii calculates that worldwide during the 20th century, wars and civil wars cost about 38 million lives, while government-sponsored persecutions, mass murder, and genocide accounted for about 169 million victims. So, 200 million people were massacred in little over 100 years.

So, we got the violent deaths of 200 million people we got to account for and we got two groups blaming the other for the massacres.


So, we got two groups with two lists. One group, made up of atheists with their list of atrocities committed by religion. The other group, made up of believers in God, with their list of atrocities committed by atheism.

Where do we go from here? We should put our emotions aside and think about these questions logically.

The first thing is to understand the logic of Correlation Versus Causation. I use this logic when I treat patients in my clinic. For example, recently an elderly woman came to our clinic. She said, ‘Doctor, I am having some pain and tingling sensations in both my hands and feet. I have diabetes for many years. I think I am getting neuropathy due to diabetes’. I examined her, drew her blood and sent to the lab. The lab tests showed that patient has low levels of Vitamin B 12 and Folate. We got 4 possible causes for her neuropathy.

1.Diabetes may be causing her neuropathy

2.Vitamin deficiency may be causing her neuropathy

3.Both Diabetes and Vitamin deficiency may be causing her neuropathy.

  1. Neither Diabetes nor Vitamin deficiency causing her neuropathy

What is our next step?  I called the lady next day, ‘Mum, I got your lab results, they are significant for low levels of Vitamin B12 and Folate in your blood. The deficiency of those vitamins could cause neuropathy. Now, the neuropathy you are suffering from is most likely from the deficiency of these two vitamins, although we cannot rule out Diabetes as the additional cause of your neuropathy at this point. What we can do is, let me start you on vitamin tablets and let us see how you do on them’.  Patient agreed, she took the vitamin pills for 6 months and came back and told me that her neuropathy has gone. Then we concluded that her neuropathy was not due to diabetes, it was not due to both diabetes and vitamin deficiency, it was not due to a cause other than vitamin deficiency- it was due to vitamin deficiency alone.

Analyze the case here: Neuropathy in a patient with Diabetes: In this scenario, the temptation is to conclude that her neuropathy came from diabetes because diabetes is a very common cause of neuropathy. If you had blamed diabetes as the cause of her neuropathy, you would have committed the logical fallacy, called Correlation implies Causation. Just because she has diabetes, it does not mean her neuropathy came from diabetes. Diabetes in this case is the correlation, not the causation.

When I investigated more, I found the exact cause of her neuropathy. That is the essence of Correlation versus Causation.

  1. First let us apply this Causation versus Correlation to Religion:

Let me give some more examples.

Can you blame violence in Mayan civilization on religion?

  1. The blood sacrifices in Mayan civilization:The blood hungry gods of Mayan jungle were offered human sacrifices. The rulers believed that they were the descendants of the god and their blood was ideal sacrifice. So, you need royal blood for sacrifice, otherwise the gods would be furious, you would be punished with famine and death. The rulers offered blood sacrifices either through personal bloodletting or the sacrifices of captives of royal blood.

Conclusion: Religion is one of the causes of violence in Mayan civilization. It is not just a correlation.

Another example: I was told to be sensitive to the sentiments of different groups of religions represented here. So, I leave the dirty job to atheistic authors. In his book ‘god is not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything’, Christopher Hitchens writes, “By the end of the dreadful conflict that Japan had started, it was Buddhist and Shinto priests who were recruiting and training the suicide bombers, or Kamikaze (“Divine Wind”), fanatics, assuring them that the emperor was a “Golden Wheel-Turning Sacred King,” one indeed of the four manifestations of the ideal Buddhist monarch and a Tathagata, or “fully enlightened being”, of the material world. And since “Zen treats life and death indifferently,” why not abandon the cares of this world and adopt a policy of prostration at the feet of a homicidal dictator?”

Christopher Hitchens is blaming Buddhism as one of the causes of violence during Second World War. On what basis? Because Buddhist priests encouraged people to offer themselves up in the service of the King, who was considered one of the manifestations of Buddha and to treat life and death indifferently as they board the warplanes on suicidal missions.

Conclusion: Buddhism was one of the causes for violence in Second World War. It was not just a correlation.

Another example: Hinduism and caste system in India.

Christopher Hitchens has a particular dislike for Mother Teresa. When Mother Teresa tried to open her charity work in Calcutta, India some religious leaders protested her philanthropic work stating that she was interfering with the karma of those sufferers.   The religions of India like Hinduism and Jainism look nonviolent on the surface, they created caste system, one of the most inhuman social systems ever existed in the world. Consider the plight of over 150 million Dalits in India. They are considered as the untouchables, often segregated from the rest of the society in rural India.

Conclusion: Hinduism by its doctrine of karma and caste system has been one of the causes for human suffering. It is more than a correlation.

Religion has been a cause of lot of suffering in the history of the world. Today in the West, we have a tendency among the intellectuals to attribute most of the evil perpetrated in today’s world to so called Western religions and give a free pass to Eastern religions, which are described mostly in terms of nonviolence, peace, yoga, transcendental meditation, animal rights, wellbeing and vegetarianism. But let me give you my own analysis here.  Even so called non-violent religions could be causes of lot of suffering in this world.

Take Dalai Lama for example. Dalai Lama refers to himself as a Marxist, and preaches it in terms of spiritual liberation. The Four Noble Truths of Buddhism, the first truth is that all is suffering. According to Dalai Lama, in contemporary world, capitalism is the root cause of all suffering. Flying around in private jets, he has been preaching this message around the world, often live telecasted by satellite channels from his air conditioned room. He lives a life lavishly furnished with products of Western capitalism. Keeping aside the contradiction in his life style and message, his anti-Capitalist Marxist message garbed in Buddhist spirituality has left millions of his followers in abject poverty. Countries like Tibet, Laos, and Cambodia are among the poorest nations in the world today with paltry GDPs because millions of people in those countries consider any material prosperity as an obstacle to spiritual enlightenment. Most of them don’t even own a pair of sandals because they consider the words of Dalai Lama coming from the mouth of Buddha. Dalai Lama never calls his followers to commit acts of violence like Ayatollah Khomeni of Iran does. But, his anti-Capitalist Buddhist message has left hundreds of millions of people in abject poverty. I call this soft terrorism.

   Coming to so called Western religions, consider Islam. Hardly a day goes by, without somebody committing acts of terror in the name of Islam somewhere around the world. The history of Christian church is also filled with many acts of terror mostly under Catholic Church.

Conclusion: Religion has been the cause of violence and suffering all through the history.

Correlation versus Causation

It is important analyze each accusation in the light of this important logic called causation versus correlation.

  1. Can we blame deism for the atrocities committed during French Revolution?
  2. Can we blame atheism for what Lenin did? for what Stalin did? For what Mao did? For what Pol Pot? For what Kim Jong did?
  3. Can we blame Darwin for what was done under Social Darwinism?
  4. Can we blame Hinduism for caste system and all the suffering that goes with it?
  5. Can we blame Buddhism for the poverty in Laos and Cambodia?
  6. Can we blame Christianity for spanish inquisition and slavery and sex scandals of its priests?
  7. Now, let us apply this test to the atrocities committed by self-proclaimed atheists.

Many atheists argue that Darwin’ ideas had nothing to do with what happened under social Darwinism.

Let us start with Darwin. Earlier I mentioned the death of Darwin’s little daughter Anne and the agony he had to go through as she passed away. Darwin also his little boy to Scarlet fever. Browne writes about how Darwin painfully witnessed the deaths of his little children falling prey to Scarlet fever. She writes, (at the moment of the death of baby Charles), ‘If he had any inclination to think about his theory of natural selection at this time, he might easily have reflected on the melancholy fact that his ideas of struggle required the death of the weakest individuals, even of his own babies. His theory was a bleak theory of elimination’.

You see, Darwin’s little daughter had no chance of survival in the universe Darwin imagined and claimed that came to be.

The the eradication of so called ‘lower races’ was consistent with Darwinian worldview. In a Letter to W.Graham, dated June 3, 1881, Darwin wrote, ‘looking at the world at no distant date, what an endless number of lower races will have been eliminated by the higher civilized races throughout the world’.

At the heart of natural selection, we have the elimination of the weak and the domination of the strong over the weak. In Mein Kampf, Hitler justified Darwin’s views. He wrote, ‘ If nature does not wish the weaker individuals should mate with stronger, she wishes even less that a superior race (like the Germanic race) should inter-mingle with an inferior (like the Jewish race). Why? Because, in such a case her efforts, throughout hundreds and thousands of years, to establish an evolutionary higher stage of being, may thus be rendered futile’

Scientific racism and biological anti-semitism were the core ideas of Nazi ideology. Hitler used to say Lebensraum (‘living space’). That was a Social Darwinist worldview that saw constant race war and struggle for living space. The embrace of natural conflict, the survival of the fittest was presented as the key to history.

In the year 1859, Darwin published his revolutionary book On the Origin of Species. Before you open the book, read the full title:

On the Origin of Species by means of Natural Selection, or the Preservation of the Favoured Races in the Struggle for Life.

Preservation of favored races? which race is favored? Hitler said, ‘Aryan’ race is favored, it embodies creativity and health, while the Jews are parasites, contaminating influences, and eternal enemies stamped for extinction. The Nazis killed an estimated six million Jews in camps. Primo Levi (1919 – 1987) wrote the book Survival in Auschwitz. In 1943, when he was a 25 year-old young chest in Turin, Italy, Levi was deported to the concentration camp in Auschwitz, Poland. In his book, Survival in Auschwitz, he gave a classic account of his ten months in the concentration camp. He shows the camp universe was designed to destroy human identity itself, demonstrating there were no limits.

So, what is at the core of Hitler’s ideology: Social Darwinism.

Among all races, aryan race is favored and within the aryan race, the strong and healthy were favored.

-Eugenics: Eugenics was born immediately after the publication of Darwin’s Origin. Darwin’s cousin, Francis Galton was convinced by Darwin’s book, that populations could be periodically displaced by superior ones. Galton created the new science he called ‘Eugenics’ to assist nature in optimizing the characteristics of the population as the natural selection picks up its favorites in the struggle for survival. Eugenic thinking was widespread worldwide during the first half of the century and it urged planning of a superior population through encouraging “good births” and discouraging reproduction of those judged unfit.

Now, let me tell you a shocking fact: It was American Eugenics that inspired Nazi Eugenics.

At the very beginning of 20th century, a number of states in America passed laws permitting the sterilization of so-called undesirable types. In 1927, the United States Supreme Court upheld the compulsory state programs for the sexual sterilization of persons deemed eugenically unfit. It was during those frightful days, Oliver Wendell Holmes, notoriously said, ‘three generations of imbeciles is enough’. The idea of Eugenics in America came from Darwinism.

With that inspiration, the Nazis passed a July 1933 law authorizing sterilization of those with hereditary diseases (including mental illness, epilepsy, blindness, and alcoholism). Hundreds of thousands of Germans were sterilized.

Euthanasia followed Eugenics:

In 1939, a program of ‘mercy killing’ was instituted across many hospitals in Germany. Many hospitals collected information on children and adults with genetic, mental and physical deficiencies and passed that information to SS experts. The SS guards then killed over 100,000 of these less privileged individuals in their Euthanasia camps.

The world had witnessed in full the dangerous consequence of Darwin’s ideas of evolution.

As historian Paul Johnson noted in his book Modern Times, ‘Darwin’s notion of the survival of the fittest was a key element both in the Marxist concept of class warfare and of the racial philosophies which shaped Hitlerism.

It is painful to read the struggle that Darwin went through as he watched his little boy and little girl succumbed to scarlet fever. But when the Darwinian worldview produced eugenics that crushed the lives of thousands of little children who were born with genetic defects, imagine the suffering, folks.

What am I saying to you now? Correlation versus Causation?

Lot of human suffering happened under the banner of Social Darwinism. Is Darwinism causation or correlation? It is causation because Darwin himself predicted the bleak future awaiting for the weaker species under the crushing wheels of natural selection.

So, Social Darwinian atrocities are in accordance with Darwinian worldview. Causation or Correlation? It is the Causation, not just Correlation.

Communism and Atheism: Hermeneutics of Suspicion

Next, we need to talk about the monstrosities committed by Communist regimes. The question is, can we blame atheism for all the brutality and savagery carried under Marxist governments?

To answer this question, I need to introduce you to what philosopher Paul Ricoeur called, ‘The Hermeneutics of Suspicion’ in the work of four most prominent atheists in modern times: Ludwig Feuerbach, Karl Marx, Friedrich Nietzsche, and Sigmund Freud.

Let me put this on a time scale. The classical atheists like Denis Diderot used to criticize religion by focusing on questions about the existence of God or the rationality of believing in God. Hermeneutics of suspicion changed that approach. It focuses on how religion masks and exacerbates fundamental forms of alienation and suffering. The term hermeneutics refers to theories and methods of interpretation.  “Hermeneutics of suspicion” is defined as a way of

interpreting social and cultural phenomena that attempts to

uncover their hidden mechanisms, to show how various

aspects of society and culture are not actually what we think

they are.

Ludwig Fuerbach:

Ludwig Feuerbach was a German philosopher and anthropologist. He lived between the years, 1804 to 1872. He is often recognized as a bridge between Hegel and Karl Marx. He spent most of his life in a critical analysis of Christianity and influenced the development of dialectical materialism. In his most important work, The Essence of Christianity, Feuerbach argued that God is nothing but the outward projection of a human’s inward nature. He maintained that in projecting into reality the idea of God, human beings alienated their true being from themselves. He argued that the idea of GOd as an Other is really an alienation of what is essential to humanity. So, according to Feuerbach, the concept of GOd is really an imaginary projection of the human essence into heaven. In other words, we make God in our own image.

Then he insists that this alienation is resolved, and the concept of God overcome, through Christianity.

Then he proclaims that Christianity is the supreme religion, as well as the end of religion, because it is the religion of love: God sacrifices his divine status by

becoming human. Now, don’t think Feuerbach was saying nice things about Christianity. What he is saying is , when you think that God loved you so much that He sent His Son to die for you,you  are actually suffering from a kind of sickness in which you

split yourself in two by projecting part of you as God. When you think God is loving you, it is actually you loving you. Religion in your life brought that sickness that splitted your life into two and that is the reason to get rid of religion from your life.

What is Feuerbach saying to a Christian? ‘I am ok, you are not ok, you are not ok because you have a sickness that made you to think that God loved so much and let me help you to overcome that sickness.

Feuerbach’s strongest influence fell on Marx. No philosopher more pervasive influence on world affairs in modern history than Karl Marx. He was a German socialist who lived between the years 1818 to 1883. He published The Communist Manifesto in 1848 and Das Capital between 1867 and 1894. Marx read Darwin’s The Origin of Species and recognized its value in supporting his theory of class struggle. He sent Darwin a personally inscribed copy of Das Kapital in 1873 and had a dedication in the German version: “In deep appreciation – for Charles Darwin”.

Earlier I said that for Feuerbach, religion is the sickness. But for Marx, religion is only a symptom, not the sickness itself. This sickness is inequality and oppression; It causes the miserable material and spiritual conditions. Religion also mystifies our life in the world and makes us forget how miserable we really are in this world. Religion is the first form of alienated humanity, “critique of religion is the basis of all critique”. Marx thought religion was a form of false consciousness, one of the primary means by which people deluded themselves about a miserable existence of inequality and oppression.

In The Communist Manifesto, which he published with Friedrich Engels in 1848, Marx says“ Religion is the sigh of the oppressed creature, the heart of a heartless world, just as it is the spirit of the spiritless conditions. It is the opium of the people. To abolish religion as the illusory happiness of the people is to demand their real happiness.”

(abolition of religion is important for the real happiness)

Draft of a Communist Confession of Faith, June 9, 1847

Question 22: Do Communists reject the existing religions?

Answer: All religions which have existed hitherto were expressions of historical stages of development of individual peoples or groups of peoples. But communism is that stage of historical development which makes all existing religions superfluous and supersedes them.

Please note two things here:

  1. Religion is the symptom of a deeper sickness which is inequality. When can I convince people I am not sick anymore? When I stop exhibiting the symptoms of my sickness. When can a state show that it achieved a communist society? When it no longer shows the sickness which is inequality? How can it show that it has no inequality? If religion is the symptom of sickness called inequality? An equal society must be free of religion, which is a symptom of inequality. So, a communist society is obliged to become atheistic in order to show it has achieved equality.

You see, abolition of religion is at the very heart of Marxism. Is it a surprise that every Marxist nation brutally suppressed religion in every corner of the world?

Karl Marx’s atheism is built into Communism’s hatred for religion. It is not coincidental that wherever Communists had power, they destroyed religion.  ‘Religion is poison’ told Mao to Dalai Lama and over 6000 Buddhist monasteries were demolished in one night in Tibet.

Joseph Stalin, he was once a seminary student preparing for priesthood, then gave up his faith in God and became a Marxist.

Karl Marx’s influence was not limited to Communism. Marxism was at the core of Nazism. Many people think that because Hitler and Stalin bitterly hated each other during Second World War, Naziism and Marxism are opposite ideologies. Not so. What was the name of Hitler’s political party? NSDAP: National Socialist German Workers’ Party.

So, both Darwinism and Marxism were at the core of Hitler’s Nazism.

Frederick Nietzsche

German philosopher Fridrich Nietzsche (1844 – 1900) was famous for making the bold proclamation, ‘God is dead’ in his 1882 book, The Gay Science. Nietzsche thought that religion and morality had their roots in

weakness and sickness and were a means by which the most

decadent of us wrested and kept power away from the strong

and healthy. Religion and morality had their roots in weakness and sickness.  

Just like Marx, Nietzsche was also influenced by Darwinism. Daniel Dennett wrote, Nietzsche saw a cosmic message in Darwin, God is dead.

Nietzsche describes two types of morality in his book, Genealogy of Morals: Master morality and slave morality. In what he calls, “revaluation of values”, slave morality became victorious over master morality. The morality we have in our society is slave morality. How did we get this slave morality? He says, first through the priestly religion of the Jews and, then, with the emergence of Christianity out of the Roman Empire. What is the solution Nietzsche offers? He says we need to find a new nobility, the Superman, ubermensch to eradicate the slave morality developed by Judaism and Christianity.

Hitler admired Nietzsche so much, as, historian William Shirer has written that ‘Hitler often visited the Nietzsche museum in Weimar and published his veneration for the philosopher by posing for photographs of himself staring in rapture at the bust of the great man.

In Auschwitz the words of Hitler are clearly stated: ‘I freed Germany from the stupid and degrading fallacies of conscience and morality….We will train young people before whom the world will tremble. I want young people capable of violence – imperious, relentless and cruel’

  1. The fourth figure in hermeneutics of suspicion was Sigmund Freud (1856-1939), an Austrian neurologist and the founding father of psychoanalysis. Freud thought that religion was an effect of repression and the

inability of human beings to confront unavoidable psychic

conflict and the inevitable gap between our hopes and reality. He called religion, a ‘universal obsessional neurosis of humanity’ generated by repression of instinctual drives at a primitive stage of cultural life.

There are four prominent atheists who interpreted religion and God in this way.

Ludwig Fuerbach: Splitting rooted in alienation

Karl Marx: Symptom of a condition rooted in  inequality and oppression

Frederick Nietzsche: Sickness rooted in slave mentality

Sigmund Freud: Suppression rooted in neurosis

Conclusion: Before Fuerbach, atheists used to limit their discussion to the rationality of a belief in God or empirical evidence for His existence. But with hermeneutics of suspicion, atheists started to describe religion as a sickness inflicting humanity that needs to be eradicated.

Before Feuerbach, typical atheist would talk to a theist like this, ‘I am ok, you are ok, let us argue the validity of the arguments for God’. But after the hermeneutics of suspicion, the atheist would say, ‘I am ok, you are not ok, you are not ok because you have a sickness called religion, let me make you better by stripping off your religion’

As a result, atheism has been the core of the philosophies like Marxism, Nazism, and Fascism which annihilated millions of people. Atheism is a direct cause of 20th century’s worst massacres, it is not just a correlation.

it is at the root of communism and naziism. Causation or correlation? It is the causation. So, it is reasonable to argue that atheism formed the very basis of ideologies like Communism, that decimated the masses by millions.