Thursday, April 1, 2010

A Response... But No Apology

For those who did not see the opinion piece published by Peter Kavanagh in response to my letter, you can find it here.

Needless to say, I still was not impressed with his superficial analysis of the issue and that he had ignored my discussion on secularism. Rather than write into the Advertiser again (that word limit is a bitch), I decided to email him directly. If you feel like doing the same, his email address is: But please, keep it civil.

Here is my own email response:


My name is Jason Bishop and I was the one who responded to your letter regarding atheism’s connection to the governments of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pot. I read your response today and felt I had to reply once more. However, given the amount of time it takes for a reply and the word constrains on letters into the Advertiser, I thought email would be the best approach.

Hitler’s religious beliefs may not be known entirely or accurately, but he was most definitely not an atheist. He may not have believed in the Christian God, but he most certainly believed in a Creator. Unless you define atheism as ‘not believing in Christianity’, which would be ridiculous, he was not an atheist.

While I would definitely agree that Hitler expressed mixed messages regard the Catholic and Protestant churches, this does not mean he was an atheist. The reason why this is the case is that being critical of a religious organization does not mean you are critical of the religion; just the way they practice it. I have heard and read many complaints from Baptists about how the Catholic Church has it all wrong and visa versa, with every denomination.

Communism may have a more superficially plausible connection to atheism, yet I hope to demonstrate why it wasn’t their motivation. Most Communist regimes were based the works of Karl Marx, who wrote that religion is a tool utilized by the ruling classes whereby the masses can briefly relieve their suffering via the act of experiencing religious emotions, thus preventing them from questioning the real source of their suffering (the upper class and the economic system according to Marx). He refers specifically to religion, not a belief in God. While you may see it as splitting hairs, I do not. I know many people who dislike religion, yet still believe in a God. They see religion as a institution.

It is true, however, that the Communist regimes of did have state supported atheism. The link though between atheism and the genocides committed is still non-existent. The logic behind this is that atheism by itself wouldn’t have lead to these atrocities. It had to be coupled with another belief system (Marxism) to lead to those outcomes. Marxism can lead to genocide, if interpreted as that all the groups he mentioned (upper class, intellectuals, religions, ethnic groups etc.) stand in the way a society in which everyone is happy. The problem isn’t that Marxism was tied to atheism; the problem is that people mindlessly followed the dogma of Marx without thinking about it. Atheism has no dogma to follow. It is a position on one question; do you believe in a god?

The more important part of my response was the part about secularism and why it is not the same as atheism. Our government is secular, as stated in Section 116 of the Constitution:

“The Commonwealth shall not make any law for establishing any religion, or for imposing any religious observance, or for prohibiting the free exercise of any religion, and no religious test shall be required as a qualification for any office or public trust under the Commonwealth.”

This part of the constitution is incredibly important; it is what keeps the religion that is held by the majority (Christianity in Australia) from imposing its will on the minority (Jews, Muslims, Buddhists, Hindus, atheists etc.). Statistically speaking, the amount of representatives in the government would more or less reflect the averages of the population; we have a majority of politicians being Christian. If it were not for this law, there would be nothing stopping them from passing laws that restrict other religions and promote Christianity.

The same goes the other way of course. In Japan, where around 65% of the population is non-religious, they are prevented from passing laws that restrict those who are religions by Article 20 of their Constitution:

“(1) Freedom of religion is guaranteed to all.
(2) No religious organization shall receive any privileges from the State, nor exercise any political authority.
(3) No person shall be compelled to take part in any religious act, celebration, rite or practice.
(4) The State and its organs shall refrain from religious education or any other religious activity.”

This is the fairest system one can have in place, as it prevents any majority, be it religious or atheist, from imposing their views on the minority. This a major problem with any dictatorship, be it an atheist or religious one.

Thank you for your time,
Jason Bishop."

Let me know if you think I missed anything or have incorrect information.

Lord Bishington.


  1. Jason, good post.

    Kavanagh said:

    "DEFECTIVE political systems may be religiously neutral or even promote religion.

    "Logic dictates, however, that all totalitarian political ideologies such as Nazism and Communism must by their nature be atheistic. It is clearly not possible to achieve a state which has total power over the people if any non-government organisations (including churches) retain any influence over those to be governed."

    This is simply stupid. It is certainly not logical.

    Kavanagh's reasoning assumes the separation of church and state. This is the only way he can conclude that the existence of the church can prevent totalitarianism.

    Kavanagh's reasoning is as follows:
    1) So long as you allow NGOs the state does not have total control;
    2) The church is an NGO; therefore,
    3) If the church exists (as an NGO) then we're safe from totalitarianism.

    Here's the rub. There are cases when the church is not an NGO, such as when church and state are one. In such cases there is no reason why the church could not itself be a totalitarian organisation.

    So, Kavanagh's conclusion that totalitarian states must necessarily be atheistic is wrong. What he means is that in the absence of a separation between church and state the potential exists for totalitarian government, and such an instance includes when the church and state are one as much as it includes when NGO are proscribed by the state.

    Dylan Nickelson.

  2. Thanks for the praise and input Dylan :-)

    I recieved an email response from him, but it was a stand 'I appreciate your point of view but still disagree with you' type letter.

    Ah well, I wasn't hoping to change his mind. Just to illustrate the lack of thought he has shown.

    Jason (Lord Bishington)