Atheism’s Accomplisments

Go here for another one of the world’s great atheist contributions to world culture…

About Fr. Dwight Longenecker
  • Melia

    Some idiot’s painted an old man with a beard over the Flying Spaghetti Monster. Gee, why can’t people just respect history?

  • DrDJ

    Ooh. I seem to have touched a nerve…
    There is nothing man-made that you consider “inspired” or “miraculous” that isn’t the result of human effort executing a plan of the human mind. If your christian god motivated Michelangelo’s brush strokes here, perhaps the muslim god guided the designers and workers here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Taj_Mahal . Or perhaps zeus here http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Statue_of_Zeus_at_Olympia .
    It’s all a question of who’s willing to foot the bill for what we consider “works of art.” In the west, from about 1100 to 1800, that was the christian church. Then ask yourself how they came up with the funds for these works.
    This is the same church that gave us the horrors of the Inquisition, Jew-destroying pogroms, the Thirty-Years War, subjugation of women, an AIDS epidemic (since condoms are evil), and child-raping priests. A pretty hefty price to pay!
    Ah, but then think of the non-theistic wonders of our western world today. Clean water at the twist of a tap. Electrical power at the flick of a switch. The ability to telephone Aunt Mildred from nearly anywhere with your cell phone. An expectation to live longer than 35 years. The ability to think clearly without some overseeing priest telling us what’s right and wrong.
    That’s pretty inspirational!

    • Jim

      Hello Doctor
      Do you have any evidence of ‘the horrors of the Inquisition’? Particularly in the context of Protestant Europe at the time or of athiest governments of the 20th century. I have numbers and contexts for Spain and would be delighted to review my data with yours.
      Then we can take your list in sequence. Particularly your claim that ‘the church’ was responsible for your chosen events.
      I note that you ask ‘how they came up with the funds for these works’. I know the answer to this question. Do you?

    • Bernard

      What kind of a doctor are you? A very ignorant one I think. You need to brush up on your facts.

  • Ed

    I recognized the music instantly. Palestrina was an atheist …? Perhaps a point is being made more subtly than my old brain can fathom.

  • SKay

    Thank you for the beautiful picture, Father.

  • mike cliffson

    Drdj.
    ” horrors of the Inquisition, Jew-destroying pogroms, the Thirty-Years War, subjugation of women, etc …./..” dear me, what do they teach them at these schools? Probably not your fault, why shouldn’t you repeat the easy ones, some mug’ll rise t’ the bait?

    But from an MD?: the catholic church gave us an aids epidemic.I should thank you for enlightening me? You got shares in companies that make rubberjohnnies(uk)/aka rubbers (USA)? You’re a doctor of what exactly? Divinity? Philosophy? I wa s hearing that aids was a conspiracy introduced by/under “reagan and the religious right ” to drive the “bath-houses” out of business a nd “get” homosexuals propably before you were so much as thought of.
    Come off it.

  • veritas

    Father,

    The atheists just don’t, and won’t, get it!

    Mankind’s greatest achievements in art and beauty have been accomplished by Christendom.

    But perhaps even more chilling is to ask the question “How many atheist hospitals for lepers have been built? How many humanist hospitals for the deaf and blind have been built?

    The only “medical” work that the humanists and atheists specialise in is contraception, abortion and euthanasia. They are supreme masters at that – the culture of death.

    If you want to see the artistic contributions of the anti Christian cultures look at Hitler’s Germany, Stalinist Russia, and Mao’s China. Each of these societies butchered as many artists as they could, burnt books and exalted the art of Nietzsche’s Superman.

    • Jason Firestone
    • Ryan
    • http://twitter.com/mickskeptic McSkeptic

      “Mankind’s greatest achievements in art and beauty have been accomplished by Christendom.”

      That is cultural-religious bias speaking, nothing more, with a good bit of Euro-Centrism thrown in.

      • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

        It is better for us theists to assert that all the greatest accomplishments of art and beauty have been achieved through and because of man’s innate religious instinct. The great temples and works of art and literature in every culture are the product of religion. I am not sure what great art or architecture has been produced by atheist cultures, but I am happy to consider any suggestions.

        When considering the accomplishments of Christendom it is easy to look only at the great Cathedrals, the magnificent works of art and music and literature. All these accomplishments are only the fruit of other, more profound accomplishments that affect all of us every day.

        Just to name a few: 1. the educational system of the university came from the Christian culture of the Middle Ages. 2. The system of written law, trial, judge, jury, lawyers for the defense and prosecution developed from the ecclesiastical courts of the Middle Ages. 3. Musical notation was first developed by the monks in the Middle Ages as a way to standardize their music in worship. The composers and music we now take for granted would not have developed without notation first having been created. 4. The scientific method was first developed as a way to conduct theological disputes and then developed as a way to make valid medical discoveries in the universities and medical schools of the Middle Ages. Consequently, the entire modern Western medical establishment was built on these foundations. 5.Inventions and technology were only considered possible because of the theological understanding of free will–that man was not predetermined in a fatalistic universe to simply react to his surroundings. Instead the Christian theology of free will and personal responsibility empowered individuals to take charge, study, think, question and invent machines and technologies and techniques to change the world they live in. Of course other cultures made technological advances too and inventing things is something humans do, but a strong argument can be made that the technological advances seen in the Western Christian culture have their roots in a particular worldview that enables and encourages such advancement.

        These accomplishments, and others, were possible because of the philosophical mindset and worldview established by the predominance of Christian theology which was universal in Europe during the early Middle Ages. I would not deny that particular individuals who are atheists have made great achievements in their fields of endeavor, but the philosophical foundations for their capabilities are essentially part of the Christian worldview on which our culture is founded.

        • http://twitter.com/mickskeptic McSkeptic

          I’m not questioning the role of religion/spirituality in art, only that to say that art inspired by Christianity is not higher and finer than any other. To say so is simply cultural bias.

          Unlike religion, atheism is a lonely pursuit, it is not an organization that funds, endows or otherwise supports the arts; I would hazard a guess that individual atheists are as giving as their religious counterparts. A person can be both a member of a church and an atheist; for those living in Western societies only in the last hundred years or so is it acceptable to openly call oneself an atheist; before that one would be ostracized, persecuted, even put to death for professing to be a non-believer. To think that a great artist had to be a believer to be inspired by the Gospel or any other religious texts is a quite narrow view.

          Countries like the former USSR, while officially atheist, only replaced religion with a cult of personality. It wasn’t religion they were against specifically, it was the power of organized religion that presented a threat to the government’s hold on power.

          • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

            You should not be deceived. Communist Russia was officially and aggressively atheist–not just against organized religion and it’s power. You only need to read Marx and Lenin to realize that atheism was the cornerstone of their revolution, and the horrors of Stalinism was it’s fruit.

    • http://twitter.com/mickskeptic McSkeptic

      veritas, you seem to be blinded by your emotions. Can we tone down the over-the-top rhetoric, please?

      Atheism isn’t an organization, it’s an individual choice and simply means non-believing. You might as well ask “Where are all the vegetarian hospitals?” Without atheist scientists making discovery after discovery in medical science and technology, where would those Christian-built hospitals be? Probably still guessing what’s going on inside someone instead of having an array of high-tech diagnostic tools at the ready.

      I’d be careful about bringing Hitler into this discussion… he was Catholic, BTW, and the jury is still out on the Church’s role during the war. http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2006/08/23/list-of-hitler-quotes-he-was-q/

  • Niño Falken

    Yes, it is one of the treasures of mankind.
    Created by an atheist artist and paid for by the church.

  • Brennan

    Anyone else notice how Michelangelo painted god inside a human brain? Food for thought.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      Anyone else notice how similar it is for atheists to see God painted inside a human brain in the Sistine Chapel to Catholics seeing Mother Teresa’s face in a bagel or Our Lady of Guadalupe in a tree trunk?

      • http://twitter.com/mickskeptic McSkeptic

        Pareidolia.

        A mind is a mind; an atheist’s mind can be deceived the same as a theist’s into seeing what does not exist, however, IMO and experience, they are much less likely to actually believe that Michelangelo painted God inside a human brain on purpose, than theists believe an image of Mother Teresa’s face in a bagel is a miracle. A grilled cheese sandwich is a grilled cheese sandwich whether it has the image of Jesus or Elvis toasted into it. The only real value is in eating it, or whatever it will bring on eBay, in which case, said grilled cheese might buy a mighty fine dinner at a four star restaurant. ;)

  • http://twitter.com/mickskeptic McSkeptic

    Fr. Dwight,

    Yes, horrible acts have been committed by officially atheist regimes, but, then again, horrible acts have also been committed by officially regimes, including those that were Catholic or other Christian sects, whether officially or by association. Atheism is not a dogma, the acts carried out by atheist tyrants were not committed in the name of atheism — atheism is non-belief, nothing more. If atheism was the cornerstone of the revolution, then Marx, Lenin, et al, had a very poor grasp of the concept of atheism. Those atrocities committed by religious tyrants were, again, by those with a poor, or very skewed, grasp of whatever dogma/tenets the acts were carried out in name of.

    The atheism of Marx and Lenin was not really atheism, it was anti-religion. As it was carried out, it was not specifically anti-religion, it was anti-anything that threatened Russian dictators’ hold on power. What greater threat to power than an institution that had a hand in virtually every part of society, as the Russian/Eastern Orthodox Church had in Russia/Eastern Europe before the revolution? No dictatorship tolerates competition; recent history and the present-day are full of examples proving that basic truth.

    Of course, the USSR and other communist countries mandated atheism. That may be possible as an official policy, but in practical terms has no more sway over an individual than a religion has on an individual’s spirituality, i.e., the old “ask seven rabbis a question and you’ll get seven different answers” joke. (the same with priests I assume).

    Can we agree to say that any horrible acts committed, whether by atheists or theists, were ordered and carried out by psychopathic or severely misguided individuals, and those under their sway, not under the name of belief or non-belief? Guilt-by-association is not a good path to walk down, for either atheists or theists. It doesn’t add to the conversation, it doesn’t encourage dialog, it doesn’t make friends of those on the opposing sides. And while it is stimulating to debate our differences, the only way we will make progress with any of the world’s problems is by discussing what we have in common, what we can work together on. Everything else is a distraction, entertainment.

    • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

      I’m sorry we can’t agree on this. Atheism as a philosophy is at the root of communism and therefore at the root of the Soviet revolution and all its horrors. This was not simply anti-religionism or a quest for power and the need to root out other power sources. This long article: http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Communism_and_atheism

      shows how Marx was specifically against not just religious institutions, but against the whole concept of the supernatural, the existence of God, prayer or worship in any way. Marx considered it to be sub human and that it needed to be rooted out–not just because of the power struggle, but because of belief in God per se. Furthermore, I am not sure that the defense of the soviet communists as being psychopathic or severely misguided really stands up. Marx, Lenin, Engels and following in their philosophy–Stalin and Mao–were completely sane. They were intellectuals who had clear and articulated philosophies and a clear and well planned method for carrying out their plans. These are not insane psychopaths, but intelligent and cogent men who believe a certain philosophy and carry it through. At the core of their philosophy and necessary to their philosophy is atheism.

      In saying this, I am happy to admit that it is not necessary for all atheists to be communists and I am certainly happy to admit that all atheists are not genocidal. However, I cannot escape the reality that atheism (and not just anti-religionism) as a philosophy was fundamental and necessary to the philosophy of Marxism and its human consequences.

    • Oregon Catholic

      Atheism is so much more than just non-belief in a god or gods. It puts you on a path that is intellectually, emotionally, and philosophically incompatible in many aspects with those who are theistic. Atheism and the many philosophical and moral paths which non-believers take are really no different than christianity and the thousands of different church paths that christians take. Each has a basic belief or ‘religion’ at it’s core that naturally includes and precludes a multitude of ways of believing or thinking.

      It is a great desire of mine that our society and the courts will come to recognize that the new atheism is just another evangelical religious school of thought so we can keep it in it’s proper place along with every other religion. What we are heading to now, led by the freedom from religion type new atheists, is a default state religion of atheism. The more that new atheists continue down their path of evangelization and organization the faster there will be enough evidence to argue their religious status in court.

      • http://twitter.com/mickskeptic McSkeptic

        Atheism is non-belief, period. You want to make it more, perhaps because you’re not secure enough in your own beliefs.

        No US court has ever ruled on the validity of any religion, except as it pertains to to tax law, and you expect a court to rule atheism a religion? Atheism is not a religion, it is more akin to spirituality, it is personal. How many definitions of spirituality are there? That’s easy. What’s the current world population of believers? Actually, even some atheists consider themselves as spiritual.

        It is not atheism keeping religion out of schools or other government, it is Christianity. Atheists are fine with representations of ALL religions, along with agnosticism/atheism, in the public arena. They are not OK with Christianity being placed on a pedestal above all others. In court case-after court case, the ACLU has argued, on behalf of all Americans, that the 10 Commandants on public display are just fine, as long as you allow equal billing for all other several hundred, maybe thousands of, religions. If Louisiana passes a law (as they did) that provides funds to private schools, including religious ones, it is not atheists crying out when they find out that applies to Islamic schools as well as Christian, it is Christian lawmakers who voted for the law and who thought “religious” is synonymous with “Christian.” What a rude, and poetic-justice-serving, awakening!

        Morality predates all religion, that is why there are universal morals across a broad swath. of religions and cultures. If you can’t see a common bridge between theist and non-theists, you have only yourself to blame.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          Not true. Madeleine Murray O’Hare was a noted atheist campaigner against prayer in schools.

        • Fr. Dwight Longenecker

          Perhaps you would agree that that there are two forms of atheism. The sort you argue for which you call ‘non-belief’ is neutral, passive and inoffensive. However, there is also a form of aggressive atheism which actively attacks any religious idea or institution. To deny that there is this form of atheism–both in history and at present– is being untruthful.

          I can understand that there are militant atheists and I understand their motivation. What I don’t understand is someone like yourself who claims to simply be a ‘non believer’ who bothers to come to this blog and argue. If you come to a Catholic blog to argue surely you are in the category of active atheist, and if active, then not simply a ‘non believer’.

        • Oregon Catholic

          I can accept atheism being defined as spiritual. But it is also religious by this definition:
          noun – a set of beliefs concerning the cause, nature, and purpose of the universe,
          Dictionary.com
          Any set of beliefs that rests on a foundation which rejects god or gods as an explanation for the cause, nature and purpose of the universe is still a religion in the broad definition of religion. The definition of religion doesn’t require a belief in god any more than spirituality requires a belief in a god created soul.

          I think all we need to have it declared a religion is a tax exempt organization defined as atheist (I think a charity already exists according to something I read on the friendly atheist – check), the right case in which atheist(s) either advocate for a removal of all religious expression/influence or insist on inclusion along with other religious expression, e.g., such as rotating religious prayers in a school or inclusion in lotteries to post on religious billboards- check, and an advocacy group willing to take on that fight in court. It will happen eventually with the right case, the right advocate, and the right judge. The legal argument (inelegantly) being something like: if it looks like a duck, swims like a duck, and quacks like a duck, then it probably is a duck.

  • http://twitter.com/mickskeptic McSkeptic

    You can disagree with atheists who post here, or speak out anywhere, however, it is as patently unfair to casually associate the “atheism” of Marx, etc., with present-day atheism as practiced (if you can call non-belief “practice”) by the vast majority of atheists, North Korea (who worship their leader as a god-like figure) and China (who have their own immense set of societal issues to deal with) notwithstanding. It is being disingenuous. I’m not sure what you hope to accomplish by doing so. It’s certainly not to engage us.

    “These are not insane psychopaths, but intelligent and cogent men”

    Psychopathy, intelligence and cogency are not mutually exclusive; intelligence and the ability to offer logical, convincing arguments are quite often character traits of the psychopath. That’s what make them so dangerous. To classify that as sanity is, well… crazy.

    • Oregon Catholic

      Psychopathy or sociopathy is not insanity as our psychiatric and legal system will point out. You’re getting psychotic confused with psychopath.

  • http://twitter.com/mickskeptic McSkeptic

    I understand your point Oregon Catholic. That does not change the fact that psychopaths are not right in the brain, maybe not legally insane — they know right from wrong — it’s just that they can easily twist the definitions of right and wrong to mean whatever they want they want them to mean, all others be damned. Certainly that’s something that all humans are capable of, but 99.97% of us have a governor that keeps us from excess in that regard. And if anyone believe that only atheists can become psychopathic mass murderers, they are dead wrong. Maybe the legal definition of insane needs to be updated; after all, any legal or medical definitions are only arrived at after extensive debate and compromise, they are not absolute and you can bet that many experts disagree with whatever definitions are chosen.

    • http://twitter.com/mickskeptic McSkeptic

      BTW, it was Fr. Dwight who the first made the psychopath/insanity connection with “These are not insane psychopaths, but intelligent and cogent men,” I was simple taking exception to that statement. Perhaps you will criticize him, as well?

      • Oregon Catholic

        No, I understood that what he was saying without actually saying it is there are sane psychopaths and insane psychopaths although the latter would also be psychotic. He can correct me if I misunderstood his meaning.

    • Oregon Catholic

      I think there are psychopaths who are born that way – neurologically they are lacking something the rest of us have. I think there are psychopaths who are probably made so by traumatic experiences as childen that shuts down or damages that something. And I think there are people who can make themselves into psychopaths – one of the characteristics is amorality – especially those that give way to evil. It’s important to note that not all psychopaths do harm to others in a ‘violent’ way. It is theorized that many successful Wall Street types and politicians are ‘successful’ psychopaths – one of the characteristics also being an assumed charisma even though emotionally they are empty.

      I would say nihilists are psychopaths, whether they harm others or not, and nihilists are largely self-made, not born. So yes, I think atheism can lead one along a trajectory to psychopathic behavior, far more so than a theist simply by virtue of the philosophies more common to atheists.

  • http://twitter.com/mickskeptic McSkeptic

CLOSE | X

HIDE | X