Atheism and the Meaning and Taking of Life
The human yearning for meaning, however, appears to transcend the logical extension of disbelief. This explains why atheist regimes have much more blood on their hands in the last few hundred years than Christians have compiled in its lengthier track record. (For a breakdown of the numbers, check out Richard Deem's article on the topic). It is hard to imagine an atheist believing in something so strongly that they would be willing to die for it, much less kill for it. But millions of victims of atheist states of the 20th Century bear witness to the contrary. Despite arguing that there is no transcendent being or meaning, atheists have again and again found sufficient meaning to kill and oppress. And too often, as with Christians who have done the same, the killing and oppressing was done in the name of what is otherwise a worthy cause. For atheist communists, meaning was attached to the State above all else. For the secularists of the French Revolution, reason and liberty were the values that lead to slaughter on a grand scale. As one victim of the Reign of Terror remarked on her way to be beheaded, "Liberty, what crimes are committed in your name."
New Atheist arguments seeking to pin atrocities on Christianity have force because atrocities have been committed in the name of Christ. The atrocities stand out all the more, however, because they can be criticized on the purported basis upon which they were committed. The same cannot be said for the crimes of atheism. Moreover, great good has been done because of the values of Christianity (such as the abolition of slavery, the Civil Rights Movement, stigmatizing and criminalizing infanticide, and promoting charity). Atheism lacks a comparable track record of benevolence, nor is there any reason to suppose it would produce one. Nor are there any countervailing beliefs within atheism to mitigate against descents into extremism.