Stalin, Mao, Mussolini and a number of famous atheists who were also leaders of their countries are also known as horrible authoritarian dictators. Was it their atheism, that led them to murder millions? The 20th century was the era of the dictatorships around the globe. Pinochet, Batista, Franco and Hitler were all Christians, so was it their Christianity, that in turn led these dictators to murder millions?

Atheism means the lack of belief in any supernatural deities. Nothing more. It does not mean immoral, because morals is not dependent on the belief in any particular deity. Morals is about human conduct towards others, our selves, all living things and even inanimate objects. It is about the actual harm and potential harm we may cause with our actions. It is about a healthy balance between selfishness and selflessness. Not about following any particular arbitrary rules as set up by any might makes right sort of authority, wether if it is a dictator, religious demagogue, or a god.

However, the likes of Stalin were inculturated into believing, that the “obligation” to do the right thing only comes from a deity, that alledgedly either rewards, or punishes people. Though, not according to their deeds, but according to their faith in the alledgedly everlasting afterlife and a god that promises pardon for anything at all if you just can keep to your blind faith. This can be achieved through two ways, basicly never contemplating or investigating the unnatural claims made by the religious, or by autosuggesting to yourself it is true inspite the obvious lack of evidence for any such invisible, inaudible, tastless and immaterial entities, nor praying to them having more effect on reality than wishfull thinking. When they realized that it is a mere fairy tale, with no actual connection to the reality, did they conclude, that this also made morals a non-existant thing and that they could do just about anything, since there after all would not be an eternal punishment awaiting for them for their non-belief?

If in contrast the religious dictators had a good reason to do the right thing in fear of the eternal punishmet, why did they do all those vile and horrid things? Well, it seems that they had a very twisted view on what is actually good and infact they did have every reason as given from their cultural heritage to believe, that they would be forgiven all the bad stuff anyway, if only they had faith in a particular religious claim, that they had been lucky enough to have as being born into a particular culture. Like so many people believe they have simply been lucky to have been born into a particular time frame, country, social class, race and what not, that somehow entitels them to better lives than others. That is, they felt they had been inculturated into the particular cultural religious movement whose claims they should take at face value and with religious blind faith, and that would set them scott free from all the responsibility of their actions. In addition Hitler thought to have been directly contacted by this god of his culture, and been ordered to go on a rampage of conquest.

Well, we do not know wether if Hitler really believed that, or wether if Pinochet and his death patrols were “real” Christians, since they could have lied about his beliefs, but then again, so could have Stalin and Mao. Assuming that one of these people was a liar about their own admissions on matters of faith may be justified, but none of them was known exactly for their honesty either. So, to remain to our own integrity, we should assume that their admissions on these matters were honest unless we have actual evidence on the contrary.

Immoral people are the victims of their cultures. The meaning of instigating the fear of gods may have been an attempt to make people act morally, despite their inclinations to be overtly selfish, but obviously these have failed. Stalin seems like a victim of religious inculturation, if indeed the loss of belief in a particular god led him to conclude, that anything goes. Did he go unpunished? He died as an abandoned man with the lives of numerous victims ruined and taken at his conscience. Hitler died as a disappointed man on the ruins of his dreams. Pinochet died having lost his honour and accused of stealing money from the national military funds and of crimes against humanity. We can understand them better, if we realize they were the victims too. Victims of circumstances, that made them into who they were. However, understanding them does not mean on any level accepting their deeds.