Dawkins seems to have deluded himself into thinking that these horrors were not produced on atheism’s behalf. But can anyone seriously deny that Communism was an atheist ideology? Communism calls for the elimination of the exploiting class, it extols violence as a way to social progress, and it calls for using any means necessary to achieve the atheist utopia. Not only was Marx an atheist, but atheism was also a central part of the Marxist doctrine. Atheism became a central component of the Soviet Union’s official ideology, it is still the official doctrine of China, and Stalin and Mao enforced atheist policies by systematically closing churches and murdering priests and religious believers. All Communist regimes have been strongly anti-religious, suggesting that their atheism is intrinsic rather than incidental to their ideology.

Similarly, Nazism was a secular, anti-religious philosophy that, strangely enough, had alot in common with Communism. While the Communists wanted to empower the proletariat, the Nazis wanted to empower a master race. For the Communists the enemy was the cap- italist class; for the Nazis the enemy was the Jews and other races deemed inferior. The Communists and the Nazis treated the Christian churches as obstacles and enemies. Both groups proclaimed that they were engaging in revolutionary action in order to create a new type of human being and a new social order freed from the shackles of traditional religion and traditional morality.

In comparing the crimes of religion and the crimes of atheism, it’s important for us to apply a consistent standard. Philosopher Daniel Dennett supplies such a standard in his book Breaking the Spell. He proposes that religion be judged by its consequences, or, as the biblical expression has it, “by their fruits ye shall know them:’ Dennett doesn’t particularly care whether these consequences were intended by the founders of the religion or if they represent its highest values. He’s not especially interested in separating the true teachings of religion from its distortions. “It is true that religious fanatics are rarely if ever inspired by, or guided by, the deepest and best tenets in those religious traditions. So what? Al Qaeda and Hamas terrorism is still Islam’s responsibility, and abortion clinic bombing is still Christianity’s responsibility.” This is all very fine. Let’s accept Dennett’s standard. But then by this very same criterion the millions of murders committed by Stalin, Hitler, and Mao—not to mention those of a range of lesser tyrants—are all atheism’s responsibility.