The Atheist Atrocities Fallacy – Hitler, Stalin & Pol Pot

By Michael Sherlock | 21 October 2014
Michael Sherlock Author

(Credit: Quotesgram)

In Memory of Christopher Hitchens

Religious apologists, particularly those of the Christian variety, are big fans of what I have dubbed, the atheist atrocities fallacy. Christians commonly employ this fallacy to shield their egos from the harsh reality of the brutality of their own religion, by utilizing a most absurd form of the tu quoque (“you too”) fallacy, mingled with numerous other logical fallacies and historical inaccuracies. Despite the fact that the atheist atrocities fallacy has already been thoroughly exposed by Hitchens and other great thinkers, it continues to circulate amongst the desperate believers of a religion in its death throes. Should an atheist present a believer with the crimes committed by the Holy See of the Inquisition(s), the Crusaders and other faith-wielding misanthropes, they will often hear the reply; “Well, what about Stalin, Pol Pot and Hitler? They were atheists, and they killed millions!”

Given the obstinate nature of religious faith and the wilful ignorance it cultivates in the mind of the believer, I am quite certain that this article will not be the final nail in this rancid and rotting coffin. Having said this, I do hope it will contribute to the arsenal required by those who value reason, facts and evidence, in their struggle against the fallacies perpetually flaunted by those who do not value the truth above their own egocentric delusions, delusions inspired by an unquenchable thirst for security, no matter how frighteningly false its foundation.

Before addressing the primary weaknesses of the atheist atrocities fallacy itself, I would like to attend to each of these three homicidal stooges; Stalin, Pol Pot and Hitler, who are constantly trotted out to defend a religious worldview. I will lend Hitler the most time, as the claim that he was an atheist represents a most egregious violation of the truth.


“Besides that, I believe one thing: there is a Lord God! And this Lord God creates the peoples.”[1]
~Adolf Hitler

“We were convinced that the people need and require this faith. We have therefore undertaken the fight against the atheistic movement, and that not merely with a few theoretical declarations; we have stamped it out”[2]
~Adolf Hitler

Hitler was a Christian. This undeniable fact couldn’t be made any clearer than by his own confessions. Yet, I will not merely present you with these testimonies, as damning as they happen to be on their own, but I also intend on furnishing you with a brief history of the inherent anti-Semitism of the Christian religion. I will do so to demonstrate beyond any reasonable doubt that Hitler and his Christian Nazi Party were acting in complete concordance with traditional Christian anti-Semitism.

To begin, here are just a few of Hitler’s Christian confessions:

“My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow myself to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice…For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.”[3]

“The greatness of Christianity did not arise from attempts to make compromises with those philosophical opinions of the ancient world which had some resemblance to its own doctrine, but in the unrelenting and fanatical proclamation and defense of its own teaching.”[4]

“His [the Jew’s] life is of this world only and his mentality is as foreign to the true spirit of Christianity as his character was foreign to the great Founder of this new creed two thousand years ago. And the Founder of Christianity made no secret indeed of His estimation of the Jewish people. When He found it necessary He drove those enemies of the human race out of the Temple of God; because then, as always, they used religion as a means of advancing their commercial interests. But at that time Christ was nailed to the Cross for his attitude towards the Jews…”[5]

Over and above these solid testimonies, there are other equally strong pieces of evidence that indicate that Hitler was a Christian, like the fact that his soldiers all wore the slogan, ‘Gott Mit Uns’ (God with us) on their belts, that his birthday was “celebrated from the pulpits until his death,” as Hitchens so eloquently put it, and that the Nazis published their own slightly revised Christian bible.[6] As the late great Hitchens has already addressed many of these uncomfortable facts, I would now like to move onto an assessment of the Nazi’s horrendous treatment of the Jews in light of Christian history.

Christian anti-Semitism (From the Beginning of the Christian Era)

“His blood be upon us [Jews] and our children”
~“Matthew” 27:25

Prior to Constantine’s legitimization of the Christian religion in the fourth century, Christian anti-Semitism was confined to the canonical and non-canonical works of Christian authors and Church fathers. From the fifth century onward, the fantasies of the ante-Nicene fathers began to manifest into brutal violence.

In the first volume of my three volume book series, (I Am Christ), I trace the concentration camps of World War II all the way back to the Gospel of “John.” In that book, I said:

From all of the evidence available in the volumes of historical works, both Christian and non-Christian, it is clear that there is an unbroken chain of hatred, intolerance, and racism toward the Jews, which began with “John’s” Gospel (see also the Synoptic gospels) and continued all the way down into the twentieth century, ending with Hitler’s bloody campaign against the Church’s most despised enemies.[7]

More than a few bible scholars have made mention of the virulent anti-Semitism of John’s gospel. This anonymous and falsely named piece of work goes beyond its synoptic counterparts (Matthew, Mark and Luke) to directly accuse the Jewish people of being the “sons of Satan” (John 8:44), thereby demonizing the Jewish people and opening the door to a millennia of Jewish suffering at the hands of credulous Christian maniacs.

In Porter’s Dictionary of Biblical Criticism and Interpretation, Porter notes:

…particularly within the post-Holocaust growing sensitivity to the history and consequences of Christian anti-Judaism, has been the concern about the anti-Judaism or even (potential) anti-Semitism of the [John’s] Gospel; its characteristic antithetical use of ‘the Jews’ (NB 8:34–47), hardly neutralized by appeals to 3:16 and 4:22, has earned it the epithet ‘the father of the anti-Semitism of the Christians’: (Bieringer 2001).[8]

Some scholars have sought to make sense of the anti-Semitic rhetoric in John by way of a historical exegesis of the text. At around the time John was written, toward the end of the first century, Christians were being expelled from the Synagogues for the heresy of worshipping a false messiah.[9] It was at this moment in history, many speculate, Christianity broke completely away from its parent religion, Judaism.

Together with interior minister Wilhelm Frick (second from the right) and propaganda minister Joseph Goebbels (far right), Catholic bishops Franz Rudolf Bornewasser (Bishop of Trier) and Lugwig Sebastian (Bishop of Speyer) raise their hands in the Nazi salute at an official ceremony in Saarbrucken City Hall marking the reincorporation of the Saarland into the German Reich. (Credit: United States Holocaust Memorial Museum)

In Robert Kysar’s Voyages with John, he enunciates the anti-Semitism within the Johannine community and also looks at some of the theories that have sought to explain the context of the origins of anti-Jewish racism amongst Christians in general, saying:

Over twelve years ago Samuel Sandmel correctly observed, “John is widely regarded as either the most anti-Semitic or at least the most overtly anti-Semitic of the gospels.” Little has been done to ameliorate that harsh judgment since it was first written. While efforts have been made to soften the impact of the tone of John when it comes to Jews and Judaism, the fact remains that a reading of the gospel tends to confirm Sandmel’s judgment. Still, recent theories for understanding the historical setting of the writing of the Fourth Gospel do offer some ways of interpreting the harshness with which the gospel treats Jews and Judaism. Such theories do not change the tone of the gospel but offer a way of explaining that tone.[10]

The historical setting Kysar was referring to pertained to the expulsion of the Johannine Christians from the Synagogues, as he explains in the following words:

An increasingly clear picture emerges from all these studies grounded in the hypothesis that the gospel was written in response to the exclusion of the Johannine church from the synagogue and the subsequent dialogue between these two religious parties. The subject of the picture is a defensive and threatened Christian community, attempting to reshape its identity isolated from the synagogue and its Jewish roots.[11]

But Christian anti-Semitism cannot be laid solely on the shoulders of the anonymous author of John, as the passion narratives contained in all four gospels were also co-conspirators in the crimes committed against Jewish families. To illustrate this fact we have the testimonies of various Church fathers.

“He (Jesus Christ) made known the one and only true God, His Father, and underwent the passion, and endured the cross at the hands of the Christ-killing Jews…”[12]
~Ignatius of Antioch (2nd Century Apostolic Father)

Further, the second century Church father and apologist Justin Martyr, in his Dialogue with the Jewish philosopher Trypho, said:

“For other nations have not inflicted on us and on Christ this wrong to such an extent as you have, who in very deed are the authors of the wicked prejudice against the Just One, and us who hold by Him. For after that you had crucified Him, the only blameless and righteous Man, – through whose stripes those who approach the Father by Him are healed, – when you knew that He had risen from the dead and ascended to heaven, as the prophets foretold He would, you not only did not repent of the wickedness which you had committed…”[13]

Going into the fifth Christian century, the racism of the Church continued with Pope Leo “the Great,” who, in an Easter Sermon on the Passion of Christ, exhorted:

“And when morning was come all the chief priests and elders of the people took counsel against Jesus to put him to death.” This morning, O ye Jews, was for you not the rising, but the setting of the sun, nor did the wonted daylight visit your eyes, but a night of blackest darkness brooded on your naughty hearts. This morning overthrew for you the temple and its altars, did away with the Law and the Prophets, destroyed the Kingdom and the priesthood, turned all your feasts into eternal mourning. For ye resolved on a mad and bloody counsel, ye “fat bulls,” ye “many oxen,” ye “roaring” wild beasts, ye rabid “dogs,” to give up to death the Author of life and the LORD of glory; and, as if the enormity of your fury could be palliated by employing the verdict of him, who ruled your province, you lead Jesus bound to Pilate’s judgment, that the terror-stricken judge being overcome by your persistent shouts, you might choose a man that was a murderer for pardon, and demand the crucifixion of the Saviour of the world.”[14]

Also in the fifth century, John Chrysostom, a most vile and capricious Church father, in his work, Orations Against The Jews, wrote:

And the Jews are more savage than any highwaymen; they do greater harm to those who have fallen among them. They did not strip off their victim’s clothes nor inflict wounds on his body as did those robbers on the road to Jericho. The Jews have mortally hurt their victim’s soul, inflicted on it ten thousand wounds, and left it lying in the pit of ungodliness.[15]

Although I have only provided a few of the litany of examples available, anti-Semitic rhetoric permeated the very fabric of Christian history and was eventually the inspiration for the founder of the Protestant Church, Martin Luther, who told Protestant Christians that they would be at fault if they didn’t slaughter Jews.[16]

Further still, citing Luther’s own words from his polemic, On the Jews and their Lies, and the work of one of Luther’s biographers, Robert Michael, who documented various speeches spewed into the ears of Luther’s listeners, we suffer the following racist profanities:

“…the Jews are a base, whoring people, that is, no people of God, and their boast of lineage, circumcision, and law must be accounted as filth.”[17] They are full of the “devil’s faeces…which they wallow in like swine.”[18] The synagogue was a “defiled bride, yes, an incorrigible whore and an evil slut…”[19] He argues that their synagogues and schools be set on fire, their prayer books destroyed, rabbis forbidden to preach, homes razed, and property and money confiscated. They should be shown no mercy or kindness,[20] afforded no legal protection,[21] and these “poisonous envenomed worms” should be drafted into forced labor or expelled for all time.[22]

In Louis A. Ruprecht Jr’s This Tragic Gospel – How John Corrupted the Heart of Christianity, he remarks on the similarity between Luther’s hatred of the Jews and the racist rhetoric of John’s gospel, saying:

First, then, to his declaration of war on Jews, Luther’s evolving anti-Semitism is legendary and assuredly represents one of the darkest chapters in this polemicist’s long career. Luther argues against the Jews precisely as John’s Jesus did.[23]

Having successfully connected the anti-Semitism of John to the founder of the Protestant Church, all we need do now is establish a connection between Luther’s racism and Hitler’s.

To confirm this association, I call upon the testimony of the former Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral, William Inge. The late Dean said of the atrocities committed by Hitler and his Nazi Party:

“If we wish to find a scapegoat on whose shoulders we may lay the miseries which Germany has brought on the world, I am more and more convinced that the worst evil genius of that country, is not Hitler or Bismarck or Frederick the Great, but Martin Luther.”[24]

But this is just one learned man’s opinion, right? Wrong. Numerous scholars and commentators have remarked on the Lutheran origin of Hitler’s anti-Semitism, no less Hitler himself:

The great protagonists are those who fight for their ideas and ideals despite the fact that they receive no recognition at the hands of their contemporaries. They are the men whose memories will be enshrined in the hearts of the future generations….To this group belong not only the genuinely great statesmen but all the great reformers as well. Beside Frederick the Great we have such men as Martin Luther and Richard Wagner.[25]

Despite the overwhelming evidence that Hitler and his Nazi Party were heavily influenced by Martin Luther’s anti-Semitic teachings, and the present consensus amongst historical scholars, which rests upon this mountain of evidence,[26] a handful of Christian scholars have sought in vain to draw petty distinctions between Hitler’s anti-Semitism and Martin Luther’s.

Martin Brecht, for example, argued that there was a vast difference between Hitler’s anti-Semitism and Martin Luther’s. For Luther, Brecht argued, the rejection of Christ was the significant source of contempt, whereas for Hitler it was purely racial.[27] Yet such hollow distinctions are washed away not only by the wealth of evidence indicating the Nazi’s admiration for Luther, but the direct influence that Christian anti-Semitism had on Hitler and his Christian Nazi Party.

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Notwithstanding his honesty, the good Dean of St. Paul’s Cathedral was too short-sighted to see, lest admit, that the roots of violent anti-Semitism didn’t begin with Martin Luther, but in the very building blocks of his beloved religion. Was he ignorant of the vile and racist words of Justin Martyr, John Chrysostom and the majority of bigoted Christian fathers, who all railed against the Jews with the ferocious fervour of Hitler himself? Did he not read of the atrocities committed by St. Cyril of Alexandria in the fifth century that saw Jewish families put to the sword? Surely he had read of the Crusaders’ barbarism toward the Jews along the road to their bloodthirsty war with the equally bloodthirsty Muslims of the eleventh and twelfth centuries, and all of the countless anti-Semitic edicts enunciated by Church councils throughout the centuries, edicts all based upon the very foundations of a rotten and racist religion.

Even so every good tree bringeth forth good fruit; but a corrupt tree bringeth forth evil fruit. A good tree cannot bring forth evil fruit, neither can a corrupt tree bring forth good fruit. Every tree that bringeth not forth good fruit is hewn down, and cast into the fire. Wherefore by their fruits ye shall know them.
~Matthew 8:17-20

Presented in the illuminating light of its proper historical context, one can see that the rotten fruit of Nazi anti-Semitism was born from Hitler’s conviction in his Lord and saviour, Jesus Christ, and the poisonous tree of the Christian religion.


Of these three characters, Stalin was the only confirmed atheist, yet Hitchens thoroughly dealt with the religious nature of Stalin’s dictatorship in a manner that has left religious apologists without sufficient reply. Notwithstanding the fact that Stalin was raised as a Christian under the religious influence of his mother, who enrolled him in seminary school, and that Stalin later took it upon himself to study for the priesthood, as Hitchens and others have pointed out, Stalin merely stepped into a ready-made religious tyranny, constructed by the Russian Orthodox Church and paved with the teachings of St. Paul.

Let every soul be subject to the governing authorities. For there is no authority except from God, and the authorities that exist are appointed by God. Therefore whoever resists the authority resists the ordinance of God, and those who resist will bring judgment on themselves.
~Romans 13:1-2

Such teachings were the inspirational well from which the Russian Orthodox Church drew their justifications to support this new Tsar, causing the more sensible fringe of the Church to flee to the United States in contravention of St. Paul’s teachings.

Here then, the central premise of Hitchens’ argument is worthy of reiteration. Had Stalin inherited a purely rational secular edifice, one established upon the ethos espoused by the likes of Lucretius, Thomas Jefferson, Thomas Paine, Einstein and other free thinking and rational secularists, then the apologist’s argument would hold slightly more weight, but such wasn’t the case. Stalin merely tore the existing religious labels off the Christian Inquisition, the enforcement of Christian orthodoxy, the Crusades, the praising of the priesthood, messianism, and Edenic ideas of a terrestrial religious-styled utopia, and re-branded them with the red of communism. Had this Christian machine not been in place, then it is more than likely Stalin wouldn’t have had the vehicle he needed to succeed in causing so much suffering in the name of his godless religion, Communism.

To quote Hitchens:

For Joseph Stalin, who had trained to be a priest in a seminary in Georgia, the whole thing was ultimately a question of power. “How many divisions,” he famously and stupidly inquired, “has the pope?” (The true answer to his boorish sarcasm was, “More than you think.”) Stalin then pedantically repeated the papal routine of making science conform to dogma, by insisting that the shaman and charlatan Trofim Lysenko had disclosed the key to genetics and promised extra harvests of specially inspired vegetables. (Millions of innocents died of gnawing internal pain as a consequence of this “revelation.”) This Caesar unto whom all things were dutifully rendered took care, as his regime became a more nationalist and statist one, to maintain at least a puppet church that could attach its traditional appeal to his.[28]

I shan’t rehash Hitchens’ arguments in full, but if you would like to learn more about the details of his logically sound and beautifully crafted reply to this fallacious charge, I suggest you read chapter seventeen of his book, God is Not Great – How Religion Poisons Everything.

Hitchens was not alone in seeing the parallels between Russia’s old supernatural religion and its new secular one.

In Emilio Gentile’s Politics as Religion, Gentile describes the sacralising of Stalin’s regime in the following words:

The sacralization of the party opened the way to the sacralization of Stalin when he became the supreme leader. After 1929, the political religion of Russia mainly concentrated on the deification of Stalin, who until his death in 1953 dominated the party and Soviet system like a tyrannical and merciless deity.[29]

That vast and seemingly bottomless “reservoir of religious credulity,” as Hitchens so eloquently phrased it, which served to subdue the servile Soviets for hundreds of years beneath the yoke of an equally brutal supernatural religion, was the very fountain of boundless unthinking acquiescence that Stalin, having adorned himself in the Tsar’s clothes, utilized to send countless innocent Russians to their deaths. Where would Stalin have found such docile servitude, servitude that fed the flames of his secular religious tyranny, had Lucretius, Thomas Paine, Albert Einstein or Thomas Jefferson bestowed upon these poor religious Russians, their intellectual legacy? To answer in a word, nowhere.


Pol Pot, possibly not even an atheist, but almost certainly a Buddhist, believed in the teachings of the Buddha, no matter how perverted his interpretations may or may not have been. His violence, much like the violence of many earlier religionists, wasn’t the result of a lack of belief in a god, whether Zeus, Osiris, Yahweh, or the god-like Buddha of Mahayana Buddhism, but in the megalomaniacal belief that heaven or destiny was guiding him to improve the state of affairs for all those who could be forced to share his misguided utopian delusions. Not only was Pol Pot a Theravada Buddhist, but the soil in which his atrocities were sewn was also very Buddhist.

In Alexander Laban Hinton’s book, Why Did They Kill?: Cambodia in the Shadow of Genocide, Hinton drew attention to the role that the belief in karma played in Pol Pot’s Cambodia, particularly with regards to the cementation of a docilely accepted social hierarchy, not too dissimilar from Stalin’s ready-made Russian religious tyranny, as well as highlighting the Buddhist origins of Pol Pot’s ideological initiatives.

Hinton remarks:

This [Pol Pot’s regime’s] line of thinking about revolutionary consciousness directly parallels Buddhist thought, with the “Party line” and “collective stand” being substituted for dhamma…One could certainly push this argument further, contending that the Khmer Rouge attempted to assume the monk’s traditional role as moral instructor (teaching their new brand of “mindfulness”) and that DK regime’s glorification of asceticism, detachment, the elimination of attachment and desire, renunciation (of material goods and personal behaviors, sentiments, and attitudes), and purity paralleled prominent Buddhist themes…[30]

I have only presented a small snippet of the available evidence that points to religion’s role in Pol Pot’s crimes, and there is not one single piece of solid evidence that Pol Pot was an atheist, so let us once and for all dispense with that speculative piece of religious propaganda. Pol Pot spent close to a decade at Catholic school and nearly as long studying at a Buddhist institution, so religious education was something he had in common with both Hitler and Stalin, but I would never use such data-mined facts to assert that religious education invariably inspires tyrants to commit atrocities, although a case for such a proposition could probably be made without committing too many logical and historical inaccuracies. I won’t even bother sharing the un-sourced quote from Prince Norodom Sihanouk that Christians present as “proof” that Pol Pot was an atheist, as its origin is not only dubious, but its contents reflect a belief in heaven, which, if genuine, negates any claim that Pol Pot was an atheist.


The atheist atrocities fallacy is a multifaceted and multidimensional monster, comprised of a cocktail of illogically contrived arguments. It is, at its core, a tu quoque fallacy, employed to deflect justified charges of religious violence, by erroneously charging atheism with similar, if not worse, conduct. But it is much more than this, for within its tangled and mangled edifice can be found the false analogy fallacy, the poisoning of the well fallacy, the false cause fallacy, and even an implied slippery slope fallacy.

Tu quoque (“You Too”) Fallacy

The Tuquoque fallacy is an informal fallacy used to dismiss criticism by means of deflection.[31] Instead of addressing an accusation or charge, the perpetrator of this fallacy will offer an example of their opponent’s alleged hypocrisy with regards to the allegation. This is precisely how Christian apologists employ the atheist atrocities fallacy.

To give you an example of this fallacy in action, we need only examine the reply of renowned Christian apologist, Dinesh D’Souza, to charges of religious violence:

And who can deny that Stalin and Mao, not to mention Pol Pot and a host of others, all committed atrocities in the name of a Communist ideology that was explicitly atheistic?[32]

“…it is interesting to find that people of faith now seek defensively to say that they are no worse than fascists or Nazis or Stalinists.”[33]
~Christopher Hitchens

This fallacy will be often employed with an added sprinkle of one-upmanship, with the apologist using the immense scale of secular atrocities to argue that atheism is worse than religion. However, if we were to honestly calculate those victims of ritual and religious sacrifice across the entire planet, the total number of witches burned and drowned across Europe and in America, the near genocides of the Pacific Islanders by the London Missionary Society, and similar missionary organizations, the dismembered bodies of the Saint Francis Xavier’s Inquisition in Goa, the disembowelled remains of the Anabaptists in Europe, the men, women and children murdered by Muslim conquerors from the Middle-East to Spain, the stoned and strangled blasphemers in Christian states of the past and Muslim ones of the modern age, and all of the unmarked graves of all of the victims of religion, from the dawn of that plague to now, I am quite certain that the numbers game would prove to be an unfruitful one for the desperate apologist.

(Credit: Shutterstock)

This brings us to our next fallacy.

False Analogy Fallacy

This fallacy depends upon the existence of an often minor analogous factor, in this case, the belief in god versus a lack of belief in god, god being the analogous component, and extrapolating from this minor analogy, conditions that are alleged to affect both positions, when the truth of the matter happens to be, the two (religion and atheism) are not analogous at all.[34]

For apologists to overcome the existence of this fallacy, they must show that atheism is a religion, but the very definition of atheism circumvents any such attempt. Atheism, although encompassing varying degrees of disbelief, is not a system of beliefs, but an unsystematic absence of god-belief, that is all. It has no doctrines, traditions and most importantly, no beliefs. Unless there is some secret atheist bible from which Stalin drew inspiration for his crimes, there is absolutely no reason to suggest that his lack of belief in a supernatural deity had anything to do with his messianic and maniacal behaviour.

This takes us to the next fallacy in this medley of intellectually dishonest apologetics.

False Cause Fallacy

The fallacy of false cause occurs whenever the link between premise and conclusion depends on some imagined causal connection that probably does not exist.[35]

Example 1:

Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot were all non-figure skaters. Therefore we can conclude that not being a figure skater causes a person to commit atrocities.

Example 2:

None of these three dictators believed in the existence of leprechauns, hence the lack of belief in leprechauns causes people to commit atrocities.

The imaginary atheist bible is a great hypothetical answer to this fallacy, yet such a collection of manuscripts does not exist, nor do any unwritten doctrines that a dictator who happens to lack belief in a god would be able to employ to commit such religious-styled atrocities. In the absence of any written or unwritten atheist doctrines, the apologist must show that a lack of belief in god was a causal factor in the atrocities committed, but to do so, they must conversely demonstrate that had these tyrants believed in a god, they wouldn’t have committed such crimes against humanity, which brings us right back to our Christian Inquisitions, Holy Crusades, missionary atrocities and all of the other dirt directly derived from religion that this fallacy attempts to quietly sweep under the rug.

Poisoning the Well Fallacy

When someone presents adverse information about, or associates unfavourable characters, characteristics or qualities with, a targeted person, or in this case, worldview (atheism), with the intention of undermining it, this is known as poisoning the well. “Stalin was an atheist, therefore atheism is dangerous.” By associating atheism with these three villains of history, the religious apologist is attempting to throw an unjustified negative light on atheism.

Aren’t atheists and anti-theists doing the same thing when they associate Christianity with the Spanish Inquisition? No. The Spanish Inquisition was directly caused and inspired by the very foundations of the Christian religion, i.e., the Bible and Church doctrines and traditions. The fallacy doesn’t exist when there is a legitimate association between the poison and its target.

To give you a hypothetical example of this legitimate association, just imagine that John Smith has offered a friend of yours a too-good-to-be-true investment opportunity, and John has previously been convicted of fraud on multiple occasions. If you inform your friend about John’s prior convictions you are not poisoning the well, but stressing a legitimate association between the poison (fraud convictions) and the target (John Smith). Such association is certainly the case with the religious atrocities committed as a direct result of scripture, ecclesiastical edicts, tradition, and clerical authority.

[Implied] Slippery Slope Fallacy

The slippery slope fallacy is a species of the false cause fallacy that seeks to present a conclusion of an argument that is dependent upon an unlikely chain of events.

In Hurely’s Concise Introduction to Logic, he offers the following example:

Immediate steps should be taken to outlaw pornography once and for all. The continued manufacture and sale of pornographic material will almost certainly lead to an increase in sex-related crimes such as rape and incest. This in turn will gradually erode the moral fabric of society and result in an increase in crimes of all sorts. Eventually a complete disintegration of law and order will occur, leading in the end to the total collapse of civilization.

Because there is no good reason to think that the mere failure to outlaw pornography will result in all these dire consequences, this argument is fallacious.[36]

The more we become secularized and the more atheism is allowed to spread, the greater the chance of such horrendous atrocities occurring will be. This is the not so subtle inference of the atheist atrocities fallacy. I won’t bore you with statistics that show societies with higher rates of atheism are generally more peaceful; have higher standards of education, health and personal freedom,[37] as I have already pulled the first proposition in this “slippery slope” from beneath the starry-eyed apologist’s feet.


So, what is the atheist atrocities fallacy, really? It is little more than erroneous historical data wrapped in illogical argumentation and cloaked with the rhetorical garb of apologetic propaganda. Yet and still, above all of this inanity, the atheist atrocities fallacy is the result of a psychological defence mechanism, the aim of which is the distortion of reality for the protection of the hypersensitive religious ego.

To finish, let me now surrender and admit defeat. You look puzzled. Please lend me just one more moment to explain my surrender.

Suppose the Christian apologist is correct, and atheist tyrants are worse than religious ones. What does this, from the point of view of the believer, show? What are the implications? On the one hand, you can interpret it to show that the more people believe in the Christian god, the more virtuous they will behave, despite the fact that the truth of history will laugh at such vacuous attempts to ignore its tomes of evidence to the contrary. On the other, what does it say about an all-powerful, all-knowing and all-loving god, one who allows tyrants, whether secular or religious, to murder helpless and innocent children by the millions, who turns a blind eye to the wrongful imprisonment of innocent men and women, and who starves to bare bones, the poor and meek?

Perhaps now you see that my surrender was but a Trojan horse, in which I smuggled Epicurus’ old, yet unanswered, problem of evil. I guess I could have just said that there is no way for a religious apologist to win this one. For if the atheist admits defeat, they still leave the faithful with the dissonance of evil, and as many theologians and philosophers have correctly concluded, freewill is no answer to such evil. But that is a story for another time.

Reprinted with permission from the author.

Michael Sherlock is an atheist author. He studied social anthropology and Sociology, Political Science and Law at the University of Tasmania and became fascinated by the myths of our ancient ancestors. This fascination led him to study comparative mythology, which in turn led him to investigate the non-Judaic origins of the Bible. Sherlock is presently studying a master’s degree in Arts, majoring in Studies in Religion, at the University of New England.


  1. Max Domarus & Patrick Romane. The Essential Hitler: Speeches and Commentary. Bolchazy-Carducci. (2007). P. 499.
  2. Adolf Hitler. Speech in Berlin. October 24, 1933.
  3. Norman H. Baynes. The Speeches of Adolf Hitler. Vol.1. Oxford University Press (1942). pp. 19-20.
  4. Adolf Hitler. Mein Kampf. Hurst and Blackett Ltd. (1939). p. 275.
  5. Ibid. 240.
  6. Susannah Heschel. The Aryan Jesus: Christian Theologians and the Bible in Nazi Germany. Princeton University Press. (2008) Chapter 3: Projects of the Institute.
  7. Michael Sherlock. I Am Christ: The Crucifixion – Painful Truths. Charles River Press. (2012). p. 182.
  8. Stanley E. Porter. Dictionary of Biblical Criticism and Interpretation. Routledge (2007). p. 182.
  9. Lance Byron Richey. Roman Imperial Ideology and the Gospel of John. The Catholic Biblical Association of America. (2007). p. 63.
  10. Robert Kysar. Voyages in John – Charting the Fourth Gospel. Baylor University Press. (2005). p. 147.
  11. p. 153.
  12. The Apostlic Fathers with Justin Martyr and Irenaeus. Justin Martyr (trans. Philip Schaff ) Ignatius Epistle to the Ephesians. Chapter 11. B. Eerdmans Publishing Company. p. 107.
  13. Ibid; Justin Martyr Dialogue with Trypho; Chapter 17. p. 320.
  14. Philip Schaff . Nicene and Post Nicene Fathers: 212: Leo the Great & Gregory the Great. Christian Classics Ethereal Library. (1885). p. 317.
  15. John Chrysostom. Homily 8:3.10.
  16. Luther, Martin. On the Jews and Th eir Lies, cited in Michael. Robert. “Luther, Luther Scholars, and the Jews,” Encounter 46 (Autumn 1985) No. 4:343-344.
  17. Luther, Martin. On the Jews and Their Lies, 154, 167, 229, cited in Michael, Robert. Holy Hatred: Christianity, Antisemitism, and the Holocaust. New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2006, p. 111.
  18. p. 113.
  19. p. 112.
  20. Michael, Robert. Luther, Luther Scholars, and the Jews, Encounter 46:4, (Autumn 1985). p. 342.
  21. p. 343.
  22. Luther, Martin. On the Jews and Their Lies, cited in Michael. Robert. Luther, Luther Scholars, and the Jews, Encounter 46 (Autumn 1985) No. 4:343-344.
  23. Louis A. Rupercht Jr. This Tragic Gospel – How John Corrupted the Heart of Christianity. John Wiley & Sons, Inc. (2008). p. 166.
  24. William R. Inge. Church of England Newspaper. August 4, 1944: cited in; Peter F. Wiener. Martin Luther-Hitler’s Spiritual Ancestor. Amer Atheist Press. (1999). inside cover.
  25. Adolf Hitler. Mein Kampf. Hurst and Blackett Ltd. (1939). p. 171.
  26. Ronald Berger. Fathoming the Holocaust: A Social Problems Approach. Aldine De Gruyter. (2002). p.28; Paul Lawrence Rose. Revolutionary Antisemitism in Germany from Kant to Wagner. Princeton University Press. (1990); quoted in Berger. p. 28; Paul Johnson. A History of the Jews. HarperCollins Publishers. (1987). p. 242; Leon Poliakov. History of Anti-Semitism: From the Time of Christ to the Court Jews. University of Pennsylvania Press. (2003). p. 216; Michael Berenbaum. The World Must Know. Johns Hopkins University Press and the United States Holocaust Memorial Museum. (1993, 2000). pp. 8–9.
  27. Martin Brecht. Martin Luther: The Preservation of the Church. Vol. 3. 1532-1546. Fortress Press. (1999). p. 351.
  28. Christopher Hitchens. God is Not Great – How Religion Poisons Everything. Twelve Books. (2007). pp. 244-245.
  29. Emilio Gentile. Politics as Religion. Princeton University Press. (2006). pp. 41-42.
  30. Nathaniel Bluedorn. The Fallacy Detective: Thirty-Six Lessons on How to Recognize Bad Reasoning. Christian Logic (2002). p. 54 [Note the irony of the source].
  31. Christopher Hitchens. God is Not Great – How Religion Poisons Everything. Twelve Books. (2007). p. 230.
  32. Alexander Laban Hinton. Why Did They Kill?: Cambodia in the Shadow of Genocide. University of California Press. (2004). p. 197.
  33. Dinesh D’Souza. Answering Atheist’s Arguments.
  34. Patrick J. Hurley. A Concise Introduction to Logic. Wadsworth Publishing. (2000). p. 36.
  35. p. 143.
  36. p. 146.
  37. Kerry Walters. Atheism: A Guide for the Perplexed. The Continuum International Publishing Group Inc. (2010). 11.

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  1. By the way, Atheism has no moral code and without a higher power to give man a moral code to live by, we are just animals subject to Natural Selection and Survival of the Fittest, i.e., killing other humans is not immoral. At best an Atheist can subscribe to Moral Relativism, which essentially can be used to justify the Holocaust and the genocides of Atheist dictators like Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot.

    Christianity, on the other hand, commands its followers not to murder other humans.

    Humans are humans and are capable of great acts of kindness and sacrifice but are prone to hatred and violence. As Christianity teaches humans are flawed beings who are sinners, therefore they can aspire to be like Jesus Christ (the "Ideal Christian") but they will always fall short. Jesus Christ taught peace, love, and forgiveness.

    The problem is the dishonesty about what Christianity teaches. Jesus Christ did not teach or practice violence, child abuse, pedophilia, rape, intolerance, slavery, Antisemitism, misogyny, hate, or violence.

    By only looking at the actions of professed followers, one is subscribing to the fallacy that the actions of professed followers are automatically consistent and therefore are representative of the beliefs they profess to follow. They are in fact hypocrites because they are doing the OPPOSITE of what Jesus Christ taught and did.

    You are simultaneously employing a fallacious argument to claim Christianity is bad while accusing others of a fallacious argument who say Atheism is bad because of Stalin, Mao, and Pol Pot. Classic Hypocrisy.


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