Human dignity only truly exists if God created man in his image (1); this includes the capacity for logical thinking, knowledge, morality, justice, etc. In the modernity of the west, to deny that God exists generally leads to naturalism and materialism, as facilitated by methodological natural evolution. I do understand that situation would have it, that more and more atheists are wanting to walk away from such committed relationships, but shall we not let that dog lie for a bit?
Suffice it to say, if you are a critical thinker as well as a natural materialist that prescribes to evolution, then you would understand that man is no more special than a gnat or a flea (to do otherwise would suggest special pleading), and you would also recognize religion as the product of social Darwinism. That means it is neither good nor evil, it just is. Such terms as "good" and _"evil"_are completely erroneous and totally subjective.
Furthermore, you should also understand that the moral framework that society appeals to is actually derived from religion. To claim that religion inspires or exploits hate is an extremely near-sided view that fails critical analysis in many respects, including recognizing its moral influence on civilization. Like it or not, religion is here to stay. We are spiritual people. Whether that is because God created us or an accident of evolution, I'll let you decide. Let's just talk practically for a few minutes.
That doesn't mean beliefs don't have consequences, nor does it suggest that the truth or falsehood of those beliefs don't have consequences. I would be surprised if someone did not think the world would be a better place if more people were to integrate the teachings of Jesus into their lives, but that's besides the point.
So, within the paradigm of naturalism and materialism, when looking at military conflicts, you first must examine the factor of ideology as a whole and that means putting aside all prejudices, including religious prejudices. Many of the motivations can be tricky, and as the Bible says, only god knows the heart. Then you must diagnose the psychological factors and how they relate to their environment. (And then at the end of the day, the same plea can be used that the Nazis attempted to use in court, that they were simply acting out evolution.). What happens is, through methodological naturalism, science reduces morality and justice to a matter of statistics. Now, if science were able to reduce and refine everything that it means to be human, as a matter of statistics, would that make God obsolete as a Necessary Being? Of course not, then statistics would be meaningless. It is God that holds everything together. Statistics is not a means to a universal theory of knowledge. (see my article, Gödel, Science and God).
Before I stray completely off topic, what exactly was the ideology of the Communists but dialectical materialism! This is not only primarily based on atheism, it is actually inherently hostile toward anyone who believes in God! What triggered China to literally crucify Christians on crosses in the East? Exactly what motivated the burning of Bibles, the imprisonment of pastors across communist Europe and the murder of millions? Now, one can argue that atheism is generic in its rudimentary form and that the name shouldn't be inherently associated with the ideology of Stalin, Lennon, Pol Pot, Mao, et al., but to suggest that religion is the basis for all, or even almost all, human conflict, and that atheism was not a factor, simply because atheists don't want it to be defined as a belief or philosophical position, is either absurdly naive or patently disingenuous. I call that special pleading.
Just who did Hitler think he was?
Hitler attempted the same paradigm shift that took place in Rome and later in Ireland, as the Gospel began to take root. For example, Christmas was changed to the celebration of Germany and the Nazi ideal. Taking on the name, Positive Christianity, Hitler assumed the role of the messiah and tried to start his own personality cult.
He actually banned Christian meetings, Christian schools, Christian radio broadcasts, the printing of Bibles and even had them burned. It is claimed that he was in good standing with the Catholic Church even though he sentenced priests by the thousands to one of his concentration camps. Meanwhile members of both the Catholic Church as well as the Confessing Church of Dietrich Bonhoeffer were independently plotting against Hitler's life. Now, if that's what "good standing" means, I'm not so sure anyone would want to be considered to be in "good standing."
My point for pointing out Hitler is because he is the classic case example of the fact that there is always more going on than what meets the eye. On one hand, Hitler made several references to God in his public addresses, while on the other hand expressing his disdain for Christianity in private. He also made numerous comments in Mein Kampf in regard to Darwin's social conflict over territory and survival. Mein Kampf actually translates to "My Struggle" in English. Perhaps Hitler's various reference to God weren't just made out of political expediency. Maybe he really did believe in some form of a God, but whatever it was, it certainly wasn't anything like the God of Abraham, Isaac and Jacob.
This "struggle", that Hitler repeatedly spoke of, is what historians consider to be the single most defining issue behind the wars of yesteryear. The long territorial war over Israel in the middle east is nothing new. It has been only more recently that matters of ideology have become such a forefront issue of conflict; there was the Catholic/protestant conflict, the American and French revolutions, abolition of slavery, Marx's Communist Manifesto, etc. The bottom line, for all of the motivations behind wars, pro-religious motivations certainly is not at the top. And, for all the ideological wars, more were initiated from a natural material worldview than religious ones.
What about all this evil?
I would like to comment on the above by pointing out that many atheists are very very angry! I mean red hot angry! They're angry at Hitler and the Nazis, they're angry at the Jews, the Whites and the Blacks. And if the narcissists on Internet chat rooms are any indication, they've never been so angry at Christians then they have as of late, regarding the culture war. There are even some atheists that abandoned their once held belief in God because they are angry at God for allowing acts of evil. It's difficult to know what came first the anger or the disbelief.
Just hold it a minute, for atheists to become so angry about Hitler, leads one to recognize that the presence of evil is very real, including to atheists. And, even though they have no idea what to do with such a category, as they have yet to offer a serious foundation for defining evil, it is just not going away. Perhaps this was brought on recently by the culture wars in connection with homosexual rights and the sexual liberation movement, but that's another story.
My point here is, As human beings, even for the atheist, it becomes clear that it is impossible for us to keep from defining the actions of Adolf Hitler as evil. But by doing so, we must confront the fact that we are moral human beings and our sense of morality precedes our existence. In other words, Sarte is wrong, we do not get to define our selves. Try as we might, morality and justice is part of being human, it is just a brute fact. I'm not going to argue whether or not it is possible for someone to contrive a possible means of a moral sense by way of evolution, what I am arguing is that either God is real and there is a moral law Giver or the whole thing is nothing but an illusion. More can be said about this, but for now, let me just offer some food for thought from the quotable C.S. Lewis:
"Conscience reveals to us a moral law whose source cannot be found in the natural world, thus pointing to a supernatural Lawgiver."
Wikipedia attributes the following moral argument to W. R. Sorley.
1. If morality is objective and absolute, God must exist.
2. Morality is objective and absolute.
3. Therefore, God must exist
For information on the Moral Argument, http://plato.stanford.edu/entries/moral-arguments-god/
1. Although I was not inferring an argument from dignity for the existence of God in the above, I still think it is worth sharing this interesting argument. It can be found on Standford's Encyclopedia of Philosophy. The entry is by C. Stephen Evans. The argument from human dignity is based on the work of Immanuel Kant and can be put into propositional form as follows:
1. Human persons have a special kind of intrinsic value that we call dignity.
2. The only (or best) explanation of the fact that humans possess dignity is that they are created by a supremely good God in God's own image.
3. Probably there is a supremely good God.
Kant himself insisted that his argument was not a theoretical argument, but an argument grounded in practical reason. The conclusion of the argument is not “God exists” or “God probably exists” but “I (as a rational, moral agent) ought to believe that God exists.”