Atheism Leads to the Most Inhumane of Systems

The key to the ideological battle against the Chinese Communist Party is religious freedom. We interviewed a leading authority on international religious freedom.


President of the Religious Freedom Institute

Thomas F. Farr

Director, International Religious Freedom Policy Action Team. His many published works include World of Faith and Freedom.

――Why can the atheist countries like China be so brutal to their own people (e.g. Uyghurs and other minorities)?

Atheism as the ruling principle of a state and its government is the most dangerous of all political philosophies. It provides the rationale for totalitarianism and the brutal suppression of human beings by those with power.

One of the American founders, James Madison, wrote that “If men were angels, no government would be necessary.” In this statement he was expressing the Christian belief that all men and women are sinners, and that each of us is subject to corruption if we are given too much power for too long.

This belief is why the American constitution provides so many “checks and balances” on political power. In other words, government is necessary, but the men and women who run governments will by their nature abuse political power if not restrained.

Atheism is based on the proposition that some men — perhaps those who are smarter or are born into a particular class — are born to rule others. This is a dangerous conceit. It is demonstrably false, and has led throughout history and in the modern era to nothing but human misery.

The empirical reality is that no man is naturally superior to another. In the Christian tradition (which is my own), each of us is created by God in his image and likeness. This means that in God’s eyes we are radically equal, even though each of us differs in many ways.

Atheists are entitled to their views. Religious freedom protects them in that right. But as a political philosophy, atheism has historically led to the most inhumane of systems, as it has in present-day China.

――As China is cutting down democracies, there is an increasing need for cooperation among free and democratic nations. At that time, we believe religious freedom will be the mainstay of cooperation among democracies. The Biden administration is planning to hold a democracy summit in December, but what should such a summit be like? How should democracies work together now that China is trying to export its materialistic and atheist state to the world?

Any democracy summit that includes China must include religious freedom. No democracy, whether in Japan, Europe, or the United States, can achieve justice or stability without religious freedom for all its citizens.

Unfortunately, in this respect (as in many others) China is among the most undemocratic nations in history, let alone the contemporary world. It not only fails to provide religious freedom for its citizens, but its new Cultural Revolution under President Xi is attempting once again to destroy religion in China by absorbing it into the state and the apparatus of the Communist party.

The government’s savage treatment of Uighur Muslims, its long-standing assault on the religion and culture of Tibetan Buddhists, and its dystopian “sinicization” of Chinese Catholic and Protestant religions, demonstrates its unwillingness to enter the community of democratic nations. Unless religious freedom is addressed honestly at a summit on democracy, it cannot be said to be a serious gathering of serious governments.


“Pro-China Companies” Are Morally Despicable Hypocrites

――It seems that the Biden administration is still hesitant to call China a totalitarian state although it is important to be ideologically clear. This strategic ambiguity has become the policy of the Biden administration. What are your thoughts on this?

Strategic myopia about Chinese totalitarianism has been a problem for all American administrations, in part because of the deep commercial and financial ties between the two countries and the American reliance on those ties. It remains to be seen whether the Biden administration is any different, and the democracy summit will tell us a good deal.

I was encouraged at Secretary Blinken’s confirmation that China’s treatment of the Uyghurs is indeed genocide. Whether the administration will acknowledge the totalitarian context of that genocide — and the terrible impact of state policy on China’s other religious communities — is something all supporters of religious freedom will be watching closely.

――Many democracies have not been able to break their relationship with China on an economic level. However, we believe there are some cases where corporate profit-seeking is an “in” from the moral and religious point of view, such as indirectly forcing Uyghurs to work as slave labor or creating a surveillance state by providing technology of surveillance cameras. What do you think about this issue?

Economic cooperation with China among American corporations, as well as the professional sports industry, is morally despicable. These groups pretend to care about justice and human dignity but are facilitating the normalization of state oppression of the most inhumane kind.

The US government, and American consumers, should withdraw their connections with China.


China’s Greatest Threat Is Faith

――Western governments have a tendency to focus on the CCP, but it is becoming more and more important to focus on the Chinese “people” who are under suppression. Could you share with us your thoughts about the power of faith in terms of the liberation of the Chinese people?

Religious people of virtually every tradition who have lived as a minority have experienced oppression and violence. Some of them, especially Jews, have suffered terribly over the centuries. Christians too have experienced fierce persecution when they have tried to spread Christianity as they are called to do. In the modern era, they and countless other minorities have suffered at the hands of totalitarians (including China), authoritarians, and terrorists.

The power of faith in most of these traditions has enabled a “theology of suffering” – an attempt to understand why God has permitted suffering, and an attempt either to accept, to resist silently, or to resist actively. If I had to guess, the power of faith in China falls into the category of silent resistance.

No religious minority can stand up to the power of the Chinese state. However, most of them can survive precisely because they remain faithful to the authority of something or someone greater than the Chinese state or the Communist party. And that faith is precisely why all totalitarian states, including China’s, engage in ever horrific, but ever futile, attempts to destroy the religious impulse in men.

――There seems to be a lack of understanding of the people in the West that freedom does not exist without religious freedom. We would like to do our best to bring enlightenment on this issue to our readership, what is your advice in this regard?

You are correct. A system of ordered liberty, which yields justice, equality, and human flourishing, cannot exist without religious freedom. This is true because humans are innately religious. They naturally are driven to know the source of their being and the ultimate meaning of their lives.

Any government or culture that denies the freedom of its citizens to find the answers and to live by them is denying them justice, equality under the law, and fundamental freedom ――the right to live a fully human life.

Atheism Leads to the Most Inhumane of Systems
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