It's not uncommon to hear theists say atheism has caused more deaths than religion or that atheistic and materialistic worldviews are the cause. They, of course, use communism as an example, saying communism is atheistic or materialistic in nature. So is this true? Have people been killed because of atheism?
We'll start by defining atheism. So what is it? People seem to be very confused about this, thinking atheism is a whole worldview or ideology. Some think evolution is part of atheism; some think the Big Bang is part of atheism; people are simply confused about it. Atheism is only the disbelief in gods. This, of course, means that all human beings are atheists, as we all lack belief in many gods, even if we believe in one. So let's define atheism as it is commonly used: a disbelief in all gods.
Atheism isn't a worldview or even a philosophy; it is the rejection of worldviews and philosophies that are based on gods; the reasoning that leads to atheism isn't a worldview, but a lack of being convinced of theistic worldviews. No evidence for the Islamic god; no evidence for the Christian god; no evidence for any god; this leads to atheism.
In and of itself, atheism has nothing to say on how one should live or treat others; there is no doctrine or dogma. My atheism is just my disbelief in gods; it has nothing to do with morals and rules by which to live. Being an atheist doesn't mean one is a better person; being an atheist doesn't mean one is a worse person; being an atheist means one is a disbeliever in god(s).
Atheism and morality
A woman recently tweeted that atheists have no hope or faith, but should minimize their damage and have some morals, as if to say atheists do NOT have any morals and are causing damage by voicing our concerns and opinions. I think we'd cause damage by letting religion continue unhindered and unquestioned, but she sees the world through the lens of religious indoctrination, so she thinks her specific god exists, of course. The point is that what she tweeted is bigotry and wholly incorrect; atheists are varied people who hold different opinions, beliefs, and ideologies, although most atheists seem to be strong supporters of equality and tolerance.
Atheism also does not claim that all theists are morally bankrupt and evil, as religion often does about theists of the wrong faith or atheists. This is because there is no atheistic doctrine that can say anything like that. Atheism isn't an ideology people share; it's the lack of one.
I've never said all theists are immoral and bad. I like plenty of theists. I don't like bigots, though. While there are countless theists who are great people whom I truly respect, many others are bigots because of their religion. For example, the inequality for LGBT and even for women in America is at least justified by religious doctrine; I'd say it is in very many cases also caused by it, for if one has a sincere belief in God and God's traditional marriage is defined as a man and a woman, of course they will be against marriage for homosexuals. However, even theists who argue for this traditional marriage somehow ignore other facts about God's marriage, like no divorce and polygamy.
Now, it's important to know that one shouldn't debase people based solely on their faith or lack thereof. This is especially true for atheism, which has no doctrine; it is bigoted to condemn atheists for having no morals or for being bad people simply for not believing in a god. It's also true for religion, as one shouldn't assume how a person is just because they call themselves a Christian or a Muslim. Religion, however, does have doctrine and dogma and does cause many theists to behave horribly.
All people have morals. This includes theists and atheists. Some theists disagree and say atheists have no morals, while others simply disagree with the notion that morality isn't objective. Personally, I think there is an objective platform for morality, which is our intelligence that can help us place ourselves in someone else's shoes (empathy) and the objective consequences an action will cause. For example, killing someone is not objectively bad because a man in the sky thinks so, but because a person is objectively hurt. Even so, morality is on a floating scale; there is no absolute morality.
Is atheism an ideology?
Atheism is neither an ideology nor a philosophy; it is only a disbelief in god claims. My atheism has nothing to do with how I live, except that I don't follow religious doctrine. Atheists can hold a variety of worldviews, just like a theist can. The only difference is an atheist won't hold a worldview centered on a god. For example, there are Christian communists, but there are no Christian atheists. Communists do not equal atheists and communism is not incompatible with religion; in and of itself, it has nothing to do with faith or lack thereof. The majority of capitalists in America are Christians, but likewise, capitalism has nothing to do with Christianity.
Communism doesn't require atheism. Whether someone is killed because of communism is different than whether someone is killed because of atheism. Communism is an ideology, and thus has a doctrine; atheism is only the lack of belief in gods, and thus also lacks doctrine. Atheism doesn't equal or lead to communism. And, more importantly, if an ideology favors atheism, it does not mean whatever is done in the name of the ideology is because of atheism. It is the dogma and doctrine of the ideology that cause people to act, not the disbelief in gods.
Like communism, religion has doctrine and dogma, which is why religion can be blamed, while atheism cannot. That's not to say atheists are always perfect people, but the good and bad we do is not derived from rigid doctrine, like that of religion. However, our lack of following doctrine is helpful for holding views like equality for homosexuals and women; we do not have to rationalize a homophobic and misogynistic text.
Doctrine and dogma do NOT come from atheism, but atheism can be part of an ideology's doctrine. This doesn't mean anything done in the name of the ideology is in the name of atheism or caused by it; it is the ideology that is the cause. Dogma and doctrine have good and bad consequences, too often bad ones, but atheism has neither dogma nor doctrine. I blame religion for atrocities, like I blame any ideology; each has doctrine and dogma, which atheism lacks. Even if an ideology favors atheism, it is the dogma and doctrine of the ideology that is to blame, not the atheism.
In conclusion, ideologies have both good and bad consequences, but atheism isn't an ideology, for it has no doctrine that is shared by all those who are atheists, except a disbelief in gods. This means that anything done under the flag of communism cannot be said to be caused or even influenced by atheism or materialistic worldviews. And the worldviews that are described as materialistic can also be held by theists; communism, capitalism, socialism, and so on can be accepted by theists and atheists alike, but neither of them is strictly about faith in gods or lack thereof. I have never said only religion leads to horrors; it is dogma and doctrine that do. Atheism has neither.
The doctrine and dogma are what's important when talking about why people do what they do; otherwise it doesn't matter if a person is a theist or an atheist. Blaming atheism for communism is like blaming blond and blue-eyed people for the Aryan ideal. It just makes no sense. Atheism isn't a worldview like religion or ideology, but rather like a-unicornism or a-UFOism. To say atheism causes deaths just like religion is illogical, for atheism has no doctrine commanding that people be killed, which can't be said for religion.
To summarize this blog post: How many have been killed because of atheism? Plenty of gods, but no people. Some theists seem truly desperate to vilify and demonize atheism, and they'll go to any lengths of trying to do so; they even abandon all logic, but they'd already done that to justify their beliefs. I suppose it's not a crime to dream, though, and dreams are almost as bliss as ignorance.