22 March 2008

False Causality

Andrew Sullivan informs us today that Former Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev is a Christian. This is all well and good, an interesting piece of information that really doesn't amount to much. I'm sure it will make an interesting chapter in Gorbachev's biography, but does this really matter? Sullivan sure thinks so. He ends his post:
What a lovely final rebuke to Karl Marx.
Karl Marx was, of course, a staunch atheist and opponent to religion. And although the Soviet Union was much more the brainchild of Leninist interpretation of Marxism combined with Stalinist strong-arming, the link to Marxism is undeniable.

So what are we to infer from Sullivan's comments on this "rebuke?" Are we suppose to believe it was Gorbachev's faith in a bronze age myth that convinced him to dismantle the Soviet Bloc? Are we supposed to see this as another example of god striking down the wicked? Sure, Gorbachev's closet Christianity does prove that you can't force someone to not believe, that faith can survive exterior pressure. But that isn't anything new. There's a whole litany of martyrs whose stories make the same point.

Or should we take the rational path and view this information as just that. Information. Gorbachev was a Christian. Big deal. What matters is not which imaginary friend he prayed to at night. Taking down the Berlin Wall (Contrary to popular myth, the Wall was not torn down by Raegan with a axe), dismantling the Soviet Union. These things matter.

Sullivan's post is another example of trying to draw false lines of causality--the same fallacious reasoning that links atheism to Auschwitz and Stalin's gulags. This is a classic move from the believer camp. And it's utter rubbish.

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