No doubt Sam Harris will be arguing that the atheist Kim’s rational, but lethal form of governance doesn’t count as a strike against atheism because it isn’t committed “in the name of atheism”:
The first thing to appreciate about Kim is that he is not mad. He is undoubtedly what psychologists call a ‘rational actor’ — literally meaning that his actions are not irrational at all.
In fact, he is behaving in a way that many people would if they were born into a family that is the subject of an extreme personality cult: his father and grandfather were both long-time leaders of North Korea before him.
Like any Mafia boss or medieval warlord presiding over a crumbling territory, Kim’s first priority is simply to stay in power. And to do that, like any sane man, he is creating the spectres of enemies within — such as his uncle — and enemies without, such as the United States, which he has threatened in recent months with a pre-emptive nuclear strike, a piece of absurd muscle-flexing purely designed to raise his prestige at home….
The number of mass public executions have soared — with estimates of between 40 to 80 so far this year in towns across the country, when last year the total was under 20…. Judges have pronounced sentence for crimes as trivial as owning a Bible, communicating with South Koreans or Christian missionaries, or simply complaining about the hardship of life in a state where millions spend their lives close to starvation.
The prisoners — a rock stuffed in their mouths to prevent them shouting out and ‘defiling the great leader’ — are tied to a post and shot, one by one, by a three-man firing squad. Armed with rifles or machine guns, their killers shoot them so many times their faces are usually unrecognisable. The bodies are thrown into bags and dumped. As with any ‘offences against the people’, not only are the perpetrators punished but also three generations of their families — with grandparents and children alike ‘disappearing’ into horrifyingly brutal prison camps.
Of course, it is a little hard to deny that executing people for owning Bibles and talking with Christian missionaries is at least partially motivated by atheism. Atheist and pagan rulers alike have always feared Christians because Christians are intransigent about their stubborn belief in a higher power than the State, which thereby makes them dangerous to those who rule it. Not that this historical observation will stop the brilliant logicians from the School of Harris, who will no doubt proceed to argue next that it isn’t actually colder this winter because the sun has not reduced its activity “in the name of global cooling”.
Note that Kim’s actions show how my observations concerning historical atheist rulers in TIA has proved to be a successful predictive model of his current behavior. The point isn’t that atheism makes anyone do anything. It doesn’t. The point, and the problem, is that it removes moral barriers from those who have evil desires.