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Sep 09 2011

A simple message that some will never grasp

107 comments

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  1. 1
    Dan Moody

    Bill Gates not evil? I think that’s an own goal…

  2. 2
    Gord O'Mitey

    Look, if I say something is good, then it’s good because I’ve said it’s good, & if I say something is evil, then it’s evil because I’ve said it’s evil. GEDDIT?

  3. 3
    jennyxyzzy

    Why does the last one change to being ethical, and not good? Seems to play into the meme that you need God to be good…

  4. 4
    Kevin

    And perhaps more importantly….

    YOUR religion does not always equate with ethics…and then you could have caricatures of Ratzinger, Ted Haggard, Mullah Omar, …. oh hell, there’s just too darned many of those evil bastards.

  5. 5
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    Dan Moody:

    Bill Gates not evil? I think that’s an own goal…

    Yeah. B. Gates is a poor example* of an ethical non-believer.

     

    * This story has recently been confirmed by Paul Allen. Bill Gates tried to screw over Allen in the early days of Microsoft.

  6. 6
    Pierce R. Butler

    Many conclusions arise from this graphic:

    Bad people always have mustaches.

    Some bad people have beards; good people don’t.

    People who wear glasses are all good.

  7. 7
    The Lorax

    Obligatory XKCD:

    http://xkcd.com/925/

  8. 8
    Liam

    Excellent sentiment, but Bill Gates is so not an example of ethical living.

    Even ignoring how he made his money, much of his touted “philanthropy” is attempting to privatise schools, to the detriment of teachers and students alike.

  9. 9
    Kevin

    Reminds me of one of my favorite quotes.

    Religion is an insult to human dignity. With or without it you would have good people doing good things and evil people doing evil things. But for good people to do evil things, that takes religion.    - Weinberg

  10. 10
    mikeg

    But… but… You know that all of the bad ones are truly atheists. They weren’t real Christians. Fuck those brown people anyway.

  11. 11
    Glen Davidson

    But Gates said “DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software we’ve ever created.”

    Doesn’t that prove God? Seems every IDiot has thought so, anyway.

    Gates ethical, though? Gives away a lot of money, but was it that long ago that he was clearly illegally stomping on the competition.

    Glen Davidson

  12. 12
    dean the bean

    Pierce @ 9:

    So PZ must be good/evil bipolar. ;)

    And while the intent of the message is ok, the implementation is sloppy. It reminds me of all those motivation-style posters done by people with an idea but without the communication skills to do it right.

    First, why change from the “good and evil” theme to “ethical and evil?” Keep it the same.

    Second, the “Alternatively:” is completely unnecessary.

    Third, I’ll second the sentiment that a better example than Bill Gates could have been found.

    Finally, the closer should have left out the “always” and not used “ethics” and should have simply said that “Religion does not correlate with goodness.”

  13. 13
    peterh

    Correlate? No. Coincidental? Sometimes.

  14. 14
    Hurin

    But… but… You know that all of the bad ones are truly atheists

    Seriously. I’m wondering how long it will take for all the *true* Scotsmen to show up and explain who isn’t among them.

  15. 15
    cogito

    Bill Gates has, through his foundation, made enormous contributions to the well being and happiness of people all over the world. I dont care if he once made Paul Allen sad. Bill Gates is one of the good guys.

  16. 16
    Mike

    The point isn’t that you need a god or gods to be moral but rather that you need a god for a logical reason to be moral.

  17. 17
    butterflyfish

    @Pierce #6:
    All people are men.

  18. 18
    Sili

    Bill Gates not evil? I think that’s an own goal…

    I don’t think I’ll ever understand what quality it is that makes Gates evil, while at the same time making Jobs the second coming of Christ.

    We’re always told that intent is not fucking magic, what matters are consequences. I’ll readily admit that the consequence of forking over a billion dollars for vaccination programmes is increased overpopulation, which is indeed bad. I’m just surprised that apparently so many other people agree – I’m usually extreme in my misanthropy.

    On that same note, Stalin is a bad example of an unethical atheist. The man was steeped in religion, and he beatified Lenin and forged that cult of personality exactly to replace the old faith.

    And yet he consistently said mass every night during the Great Patriotic War. Slightly odd behaviour for an atheist.

  19. 19
    dominicjh

    American = Good
    Foreigner = Evil

  20. 20
    Justinas

    I seem to recall that this was made by a christian, trying to stick it to the reddit atheists or something like that…possible reason why atheist are only ethical?

  21. 21
    Carlie

    Seriously. I’m wondering how long it will take for all the *true* Scotsmen to show up and explain who isn’t among them.

    And then we can slap this on them.

    A self-professed Christian goes on a murderous rampage and kills nearly 100 people. Is he a True Christian? Does he still represent the faith?

    According to a new study (PDF) from Brookings and the Public Religion Research Institute, 83% of Americans don’t think so. In fact, only 13% of people say that a self-identified Christian who commits a crime is still a Christian.

    Meanwhile, if a group of self-identified Muslims fly a plane into a building, should they be considered True Muslims? 44% of Americans say yes.

  22. 22
    Muse

    Mike @16

    Not being an asshole isn’t good enough for you? How about giving a damn about other people?

    Are you saying that the only reason to be good is because God says so?

  23. 23
    Erülóra Maikalambe

    Until I saw this I never noticed how much Bill Gates looks like Malcolm X.

  24. 24
    steve oberski

    @Mike

    you need a god for a logical reason to be moral.

    Pretending to have conversations with an invisible friend is not logical.

  25. 25
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    @cogito:
    Trying to fuck over someone who is dying of cancer is not “making them sad.” It’s fucking heartless, and shows a lack of personal ethics.

    The Bill and Melinda Gates foundation is a good thing, mostly. It does some evil shit, too, such as its terrible stance on education reform, its investment in companies strictly for profit-making (ignoring the fact that these same companies contribute heavily to pollution and poverty in the same countries it claims to help fight poverty), and so on.

    For many years, Bill Gates contributed almost nothing to charity. He was derided in the press as being a selfish asshole, essentially. It wasn’t until after a report that showed Larry Ellison contributed far more to charity than Gates that Bill Gates gave much of anything back.

    Bill Gates is willing to fuck over people for his own gain. That makes him unethical.

  26. 26
    Nerd of Redhead, Dances OM Trolls

    The point isn’t that you need a god or gods to be moral but rather that you need a god [empathy] for a logical reason to be moral.

    Fixed that for you Mike. There is no need to bring imaginary things into any discussion, except about fiction.

  27. 27
    Carlie

    The point isn’t that you need a god or gods to be moral but rather that you need a god for a logical reason to be moral.

    Need a logical reason to be moral? Evolution.
    Altruistic groups survive better than non-altruistic groups.
    In order for altruism to provide a benefit for the individual if it’s being practiced in a non-kin situation, there has to be a way to keep track of who is giving and getting favors, and more importantly there has to be swift retribution to anyone who doesn’t play by the group rules. Cheaters have to be punished. Otherwise, the entire network of altruism would collapse. Internalizing the rules keeps individuals from cheating. So, logically, morals are the long-term result of the fine-tuning of group helping episodes. Groups that quickly developed and internalized those rules did better both overall and as individuals than groups that were comprised of selfish individuals. So, the bands of humans that developed strong rules about helping and internalized them as morals outcompeted the totally selfish ones.

    No god needed!

    If that’s too much for you, look up and play a few rounds of Prisoner’s Dilemma. Cooperation pays, even when you’re being mostly selfish about it. That’s logic.

  28. 28
    Hurin

    @Mike

    The point isn’t that you need a god or gods to be moral but rather that you need a god for a[n] logical reason imaginary authority to tell you to be moral.

    FIFY. Morality doesn’t become more logical if you believe it was given by a deity, it becomes more arbitrary.

  29. 29
    spamamander, internet amphibian

    I always found altruism to be logical when living in a communal society- thus the entire reason it evolved. Being a ‘good’ part of the whole helps ensure resources for everyone, including yourself. It’s hardly ‘illogical’ to be a ‘good person’ when it ultimately will benefit yourself. Selfish, perhaps, if that’s your ONLY reason for being moral, but it’s still logical.

    Being a ‘good person’ because you’re afraid an imaginary sky-daddy will come down and wreak havoc on your ass is NOT logical. Not only because the believe in the sky-daddy is beyond silly, but if that’s your only reason for not harming other people…. just maybe you’d be better off on your own little island. Or padded room.

  30. 30
    Ingdigo Jump

    The point isn’t that you need a god or gods to be moral but rather that you need a god for a logical reason to be moral.

    Why is my preference to make people happy not enough?

  31. 31
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    Mike:

    The point isn’t that you need a god or gods to be moral but rather that you need a god for a logical reason to be moral.

    How does god provide a logical reason to be moral? In what way does a god contribute to morality?

    Can it be any god? Or a specific god? If a specific god, how do you know it’s the right god? Also, by what epistemology can you claim know the morality given by a specific god?

    My head hurts from the sheer illogic of your proposition. And I haven’t even started on the obvious counter-examples (such as morality derived from game theory).

  32. 32
    Ingdigo Jump

    Human intelligence provides a unique opportunity. Evolution has crafted us by practicality to have senses of empathy, altruism, and reason, as well as xenophobia, anger, and vindictiveness. We’re at a point where we can not only look back at what shaped our nature, but we can look forward and think about what we want our nature to be. Do we want it to be just the pure practical viciousness of nature, or do we want to imagine something kinder, safer, and fairer for ourselves?

  33. 33
    Gnumann+,with no bloody irony at all (just an anti-essentialist feminist with a shotgun)

    What a vicious piece of anti-beard propaganda :(

  34. 34
    Carlie

    The point isn’t that you need a god or gods to be moral but rather that you need a god for a logical reason to be moral.

    If God tells you to ransack a city, kill all the men, and make all the women sex slaves, does that make those actions moral?

  35. 35
    godlesslib_CB

    What’s with all the Gates bashing? He’s certainly not perfect, he’s got a lot of flaws, and he’s part of a corrupt system. But the way the media fetes Jobs and hates Gates just goes to show that the media and bloggers are utterly full of shit about humanitarianism.

    When all is said and done, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Bill Gates went down as the individual human who saved more human lives than any other in history. That’s the scale we’re talking with the disease, water, food, and poverty programs that he’s paying for.

  36. 36
    jamessweet

    Some have pointed out Bill Gates may not have been the ideal example of an ethical atheist; I would say Malcolm X may not have been the perfect example of an ethical Muslim. I would probably agree that on balance his influence was positive, but there’s a reason he’s such a controversial figure. Probably there would have been better choices.

    Nitpicks aside, the message is totally on point!!

  37. 37
    theophontes, feu d'artifice du cosmopolitisme

    @ Mike

    Which god?

    Don’t soft pedal if you stand up for sky-daddy ™. We know him better than you ever will.

    What you are actually saying is:

    The point isn’t that you need a god or gods to be moral but rather that you need an immoral god for a logical reason to be moral.

    That is a contradictio in terminus.

  38. 38
    Ingdigo Jump

    God “I have written the code of morality into the heart of all men. You have freewill, but obey me or I’ll torture you forever! Also I’ve decided 90% of the population gets no chance at salvation, I’ll kill people randomly for chuckles and sometimes I change the code of morality when I want you to rape and pillage”

    Humans “That’s not a rational system of morality at all, it compleatly violates what are supposed to be it’s basic founda-”

    God “-SHUT UP YOU NEED ME! YOU NEEEEEEEEEEED ME!!!!”

  39. 39
    dcg1

    A similarly mistaken correlation, is often made about combatants in various wars or conflicts.
    i.e. Those fighting on the side of good (nato troops/the allied troops in WW2)= Brave. Those on the side of evil (terrorists/Axis troops in WW2)= cowardly.
    Not true. There is no such correlation.

  40. 40
    theophontes, feu d'artifice du cosmopolitisme

    @ godlesslib_CB

    That’s the scale we’re talking with the disease, water, food, and poverty programs that he’s paying for.

    I’m sure you are daft enough to type that on the windows system you paid for.

    Think about it. All those things where paid for by people silly enough to fall for his FUD. I suggest that next time you save your money and send a cheque to a better charity. You will get far more bang for your buck.

  41. 41
    Erik Jensen

    I agree that a better atheist could be found. Christopher Reeve was a unitarian/agnostic. Is that close enough? I also think that a better muslim could be found. While he eventually repudiated his positions, Malcolm X advocated racism (black supremacy and antisemitism) for many years. How about Muhammad Ali?

  42. 42
    Ingdigo Jump

    Why not use Frederik Douglas for atheist?

  43. 43
    SallyStrange

    It’s great that Malcolm X seems to now be widely and uncontroversially viewed as a “good” Muslim. Certainly this view was confined to the African-American community in the US for many years after his death. It was not that long ago-1995, I believe–that I wrote a letter to the editor defending the Postal Service’s decision to issue stamps commemorating his life and contributions. I can’t help but feel encouraged that Bill Gates’ relative evilness/goodness seems more controversial now than Malcolm’s.

  44. 44
    bananacat

    The point isn’t that you need a god or gods to be moral but rather that you need a god for a logical reason to be moral.

    Caring about other people for their own sake isn’t logical? Wow, you must be pretty damn hateful if you’ll only treat others well because a god tells you to for your own selfish reasons, and not because you actually care about any other people besides yourself.

  45. 45
    Anteprepro

    Hey Mike, if Jeebus is such a good, logical arbiter of human morality, please tell me what Biblical passages inform your (presumed) moral opposition to having sex with children, opposition to slavery, your (assumed) belief that rape is a serious crime (moreso than adultery or theft) , opposition to child abuse in the name of discipline, and your opposition to the death penalty for disobedient children/adulterers/people who work on Sunday. Most decent human beings would agree that these things that I am assuming you oppose are bad things. Most people do not support such things, and it is relatively uncontroversial that these above are considered immoral.

    So, given that, and your bald assertion that God is the most logical source of all morality, it should be trivially easy for you to find where God handed down those rules, no? To point out, clearly, where such widely-held moral sentiments are explicitly stated by God? Because otherwise, God is a pretty worthless “logical reason to be moral” when it is not even clear what actions He considers “to be moral”, and those actions that He does consider to be moral, we no longer do. How is it that we are more moral than the Bible God, Mike? Because either we are more moral than Bible God, or the things I listed above aren’t really immoral in your and your God’s eyes. Which is it, Mike?

  46. 46
    Chris

    Firstly, let’s get one thing straight. There have definitely been evil Christians. That is unmistakeably true.

    But I really don’t think Hitler was one of them. Simply because he was at best nominally a Christian out of convenience. His writings indicated that he really wanted to revive the old German gods, but such a thing would be impossible. Again, not because he believed in them, but out of convenience. They served his ends and represented his values more than any other religion he could find.

    In the end, though, Hitler was so unbalanced that using him as a representative of ‘Christian’ is unfair. At best, he worshipped power. To be a proper representative, I think one must (a) legitimately believe in the tenets of the belief system, and (b) be of sound mind in doing so. I think that Hitler fails on both counts.

  47. 47
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    godlesslib_CB:

    That’s the scale we’re talking with the disease, water, food, and poverty programs that he’s paying for.

    The Bill and Melinda Gates Foundation uses the bare minimum (about 5%) of its holdings each year to fund these programs. The investments of the B&MGF (which actually pay for the programs, not the capital itself) are in businesses that contribute significantly to poverty and pollution in the same countries the foundation is supposed to help.

    But that’s not what I’m bashing Gates about. I’m bashing him because he is not a very ethical person. The example I gave to demonstrate this didn’t even cover his unethical (though not always illegal) business practices. It was a personal thing, the attempt to fuck over a friend and business partner when that partner was diagnosed with a probably-fatal disease.

    I’m not entirely sure why you are bringing up Steve Jobs. It’s not like anyone here has proposed him as a more-ethical atheist example.

    When all is said and done, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Bill Gates went down as the individual human who saved more human lives than any other in history.

    Hardly. That would probably be Louis Pasteur.

  48. 48
    godlesslib_CB

    @theophontes, feu d’artifice du cosmopolitisme:

    That’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard. Are you sure you’re not a Christian?

  49. 49
    David Marjanović, OM

    Even ignoring how he made his money, much of his touted “philanthropy” is attempting to privatise schools, to the detriment of teachers and students alike.

    …Shit.

    But Gates said “DNA is like a computer program but far, far more advanced than any software we’ve ever created.”

    Now guess who “we” is.

    Gates ethical, though? Gives away a lot of money, but was it that long ago that he was clearly illegally stomping on the competition.

    In European Union, Commissioner for Competition stomps on YOU!

    Third, I’ll second the sentiment that a better example than Bill Gates could have been found.

    Did Norman Borlaug believe in something?

    When all is said and done, it wouldn’t be a surprise if Bill Gates went down as the individual human who saved more human lives than any other in history. That’s the scale we’re talking with the disease, water, food, and poverty programs that he’s paying for.

    Hard to imagine. Borlaug triggered the Green Revolution which saved two billion lives. And 2/3 of the nitrogen in our bodies comes from the Haber-Bosch process; that translates to more than four billion saved lives.

    Incidentally, Haber was an asshole. Being a Jew faced with antisemitism in pre-WWI Germany, he tried way too hard to prove what a patriotic German he was, all the way to developing poison gas. A few thousand people have died as a result.

    A similarly mistaken correlation, is often made about combatants in various wars or conflicts.
    i.e. Those fighting on the side of good (nato troops/the allied troops in WW2)= Brave. Those on the side of evil (terrorists/Axis troops in WW2)= cowardly.
    Not true. There is no such correlation.

    Indeed, it’s a pet peeve of mine that for example the 9/11 terrorists were immediately called cowards. Kamikaze are cowards now???

    I’ve always been proud to be a confessing coward. Those people weren’t cowards. They were too stupid for that.

    I’m sure you are daft enough to type that on the windows system you paid for.

    At least he didn’t pay through his nose for hardware that was “Made in China – Designed by Apple in California”. Seriously. That’s what it says on the box of every Apple keyboard.

    *duck & cover*

  50. 50
    theophontes, feu d'artifice du cosmopolitisme

    @ godlesslib_CB

    That’s one of the dumbest things I’ve ever heard.

    This being a blog I presume you mean “read” not “heard”.

    If you actually give a fuck about the people you claim Bill Gates is helping, rather don’t pay him your money for software you can get for free. Take that money and invest it in a decent charity directly (hell even the B&MGF!). It will be far more effectively spent. But I repeat myself.

    Are you sure you’re not a Christian?

    Look up “non sequitur”.

  51. 51
    chigau (違う)

    Finally!
    A definition of a True Christian™!

    To be a proper representative, I think one must (a) legitimately believe in the tenets of the belief system, and (b) be of sound mind in doing so.

  52. 52
    David Marjanović, OM

    Caring about other people for their own sake isn’t logical? Wow, you must be pretty damn hateful if you’ll only treat others well because a god tells you to for your own selfish reasons, and not because you actually care about any other people besides yourself.

    “If I do good, I feel good. If I do bad, I feel bad. That’s my religion.”
    – ascribed to Abraham Lincoln

  53. 53
    Alverant

    @Chris #46
    So does that mean anyone not in their right mind is an Atheist? Who decides who is in their right mind or if they legitimately believe or not anyway?

    Your claim that Hitler is not a real christian ™ doesn’t add up. He made frequent references to the christian god in his book and speeches and actions. Yes, killing Jews and homosexuals is christian as indicated by many christians before him. His polices came from Martin Luther, the founder of a major branch of christianity. He certainly believed in the christian god and worshiped him. It might not be in the way most christians want, but that doesn’t matter.

    I would change your definition to: someone who does believe they are following their interpretation of the tenants of their religion.

  54. 54
    Alverant

    Whether Gates is or is not ethical isn’t as important as what the public perceives. Nearly everyone I’ve met has problems with Windows, but uses it anyway. That dislike spreads to MS and Gates IS Microsoft (technically he isn’t but we’re talking public perception here).

    So keeping the public in mind, who would make a better candidate as a good person without religion? Stephen Hawking? Abe Lincoln? Thomas Jefferson?

  55. 55
    ChasCPeterson

    The message is indeed simple–and, of course, correct–but the graphic itself is absurdly simplistic.
    Does anybody really believe, for example, that that an individual with views, statements, actions, and lives as complex as Malcolm X can be usefully or accurately summarized simply as Good?

    (oh, hi, Sally Strange…)

  56. 56
    tf

    > “It’s great that Malcolm X seems to now be widely and uncontroversially viewed as a “good” Muslim. Certainly this view was confined to the African-American community in the US for many years after his death.”

    Many people still don’t think Malcolm X was a good person (myself included). The reason African-Americans think he was good was because he was helping them, and people tend to ignore the bad side of people when people are helping them. (It’s actually indicative of our selfish nature. If you screw over a dozen people, but help me, then I’ll think you’re a “good person”.) But as far as Malcolm X, he did say things like: “The death of over 120 white people is a very beautiful thing.” [Speech in Los Angeles on June 3, 1962 upon learning of a plane crash.]

  57. 57
    Avo, also nigelTheBold

    Alverant:

    Whether Gates is or is not ethical isn’t as important as what the public perceives.

    That’s very true. The same is true of the Mother Teresa. She was not by any stretch of the imagination a force for good; yet she is often presented that way, as that’s the public perception.

    Good PR will cover a lot of evil.

    So keeping the public in mind, who would make a better candidate as a good person without religion? Stephen Hawking? Abe Lincoln? Thomas Jefferson?

    Me, I’d go with Albert Einstein. The god he presented was that of Spinoza, and it seems very clear from his private writings he didn’t believe in even the deist god. He seems to have been a very ethical person, from what I can tell.

  58. 58
    Epinephrine

    butterflyfish says:

    @Pierce #6:
    All people are men.

    Well spotted.

  59. 59
    theophontes, feu d'artifice du cosmopolitisme

    *duck & cover*

    no need
    /minix /freeBSD /linux …

  60. 60
    Numinous

    I’d go with Albert Einstein as well. Even though he did tend to do a lot of thinking with his ‘other’ head, if you know what I mean. He was still a very decent fellow.

    Slave-owning Thomas Jefferson? Hmmm. Not so sure. That’s a pretty big evil, no matter how you look at it. Still, he did some good.

    Stephen Hawking and Abe Lincoln seem more on the money. They’re much better examples. If you handle money then you see Lincoln’s face every day. He’s probably the best example to use.

  61. 61
    Thomathy, Gay Where it Counts

    I really don’t like that graphic. Whatever message it’s supposed to have is poorly communicated by the use of those particular personalities. I also don’t understand the shift in language from ‘good’ to ethical’. The whole thing is sloppy.

  62. 62
    Spiny Norman

    Besides being controversial in his ethics, Malcolm X was controversial in his religion – Nation of Islam is considered a heretical fringe group by mainstream Muslims. Hitler is certainly bad, but at best ambiguously Christian. Bill Gates is at best ambiguously ethical. All in all some very poor examples in this poster.

  63. 63
    lofgren

    I think we need to look at the scale here and wonder if the graphic is not tipping them in favor of ethics. According to the graphic, all you need to do to be ethical is to avoid being a mass murder. By that standard, there are ethical totalitarian dictators and homicidal clerics. Maybe we can inch our standards an eensy bit higher.

  64. 64
    Anteprepro

    ” Hitler is…at best ambiguously Christian.”

    Aren’t they all?

  65. 65
    KG

    If you handle money then you see Lincoln’s face every day. – Numinous

    Apart from the approximately 6.7 billion people who aren’t Americans. But then they scarcely count as human, do they?

  66. 66
    Shane

    I thought that the “simple message that some will never grasp” is rather: There are no moral absolutes?

    What was Bin Laden’s morality orientation when he was shooting down Soviet helicopters with FIM-92s? Since both Hitler and Stalin were on the list, who’s the “bad guy” on the Eastern Front of World War 2? We may consider that certain actions are vile (my opinion is that the things that each of the “evil” men are most known for are rightly condemned), but even that is subjective matter. Even more so, the notion of “evil” individuals is a ridiculous and anachronistic and actually quite religious concept from the stupid ages.

  67. 67
    SallyStrange

    I say it’s a sign of progress that Malcolm X’s contributions are widely recognized because his contributions towards the civil rights movement were enormous, and his personal willingness to change his views in light of new information is admirable. It’s that willingness that led him to move away from making purposefully inflammatory statements like the one about the plane, and reject his own former racism against whites.

    If you want a character flaw to criticize Malcolm for, it’d be his misogyny. He knew that Elijah Mohammed was exploiting young women in the Nation of Islam for a long time, but this was not the thing that led him to break with him. He justified EM’s behavior on that front; it wasn’t until it became clear to him that EM’s conservative stance on political issues was a hindrance to Malcolm’s mission of increasing blacks’ access to political and economic power that he split with the NOI.

    With regards to this infographic: the guys in the “evil” column were all responsible for mass murder. Malcolm X and MLK, despite their flaws, sincerely wanted to help their fellow human beings live better lives, and sacrificed a lot–up to and including their lives–in service of that mission. Bill Gates made a shit-ton of money using unethical business practices and is now using a small percentage of it to finance charitable causes that he supports. I really think that lumping him in with MLK and Malcolm X is rather insulting to the latter.

    Margaret Sanger was an atheist, and her work in educating women about birth control and making it accessible, including the founding of Planned Parenthood, has surely saved many lives. Of course, enabling women to control their fertility is still not viewed as an uncontroversial, life-saving “good” in our society, thanks to the misogyny inherent in Christianity and how Christian mores have some to dominate our political discourse lately. Nevertheless, she’d be a better pick than Bill Gates, in my opinion.

  68. 68
    Olav

    Sili says:

    I don’t think I’ll ever understand what quality it is that makes Gates evil, while at the same time making Jobs the second coming of Christ.

    According to whom? I see them both as ruthlessly greedy, shamelessly unethical people. For this I would never voluntarily use any product ever promoted by either one of these sharks. And I haven’t for about 10 years now. Screw them and their terribly businesses.

  69. 69
    uncle frogy

    I have a question for anyone who would try to argue that A Hitler was not really a christian. Was he not just as christian as Tomás de Torquemada?

    uncle frogy

  70. 70
    PlayMp1

    I wish that big, commercial games were developed for Linux OSes. Then I’d be able to switch and feel high and mighty. Unfortunately, as a gamer, I’m sticking with Windows. Sure, I could dual boot, but then I’d still have Windows!

    As for a better atheist than Gates… I’d say Sagan or Einstein.

  71. 71
    David Marjanović, OM

    no need
    /minix /freeBSD /linux …

    Sure, but Jobs was mentioned, so…

    Margaret Sanger

    is unknown outside the USA.

    I have a question for anyone who would try to argue that A Hitler was not really a christian. Was he not just as christian as Tomás de Torquemada?

    What Hitler said about Christianity was contradictory and generally inconsistent.

  72. 72
    consciousness razor
    I have a question for anyone who would try to argue that A Hitler was not really a christian. Was he not just as christian as Tomás de Torquemada?

    What Hitler said about Christianity was contradictory and generally inconsistent.

    Like every Christian I’ve ever known. Unless there are True Christians™ who are consistent, in whatever ways that matter for True Christianity™, this is irrelevant.

  73. 73
    Sili

    Stephen Hawking? Abe Lincoln? Thomas Jefferson?

    Womaniser with a god-complex. Demagogue and catlover. Slave owner.

    Me, I’d go with Albert Einstein.

    Another womaniser. Not to mention a man so enamoured of his own ideas that he could not accept reality.

    “The death of over 120 white people is a very beautiful thing.” [Speech in Los Angeles on June 3, 1962 upon learning of a plane crash.]

    Well, any death is a beautiful thing; we’re far too many people as it is. If people can cheer the deaths of Saddam Hussein, Osama bin Laden and Ribbentrop, X can cheer the deaths of 120 people, too.

    Good PR will cover a lot of evil.

    The good that people do is oft interred with their bones. The bad lives after them. Everyone knows Hitler, Attila and Alexander. Who knows Democritus, Hypatia and Diogenes? Isn’t Epicurus generally reviled?

    Hitler is certainly bad, but at best ambiguously Christian.

    ?!

    What does it take to be unambiguously Christian in your world?

    “My feelings as a Christian points me to my Lord and Savior as a fighter. It points me to the man who once in loneliness, surrounded by a few followers, recognized these Jews for what they were and summoned men to fight against them and who, God’s truth! was greatest not as a sufferer but as a fighter. In boundless love as a Christian and as a man I read through the passage which tells us how the Lord at last rose in His might and seized the scourge to drive out of the Temple the brood of vipers and adders. How terrific was His fight for the world against the Jewish poison. To-day, after two thousand years, with deepest emotion I recognize more profoundly than ever before the fact that it was for this that He had to shed His blood upon the Cross. As a Christian I have no duty to allow my self to be cheated, but I have the duty to be a fighter for truth and justice… And if there is anything which could demonstrate that we are acting rightly it is the distress that daily grows . For as a Christian I have also a duty to my own people.”

    /random Googling

  74. 74
    Ing

    Regardless of Hitler’s sincerity he got a nation full of Christians to believe his sincerity and agree with his (presented) interpretation of faith.

  75. 75
    Sili

    According to whom? I see them both as ruthlessly greedy, shamelessly unethical people. For this I would never voluntarily use any product ever promoted by either one of these sharks. And I haven’t for about 10 years now. Screw them and their terribly businesses.

    Please report to the recent Jobs post.

  76. 76
    tf

    Malcolm X and MLK, despite their flaws, sincerely wanted to help their fellow human beings live better lives, and sacrificed a lot–up to and including their lives–in service of that mission.

    I think you could say that about a lot of people we classify as “evil”. Hitler and Stalin both wanted to improve the world by fighting evil (Hitler against the evil people who were holding down his people and he “sacrificed his life for it”, Stalin against the evil capitalists stopping the great new communist system), it’s just that their understanding of what was “better” and their willingness to kill people they saw as evil made them the evil ones. Heck, a lot of people think Che Guevara was a good person, but he and Fidel Castro both wanted and advocated that the Soviet Union to launch a nuclear war against the US during the Cuban Missile crisis. (Which is why, whenever I see someone wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt, I just think “idiot”.)

  77. 77
    Bruce Gorton

    I’d replace Gates with Zachie Achmat. He is no saint and we as atheists don’t really want one, but he is pretty damn heroic.

    About the only reason he is so overlooked in these things is because when atheists stand up for civil rights (as atheists did during the civil rights movement, as atheists do in the gay rights movement, as atheists do in the women’s rights movement, as Zachie Achmat did by founding the Treatment Action Campaign etc…) it is downplayed because atheism is seen as being a political liability.

    We atheists work behind the scenes achieving cool stuff – but we are relegated to being behind the scenes, the names you can’t quite grasp unless we are being sold as villains.

  78. 78
    Bruce Gorton

    Another option here – what about Isaac Asimov? Well known all around the world, was a highly moral figure (EG: the morality he pushed in the Foundation series) and is fairly well beloved.

  79. 79
    khms

    If you want to make a better version of this, on both sides you must not only have people who are unambiguously (un)ethical, but also publicly perceived as such; and similarly for the three horizontal categories.

    That’s not easy.

  80. 80
    Moggie

    At least he didn’t pay through his nose for hardware that was “Made in China – Designed by Apple in California”. Seriously. That’s what it says on the box of every Apple keyboard.

    I’ve always taken that to mean that Apple in California design cardboard boxes. To their credit, their packaging is very nice.

  81. 81
    KG

    Which is why, whenever I see someone wearing a Che Guevara T-shirt, I just think “idiot”. – tf

    Me too. I’m a socialist (not a liberal), so people are sometimes surprised when I tell them I’ve never forgiven Fidel Castro for trying to kill me – and just about everyone else. I’d second Bruce Gorton’s nomination of Zachie Achmat over Bill Gates. For the “good Muslim” I’d prefer Muhammed Yunus or Abdus Salam to Malcolm X. I think Hitler’s status as a Christian is too dubious – he clearly was one when he began his political career, but although remaining a theist, he moved a long way from doctrinally orthodox Christianity. Francisco Franco, Hendrik Verwoed, Ivan the Terrible are better candidates, but I admit none are as instantly recognisable as Hitler. Rasputin, perhaps?

  82. 82
    Sili

    Another option here – what about Isaac Asimov? Well known all around the world, was a highly moral figure (EG: the morality he pushed in the Foundation series) and is fairly well beloved.

    I was about to accuse him of being another old misogynist, but whaddayaknow, I musta been thinking of one of those other heralded SFauthors.

  83. 83
    Josh

    Yeah, Asimov was really vocally progressive with respect to class, race, and gender (dunno about Gay Liberation — you’d have to ask Delany). But if Einstein gets criticized for being a womanizer, Asimov’s gotta go on that list too: word from people who encountered him is that he could be pretty, uh, free with his hands when encountering female admirers of his work. And with his tongue.

    I think he was enough of a Force for Good to be put in the left-hand column (hey, I notice there’s a Christian womanizer there), but what really qualifies him for it is the distinctive glasses and facial hair.

  84. 84
    Amphiox

    Hardly. That would probably be Louis Pasteur.

    Pasteur deserves all the kudos he gets.

    But if we’re talking about totality of mass lives saved, then any number of individuals who contributed to the advancement of modern sanitation beat Louis by a country mile. (And he would probably be the first to agree.)

  85. 85
    hockeybob

    I read this article about “ethical” Bill Gates and his convicted monopolist firm back in 2002; I was only able to find it archived by some whack-job website, replete with bible quotes… but don’t let that stop you from reading it;

    http://web.archive.org/web/20050419194550/http://reactor-core.org/in-microsoft-we-trust.html

    Microsoft, and Bill Gates, are the absolute farthest thing from being ethical, apart from the vatican, and probably Andrew Wakefield.

  86. 86
    John Morales

    King James I (or VI): “the wisest fool in Christendom”.

    (One of Walton’s heroes, no doubt)

  87. 87
    shoshidge

    Can i join the nitpick too?
    They didn’t do Stalin`s mustache right.
    On the Bill Gates question, I agree some of his past actions have been unethical, but some of his current humanitarian works seem pretty cool.
    Even if he is trying to assuage a guilty conscience, that would be evidence for an ethical sense.

  88. 88
    Myao

    I don’t know if this has already been brought up, but I’m saddened by the lack of women on this. :(

  89. 89
    Hazuki

    My suggestions for this list:

    Good Christian: St. Francis of Assisi

    Evil Christian: Wa-ho, Dan. Nearly every pope ever. Every televangelist ever. This is a HUGE list. I would put Pope Ratzatine I on there to stay topical though.

    Good Muslim: Salman Rushdie
    Evil Muslim: Usama bin Laden is a bit played out, but I see the logic. Go with it for now.

    Good Atheist: Isaac Asimov. Full. Stop. Robert Ingersoll might count too, but I’m not sure he was atheist so much as agnostic.
    Evil Atheist: Um…hm. The problem with the usual candidates is that they all had a LOT of theistic influence, and it shows. Even Pol Pot. I can’t think of one, and certainly not one who did what he did because of lack of belief in God or gods.

  90. 90
    John Morales

    Hazuki:

    Robert Ingersoll might count too, but I’m not sure he was atheist so much as agnostic.

    I wouldn’t go by the label he used, because from what I’ve read of his stuff, he was no less an atheist than PZ or I.

    (You gotta remember the sociopolitical climate when he was around)

  91. 91
    jose

    Right, not exactly the best example of ethical guy. I propose Susan Sontag.

  92. 92
    jose

    Here’s my version (original).

  93. 93
    Crissa

    I think the fact that Bill Gates stole, cajoled, blockaded and monopolized himself into riches kinda takes him out of the ‘ethical living’ category. He didn’t ‘once’ make one other rich guy sad – he made thousands sad by bilking, lawyering, and writing skeezy contracts over software both real and imagined.

    Yeah, he’s a good guy now. But his inverse Robin Hood is not the image of ethical living. Grr.

  94. 94
    theophontes, feu d'artifice du cosmopolitisme

    Zachie Achmat

    Thirded. Zackie Achmat, though he may not have the recognition he deserves.

  95. 95
    scooterKPFT

    Gates vs Stalin? What an idiotic comparison. Stalin learned everything he needed to know in a seminary about power structures studying to be a priest, and Bill Gates is insipidly amoral.

  96. 96
    David

    I don’t know; everything I’ve heard about Albert Einstein indicates that those that should have been able to depend upon, his wives and his children, were treated horribly. That’s a pretty big crime in my book.

  97. 97
    ConcernedJoe

    I think Communism was/is a RELIGION.

    Most -isms are.

    RELIGION is just some dogmatic philosophy coupled with a somewhat unwavering adherence to doctrine by its subscribers. Organized Religion, e.g. Catholicism or Soviet Communism, has the added feature of hierarchical authority (generally RWA leader types populate the ruling class) and some enforcement mechanism ensure members (voluntary or conscripted) tow the line.

    Stalin was part and parcel of a RELIGION.

    Belief in god(s), or higher supernatural power(s), is not necessarily deleterious in and by itself. Nor is belief in a philosophical line of thought. It is when these things become empowered as dogma and then RWA use that substrate to control minds and bodies.

    Patriotism – often a Religion for many.

    And I hate the use of the word Atheism – it suggests Religion (an -ism code word for Religion) and thus that we are faithfully (evidence and/or critical thinking be damned) following leaders and dogma.

  98. 98
    AJS

    I’d say that last one was wrong.

    The examples of ethical and evil people who live with and without religion should be Linus Torvalds and Bill Gates.

  99. 99
    Acitta

    Bill Gates is not someone who I would hold up as an example of an ethical person. As head of Microsoft he actively worked to undermine support for free software. His corporation was convicted under anti-trust laws for unethical behavior. By illegal and unethical means, he actively prevented people from having access to quality software, leaving us with a poorly designed and insecure operating system, a situation that persists to this day. He is not an ethical person. He is a criminal.

  100. 100
    theophontes, feu d'artifice du cosmopolitisme

    @ Acitta

    How about Mark Shuttleworth. Non-religious (unless an OS counts as a religion), wonder-filled-atheist, first African in space, supporter of Open Source computing, former CEO of Canonical (Ubuntu), major supporter of education in Africa, science sponsor, free telephony sponsor (Serval Project) …. Oh, did I mention he is a billionaire? And that his biggest joy is just to give it all away to worthy causes?

  101. 101
    KG

    I hadn’t seen SallyStrange’s nomination of Margaret Sanger, and didn’t know she was an atheist, but she also seems a much better candidate than Gates.

  102. 102
    J_Brisby

    I like it except for one thing…why does that word ‘always’ have to be there?

  103. 103
    Sili

    King James I (or VI): “the wisest fool in Christendom”.

    (One of Walton’s heroes, no doubt)

    Well, Walton did come out as bisexual here.

  104. 104
    Damien

    PZ Myers,

    A lot of people have been complaining about a lot of people they use as examples of good people who belong or don’t belong to a religion. Malcolm X isn’t the best example of someone who was a good person who happened to be a Muslim. Malcolm X was a horrible anti white, antisemitic racist for much of his life, and so is the organization that he once belonged to, the Nation of Islam.

    http://markhumphrys.com/nation.islam.html

    A much better example of a good person of the Islamic faith in my opinion is Zuhdi Jasser.

    http://www.aifdemocracy.org/about/members.php

  105. 105
    Aquaria

    Malcolm X is the better choice, because 1) he recanted his racist views before he was murdered, thus bringing them up is stupid and vindictive; and 2) most Americans know who he is.

    Try to keep up.

  106. 106
    Damien

    Aquaria,

    You have a point there. He did renounce them.

  107. 107
    crowepps

    Not only did he renounce them, he did so specifically because of the experience of his pilgrimage to Mecca and his exposure to the incredibly diverse faithful, so that the motivation was his religion.

    http://www.malcolm-x.org/docs/let_mecca.htm

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