Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Militant Atheist: “To be or not to be?” That is the question


I place myself in the Hitchens, Harris, Dawkins, Meyers school of aggressive anti-theist militant atheism. If not for people like them, and organizations that share their tact, we would not be seeing the surge in rational thought and outspoken opposition coming from previously closeted atheists and agnostics who are now “coming out.”

The contributions of scientists, the best of whom are non-believers of varying degrees, whose efforts have lead to medical advances, longer life spans for humanity, technology that just 100 years ago was unimagined, are rarely if ever praised by the religionists. They see science as the bulwark of anti-religious thought. So much for atheists gaining legitimacy in the eyes of religionists with gentility, reason, and contributions to their very existence. Theists will credit god instead.

Some say that engaging in aggressive debate using reason will never change the mind of those who are absolutists, who base their lives on supernaturalism to which they were exposed at an early age. I agree. It is as unlikely to yield fruit as religious proselytizing will cause a thinking person to suddenly abandon reason for supernaturalist belief. But what debate does do is give fence sitters something to think about, chew on. If they are prompted to question the unquestionable precepts of faith, something religions do not encourage, then by observing a realist in aggressive debate their curiosity may be piqued and their reasoning skills along with it.

Those who despise atheists, distrust them, see them as immoral and un-American, will not be swayed by a kinder gentler approach … my reference to scientists is one example. The fundamentalist theist mind, be it Christian or Muslim, are as firm in their dismissal of science and atheists as they are immersed in their supernaturalist beliefs. We’d be deceiving ourselves to think otherwise. The women’s suffrage movement didn’t win the right to vote by being kinder and gentler. Nor did blacks attain civil rights by just being good citizens and walking on tip toe to the back of the bus. Nor did the gay rights movement win any converts to full equality and tolerance by working in soup kitchens, or contributing to the Red Cross.

Every one of those movements realized that the kinder and gentler method of whispering their desire for equality was perceived as weakness, powerlessness, by the majority opposition. A strong front, challenging the religious right’s efforts; demanding that the Separation of Church and state be kept sacrosanct; fighting theist intrusions into our lives and schools and government; calling out the fakes, frauds and exposing the unbalanced words and deeds of religionists is how we will gain influence and retain our freedom. If they take offense, so what?

Islam continues to flood into Western society. With governmental and the media’s failure to stand firm against Muslim threats of violence if demands for the limitation of free speech where their religion is concerned isn’t observed, we are reinforcing their perception of us as the spineless “Kafir.” If the West doesn’t pull its head out of the sand, change its approach, Islamic Fundamentalists will continue to capitalize on it, the virus will spread, and Western culture will continue contributing to its own eventual demise.

So, if we are militant as atheists, if we push it to the wall and go toe to toe with theist ignorance, arrogance and intolerance what’s the worst that can happen? Muslims will riot, burn and threaten us with domination and death? They already do that. Christians will hate us, mistrust us, deny our patriotism and morality? They already do that too. We need to make it crystal clear that as freethinkers we are not door mats to mindless fanaticism; that the days of pretending to be theist are over; that expectations of respect for their mindless beliefs can be forgotten; that we won’t give an inch to their attempts at creeping theocracy. That there will be no appeasement, no compromise, no negotiating with ancient delusion.

I’m a militant atheist, I could be nothing else.

24 comments:

Caddisfly said...

I used to be a "quiet" atheist, keeping to myself except for close friends. Nowdays I'm much more vocal as I see our society become more intertwined with and dominated by christian twits. The last 25 years of navel gazing have been a disaster for this nation. I'm vocal about pointing this out, and am pretty sure I've lost one job because of it. Ive been threatened with physical violence, and been told numerous time that god would "get me" someday. The upside is that I've swayed a number of fence sitters to open thier eyes and hearts. I always encourage them to read the entire bible, not just the select passages they are shown. It truely is a horrible book, lacking in so many ways. I usually begin by asking them to give me thier definition of god. The answers all contain the statement of an all powerful and knowing god. I then ask them why god does not prevent evil or targedy (Haiti comes to mind). I then ask them if god is so powerful yet he does not intervine this make him malevolent if not evil. If god can't prevent such evil or does not choose to, then that god is irrelevant in our lives.

Caddisfly said...

opps, that is tragdey.

Dromedary Hump said...

Caddis,
Kudos to you! and Thanks.
Hump

NewEnglandBob said...

I'll try again for you, Caddisfly:
tragedy.

I agree wholeheartedly with this post, Hump.

Being vocal and opposing those who are hurting society is necessary. If theists want to practice their religion in private and not try to force their dogma or strange ideas on others then let them be.

As soon as they start to proselytize or try to force their views on sex, marriage, race, health or personal freedoms on the rest of us then it behooves us to fight them with as much force as required to back them down.

Rachelle said...

CHEERS!!! CHEERS!!! CHEERS!!! HUMP. :)

One of my pleasures is watching Hitchens debate ANY theist. LOL! Dawkins and Dennett are more mild-mannered and respectful...and I dig them anyway...But Hitchens is a master at exposing religious nuts and tearing down their so-called arguments. LOL! I always get the popcorn ready whenever he's a guest on any show discussing/debating religion. LOL!

I agree...never back down!

NewEnglandBob said...

Rachelle, Hitchens usually does NOT "tear down their so-called arguments". For the most part he ignores the opposition's arguments and speaks to his own agenda. Quite often he leaves their nonsense hanging out in the breeze.

That is why Hitchens is at his best when he writes an article for Slate or other publications.

Dennett is guilty of this once in a while also. On the other hand, Dawkins calmly (usually) addresses the opposition's points effectively and also makes his own points.

Jerry Coyne is particularly effective in print tearing into the opposition's arguments and spitting them out. PZ Myers, Russell Blackford, Ophelia Bensen are also very good in writing, amongst others.

Texas Mike said...

Caddisfly,
"If god can't prevent such evil or does not choose to, then that god is irrelevant in our lives."

Many a christian will tell you that they "pray that god's will, not my own will be done". Is that statement in and of itself not proof that their relationship with their god is irrelevant? That's like saying "well, god, since you're going to do whatever you want anyway, I'm all for it!"

Hump,
Great post. I love it when you get on a roll!

Dromedary Hump said...

Thks Bob, Rachelle, and Mike,

BTW, I'm not suggesting that being civil in discourse doesn't have it's merits. Certainly it does. I try to maintain civility when I engage a Xtian who can at least demonstrate a modicum of non circular reasoning. But thats usually hard for them.

Then, invariably,anything approaching intellectual discourse breaks down and religious babble predominates. When that happens the gloves come off.

On a semi-related subject---
My fav Hitchen's line was when he was being interviewed by Sean Hannity on the death of Jerry Falwell. It went something like this: "If they gave Jerry's corpse an enema they could bury him in a match box."

Hard to argue with that. :)

Rachelle said...

Thanks NE Bob. LOL!...But see Hitchens' past appearances on MSNBC's 'Hardball' (there are other debates held at universities but I don't have links...RD.net and YouTube might)...He not only tears down arguments (esp. on the topic of religion being a good thing)...but he does so rudely and usually leaves the other guest/s in a huff. LOL! I like his writing but I prefer him better on the telly. I do NOT agree with his hawkish political positions...but that's another issue. I guess I just like his semi-sober "in your face" approach. LOL!

Glenn Livingston said...

Amen Brother, Amen!

James said...

And as an ex-evangelical, I'll tell you this, debate wasn't what started to sway me, it was meeting interesting atheists who simply asked me questions about what I actually believed; no pressure, just them being friendly and insightful.

So it's strange for me to come from an evangelical background where wednesday nights and some weekends were spent "spreading the word of god" to being an atheist who is trying to undo those efforts. Those efforts are the primary reason that I'm militant, not just because of the threat the fundamentalist ideology poses to western democracy. Quite simply, Christians have better organization than atheists tend to have. Just think, how many atheist organizations organize their own youth groups on wednesday nights and then go to volunteer in soup kitchens, go door to door handing out tracts, or send aid to impoverished areas? Christians aren't everywhere because they're wonderful debaters, it's because they make an effort to simply be seen everywhere doing good things. We should take a page from their playbook and go to their events, their churches/study centers (like where I am right now :) and cement ourselves in their good activities (like volunteering) as much as possible. Let them see us regularly and befriend us, many people who have gay friends have far more liberal ideas about gay rights because it's hard to say your friend is evil or doesn't deserve something. So being militant, in my estimation, isn't just about being indignant at hyperbolic characterizations, but letting everyone see (not just tell them) that atheists are good, caring, and intelligent people. And sometimes that involves rather heated debates.

Dromedary Hump said...

James,
Thanks for sharing that. Excellent insight.

Dan Barker, the co-president of the Freedom from Religion Foundation, a staunch atheist activist, is an ex-evangelical preacher. I have just bought his book "Godless," and clearly he feels an obligation to undo what he did to the gullible and willingly infected in his belief years.

It seems it's becoming a more and more common theme .

NewEnglandBob said...

Hump, I read Dan Barker's 'Godless' about a year ago and I rated it very high (not quite as high as 'Atheist Camel Chronicles').

My synopsis: Terrific book but a couple of uneven sections.

I would love to hear your take on it after you read it.

Dromedary Hump said...

NEBob,
Aww..thanks for that!

I'll let you know. I'm just finishing up "The God Virus" which I love.

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Blind Squirrel FCD said...

Who is this Meyers of whom you speak?

BS

zarton said...

Squirrel,
It is P.Z. Meyers that the camel speaks of. You should look him up.
Thanks for bringing up Dan Barker, I think he is also a wonderful debater, and his book really was a pleasure for me ( a former xtian) to read. I would highly encourage all current and former christians to read this book. I am also a dues paying member of the FFRF.
Although I certainly now consider myself a "Militant Atheist" I do think it is important to ask yourself what your objective is before you engage someone in a debate. I once had a lengthy discussion with a creationist, when I could have taken the gloves off (believe you me I wanted to)I had to stop and think... we were alone, so I asked myself, what I was trying to accomplish (?). I kept the gloves off and before it was over, my opponent had a positive take on evolution. He still does to this day. He is still an xtian, but one who respects the evolutionary process more than I would have ever dreamed.
I should also mention that I was at work at the time of the discussion. While I would not consider myself an "Uncle Tom Atheist" at work. I do tone it down at work as I appreciate theists who do the same, and I love my job.
With that being said: I would still encourage militant atheism whenever it is safe and effective.

Hump, you have seemed to reach the bar that you have set for yourself.

thanks,
zar

P.S. Do it again!!

zarton said...

Yeah, I kept the gloves on, not off.... Jesus why I am so dumb?!?!

Thanks for tolerating me,

Zar

NewEnglandBob said...

Zarton and Squirrel:

It is P. Z. Myers (not Meyers)

"PZ Myers is a biologist and associate professor at the University of Minnesota, Morris."

His blog is Pharyngula:

http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula

Dromedary Hump said...

Zar,
I've always felt that the work place is not the right venue for religious discussion.

Years ago I had a peer who was a born again street preaching christian fanatic. He was VP of IT. It got to the point that his proselytizingand "witnessing" was so annoying that I had to tell him to shut up about is delusion or I'd have HR discuss it with him.

What's sauce for the goose is sauce for the gander... thus I kept my perspective on belief larely to myself unless asked.

And thanks for the compliment, Zar.

Anonymous said...

this is funny, from another site -

This loser's plagiarism of the rapture website is merely the cherry on top of a pile of manure. Let's recap -

* Every action this dick takes, including this rip off website, is to promote his shitty self-published book that no one cares about and to praise his own genius. He has spammed the length and breadth of the 'net using dozens of bogus accounts including self-penned shill reviews on amazon, and has been banned for this behaviour in many places.

* He similarly sockpuppets to promote himself as a prominent and upstanding member of our community to get his slimy toe in the door at various prominent online blogs and journals. He does so by abusing people's trust by deceptively creating the impression that he is promoting our cause when in actual fact he is purely in it for monetary gain and returns absolutely nothing to our community in any way. You can see him brag about the easy money in this articles main link.

* He then uses existing articles on sites he has duped as reference material for the next site he wants to dupe.

The plagiarism is a minor detail when you look at the overall ethical and moral bankruptcy. This guy is a failure and a nobody and he's on par with deadbeats that scam a living on the Law of Attraction seminar circuit.

He drags all atheist and freethinkers through the mud with his charlatanism. That is what should concern you.

Dromedary Hump said...

Anon,

Ah...My aussie friends from Atheist Nexus, heheh.

He and his clique have been obsessing about me for months. The hostility is palatable. If only they could learn the definition of plagarism. These are the Uncle Tom atheists I sometimes refer to.

But as long as it gives them something to do, keeps them from molesting sheep, there is no such thing as bad publicty. ;)

Thanks

Eliza 422 said...

This is quite the timely post for me. I finally "came out" as an atheist to my Mom late last year - by mentioning a post on an atheist blog, I believe it was PZ Myers - and after a moment when she realized what I said her first comment was, "You're not one of those militant atheists, are you?" My entire life she has never wanted any of us in our family to express a strong opinion about anything! It's kind of funny, really.
Then, what happens to me today? I've been posting Greta Christina's Atheist Memes on Facebook periodically, and except for my one crazy uncle not a single person has responded to me. No problem - I don't care.
This morning a friend of mine (a real friend, not an internet friend) says that *she's* been getting emails from our mutual FB friends about my "atheist rants", and apparently want her to stop me! She emailed me to ask if she could send a general email to all of them saying to either defriend me or hide my posts if they are that bad. She put some other hurtful stuff in the email (which I chose to ignore), but I said that of course she could send it, and I said to say in the email that it was with my blessing!
The whole situation made me angry - instead of actually posting something to me they are fucking cowards and attack my friend instead.
So this whole day I've been ruminating about how to react to this. I mean, it's just a silly FB thing and not anything serious, but I said to myself, "How are you going to respond to this? Back down?" Nope! I went to FB and posted a new atheist meme, but added a tag that said this is mine alone and anyone who wishes to can respond to discuss!
Wow! In a small way I stood up for my convictions.
I'm sure my mom is going to have me committed now for being such an activist :-p

Dromedary Hump said...

Eliza,

GOOD FOR YOU! and congrats on having broken free from the religious mind virus.

Your friends are threatened. Whenever one member of the virally infected is cured, it undermines their sense of saftey. It infers that life, real life, can exist outside the mindnumbing slavery to a delusion. They don't want to hear that... they don't want you spreading the "vaccine" of reality among them.

Be friend me on Facebook (see the link on the right column of my home page here). I'll be glad to add some supportive comments to your FB page.

Hump