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Militant Atheism

For my first post I thought I would comment on our meeting last weekend.  At some point in the discussion the position of the HAI (who were visiting guests) was questioned, regarding the embryonic Atheist Ireland Association.  What followed made me question the motives of the HAI.  I was mystified at HAI’s seeming dismissal of any potential affiliation between the Humanist Association and Irish atheists.  It struck me that they were desperate to avoid the stigma of being labelled Atheists.  They had genuine reasons for this, and this is where the term ‘militant atheist’ entered the conversation and this is a where it rankled.  The term militant, when referencing atheists appears to have become a homonym.  The meaning of the word changing when referencing religion such as the Christian variety:

Or our friends in the ‘religion of peace’

For these militants, the word seems to have disturbing and dangerous connotations – rightly feared.  However, the second meaning of the word, when discussing atheism appears to involve those with the temerity to not sit in the corner and be silent.  I am sure I am not alone in my disdain for people using this method of assigning a pejorative to us, when none obviously exist.  The motives of militant religionists are clear, bizarre and well documented – those for atheism usually involve the writing of a book or criticism of dogmatic and irrational viewpoints.  To emphasise the point, in the Apologetics Press recently the following was written.

Dawkins, who is perhaps the most celebrated evolutionist alive today, was one of the most militant atheists at the conference. He stated: “I am utterly fed up with the respect we have been brainwashed into bestowing upon religion,” i.e., God (p. 9; cf. Ecclesiastes 12:12-13). Passive atheism apparently should not be tolerated. Dawkins is “ready to mobilize” his “big…enthusiastic choir” of evolutionary colleagues. He said: “There’s a certain sort of negativity you get from people who say ‘I don’t like religion but you can’t do anything about it.’ That’s a real counsel of defeatism. We should roll our sleeves up and get on with it” ( emp. added). Dawkins even compared evolutionary scientists’ position in the 21st century to that of homosexuals in the late 1960s: everyone needs to be “willing to stand up and be counted,” so that “they could change things” .

So the good professor expresses his clear militancy by ramming home just how ‘utterly fed-up‘ he is – shocking stuff!  ‘This is the most feared standard-bearer of ‘militant atheism’?

We should confront this whenever we can – it is a (rather successfull) attempt to denegrate our efforts before they get started.  As long as any Irish association of atheists limit their discourse to ‘raising the conciousness’ of the religious they will have my support and i believe they deserve the support of free-thinkers, regardless of their association with any other ‘free-thinkers’ group.

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6 Responses

  1. I very much agree with you on the ‘militant’ lable. But it was Jason who first put me onto the inappropriateness of it and that was only a couple of months ago. Up to then I was happy to be a militant athiest. It is a process of consciousness raising. I am very grateful to the HAI for keeping the flag of freethought flying for many years now and think that they will easily adapt to the new situation, given a little time.
    Great first post by the way

  2. The very word ‘Militant’ immediately invokes perceptions of the military. I have yet to read a story or hear even a rumour in which a person takes up arms in persuit of secular freedom. I am not a ‘Militant’ Atheist and more than I am an Extremist Atheist or (ye gods forgive us!) a Terrorist Atheist.

    How long before that particular bridge is gapped by the christian right I wonder….

  3. Awpentroll:
    You missed the central theme of my comment i think. If you replace the word ‘militant’ – which can only be seen as unwarranted baggage – with the word assertive, i agree with much of what you say.

  4. Militant atheism is necessary to stop the “Pat Robertsons” of the world who want everyone marching robotically to church as often as possible. They want to take a percentage of your salary to sustain their plans and salaries. They want everyone to believe in an imaginary being they say governs us all. They want religious laws to countermand the criminal codes of the country. They want to maintain a huge business of misinformation for the masses. They are easily compared to Islam in this regard. All of the well known atheist militants understand this and are trying desperately to get others to understand. When you think about it and understand what is going on, you should be reviled by the fact that there are people who want total control over you. I don’t think this is freedom, it is a form of totalitarianism similar to that of Stalin, Hussein, Hitler and all of the other tyrants who have ruled in the past.

    I am one of the fortunate ones. I’m 74 years of age and won’t likely live to see this happen.

  5. Militant atheism, huh? Where do I sign up?

  6. Great first post. Sums up exactly why we have to reject labels like militant atheist.

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