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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.