Atheism which is actively hostile to religion I would call militant. To be hostile in this sense requires more than just strong disagreement with religion—it requires something verging on hatred and is characterized by a desire to wipe out all forms of religious beliefs. Militant atheists tend to make one or both of two claims that atheists do not. The first is that religion is demonstrably false or nonsense, and the second is that it is usually or always harmful.
Apparently pointing out the falsity of God-belief within a ritualistic scheme…for an atheist…is somehow…wrong. I am uncertain how one manages to avoid lying if they hold God-belief is incorrect, but must say the opposite; apparently that is one requirement to avoid the label of “militant atheist.”
Secondly, we must be silent as to people flying planes into buildings, or beating your child with a stick or starving a one-year-old to death for not saying “Amen.” We should keep quiet regarding the misogyny, homophobia and intolerance for differing ideas that has historically pervaded religions.
If this is “Militant Atheism”—it would seem the solution is simple: Demonstrate God-based religion is true or show that it is usually beneficial, and there would be no need for militant atheists. *snickers* Good luck with that!
But I don’t want to focus solely on what militant atheism is, nor what it should be, nor whether it shouldn’t be. I wanted to explain why I am…well…I dare say a militant atheist.
There is an oft-told practical joke where an office group picks one particular victim, and for the entire morning, no matter what he says, the people react as if he is being outrageously angry.
Victim: Good Morning!
Prankster1: Easy…calm down, Victim.
Victim shrugs: How’s the coffee?
Prankster2: Hey, don’t yell, simmer down.
Victim: But I’m not yelling.
Prankster2: [backs away] I didn’t mean to get you so upset.
Of course inevitably this becomes self-fulfilling when the Victim really does become angry because no one believes he is not angry, yet he keeps being told he is angry.
Haven’t we entered the same routine?
Christian: Why did you become an atheist?
Me: Because the evidence fails to persuade God exists.
Christian: Nope—because you want to sin.
Me: No—really! I looked at this argument and those proofs and I am not convinced.
Christian: Nope. Sinner.
Me: O.K., then—what sin is it you are claiming I am doing?
Christian: Oh, I don’t know THAT. It must be some secret sin.
Like the victim in our office prank, I am baffled by the opposite reaction to what I am saying. Over and over we hear the same tired canards:
“Evolution is just a theory.”
“Darwin recanted on his death bed.”
“Somebody somewhere once said Hittites didn’t exist, and it turns out they did, so we can’t trust archeology when it fails to support what I want to hear.”
“The fool says there is no God.”
And for every Christian we patiently explain the problem, the next day a new Christian joins in and says, “It must be true ‘cause the Disciples wouldn’t die for a lie.” And we go through it all over again. Only to hear Steven Baldwin say, “If we evolved from apes, why are there still apes?”
At some point we must look at the whole system and speak out. Look, if a local school was failing the vast majority of students, we would immediately think, “There is a problem here. Something must be wrong; this situation needs to be addressed.” Yet it is as if those questioning militant atheism proclaim, “Hey! Here is a student who obtained all A’s and here is a student who received a B or two. You cannot incriminate the entire system when we have these few standouts.”
Yes…Yes, I can. The vast majority of Christians I associate with do not study opposing views. They hardly study their own beyond what they learn in Sunday School. They don’t read books on evolution. They don’t read books on Textual Criticism. They don’t read cosmology, archeology, botany, geology… they read Bibles, Bible study guides and books giving advice based on the Bible.
And they sure haven’t read Baggini’s Short Introduction to Atheism.
Is the appropriate approach to be silent in the hopes of an anomalous Christian who has studied evolution? Or should I point out the errors? See, I may appear militant against the vast majority of Christians I interact with, because I respond to the errors given by this majority!
Further, I also see a great deal of harm within religions. When I point out the Pat Robertson’s—I am told, “He doesn’t speak for my belief.” I cringe at tales of cover-ups regarding Priest and Pastor indiscretions. “They aren’t true Christians.” I am horrified by the practice of Sharia Law in many countries. By the infighting between Christians and Hindus and Muslims in India.
Yet I don’t have to listen to the evening news to see the offenses of religions. I watched the back-biting and in-fighting growing up. I saw the use of belief as a weapon to diminish others. Watched terrible behavior excused as “wrestling with sinful nature” if the person is part of the accepted crowd, yet other people demonized for less because they were not.
I’ve watched families, friends and relationships torn apart over religious differences. Where each justifies and rationalizes ostracizing the other. Where the poor are only helped upon receiving the appropriate recriminations. Where the sinner must cry and beg and demonstrate how truly terrible they are to make the Christian feel self-righteous before handing out pittance charity.
If churches are so beneficial—why is it the LAST place people want to go for assistance?
Shouldn’t we be speaking out against such things? We should be addressing the wrongs committed in the name of religion. We must point out the errors in knowledge, the lack of study in those professing to hold truth in the form of a God.
And we are told by many theists, “Oh…that isn’t MY church. That isn’t MY religion. Those aren’t true Christians.” Yet this is exactly the problem. Because they have no means to explain who IS a true Christian, or method to verify which is the correct God, all they can do is cluck their tongue and say, “Tsk, tsk.” They think it’s wrong…sure…but their God is silent as what to do. They don’t want to say they hate it—that language seems so strong in the face of God’s stillness in action.
Blame the atheist for daring to say, “I dislike that. I dislike that a lot! In fact—I hate it.”
I am wrong for being “on the verge of hatred” for these actions? Really? Well…if that makes me a militant atheist, I proudly wear the label.