Friday Rant: "Militant" Atheists and Freedom From Religion

The website Atheism Exposed claims that religion is under attack and that an all out counterinsurgency campaign is needed to defend the godly:

Militant atheism should concern all believers. It is a form of fanaticism on a par with extreme religious movements. Like religious extremism it is characterized by intensity and arrogance. Like religious extremism it tears at, and ridicules opposite viewpoints. It is often aggressive, disrespectful, sarcastic, intolerant and, most of all, blasphemous. Its aim to kill faith and hope and to leave as many victims as possible with a psychological vacuum that they will fill with their empty and destructive ideas.

Quite a litany of evils. And who are these so-called "militant" atheists? The usual bunch, including Richard Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens and Sam Harris (what, no Daniel Dennett or PZ Myers?) along with the likes of David Hume, Bertrand Russell, Friedrich Nietzsche, Madalyn Murray O'Hair and Albert Camus. With the exception of O'Hair (who used the Supreme Court as her foil) all the rest were writers and scholars who probably never handled a weapon in their lives. In the minds of fundamentalists it seems the pen truly is mightier than the sword.

If all it takes to be militant is writing your opinion boldly there must be militias arming in every church and creative writing workshop across this nation. Janet Napolitano has her work cut out for her. But what's even more ridiculous than the religious claiming that tepid critiques of religion are militant is when atheists adopt the label themselves. Across teh interwebz self-proclaimed "militant atheists" are fighting against tyranny right now from a blogspot account in their mom's basement.

I have two things to say about this. Adopting the militant atheist slogan is totally unnecessary and counterproductive. Until you actually take up arms, leave the militant part for those groups who genuinely deserve it. And, to be clear, I'm not against militant action, but it should be reserved for actual oppression (like the French Resistance in WWII, the Loyalists in the Spanish Civil War, or so you can be first to get 40% off that new plasma screen on Black Friday). Otherwise, stop feeding into the paradigm that religious critics set for you.

Here's the other thing. Christians and Muslims say that they want their views respected. Fine. As soon as they respect the views of atheists. However, that's not going to happen unless we keep pressing to make atheism so mainstream that attacking us seems absurd. Paul Madore, one of the leaders promoting the anti-gay marriage amendment in Maine, stated that it bothered him that homosexuality was becoming so mainstream that criticizing the "lifestyle" was becoming unpopular. He warned people that if gay marriage was allowed to stand it would become even harder to attack gays.

In case you haven't noticed, it has become very unpopular for anyone to speak unfavorably about homosexuality. If this repeal effort fails, this reality will get much worse.

He's absolutely right. That's how change happens. We want people like him to be embarrassed by their community when they make homophobic statements. We want to shun those views into obscurity. The same applies for the freedom from religion. As long as being an atheist could keep someone out of public office, there is work that needs to be done. Let the religious have their views, but they're not allowed to impose them on others. Here endeth the rant.

Author's Note: The above image, and many more like it, can be found at

More like this

That is an absolutely beautiful post! Congrats!
They want to proclaim that religion is under attack? Well good! Because it should be! It breeds too many ignorant jerks anyhow.

BTW, where did you get the comic?

Well said.

'Shun them'. That would presuppose not being outnumbered by ignoramuses who buy into the drivel which they are fed. I just happened upon a Breitbart piece about schoolchildren parroting paens unto Obama.
You can shun. I prefer a sharp needle for popping the balloon of puffery, whether flogging hate of race, religion, sex, nationality or occupation. I think I would like to find a few sharp tongued hippies...but war vets are doing all right.
Otherwise...corporate media control just rolls on promoting conflict.

Shun into obscurity the same way that anyone who says "women are less intelligent than men" or "blacks are inferior to whites" is shunned today. These views have only been marginalized thanks to committed work for hundreds of years. This work certainly involves the popping of puffery as well as many other tactics.

Atheism is no more threat to theism than it has ever been. Theists should be used to dealing with us and they were up until the digital revolution.

The very same tools that allow them to spread the gospel world wide without leaving home are available to everyone else, including baby crunching unbelievers. This fact makes them so mad they could just shit.

That is in fact what most theists do when their traditional "open forum" is rattled.

"Tough titty," said the kitty from the city.

By Crudely Wrott (not verified) on 06 Nov 2009 #permalink

I wonder if the meaning of militant has shifted. I see nothing wrong with calling Dawkins et al. militant: they have strong views and show little sign of having sympathy for opposing views. To me, that's enough to be described as militant. I don't think it implies willingness to resort to violence, but that is where the meaning might be shifting.

I see that the shrill tone of atheist propaganda has not abaided with time. The anemic attempt to lump all Christians in with Islamic fundamentalists who do take up arms against the innocent and unarmed has been and is very reminiscent of the lies perpetrated by atheism's evil child communism. Lest anyone forget, it was atheistic communist regimes in the Soviet Evil Empire and Communist China, and other assorted communist puppets of theirs like North Korea and Cuba, that perpetrated the greatest mass slaughter of humanity in history, to the tune of over 100,000,000 men, women, and children!

petone, and of course it was also those evil atheist who blew up abortion clinics and killed abortion doctors in the US, oh wait...

What you forget, or more likely choose to ignore, is that the religious, and I include xians in this as today as they only differ in numbers killed compared to the Islamic terrorist, do their killing in the name of their god and their faith. The Evil Soviet and Chinese empires on the other hand, while they did cause the deaths of many, some directly, some indirectly, didn't do it in the name of atheism. They just substituted what they called communism as their religion of choice and eliminated anybody they thought had the possible power to organise against them. Exactly like most other religions have done against those who disagree with their particular belief systems all down the ages. But hey, don't let the facts get in the way of your strawman.

By John Phillips, FCD (not verified) on 07 Nov 2009 #permalink

Uh-oh. While the cartoon made sure to depict Christians and muslims in the worst light, they also forgot to correctly critique the Militant Atheist. In which case they should have drew a picture of the two Columbine Murders holding a Tech9 submachine gun. Either that or Joseph Stalin, Mao, Che Guerra, or the inventor of the Atomic Bomb.

But Militant Atheists could never hurt a fly, just fellow humans.