Saturday, November 04, 2006

Fear of an atheist planet

A Christian author by the name of Os Guiness is warning of a "growing atheist backlash to the political strength of Christian conservatives." Well, duh, and it's about bloody time, too! We've had it up to here with theocrats and religious demagogues attempting to legislate their faith, replace proper science education with Sunday School myths, deny large segments of the population basic rights like the ability to buy birth control or get married or have joint insurance for no reason other than ignorant prejudice, and generally running the country (and the world, if the gleeful drive towards Armageddon in the mid-east is any indication) into the ground. The fact that many of said theocratic demagogues are either arrogant bastards who think little things like tax laws don't apply to them, or repellent hypocrites who rail publicly against giving gays and lesbians marriage rights while conducting alleged meth-fueled extramarital gay sexual liaisons with male prostitutes on the down low, only makes a backlash far more essential to the health of the body politic.

Guiness says:

...he hopes there can be a respectful exchange of ideas somewhere between the militant extremes of religious violence and militant atheism.

What is this "militant" atheism of which he speaks? I know some people have called Sam Harris and Richard Dawkins "militant," but as far as I can tell, they only seem "militant" to theists who have heretofore gone through life enjoying an undeservedly privileged position of holding beliefs that it is considered impolite and "just not done" to question and critique in any public forum. If atheists can only be called "militant" because we exercise our free speech rights to voice our opinions, then it seems to me that cheapens the true meaning of the word "militant," which can, I believe, be better applied to theistic maniacs who crash airplanes into buildings, shoot abortion doctors, beat up gay men, slice off women's clitorises, and, you know, wage massive wars.

And if Christians want a "respectful exchange of ideas" with this "militant" atheist, perhaps they can start by repudiating the notion that I deserve an eternity of torture simply for not believing as they do.

That'll do for starters.


  1. Yes, surprise surprise, religious theocratic wingnuts end up making even the quietest among the population, feel like they should speak up.

  2. Christians fear criticism of their religion, because they know that such critiques are effective at undermining their political and social power.

    Guinness remark calling for "[a] respectful exchange of ideas somewhere between the militant extremes of religious violence and militant atheism" was deplorable.

    Is Guinness attempting to conflate those who kill and maim in the name of religion, or those who use religious rhetoric to further economic and political violence, with people like Dawkins, or Sam Harris who criticise, refute, or mock religious claims? If so, Guinness is an intellectually dishonest cheat. In no way can an educated, and articulate scientist and atheist like Dawkins be compared
    to those who fly planes into buildings. In doing so, he appeals to the myth of moral symmetry.

    A common response to charges that organised religion promotes violence, is to reverse the charge by saying atheism killed millions under Communism.

    It is impossible to kill in the name of atheism, because atheism is not a philosophy, ideology, or belief system: it is an absence of belief in God, and makes no claim to knowledge. Hence, saying that someone killed for their atheism is analogous to saying left-handed people kill in the name of left-handedness. You can, for example, kill in then name of communism, because it is a belief system, which can, like other political ideologies be abused, but you can't kill for a negative.

    People like Os Guinnes want you to think as follows: if we allow 'fundamentalist atheists' to criticise religion, then atheism must be seen as a threat to our freedom and civilisation! Therefore, you must respect our religious beliefs. Don't criticise us for ID, anti-abortion, anti-stem cell research, homophobia, racism, outdated moral and belief systems, or crackpot ideas about 'salvation' trumping the here and now.

    And where did Christians get the idea of 'fundamentalist atheism'? Fundamentalist about what? A negative? An extreme absence of belief? This is the kind of oxymoronic sophistry religionists use all the time in order to get people to 'respect' their superstitions; religionists know their claims are vulnerable to critique, so they make distorted claims about their opponents to mask the silliness of religion in general.


  3. I am a believer in Jesus. And I wonder how the term "atheist" can be defined as "an absence of belief in God" (alan mackenzie). It differs from what I thought atheism was: a belief that there is not a, or any, God(s).
    How is the term "atheism" justified, by being an absence of belief. What, then, does the atheist believe? Or, what is an "atheist"?

    According to alan mackenzies, atheism is not a philosphy. Then what is the atheist concerned about, if someone is promoting faith in God(s)? Because, as I understand this statement, God may excist - and there is no denial about his excistance, if one chooses not to believe in him. If that is so, then I would seem meaningless for anyone to promote atheism. That could almost be, a form of control: the atheist, telling average Joe (and everyone else with him) that they should not believe in God(s). No argument or anything, just do not believe in him (or "it").

    Even a web-site, which celebrates atheism has missed the mark, if indeed atheism only is an absence of belief in God, and no claim for knowledge at all. That's how I see it, for the time being.

  4. Atheism can take a couple of forms, often called "strong" atheism (active denial of any gods) and "weak" atheism (simple lack of belief). Lacking belief in gods, atheists do believe in other things, such as humanist philosophies or what-have-you. Also, believers seem to subscribe to a wide variety of definitions of god. It's possible to be a strong atheist about certain gods (like the Christian God, which is defined in such internally contradictory ways as to be an impossible being) and a weak atheist about other gods, like the indifferent god of deism, about which the best that can be said is that he seems utterly pointless.

  5. There was a time when atheists were much like the black folks of the old south. They were quiet and respectful, seldom if ever voicing their own views and the "true believers" came to expect them to always conduct themselves in this way. Now that we have become frightened by the theocratic force of American political culture, we have begun to speak out and, in a sense, we seem to be violating a social contract to keep still. This is our so-called militancy in a nut shell. The reason that the political right is so enamored of religion is, frankly, that religion is the only thing that keeps the wealthy alive!


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