Questionable Motives

October 19, 2009

Naked atheistic aggression and fundamentalist militancy!

Filed under: Atheism,Education,Humour,Media,Philosophy,Religion — tildeb @ 3:42 pm

Atheist AA bitter rift is apparently opening a schism in the land of atheists, according to an article by Barbara Bradley Hagerty, who quotes Stuart Jordan, an atheist who advises the evidence-based group Center for Inquiry on policy issues. He says that this divide between those who wish to wage a more aggressive, often belittling posture toward religions and their believers and those who think that religions and the people who support them should be shown respect even if we don’t agree with them on all issues is causing a schism in the ranks of atheists. She goes on to quote the Centre for Inquiry’s founder Paul Kurtz on this new approach, who says, “I consider them atheist fundamentalists. They’re anti-religious, and they’re mean-spirited, unfortunately. Now, they’re very good atheists and very dedicated people who do not believe in God. But you have this aggressive and militant phase of atheism, and that does more damage than good.”

The point would be a good one if the examples of such a worrisome aggressive and militant phase weren’t so pathetic: PZ Myers nailing a cracker, people drawing less than flattering pictures of Jesus, such as one that shows him painting the nails not on his fingers but in his hands, and a few quoatable quotes from the curmudgeonly Hitchens. Now compare that kind of ‘militant’ behaviour with religiously inspired acts of mass murder and brutality, and see just how ”fundamentalist’ the new atheists really are.

Come on.

The new head of the Center for Inquiry, Ronald Lindsay, says, “The new atheists counter that they believe in reason, science and freedom from religious myth. We take the high road, the low road, country roads, interstates, highways, byways, — whatever it takes to reach people.”

Wow. How shockingly aggressive is that?

I don’t know if atheists can ever fully recover from such a bitter rift.


  1. I don’t see how any kind of murder should excuse any other kind of unacceptable behaviour. If there is to be a communication and I say if it is to be with big if, as there seam to be very little enthusiasm to have any worth wile conversation. Rather than just shouting at each other and sharing insults and hoping to win arguments by giving multitude rather than qualitative answers we should consider exchange of ideas. It helps to understand why you hold to your world views and then it may help you by allowing me to give an answer. Mass murder should not be used as a good example, you may give inquisition and Catholic Church, I can then use Many Communist regimes that resulted in millions of people being killed by some estimates 60 Mil in Russia alone, not to mention Rumania, Albania, China, DDR Germany, Bulgaria and many others. It is not like we keep count we should not; one bad example does not justify inappropriate actions by anybody else.

    Comment by defendtheword — October 19, 2009 @ 10:36 pm | Reply

  2. Well, D, there are a couple of points here.

    The first is the definitions of aggressive and militant. To associate atheists as aggressive and as militant as religious fundamentalists is quite a stretch. It’s been said that organizing atheists to do anything is like herding cats. Good luck with that. If anything, these examples of atheists are very mild aggression and certainly not militant by comparison. There are much better words: rude perhaps or insensitive, even blasphemous. But militant? No. No atheist straps bombs on him- or herself to cause mass murder in the name of promoting reasonableness. It’s just silly.

    The other point you raise is about conversation and dialogue. I have yet to meet an atheist who isn’t willing to be inquire and explore possibilities about what may or may not be probably true, probably accurate, and probablycorrect. I cannot say the same about many religious people when it comes to inquiring honestly about their faith’s truth claims. And the reason is one of epistemology for inquiry, I think.

    Whereas honest inquiry starts with questions followed by reasonable answers backed by something more than assumptions, the devoutly religious insist that one must start with assuming the correct answers first – whatever the particular religious faith may be, which, oh by the way, just so happens to be sanctified by God – which is then used to justify all the acceptable answers through that filter. It is a dishonest method of inquiry. To converse about one versus the other is usually a waste of time because there is no real interest in discovering what’s probably true, probably accurate, or probably correct; instead, the religious insist when push comes to shove that no method of inquiry is legitimate unless one first assumes the truth through that particular faith’s truth claims. To make matters worse, the religious often insert a false certainty into such positions of holding the truth when no certainty is justified through honest inquiry but is backed only by assertion.

    Lastly, atheism is a label that describes people who think that there is probably no god. Period. To equate these folk as being the same as the leaders of totalitarian states is a really bad comparison. Harris explains why: People of faith often claim that the crimes of Hitler, Stalin, Mao and Pol Pot were the inevitable product of unbelief. The problem with fascism and communism, however, is not that they are too critical of religion; the problem is that they are too much like religions. Such regimes are dogmatic to the core and generally give rise to personality cults that are indistinguishable from cults of religious hero worship. Auschwitz, the gulag and the killing fields were not examples of what happens when human beings reject religious dogma; they are examples of political, racial and nationalistic dogma run amok. There is no society in human history that ever suffered because its people became too reasonable.

    The difference here is that I think acting on religious belief in the public domain is not excusable. It is unethical in a secular liberal democracy. Public action to be ethical needs to recognize the primacy of human rights and human dignity before all other idols, religious or otherwise.

    Comment by tildeb — October 20, 2009 @ 3:16 am | Reply

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