Arrogance, Aspersion and Atheism
We have just passed the eleventh anniversary of the deaths of thousands of people in the name of one religion, an act which lead to what at least two world leaders openly called a ‘Crusade’ into the Middle East, ending the lives of countless thousands more. These are merely two of the most recent examples of atrocities performed in the name of religion.
Through centuries past, millions have died and been tortured in the name of one god or another. There are many whose radical thought and pioneering scientific discoveries brought them the end of their lives. There are also those who had the misfortune of believing in the wrong gods or were simply in the wrong place at the wrong time. The religious powers have frequently used their authority to silence free speech, thought and expression, which many believe has held back the development of the human race.
Since the advent of the internet, we have found a portal of complete and unrestrained freedom of speech. While this offers a great capacity for the sharing of ideas and knowledge, it has come at a price. Freedom of speech without limitation will always lead to things being said which can often be seen as ignorant and abusive. It is not uncommon, for example, to discover a vicious argument between atheists and religious folks in the comments section of a pop music video, which devolves from what was initially a well structured article to petty name-calling and slander.
It is in part due to the particularly vocal atheist groups on the internet that the term ‘militant atheist’ has entered the common vocabulary. It refers to the aggressive nature of these users, many of whom had never before been able to discuss their own atheism in their own peer groups thanks to the rabid marginalisation many such individuals suffer in their own societies. The term ‘militant’ holds an immediate association with people who are prepared to do extreme harm, including killing others, to spread their message or achieve their goals. There is absolutely no comparison between someone who makes brutish and insulting comments on the internet and someone prepared to end the lives of others.
Of course, this is not to say that I believe that atheists are incapable of wrong doing, neither do I think that wars and crimes against humanity are solely the fault of the myriad religions of this planet - we have shown ourselves more than capable of killing each other for far less than eternal life in paradise. However, the great deal of atrocities that have been performed in the name of one god or many simply cannot be ignored, especially in light of the fact that there has not ever been one single atrocity done in the name of reason, science or logic. This demonisation of the vocal atheist movement as ‘militant’ not only tarnishes the opinions of said movement as ‘extreme views’, but it also trivialises the horrific acts performed by genuine religious militants, essentially comparing the hurt one might feel for being called ignorant for one’s heartfelt beliefs with the bombing of abortion clinics or the burning of embassies in retaliation to a film which dares to say that your religion is not the religion of peace.
Naturally, I could not in good conscience demand that the use of the term ‘militant atheist’ stop being used; this goes against my own philosophy of total freedom of speech. I only ask that the next time you feel that your beliefs are being belittled by over-zealous atheists, remember that using such terms only reduces yourself to their level. As for you who trawl the internet attacking religious beliefs, bear in mind that your own world-view is just as much a guess as anyone else’s. A claim that there is definitely no god requires as much proof as the claim that there is one. I personally hold that the existence of a god has very little evidence to support it, with the majority of what has previously been held as concrete proof being given scientific explanations. However, that does not mean that there is no such being; I have merely made the self-determined choice to live as though there were none.
I’d like to say that there is no such thing as a militant atheist. Of course I’m wrong, but there is a pretty huge gap in behaviour of militant atheists and militant members of other religions. Certainly militant atheists shine a poor light on atheists and atheism in general, much in the same way that many feminists shine a poor light on feminism - by making wild, aggressive and unfounded statements about opposing viewpoints. However, this brand of militancy pales in comparison to the militancy of other religions, most profoundly that of Christianity and Islam, which has seen murder, arson and other atrocities performed in the names of these faiths. This is not to say that these faiths demand or even approve of these actions - the vast majority of those who follow these religions find the aforementioned actions to be abhorrent, however, it cannot be denied that these actions occur. Hence why I find it intolerable that to brand someone a ‘militant’ [insert viewpoint here] for merely being an obnoxious and ignorant loud-mouth is an accepted form of argument. There’s a difference.
When was the last time a militant atheist killed anyone or blew anything up? I’d rather live in a world of pig-headed militant atheists than militant members of any other religion. Except Buddhists. ‘Militant’ Buddhists are probably more peaceful than ‘militant’ atheists, and that’s saying something.