Militant vs. Gentle Atheists

knights_fightingSome Atheist posts say Atheists need to come out and be more vocal. These Atheists belittle agnostics and conciliatory atheists as being weak and not helpful. On the other hand, some Atheist posts say that Militant atheists are alienating potential listeners by exaggerating their claims. But I see a role for all of us…

The “Militant Atheists”(MA) ironically benefits  the “Gentle Atheist”(GA) by making the GA seem under- control, rational, and compromising and thus giving the GA a larger audience. Theists listening to a GA might say, “While I don’t like Atheism, at least this Atheist is thoughtful.” Thanks to the MA, the GA has a more receptive audience.

But not everyone is receptive to the GA.  Another part of the population will joyfully ignore the voices of GAs and continue to get away with religious oppression. For this portion of the population, we need MAs to sacrifice gentile approaches to regain freedoms stolen.

Both MAs and GAs serve our community well ! Ironically, most of us “choose” to be MA or GA based on our personality type, not because we have thought through the two approaches and decided to be who we are.  Then after our personality choses our fate, we pretend to be a highly rational volitional actor and brag of how virtuous it is to be us instead of them!

We need to be thankful for common purpose and neither apologize for each other nor attack each other. We need to understand, with humility, who we are.


Filed under Philosophy & Religion

11 responses to “Militant vs. Gentle Atheists

  1. pinnythewu

    You almost make Atheism sound like a religion itself. You have used words such as ‘audience’, ‘potential listeners’ and ‘claims’. I always thought of atheism as an absence of religion, therefore without need of audience, listeners or claims. I wasn’t aware of MA and, honestly, the idea terrifies me! Atheists are quick to jump on the beast of religion as the cause of all war. But, if there are militant atheists, this says to me that war is purely human nature and religion is just an excuse to kill each other, not the cause.

  2. I talk with Christians all the time about religion — they are an ‘audience’, ‘potential listeners’ and I make ‘claims’ about their holy books, their ethic systems, their life-after-death concepts, their …..
    “Militant Atheists” is a derogatory term applied by others for Atheists who speak out loudly and some consider offensively.
    I agree, Theist are not the cause of wars as much as it is government that cause war — people will use what ever they can to muster up the sheep to jump into the war — religion, jingoism, race … I agree, war is human nature.

    I must say, I think each Atheist does come with their own “religion”, but I am obviously using that in a qualified way. Each has their own worldview (everyone has one), and I feel Atheists can be grouped in telling ways by their world views — I jestfully (but part seriously) call it “Atheist Theology” — I hope to post on it soon.

    And your note made me think about another fun experimental pictorial post to make soon — Taxonomy of Atheists !

    Thanx for your comment

  3. I think the more of us addressing this issue the better. At the same time, I don’t agree with framing the distinction as one of “militant” vs. “gentle.” I say this not just because I am convinced that there simply cannot be such a thing as a militant lack of belief but because I think the key is more about assertiveness. Many Christians are going to try to cast assertive atheists as being militant. This is a mistake, and we should not feed it. There is nothing militant about standing one’s ground, promoting one’s civil rights, and defending reason. There is also nothing militant about criticizing irrational beliefs.

  4. Thanx for visiting, Vjack.
    I agree, it is an excellent issue to address.
    I agree, as you can see in the next post, that Atheists have much to be indignant about ! I think assertive is good. But we are not addressing Civility. Maybe tonight I will post a graph with “Civility” vs. “Aggressive” . I think you can be civily aggressive. The question is, what are the rules. Atheists are not agreed on that. But then Theists aren’t either, obviously.
    But two wrongs don’t make a right — but some people think they do.

  5. While it may be a little silly to try to “defend” reality, that’s essentially what we’re doing when we point out the errors in religion. Religion is largely presented as a harmless, positive belief that you should be proud to hold, but in reality, it’s nothing of the sort. For the same reason we need to decry pseudoscientific nonsense because it inaccurately describes reality, we need to point out that religion, *ALL* religion, fails miserably when it comes to demonstrable reality, especially since there are all kinds of additional, even more harmful beliefs that you’re expected to buy into once you accept the initial ideas.

    Pointing this out doesn’t make you militant, it doesn’t make you extreme, it makes you concerned and there’s every right to be concerned about religions that teach peace on the one hand, then stab non-believers in the back with the other.

  6. Largely agree. We (or at least some of us) should be aggressive. But my question is “Can we differentiate between civil and uncivil aggression?” I am sure we can’t on an objective level but we could try to come up with guidelines. Some Atheists feel: “Damn it, they are not civil and their policies are deadly, so we don’t have to be either.”
    Some feel: “We need to be in-their-face and fight hard, but we don’t have to resort to poor techniques when we have many good ones that still work without being uncivil.” Obviously, the later is my camp.

    I think it is a good exercise to separate the dangerous dogma from the myriad of aspects that make up a person’s religion.

  7. The response needs to be proportional to the action. When someone is beating you over the head with a baseball bat, an appropriate response is not “excuse me, could you stop that?” Atheists have been and continue to be beat over the head with the proverbial baseball bat in America, we are the last truly disrespected minority in the nation, the only people it is really still legal to discriminate against and most of us are sick of it. Theists need to realize that not only are their tactics unacceptable, but we are willing to respond in kind. If all we’re willing to do is stand there and say “hey, stop that” as they keep swinging their bat, we’re just going to be beaten into submission and they’re going to walk away with a bloody bat on their shoulder, never remembering that we said anything.

    For those theists that swing a softer bat, we use a softer tactic. There isn’t a one-size-fits-all reaction.

  8. Seems reasonable to me. But even with retaliatory or even in pre-emptive strikes for a threatening enemy, there are different measures of choices of quality of attack which are on the same retaliatory/threat level. Just because the enemy is gruesome, does not mean that when we strike back with equally deadly force that we also have to maim or torture (for example).

  9. When you find atheists with the same political or social power as theists, who could possibly use the same “deadly force” that theists use on a daily basis, you let me know. It’s sort of like yelling at the five-year old girl that slaps the 500-lb musclebound wrestler because she’s using the same tactics the wrestler does.

    It’s a matter of scale that atheists cannot hope to compete on.

  10. No matter how I write it, I just can’t get folks to agree. Interesting. Thanx for the note Cephus.

  11. No problem, keep up the good work, it’s refreshing to read your views, even if I don’t necessarily agree.

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