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Thread: Atheism, 21st century-style. New? Militant?

  1. #1
    Orwellian The Atheist's Avatar
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    Atheism, 21st century-style. New? Militant?

    Over the past couple of decades, since atheism has largely come out of the closet, it is often asserted that atheism has a new militancy, that it has become doctrinaire, or some other wild generalisation. I contend that there is nothing new, or newly-militant, about atheism, and in fact it is religion painting atheism as bad that has more to do with the general perception than anything atheists are doing.

    For starters, nothing about atheism is new. People have been atheistic since long before the Abrahamic gods arose in man's contemplation. People have also attacked religion quite mercilessly for thousands of years as well.

    The world holds two classes of men - intelligent men without religion, and religious men without intelligence.
    Those words come from over a thousand years ago, yet they are at least as abusive as any treatise by any recent author.

    During the French Revolution, christianity was often punishable by death, yet I see no modern atheists asking for theists to be put to the sword.

    As to recent popular books on the subject, they are no more dogmatic or militant than Bertie Russell's speech 83 years ago.

    There are unquestionably more atheists now than in Bertie's day, and religious adherents are shrinking in the developed world and have been for some time. It suits religion to paint unbelief as some kind of evil doctrine, and the first rotten apple to be thrown is that atheists are big meanies.

    So let's compare attacks.

    In this very forum are posts which tell me and other atheists that we will be tortured for eternity for simply not being faithful to a god which is invisible to us.

    While that doesn't bother me for a billisecond, think about the level of abuse it contains - you are taking delight in someone being tortured for billions of years. Not because they were a mass murderer or rapist, but only because they refused to believe in your god!

    This forum is by no means unique, and a simple search of Google for "Atheists go to hell" returns 55,000 results, many of which are theistic in nature and confirm that atheists do indeed go to hell:

    Atheists don’t believe that God exists. It logically follows that they would not believe that God sent his Son into the world to save them, thus they will will not trust on him to save them from their sins. Any atheist who persists in his belief will perish.
    link

    Short answer: Jesus is the only way, gate, etc. So, the "good atheist" is still gonna burn.
    link

    By no means all churches take this view. The RCC, for instance, allows that an atheist who lived a "good" life may avoid going to hell; but then again, the pope only last month likened atheists to Nazis.

    Is it any wonder that the proliferation of hardline christianity which spawns these widespread feelings has resulted in some atheists fighting back? And that "fighting back" takes no more form than sales of books by Dawkins, Hitchens, et al. Atheists must use a dictionary with a different meaning for "militant" than theists.

    Evangelical Amercian churches pay for missionaries to come to NZ to spread their word and seek converts. Do we class that as "militant christianity'?

    Yet when Richard Dawkins undertakes speaking engagements, it is somehow "militant".

    Theists sport billboards all over the planet demanding that their god be believed in.

    Yet when atheists put billboards on buses, they said "There's probably no god..."

    Where are these newly-militant atheists? I do not believe that they are new, and I do not believe that the few genuinely militant among them are any greater numbers than have been seen in the past - at any stage in the past.
    Go to work, get married, have some kids, pay your taxes, pay your bills, watch your tv, follow fashion, act normal, obey the law and repeat after me: "I am free."

    Anon

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    Subconcious Explorer oshima's Avatar
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    Yes, there have always been atheists. When you take even a cursory look at the history of this issue, most arguments about the existence of god are boring, trite, and often not about the existence of god so much as validation of an individual's personal worldview by any (argumentative) means necessary. Viewpoints, especially on this subject always wane and wax one way or another, as long as there is language it will likely always be this way. The "New Atheist" movement is pretty old hat, but at least most of their figureheads are informative (Dawkins) and elegant (Hitchens) writers.
    "Post-historic man will be allergic to science for AT LEAST a hundred years!" -Dominic Matei

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    Registered User Fat Mike's Avatar
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    Offtopic, but I'd like to write a couple of lines about the subject:

    Unfortunatly, I'm not sure that the number of atheists has increased, it's just an illusion. It's just that atheist literature gets more space nowadays since the freedom of speech and other quasi-rights have been established. And the funny thing is, that it's totally useless. Dawkins and Co might be an amusement for us atheists, but I really doubt that it can convert the religious. Anyway, I think it's natural that they feel threatened because of the increasing anti-religious literature, but they are making the same false conclusion as the atheist camp, that it's necessarily a sign on the diminishing of religion.
    Correct me if I write something wrong, please. I try to learn proper English. Thank you!

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    First of all, great OP.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fat Mike View Post
    Unfortunatly, I'm not sure that the number of atheists has increased, it's just an illusion.
    Not true. Atheism is the fastest growing 'religion' (it's not a religion!), doing better than Islam even. In certain countries or demographics, it's even the majority now (i.e. Sweden or members of the National Academy of Sciences).

    Quote Originally Posted by Fat Mike View Post
    Dawkins and Co might be an amusement for us atheists, but I really doubt that it can convert the religious. Anyway, I think it's natural that they feel threatened because of the increasing anti-religious literature, but they are making the same false conclusion as the atheist camp, that it's necessarily a sign on the diminishing of religion.
    Dawkins has a 'converts corner' on his website, with thousads of testimonies. But you're right, believers are hard to convince and the effect probably isn't very significant. In my view, the biggest achievement of the 'new atheism' is that 'atheist' has become a normal term. I remember well when I was younger and heard the first time that one of my favorite authors was an 'atheist' (not an agnostic), I was somewhat shocked. I don't even know why, the word just struck me as radical and hateful. Now it's pretty common, and most people start to understand that 'agnostic' is just a lame.

  5. #5
    Can someone explain to me why athiests shouldn't be militant? The negative effects on laws and social mores is obvious and, to be honest, anyone who believes they would personally benefit from armegeddon is dangerous to say the least. Remember, these people's votes count just as much as yours and mine.

    If it were really a live and let live thing I could understand letting people get on with their silly beliefs, but we're talking about a group that hangs it hat on circular logic and willful (nay, joyful) ignorance. Remember that Pres. Bush was a good Christian man! Nevermind the fact that he's a war criminal..

    Athiests cannot afford to stand on the sideline. Religion needs to be eradicated.

    The next step, of course, is apatheism - the highest form of athiesm. When that happens, we know we've made it.

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    Orwellian The Atheist's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fat Mike View Post
    Unfortunatly, I'm not sure that the number of atheists has increased, it's just an illusion.
    No, it is demonstrably true that atheism is growing and religion declining - in the developed world at least.

    Over half of Britons now do not believe in any god/s. That is a huge increase from 60 years ago. Other western countries are in much the same pattern.

    Quote Originally Posted by baaaaadgoatjoke View Post
    Can someone explain to me why athiests shouldn't be militant?
    Certainly not me!

    The recent survey which showed athiests as the least-trusted minority group in USA is food for the idea that we're nowhere near militant enough.

    Quote Originally Posted by baaaaadgoatjoke View Post
    Athiests cannot afford to stand on the sideline. Religion needs to be eradicated.
    I wouldn't go quite that far - I'm happy for it to stay around as on old tradition like Halloween.
    Go to work, get married, have some kids, pay your taxes, pay your bills, watch your tv, follow fashion, act normal, obey the law and repeat after me: "I am free."

    Anon

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    Registered User Fat Mike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by baaaaadgoatjoke View Post
    Remember, these people's votes count just as much as yours and mine.
    So you're a believer after all?
    Correct me if I write something wrong, please. I try to learn proper English. Thank you!

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    Ecurb Ecurb's Avatar
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    The problem with both Hitchens and Dawkins is that they attack religion at its weakest links. Bashing uneducated Fundamentalists is a bit like the U.S. invading Grenada -- victory is easy, but there's not much glory in it. Dawkins in particular is unsophisticated in his approach. I'll grant that the book that made him famous (“The Selfish Gene”) was a step forward in how we think about evolution, but even in that book his chapter on culture and “memes” was (as I remember it, which is not very well) of dubious value.

    In addition, it seems to me that we are moving into a post-religious age. As The Atheist points out, half the people in the U.K are not religious. I live in the supposedly religious United States – but I barely know a single religious person. There’s a sort of gloating snootiness to Hitchens’ belittling of religion. It’s as if a modern, second-rate scientist said, “Isaac Newton sure was a moron. Look at all the stupid stuff he believed.”

    In a post religious age, it is no longer necessary to belittle religion or to argue against the “existence” of God. (Exactly how does a non-corporeal and transcendent being ‘exist’ or 'fail to exist'?) Instead, we can look at God and religion as one of the Humanities – one of the great creations of mankind, through the study of which we can learn about ourselves (just as we do through studying literature, for example).

    Hitchens and Dawkins (like our own goatjoke) think religion “needs to be eradicated”. But the question of whether religion has been “good” or “bad” for mankind over the millennia is not easily answered. As members of a literary community, we can perhaps at least admit that religion has influenced some of the great literature, architecture, paintings, and works of music of humankind. I go along with The Atheist: I LIKE Halloween (all those ghosts and goblins are, of course, supernatural beings and thus "religious").

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    Dance Magic Dance OrphanPip's Avatar
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    There's also the problem that we can't really ignore the tangible effects religion continues to have in controlling the lives, and negatively influencing some people's lives, as we speak. Religion is hardly the benign cancer some would make it out to be. Billions of people continue to live in nations where religion is allowed to dictate who you can sleep with, what you can wear, who you can speak to in public, and what you're allowed to say.

    Religion does not need to be eradicated, but it needs to be pushed out of serious consideration in the public sphere.

  10. #10
    BadWoolf JuniperWoolf's Avatar
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    I'm pretty convinced by now that religion can't be eradicated. On an individual level, it has a valuable purpose that I don‘t see the majority of people ever being able to live without. It's only when religious groups start telling people what to do, using their position of power to affect government policies and scare and oppress people that don't abide by their dogmas - then that religion becomes unacceptable. That's the purpose of so-called "militant new atheists," they're a reaction against the obvious and numerous harms caused by organized religion (I don't have to waste time talking about the problems that organized religion have caused in the modern world, only the wilfully ignorant would be unaware of them at this point). Sure they're annoying and often pretentious, but their views are understandable and they serve as a "balancing mechanism" to counter-out religious fundamentalism, which is good.

    As long as religious fundamentalism exists, I welcome the new atheist. I don't think that they can do any harm to the spirituality of individuals, but I do see them taking a huge chunk out of organized religion.
    Last edited by JuniperWoolf; 11-10-2010 at 10:26 PM.
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  11. #11
    I won't even concede that on a personal level religion is good. Maybe in a few cases for a truly messed up individual because lets face it, if it takes the threat of eternal hell to, pardon me, light a fire under the 'morals' part of you then you probably need a doctor.

    People don't behave ethically because their religion tells them to. They do however engage in bigotry because their religious leaders tell them to.

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    Subconcious Explorer oshima's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by baaaaadgoatjoke View Post
    I won't even concede that on a personal level religion is good. Maybe in a few cases for a truly messed up individual because lets face it, if it takes the threat of eternal hell to, pardon me, light a fire under the 'morals' part of you then you probably need a doctor.
    There are religions who ignore the concept of the existence god and avoid direct moralizing. Can, say, Zen Buddhism or many types of Hinduism be only good for a "truly messed up individual."? It seems like a large proportion of religious criticism is aimed at literalistic or semi-literalistic interpretations of Abrahamic religions, and to criticize "religion" is nebulous and inaccurate.
    "Post-historic man will be allergic to science for AT LEAST a hundred years!" -Dominic Matei

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    Ugly is beautiful Serena03's Avatar
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    The expression of atheism may be as emanate as homosexuality ever was, both of which are still under harsh discrimination and oppression. Still a militant organization would actually defy the concept of atheism, they may actually have to be obligated to call themselves a 'religion' if so. You then become part of the problem rather than the 'solution.'

    But I would hardly say religion is on its way out, more than ninety-five percent of the world is still very much devout or at least still interested. And if evolution has taught us anything, it is that a "selfish gene" likes the satisfaction of fruitful enrichments, manipulated by our own weaknesses and strengths. We can only survive if we have reason or willingness to persist. However, nature itself may just as well determine our fate for us.

    But the endurance of religion has shown that much of society is still much too weak to comprehend the acrimony and complexity of the universe and the 'power' that really comes from within. Their infinite deep-seated need for belief and further conveyance has been society's 'strongest' inquiry motivation and willpower. Attempt for eradication will only feed the fire.
    Last edited by Serena03; 11-11-2010 at 04:58 AM.

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    Registered User Fat Mike's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by baaaaadgoatjoke View Post
    I won't even concede that on a personal level religion is good. Maybe in a few cases for a truly messed up individual because lets face it, if it takes the threat of eternal hell to, pardon me, light a fire under the 'morals' part of you then you probably need a doctor.

    People don't behave ethically because their religion tells them to. They do however engage in bigotry because their religious leaders tell them to.
    Okey, I might be on thin ice by saying this because of the obvious flaws according to the rules of argumentation, but I'll still risk it in order to shed light upon the hypocrisy of a lot of atheists and serve as a comparison.

    So the basic argument against religion is that it makes people do stupid things. But how about the so called secularized Western world then? We don't use religion anymore to commit genocide, but rather the invention of democracy and human rights which are the 21st centurys religion. At least in the western world. Democracy is based on bull****, so do human rights and are used to kill innocent people in third world countries. Does it sound familiar? I think it sounds just like the history of Christianity. Why don't the atheists attack the way of thinking in developed countries? I mean all those fancy expressions in politics serve the same purpose as religion did a couple of hundred years ago. It's a mean to power and wealth for the ruling elite. That's why religion got it's bad reputation. But we never question our western beliefs, because we are convinced that it is the truth.

    My point is, I guess, that it's not about the personal beliefs, but rather about the controling elite of the specific belief system. Of course people should never be encouraged to choose a God, but even if they do for personal reasons, it doesn't automatically make them killers. One similarity between atheists and believers is our naive commitments to our image of truth. So when the ruler uses our conviction in order to achieve selfish goals, we obey. So blaming religion itself is as stupid as blaming cats not ****ting in toilets.
    Correct me if I write something wrong, please. I try to learn proper English. Thank you!

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    Dance Magic Dance OrphanPip's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Fat Mike View Post

    So the basic argument against religion is that it makes people do stupid things. But how about the so called secularized Western world then? We don't use religion anymore to commit genocide, but rather the invention of democracy and human rights which are the 21st centurys religion. At least in the western world. Democracy is based on bull****, so do human rights and are used to kill innocent people in third world countries. Does it sound familiar? I think it sounds just like the history of Christianity. Why don't the atheists attack the way of thinking in developed countries? I mean all those fancy expressions in politics serve the same purpose as religion did a couple of hundred years ago. It's a mean to power and wealth for the ruling elite. That's why religion got it's bad reputation. But we never question our western beliefs, because we are convinced that it is the truth.
    I don't see how democracy is based on bull****, it is a tested and effective means of governance that is the best way to ensure individual participation and representation. There is a big difference from the actions of states at the international level, which always act in ways to increase their own power, and the participation of the state in limiting the rights of individuals for the arbitrary reason of religion. Religion doesn't have a bad reputation because it did bad a few years ago. Religion continues to do bad. Last year the Catholic church endorsed life imprisonment for homosexuals in Nigeria. Women continue to be oppressed in the name of religion throughout the Middle East. Religion's past is irrelevant when its present is still oppressive.

    Besides, I support democracy and individual rights because I'm a social democrat, not because I'm an atheist. Democracy is not the opposite to religion, but secularism is a necessity for the proper functioning of a liberal democracy.

    Quote Originally Posted by Fat Mike View Post
    My point is, I guess, that it's not about the personal beliefs, but rather about the controling elite of the specific belief system. Of course people should never be encouraged to choose a God, but even if they do for personal reasons, it doesn't automatically make them killers. One similarity between atheists and believers is our naive commitments to our image of truth. So when the ruler uses our conviction in order to achieve selfish goals, we obey. So blaming religion itself is as stupid as blaming cats not ****ting in toilets.
    No, not all belief systems are equivalent. One that arbitrarily supports oppression of individual freedoms is not acceptable. Your position is reductionist and ignores the oppression at the level of the individual. Ignore the state level and look at how small Christian groups participate in attempting to get ID taught in schools, or campaign against gay rights. These have nothing to do with the greed and power of human beings, these have to do with the inherently flawed arbitrary morality of religion.

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