I Am Not Militaristic.

In reply to this video on various immoral things outright commanded in what is supposed to be God’s law in the Old Testament, Loyal writes:

Militaristic non-Christians often seize upon the many difficult passages where God is condoning morally repugnant acts.

The use of the word “militaristic” to characterize all who “seize upon the many difficult passages where God is condoning morally repugnant acts” is to imply, palpably falsely, that there is a direct correlation between using these texts to evaluate the moral worth of the Bible on the one hand and “militarism” on the other hand.  Whether or not actual militaristic non-Christians like, say, General Mao liked using the immorality in the Pentateuch to criticize Christianity is irrelevant.  There is nothing inherently militaristic about raising serious moral objections to a book for which divine authority is claimed.  That is perfectly within the range of free and peaceable, and I would argue vitally necessary, discourse.

If what you mean to do is to tar outspoken atheists such as myself as militaristic because we refuse to quietly, passively, and non-confrontationally allow religious ideas to go unchallenged in suitable public and private forums, then you are attempting to slander people, turn others against them based on a false and ugly characterization of their intentions and their actions, and to, in effect, force them into silence.

Unless you can find me any calls for the violent imposition of atheism or the legally coercive prohibition of religion and implementation of atheism as law of the land that come from either me or Andrew Skegg, I would appreciate it if you did not associate us with violent attitudes.

What you have is a rationally, but never physically forceful opponent in the contemporary Anglo-American activist atheists whom you besmirch unjustly with the word “militaristic”.  And we will not be bullied into silence with insulting mischaracterizations of our behavior.  We argue on grounds of moral and intellectual conscience without raising a fist or any other weapon.  This is our legal right and many of us see it as a moral and intellectual duty.

You do not have to like us.  You are more than welcome to marshal whatever arguments against the merits of our positions that you think are true and persuasive.  You are more than welcome to make fun of something we say if you find it absurd and you think the rhetorical tactic is the best way of getting others to recognize the absurdity.

But don’t outright lie about us and try to bully us into silence by trying to equate vocal insistence on rational investigation with violence.

In the next post, I will gladly resume the civil and spirited debating of ideas which characterizes this blog.  In particular I will explore Loyal’s substantive and interesting arguments that atheists misunderstand or, worse, deliberately ignore important other considerations which might allow for the repugnant practices found in the Old Testament to be read as truly the word of a morally perfect God.

Your Thoughts?

About Daniel Fincke

Dr. Daniel Fincke  has his PhD in philosophy from Fordham University and spent 11 years teaching in college classrooms. He wrote his dissertation on Ethics and the philosophy of Friedrich Nietzsche. On Camels With Hammers, the careful philosophy blog he writes for a popular audience, Dan argues for atheism and develops a humanistic ethical theory he calls “Empowerment Ethics”. Dan also teaches affordable, non-matriculated, video-conferencing philosophy classes on ethics, Nietzsche, historical philosophy, and philosophy for atheists that anyone around the world can sign up for. (You can learn more about Dan’s online classes here.) Dan is an APPA  (American Philosophical Practitioners Association) certified philosophical counselor who offers philosophical advice services to help people work through the philosophical aspects of their practical problems or to work out their views on philosophical issues. (You can read examples of Dan’s advice here.) Through his blogging, his online teaching, and his philosophical advice services each, Dan specializes in helping people who have recently left a religious tradition work out their constructive answers to questions of ethics, metaphysics, the meaning of life, etc. as part of their process of radical worldview change.

  • MinnieTheFinn

    Methinks the man meant to use the word militant rather than militaristic. The term has been long in use in such cases as “militant lesbians” or “militant environmentalists” and basically describes anyone representing a minority who will not take the submissive, apologetic role but rather strives to argue their case.

    Militaristic, on the other hand, means something to do with armies and violent physical confrontation.

    The fact that they do not know the difference of the two words (or worse, decide to ignore it)is not even irritating, it’s just plain amusing :)

    As far as I can tell, there are no militaristic atheist groups operating. As to militaristic non-Christians, the first groups that comes to mind are Hizbollah and Al-Quaida. But atheist they are not.

    And to the question itself: am I militaristic in my atheism? No, never. I do not condone violence (also, I do not happen to have any troops trained in killing at hand at the moment, surprisingly). Am I militant? Hell yes. I aim to be as confrontational as I can, nothing less will do.

  • Daniel Fincke

    I do not think an environmentalist or a lesbian, lest they were willing to take up arms, would ever willingly take on the adjective of “militant”. You are shooting yourself in the foot, Minnie. Confrontational is fine. I am more than willing to be confrontational if I have to. But militant implies to me more than confronting, it implies crossing lines into violence. EVEN in the metaphorical sense. If not literal violence, it means you’re willing to be an extremist.

    But I do not see myself as at all an extremist. My position may be seen as extreme to the middle, but that is only because the hegemony of religion has so distorted where people put the fulcrum under the scale.

  • MinnieTheFinn

    You’re right, Daniel. The term “militant” was not originally used by these groups themselves, it is a term applied to them by others who saw their outspokenness as an offence. It is an attempt to marginalize them/us, an ultimate case of tone trolling, I suppose :) But at least here in Scandinavia, some groups have accepted the term and have started using it themselves, not in the violent context but rather in the tone “don’t fuck with us, or we will fight back”. Yes, it’s extremist, and maybe not the most rational stance to take in an ongoing debate, but I can understand the emotion well. There is a bullshit intake limit somewhere, and once it’s full, you just don’t care.

    (Yet, after googleing, I noticed that there are significant differences in the usage of the term militant. In US, it seems that the term has definitely a violent, if not even a terrorist connotation. Not so here in Europe.).

    As to you being an extremist? Far from it, and all the better. Of course you will be called that (and worse) by those feeling threatened by what you say. It’s so much scarier for them when things are spoken calmly and rationally :)

  • dartigen

    Weird. I always saw (and use)the term ‘militant x’ to refer to someone who is overtly aggressive about x’s agenda and shoves it down my throat in an impolite manner, without allowing me to discuss or debate. Militant to me was not a true synonym with extremist, because you can be an extremist x without being aggressive about it. Extremism is more to do with beliefs than behaviour.
    I don’t see many militant (by my definition) atheists. We’re pretty mellow people, probably because we already know that being aggressive is not going to make any friends and is, quite frankly, annoying and immature.
    Now, militant deists…ohhh, don’t get me started!

  • dartigen

    (In addition) OP, you’re the antithesis of militant. If you were militant, you wouldn’t be posting on this blog, you’d be on a street corner annoying the crap out of some office workers with atheist preaching. This blog is not militant – you’re not tearing deists a new one in text, you’re not outrightly insulting them (subtly, on occasion, but not often) and you’re certainly not calling for the forced conversion of all deists and/or total destruction of religion. Instead, all I see on this blog is the calm presentation of an alternative, atheist viewpoint – with the occasional request for reader response. It’s pretty mellow here.

    And as MinnieTheFinn said, in other countries it seems to connotate violence. Here in Australia, we usually take it to mean ‘really aggressive’. I’m guessing because we don’t quite have the religious history of the US – it’s pretty quiet here on the religion front, and most Aussies have such a blase attitude towards the whole thing that it’s not likely to change anytime soon. If we had the problems of the US – religious violence and such – then ‘militant’ would probably tie with ‘violent’ to us. Though now I see the point that was made.

    (Off-topic, but isn’t it funny how we don’t even have to preach to spread atheism? It’s just kind of gaining popularity by itself.)

  • MinnieTheFinn

    I also just realized that the word militant is closely related to the term militia, which definitely has a repugnant smell in certain parts of the world. In Finland, we do not have such a word nor do we have any organizations that could be called by the name (well, maybe a couple of wannabes, but nothing serious) – hence the usage of militant is quite diluted here.

    This’ll teach me to consider my words more closely. If only Loyal did so, too.

  • Daniel Fincke

    I should mention for what it’s worth that Loyal and I go way back and he is nothing if not well-intentioned and I imagine will take to heart what I had to say above. In fact, he is so well-intentioned and has such a relatively better sort of Christianity than most (he’s a Mennonite and so his Christianity is much more consistent with the Sermon on the Mount, pacifism, and social justice than, say, Sarah Palin’s is), that it is almost unfair that I took a remark from him of all people to make an example out of.

    But the issue is so important, I think, to clarify and to stand up for atheists on that I didn’t want to let it stand unchallenged. A major thing we need to do as atheists is show zero tolerance for the attempts to marginalize us through mischaracterization, even when they come from the most generally well-meaning of people.

  • http://asystemofrandomtangents.wordpress.com/ Anna Johnstone

    In the UK word is also used as a derogatory description of anyone representing a minority or cause who will not take the submissive, apologetic role but rather strives to argue their case. Gently reminding people of the correct definition of the word ‘militant’ is usually enough to change peoples’ tunes.


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