‘Militant Atheism’ Isn’t a Religion; It’s an Oxymoron

Primatologist Frans de Waal has written a new book called The Bonobo and the Atheist: In Search of Humanism Among the Primates (released today). While the focus of the book is on the evolution of morality, an excerpt from the book on Salon suggests there’s an undercurrent of anger at the New Atheists:

Why are the “neo-atheists” of today so obsessed with God’s nonexistence that they go on media rampages, wear T-shirts proclaiming their absence of belief, or call for a militant atheism? What does atheism have to offer that’s worth fighting for?

As one philosopher put it, being a militant atheist is like “sleeping furiously.”

Why are we on “media rampages”? Because we get invited to talk about our beliefs by segment producers at major networks and it’s a great opportunity to defend our beliefs in front of a large viewing audience.

Why do we wear shirts proclaiming our atheism? Because we’re rational, intelligent people and we’re tired of treating that as a shameful secret.

Why are we calling for “militant atheism”? We’re not. I have no idea what that means since no atheist in the public eye has ever called for violence or anything but a revolution of ideas. We want people to see the world as we do and we’ll attempt to make that happen through our words.

What do we have to offer? Truth! Skepticism that cuts through bullshit to get to the heart of reality! A world view supported by the evidence instead of superstition and mythology!

de Waal made many of these same points in the New York Times in 2010 and it’s obvious very little has improved in his thinking on the matter:

Over the past few years, we have gotten used to a strident atheism arguing that God is not great (Christopher Hitchens) or a delusion (Richard Dawkins). The new atheists call themselves “brights,” thus hinting that believers are not so bright. They urge trust in science, and want to root ethics in a naturalistic worldview.

Even the staunchest atheist growing up in Western society cannot avoid having absorbed the basic tenets of Christian morality. Our societies are steeped in it: everything we have accomplished over the centuries, even science, developed either hand in hand with or in opposition to religion, but never separately. It is impossible to know what morality would look like without religion. It would require a visit to a human culture that is not now and never was religious. That such cultures do not exist should give us pause.

This is a man who doesn’t the most basic fact checking (people who are not “Brights” are not considered dumb, according to the people who created the term) and doesn’t do research into theories opposed to his own. Morality is not “Christian” even if the faith permeates our culture.

Dr. Jerry Coyne tore his argument apart right after he wrote that:

What’s bizarre in all this is that de Waal, despite his own atheism, has surely found a way for himself to be moral without being pseudo-religious, and yet he tells everyone else that they need established religion to secure their ethics. Can we not assume, Dr. de Waal, that other people may be as savvy and reasoned as yourself, and find a way to live ethically without a god?

It’s patronizing nonsense, that’s what it is. de Waal should have stuck to the evolution of morality.

Coyne added more recently:

The goal of New Atheism, as I see it, is not mainly to insult religious individuals, but to question the tenets of belief, point out the invidious consequences of unsupported belief, and question the unwarranted privilege that religion has arrogated to itself. Surely that’s something that a scientist like de Waal would approve of.

Bingo. This isn’t about attacking believers. We understand why they believe in God and we respect their right to believe it, but we want them to understand that there are better explanations out there for most of what they consider to be the handiwork of God. That involves pointing out when religion goes wrong — and even when religion goes right, because doing the right thing for the wrong reason isn’t ideal either.

Incidentally, the subtitle for the Salon article reads “Prominent non-believers have become as dogmatic as those they deride — and become rich on the lecture circuit.

There’s nothing in the excerpt justifying the latter part of that statement (and, as I argue above, nothing justifies the former part either). If people like Dawkins and Harris make money giving talks, it’s because they’re best-selling authors who can command high speaking fees. (For that matter, so can Malcolm Gladwell and Ann Coulter.) There are plenty of popular atheist authors out there who get little to no money for their talks, so it’s not like talking about atheism is a gateway to wealth. Furthermore, the subtitle suggests that the “prominent non-believers” are only strident about their atheism in order to rake in cash, as if their passion for the subject has nothing to do with it.

It’s misleading and unfair. It’s a provocative headline designed to generate more pageviews even though the article in question doesn’t mention it at all. You expect that from low-readership blogs, not professional websites/magazines like Salon.

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • Librepensadora

    I think DeWaal and other critics of the supposed “militancy” of the New Atheism, confuse “militant” with “vigilant.” The head of the history department at my high school had this posted in large letters in his classroom: “Eternal vigilance is the price of freedom.” If groups like FFRF and the RDFRS were not vigilant against attempts to end the separation of politics and religion and to abrogate the First Amendment, we would all lose our freedom to follow our consciences and to worship–or not to worship–as we chose.

    • C Peterson

      You make a good point, but overlook something important: neither of the organizations you mention are atheist groups. Quite properly, neither contains the word “atheist” in their name. These organizations demonstrate a certain “militancy” (and vigilance), for sure. But they aren’t promoting atheism. Rather, they are “dispromoting” theism, and even more, the harmful societal impact that theism and religiosity foster. The distinction is important.

      • Librepensadora

        Maybe the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science is not an atheist organization, but Dawkins himself is the most famous atheist on the planet and is the one most often attacked as a “militant atheist.”

        • C Peterson

          Of course Dawkins is famous as an atheist. And that’s great; I love it when people who make a habit of saying intelligent things identify themselves as atheists. Dawkins is militant. Dawkins is an atheist. But calling him a “militant atheist” misrepresents what he really is, which is a militant anti-theist and anti-religionist. But plenty of atheists are also responsible for that misrepresentation (just look at A+, or American Atheists), so it’s pretty easy to see how people outside this community, like DeWaal, might be confused. If we can’t get it right, how can we expect them to?

          • Librepensadora

            What is the difference between a militant atheist and a militant anti-theist?

            • C Peterson

              All the difference in the world. “Militant atheist” makes no semantic sense, other than an atheist who is also militant- for instance, an atheist who aggressively supports women’s rights. Of course, there is no connection between the two, and therefore little reason to use that expression. Since atheism doesn’t represent any philosophical position or viewpoint, there’s nothing to be militant about.

              “Militant anti-theist”, on the other hand, makes perfect sense. Theism is an active philosophical viewpoint, which demands a body of actual beliefs- beliefs that have social consequences, and beliefs that can be rationally challenged- which is what an anti-theist does. And if that anti-theist is sufficiently aggressive, it makes perfect sense to call them a militant anti-theist.

              • GCT

                No, it doesn’t make any sense. When Richard Dawkins flies a plane into a building, then by all means call him militant.

                • C Peterson

                  I consider Richard Dawkins to be militant even in the absence of flying a plane into a building. But his militancy has nothing to do with atheism, and everything to do with anti-theism and anti-religion. And those are beliefs that might inspire somebody to fly an airplane into a building, although I think that would be an unlikely occurrence.

                  Most religious terrorists are otherwise pretty normal, well-adjusted people, not sociopaths at all. In contrast, terrorists who operate without dogma to drive them are typically seen as mentally ill. (Religion isn’t the only source of dogma, but it’s the primary one.)

                • GCT

                  What’s militant about Richard Dawkins? Seriously. If writing dissenting opinions about a topic makes one militant, then everyone is militant to some degree, because we all disagree with something at some point. The whole point behind calling atheists militant is to tar and demonize them by comparison to terrorists. It’s atheophobic religious privilege run amok, and we should not be aiding it.

                • C Peterson

                  Do you consider the term “militant” to be negative in some way? I certainly don’t. A militant is anybody who is strongly active in some cause. I don’t think everybody is militant, but many are. And that certainly includes Dawkins, who speaks and writes aggressively against theism and religion.

                  Connecting militancy to terrorism makes no sense to me, and isn’t accurate. While most terrorists may also be militant, the vast majority of militants can’t remotely be considered terrorists.

                • GCT

                  Yes, militant is negative, especially when the connotation is describing atheists and connecting the activities of speaking out against religion to terrorist actions. The intent is to silence atheists and uphold religious privilege.

                  Passion and militancy are not the same thing. Militancy implies some sort of potential violence at least.

                • C Peterson

                  Your definition of “militant” is not mine. While one definition of the word means an actual fighter (as in a soldier), the other includes anybody who is active in a cause. And when it comes to social issues, that is overwhelmingly the definition used… and there is nothing negative about it. I am not in the slightest bit violent, nor do I ever advocate violence, but I am proud to be an anti-theist militant like Richard Dawkins.

                  I agree that the term “militant atheist” is generally used negatively (although not generally implying any sort of violence). I argue against that usage for the simple reasoning that it makes no sense. Atheism isn’t really something that can inspire militancy, because it doesn’t embody any particular belief system.

                • GCT

                  And, you don’t see the issue here? You’ve just agreed with me that the term “militant atheist” is generally used negatively. So, what do you do? You turn around and feed the fire for some reason. Why in the world do you want to help atheophobic bigots?

                • C Peterson

                  I don’t understand your point. I’ve argued all along that “militant atheist” is a poor term and should not be used. How am I feeding any fire? I support the use of the term “militant”, which I don’t see as negative. I simply see no place for “militant atheist”.

                • GCT

                  Because you are providing cover for those who do use “militant atheist”. You say, “I’m militant and I’m atheist” and people who seek to demonize atheists put the two together, even if you consciously did not. It’s a mistake to use the term “militant” at all.

                • C Peterson

                  We’ll just have to disagree about that. I consider “militant” a positive, and don’t discourage its use, assuming it modifies the thing that actually inspires the militancy.

                  The solution isn’t to remove “militant” from our language, but to correct those who use it incorrectly.

                • GCT

                  We are well past that line I’m afraid. The whole point of using the “militant” modifier is to demonize atheists as being as bad as terrorists. By accepting that mantle, you only make it worse. We need to reinforce the point that atheists are being considered as bad as terrorists simply for writing scathing remarks and point out the hypocrisy.

                • C Peterson

                  You miss the point. I don’t accept that mantle. If somebody calls me a militant atheist I correct them. If somebody uses the term “New Atheist” I correct them. If somebody calls Dawkins a militant atheist I correct them.

                • GCT

                  I’m not missing the point. You accept the mantle of militant. Once you’ve done that, the rest falls into place.

  • dewNOTbelieve

    Even the staunchest atheist growing up in Western society cannot avoid having absorbed the basic tenets of Christian morality.
    Our societies are steeped in it: everything we have accomplished over
    the centuries, even science, developed either hand in hand with or in
    opposition to religion, but never separately. It is impossible to know what morality would look like without religion.
    It would require a visit to a human culture that is not now and never
    was religious. That such cultures do not exist should give us pause.

    He’s right – as far as he goes – but he doesn’t go nearly far enough. He doesn’t recognize that “the basic tenets of [insert your local religion here]” are also not developed in a vacuum (unless you believe that they were indeed “divinely inspired”). They are the result of evolutionarily hard- and soft-coded ethical instincts in the human animal. Religion “cannot avoid having absorbed the basic tenets” of evolved ethical behavior.

    As evidence, we can look at the ethical behavior of pack, school, and hive animals. Lions and wolves share their kills; piranha do not eat each other in feeding frenzies, and bees sacrifice themselves by stinging to protect the hive. Yet none of these, nor countless others, have religion to provide their moral framework.

    • eonL5

      Excellently put! Thanks.

    • baal

      “absorbed the basic tenets of Christian morality.” I rather disagree with this fragment. I don’t think secular humanism is a sub set of christian thought.

      • GCT

        Agreed. For that matter, abolitionism is not a subset of Xian thought nor a “basic tenet of Xian morality”. Ditto for equal rights for women, gays, atheists and other non-Xians, etc.

  • WallofSleep

    Oh brother. If I ever start referring to myself as a “Bright”, would one of you be kind enough to shoot me?

    • Reginald Selkirk

      That would be immoral.

  • Gus Snarp

    The new atheists call themselves “brights,” thus hinting that believers are not so bright.

    You pointed out what’s wrong with the second part of that statement, but not the first part. Who calls themselves “brights”? Wasn’t that pretty much universally a failure? I imagine a few people still use it or want to see it used, but I don’t even seen Dawkins promoting the term these days.

    • coyotenose

      Seriously! I’m a bit late to the game, but I’ve only seen anyone use the term “Brights” in conversation in two ways: Theists who use it as a talking point, and atheists who explain that it doesn’t mean what people assume it means and that it’s kind of irrelevant since nobody uses it anyway.

  • Helanna

    “It would require a visit to a human culture that is not now and never was religious. That such cultures do not exist should give us pause.”

    That does give me pause. Or rather, the fact that every single culture ever has had a different religion gives me pause. If gods did exist, I would expect at least a few major cultures to have the same religion. Sure, lots of them are similar, but I dunno, if I were a god, and I wanted to be worshiped, I’d make damn sure everyone knew exactly who to worship and how to do that.

    It just bothers me when people use that when to me, it always just seems to support exactly the opposite view – that religion is often a tool people use to make themselves feel better about questions they can’t know the answers to.

    • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

      i take the ubiquity of religions to reflect some unpleasant truths about humans. some of us don’t like to work. some of us like to be in charge of others and tell them what to do and how to think. science is only just coming to explain a lot of big, scary realities in our universe and fear is a powerful and mind killing motive. people are also greedy and covet what their neighbors have, religion can be a useful way to motive a society to violently take those things away from others. and ruling dynasties, which history is chock full of, often need the ‘ultimate’ reason for existing. what better way than to say “it’s gods will?”

      but i tend to agree with you: if there were any god(s), you’d think they’d have made their presence undeniable and universally known by now. the fact that none have is the single most compelling support for the position of atheism.

  • C Peterson

    There is some truth in what he says. Certainly, the idea of a “New Atheism” is absurd. Anytime I hear the term, I cringe. In my own talks and writing, I distance myself from the concept, reminding people that there really is no such thing, and no real discussion of atheism (outside of philosophy and anthropology, perhaps). One can’t really give a talk on atheism, and most of the talks or books billed as such aren’t.

    The “militancy” as it exists (and that’s not the best choice of words) lies in anti-theism, anti-religion, and issues of state/church separation- all of which are justifiable and legitimate areas to engage in social activism. Atheists can be activists, and often are. They just can’t be activists about atheism. That’s the oxymoron.

    • Librepensadora

      What is absurd about the idea of “New Atheism”? As a New Atheist myself, I thought it meant those of us who gave up religion after reading one of those atheist best-sellers by Dawkins, Dennett, Harris, and Hitchens. Which concept do you think is non-existent: atheism itself or just “New Atheism”? What is your basis for claiming that there is “no real discussion of atheism outside of philosophy and anthropology, perhaps”? Christopher Hitchens dedicated much of the time he spent dying of cancer to debating the relative merits of atheism and religion in a wide variety of venues.

      • C Peterson

        I’d say that if you call yourself a “New Atheist” you’re part of the problem, not the solution.

        Atheism is not a philosophy. It carries with it no call to action, no philosophical or political positions, nothing at all except a lack of belief in any deity. There is nothing new in atheism- it is exactly as it has been forever. All that has changed is that we currently live in a society where it is possible for many or most people to be openly atheist without incurring overly severe social repercussions. That is, we have more vocal atheists than in the past (and more avenues for speaking out). To call that “New Atheism” is silly, especially as these people don’t really discuss atheism- what is there to discuss, after all? – but are typically discussing theism, religion, skepticism, and secularism.

        Hitchens wasn’t debating atheism, he was challenging the active belief system that is embodied by theism and religion.

        • http://twitter.com/jfigdor Jonathan Figdor

          I say if you call yourself a New Atheist, great. We need more people to be public about their non-belief in god. Whether you call yourself an Atheist, a Humanist, an Agnostic, a Skeptic, a Pastafarian, or a Free-thinker (any everything in-between), you should come out and let people know that you exist and you’re not buying the God myth.

          • C Peterson

            When you use “New Atheist” you are conflating atheism with other ideas, which have no logical association. That’s not a good thing. By all means, call yourself an atheist if that’s what you are, and the same for the other things in your list. I agree completely that doing so presents a positive public image. But don’t identify yourself with a misunderstood, misrepresented, ideologically ambiguous thing like “New Atheism”. That doesn’t do anybody any good.

            • coyotenose

              As I’ve said before, atheism, along with all other ideas, already carries social and philosophical baggage. That cannot be changed. It cannot be set to “neutral”. Our only choice about that baggage is whether it is positive or negative. The word does not exist in a vacuum except in dictionaries (which are also the only place where the word “agnostic” doesn’t mean “everyone”.)

              • C Peterson

                Yes, there is some baggage. But we, as atheists, don’t need to make it worse by further clouding the waters, which is what “New Atheism” represents.

                We can best serve the goal of making life easier for atheists by NEVER associating atheism with any sort of action or belief system. Yes, there are many who make that mistaken association- the baggage you refer to- but attitudes and ideas can be changed.

                • coyotenose

                  If we don’t push the positive associations, the negative ones will win by default.

                • C Peterson

                  I disagree. There are no positive associations- what some find positive, others will find negative. The best bet is no associations at all, which is also the truth.

                  Atheists can help dispel negative associations simply by being good people; they don’t need to invent “positive” associations that don’t exist.

                  “New Atheism” certainly doesn’t help atheists! Its message is used against those seeking a more humanist society. It is used by theists to promote inaccurate stereotypes of atheism.

                • GCT

                  No, “New Atheism” doesn’t help atheists because it’s a term of religious privilege made up by theists to demean and demonize atheists that are too uppity.

    • indorri

      I don’t particularly prescribe to what is called “New Atheism”, but I’m not convinced this is valid reasoning to reject it. Rejection of belief is not content nor context free. It may seem spectacularly obvious to us that not accepting that which has inadequate evidence is the default position, but that is frankly an alien way to reason for many people except for extraordinary trite premises, and sometimes not even then. “Intellectual defences” of atheism is really just defence of Bayesian evidential reasoning applied to the context of the independent existence of gods and while that may confirm that you can’t talk about atheism per se, the way I see it is that atheism is a part of the set of rejected hypotheses, so talking about such methodology in the first place seems automatically like talking about atheism (and disbelief in various pseudo-science, etc.)

    • No Surrender

      Mehta says that no atheist in the public eye has ever called for violence.
      No true.
      Sam Harris has.
      And I notice that Mehta limited that to “the public eye”, I have met atheists who think the time will come when they can use violence.
      Who ya kiddin? They are out there. Face it. Deal with. Be rational like you claim you are.
      Pretending its not there won’t help.

      • C Peterson

        I don’t think Sam Harris has ever called for violence. But the important thing you are missing is that you fail to understand the claim itself. Of course an atheist might make a call for violence, or be personally violent. I’ve not heard anybody suggest otherwise. What is vanishingly rare is for an atheist to call for violence in the name of atheism. This is in contrast to the religiously motivated violence that has defined human history, right to the present.

        • Pseudonym

          It’s a distinction without difference. If people want to commit violence, any excuse will do, regardless of how flimsy it is.

          • C Peterson

            There are ideas that can motivate people to violence, and religion is one of those. Non-religion isn’t.

            • Pseudonym

              Did you know that European nihilist anarchists invented the car bomb as a tool to attack churches and church property, believing established religion to be one of the root causes of all social ills?

              Well, now you do.

              • http://www.facebook.com/judith.fursdon Judith Fursdon

                Citation please? You can’t make a claim like that without evidence.

                • Pseudonym

                  Actually, I did just check my sources, and I got it slightly wrong. The car bomb was invented by nihilist anarchists who believed that established religion was one of the root causes of all social ills. The person usually credit was Edward Jorris. However, the first attack was an assassination attempt on Sultan Abdul Hamid II of the Ottoman Empire.

                  Reference: Buda’s Wagon: A Brief History of the Car Bomb by Mike Davis.

                • C Peterson

                  Nothing wrong with their views about religion, even if their actions were bad. But their views had nothing to do with atheism… and neither did their actions.

                • http://www.about.me/jbchapp JB Chappell

                  When one defines atheism as an utter lack of ideology or agenda, then sure, nothing can ever be the product of atheism. Thus, it is neither the cause of anything good or bad. But this would ignore how people identify themselves, their agendas, etc.

                • C Peterson

                  I don’t know of any such definition of atheism. Atheism is a lack of belief in deities, and that’s all it is.

                • http://www.about.me/jbchapp JB Chappell

                  Hardly anything is ever that simple, and it is clear that you want to cling to such an idea because you simply want to avoid any negative connotations being attached to the word “atheism”. Which, unfortunately for you, many of your fellow atheists are not being so cooperative with. Regardless, the fact of the matter is that in the vast majority of cases atheism is much more than just a “lack of belief”. Most people have come to that position for reasons. They reject certain claims for reasons. They find certain arguments unconvincing for reasons. Sure, many of the ideologies that shape these decisions may not be appropriately defined as “atheism”, but if they lead to atheism, then clearly atheism is more than what you claim.

                • aldewacs2

                  “They reject certain claims for reasons.”

                  I’ve been reading your exchanges and want to state my admiration for a stubbornly held position regardless of the facts. But I could not resist adding that the reasonable people I know reject all claims for which there is no shred of evidence. Atheism is just a subset of that in the theistic sense. In every other domain except (their own) religion, even theists routinely reject unsupported claims, including competing claims made by any and all other religions.

                  Claims do not get rejected for a reason – they get rejected because of a LACK of a reason to accept it… the very essence of atheism.

                  “Atheist” is a moniker given to those who hold that to be accepted, a claim needs some backup. The “militant atheists” moniker is apparently hurled at those who just (equally stubbornly, it might be wrongly said) will not betray that position merely because millions of others accept the claims without any basic backup. Such non-rejection of wild claims is explainable by the “bully” factor: believe what I say, or you’ll be socially ostracized. Fortunately those days are in the rear view mirror in most of the developed world, even as some religious clubs desperately want to slow human progress.

                • http://www.about.me/jbchapp JB Chappell

                  —”I’ve been reading your exchanges and want to state my admiration for a stubbornly held position regardless of the facts.”—

                  Not sure which position or facts you are referring to here

                  —”Claims do not get rejected for a reason – they get rejected because of a LACK of a reason to accept it… the very essence of atheism.”—

                  This is only partially true. Consideration of the claim and the reasons/evidence presented to support it are considered and rejected to be subpar, unconvincing, or whatever. So, yes, while there is a “lack of a reason” to accept it, one does not arrive at such a conclusion without having prior positive beliefs about how to evaluate evidence, what kind of evidence is convincing, etc.

                • Pseudonym

                  FWIW, I’m not arguing that atheism causes violence. But I’m also not arguing that religion causes violence.

                  People cause violence. Non-sociopaths need a reasonable excuse for their violence. That usually means convincing themselves that it was in the service of a good cause. The better the cause, the easier it is to convince yourself that you’re doing the right thing.

                  The “war on terror” (including possibly the only officially sanctioned and legally approved programmes of torture perpetrated by any nation in the modern era), was fought in the name of such things as “freedom”, “security” and “democracy”. The better the cause, the worse the atrocities you can excuse.

                • GCT

                  There are no teachings in atheism that cause people to see “others”. The same cannot be said of religion. Do you honestly believe that there’s no religious component to fighting in the Middle East? Sorry, but doctrines that teach hate don’t get off quite so easily.

                • C Peterson

                  Well, I am arguing that religion causes violence. You only have to pick up a history book to know that! The dogma of many major religions (e.g. Judaism, Christianity, Islam) explicitly calls for violence.

                  The fact that there are many other causes of violence (including innately violent people) is irrelevant to that conclusion.

            • http://www.about.me/jbchapp JB Chappell

              Non-religion is as much of the product an idea, or conglomeration of ideas, as anything else. This post exclaims, after all, “What do we have to offer? Truth!” Trying to generalize ideologies of atheists into a benign umbrella of “non-religion” is misleading.

              • C Peterson

                I agree that when theists opt to avoid religion, that’s reasonably viewed as the product of an idea. Atheism, however, isn’t. It is simply an absence of belief. Non-religion is the only position an atheist can have, obviously.

                • http://www.about.me/jbchapp JB Chappell

                  Absence of belief does not occur in a vacuum, unless you want to
                  claim that atheists are such because they are completely ignorant of
                  religion. No, there are reasons for the lack of belief. Ideologies,
                  methodologies, etc. all lead to a lack of belief.

                • C Peterson

                  Absence of belief does occur in a vacuum. You have to be taught to believe; without that, there can be no belief. Of course, there are reasons people are atheists. The simplest is that they were never indoctrinated with religion (that’s why I’m one). Or, they looked rationally at their beliefs and realized they made no sense (as when children stop believing in Santa Claus). None of this makes atheism itself an ideology, however, any more than not believing in leprechauns is an ideology.

                • http://www.about.me/jbchapp JB Chappell

                  The vast majority of atheists are not such because of a vacuum. Most have at least been introduced to the idea of religion/god, and somewhere along the way they decided to reject the notion(s). The fact that there are reasons for this, as you concede, means – as I said before – that atheism is the product of an idea(s). Atheism may not describe the ideology itself, just a result of them, but this is hardly significant, and it is simply wrong to say that atheism doesn’t imply an ideology.

                • C Peterson

                  I am unaware of any ideology that results from atheism. I know atheists who are generous and stingy, politically conservative and politically liberal, anti-theist and fully supportive of theism and religion.

                  People who are highly rational tend to be atheists. People who are highly rational are attracted to skepticism and freethought. It is the rationality that directs many people towards both atheism and the beliefs often associated with atheists. The false logic comes in tying those beliefs to the atheism itself.

                • http://www.about.me/jbchapp JB Chappell

                  That there isn’t any *one* ideology that can be tied to atheism hardly means that it doesn’t imply an ideology. I am aware of highly rational theists, liberal theists, conservative theists, etc. as well. The fact that there are theists with differing ideologies hardly means that theism does not imply an ideology, and the same goes for atheism. The fact remains that, in most cases, you don’t get to atheism (or hold to it) without an ideology.

                • GCT

                  And, what ideology is required to reject the unevidenced assertions of theists?

                • http://www.about.me/jbchapp JB Chappell

                  It isn’t that there is a particular ideology that is required. Although certainly there is some commonality here. Most atheists I know are going to either appeal to naturalism (whether methodological or metaphysical) or some skeptical principle like ECREE.

                  I’d disagree with the “unevidenced” qualifier with respect to certain claims, but the fact remains that if one requires a certain degree of evidence to accept a claim, that is at least part of an ideology.

                • GCT

                  IOW, you’re claiming that everyone has some sort of ideology. Defined broadly enough, which is what you seem to do, I’m inclinded to agree. OK. So what?

                  The point was that atheism does not lead to an ideology.

                  And, you can disagree with the “unevidenced” qualifier until you are blue in the face, but unless you can actually present some evidence – something no one has ever been able to do – it is a correct qualifier.

                • http://www.about.me/jbchapp JB Chappell

                  The vast majority of the people in the world today are theists. They do not believe based on *no* evidence – such a thing does not make any sense. No, people have their reasons for belief, just as atheists have their reasons for disbelief. What’s at issue is what constitutes good or convincing evidence. Trying to argue no one has ever presented evidence is just ridiculous.

                  In any case, yes, what I’m saying is that everyone has an ideology. As for the “so what?”, the point is that everyone has something to answer for – the “lack of belief” mantra of atheists does not provide immunity from justifying beliefs or from being an extremist.

                • GCT

                  “The vast majority of the people in the world today are theists. They do not believe based on *no* evidence – such a thing does not make any sense.”

                  This is a logically fallacious appeal to popularity. The vast majority of people used to uphold slavery as well.

                  “Trying to argue no one has ever presented evidence is just ridiculous.”

                  Well, then present some.

                  “…the “lack of belief” mantra of atheists does not provide immunity from justifying beliefs or from being an extremist.”

                  It would in regards to their atheistic non-beliefs. If I lack a belief in something, then I need some other, positive (as in assertive) belief in order to be an extremist.

                • http://www.about.me/jbchapp JB Chappell

                  It would be an appeal to popularity if I were trying to say it were true because of that. I’m only using it to show that there isn’t exactly a dearth of people who appeal to evidence, the question is simply whether you consider the same things as “evidence” and/or whether you find them convincing. As for presenting evidence, feel free to visit debategod.org. The comments section of a blog post is hardly a suitable forum to present rigorous argumentation and analysis.

                  There is no immunity even if it is the result of other positive assertions. If I reject claim A because I hold belief X, then not only am I accountable for belief X, but I am also accountable for rejecting claim A. In any case, I agree that being an extremist requires positive beliefs, but when the extremist does not mainly identify themselves with the label of the positive belief (say, materialism) but with the “negative” belief (atheism), then that tells us something.

                • GCT

                  “It would be an appeal to popularity if I were trying to say it were true because of that.”

                  That’s exactly what you’re doing. You’re arguing that evidence must exist, else all those people would be wrong. It’s fallacious.

                  And, what should I be looking at on your linked site?

                  As for immunity, for the position in question, you are flat out wrong. How does a non-belief in something lead one to an action?

                  “If I reject claim A because I hold belief X, then not only am I accountable for belief X, but I am also accountable for rejecting claim A.”

                  Couple issues here:
                  1) What is belief X in this case? It can’t be atheism, because atheism is a non-belief.
                  2) How does rejecting unevidenced assertions lead one to being accountable for some action? Specifically, if I reject the positive assertion of god’s existence, how does that lead me to do something else? This sounds like a veiled attempt at the atheophobic argument that one cannot be good without god.

                  Finally, if you agree that being an extremist requires a positive belief, then you’ve ceded the argument. Period.

                • http://www.about.me/jbchapp JB Chappell

                  “That’s exactly what you’re doing.”

                  I’ve already explained what my point was. you can acknowledge it, and address it on its own terms, or you can substitute your own reality I suppose.

                  At the linked site, you just have to navigate the different categories. I have several entries under “Arguments FOR the Existence of God”.

                  Did I claim that non-belief leads to an action?

                  Rejecting assertions is an action. That is already something that one would be accountable for. Applying the qualifier “unevidenced” here does nothing to alleviate this, because it is only with a particular ideology/methodology that one would consider it such. So, simply applying the label is another thing to be accountable for. None of this means or implies that any of it is *wrong*, of course.

                • http://www.about.me/jbchapp JB Chappell

                  Of course I cede that being an extremist requires positive belief. But my argument that being an atheist means that there are positive beliefs.

                • GCT

                  Atheism is not a positive belief. Try again.

                • http://www.about.me/jbchapp JB Chappell

                  Doesn’t matter. Everyone has positive beliefs. One rejects theism for certain reasons. These reasons/beliefs all lead to the result of “atheism”, which is a label people identify with. If it’s a label people identify with, and people are capable of extremism, then there you go: atheist extremist.

                  Anyone can shift the impetus of action further back: theists can move the motivations behind extremism beyond “religion” to something else. It ignores the obvious self-identification of people involved.

                • GCT

                  Ugh. Do you really not get it or are you just pretending?

                  “Atheist extremist” is not correct if one is claiming that one is extreme about atheism. That’s the point. You’re trying a bait and switch here.

                • http://www.about.me/jbchapp JB Chappell

                  I get that the point is that “atheism” (defined simply as a “lack of belief”) cannot lead to extremism because it entails no beliefs. My response is that there are equally valid forms of atheism that *do* entail beliefs (such as “there is no God”). So if all that is required to be an extremist is to have a positive belief, then clearly there is a positive belief that falls squarely within the domain of atheism. Furthermore, it isn’t as if atheists are somehow immune from extremist behavior, as is obvious if one is willing to concede that “atheist extremist” is not a contradiction in terms.

                  So, again, I think the objection that atheism is “just a lack of belief” is misguided in several ways. First, emphasis on the “just” ignores reality, which is that atheism really isn’t “just” that in the vast majority of cases. In most cases, atheism is the result of a conscious and deliberate rejection of theistic/religious claims, which is obviously not done without reason. One can say that these reasons are independent of atheism, but that isn’t necessarily the case either. It’s certainly possible that one develops a philosophical system that justifies a “lack of belief”, because that’s the state of affairs that is preferred.

                  Regardless, the disentanglement of the result from the process is a motivated and inconsistent behavior. It is like when a theist tries to disassociate their religion from fundamentalists/extremists. “That’s not true [insert religion name]“, they’ll claim. Well, fine, but there’s a reason the person identified as such, and certainly any commonalities between the extremist and non-extremists deserve scrutiny. If the atheist is not willing to disassociate the label/result from the process here, then it seems to a game of inconsistent semantic distinctions.

                • GCT

                  Sigh. Atheists can be extremists, but it is not their atheism that drives them to it. This has already been said over and over.

                  “In most cases, atheism is the result of a conscious and deliberate rejection of theistic/religious claims, which is obviously not done without reason.”

                  Of course we have reasons to reject theistic claims, but that doesn’t equate to making a positive assertion nor does it mean that atheism is more than a lack of belief.

                  “Regardless, the disentanglement of the result from the process is a motivated and inconsistent behavior.”

                  No, it’s not. You don’t seem to understand the null hypothesis at all, do you?

                  “It is like when a theist tries to disassociate their religion from fundamentalists/extremists. “That’s not true [insert religion name]“, they’ll claim.”

                  That’s a no true Scotsman fallacy.

                  “If the atheist is not willing to disassociate the label/result from the process here, then it seems to a game of inconsistent semantic distinctions.”

                  You’re just mad because people do stupid/evil/bigoted shit in the name of your god all the time and people simply don’t do anything like that in the name of atheism.

                • http://www.about.me/jbchapp JB Chappell

                  Saying things over and over does not make them true. The fact of the matter is that there are positive beliefs within atheism. Unless you are rejecting a theistic claim for NO reason at all, then the rejection amounts to the positive assertion that the reason for rejection is more reasonable than the theistic claim. Not sure what the null hypothesis has to do with anything here, and as for the No True Scotsman remark, the whole point is that it isn’t a fallacy if one is allowed to so narrowly define something so as to exclude every other obviously-related behavior/belief. You’re being inconsistent if you’re not willing to extend that same courtesy to a theist.

                  –”You’re just mad because people do stupid/evil/bigoted shit in the name of your god all the time and people simply don’t do anything like that in the name of atheism.”–

                  What solace is there to be had in this, if by it all we mean is that NOTHING can be done in the name of atheism?

                • GCT

                  “The fact of the matter is that there are positive beliefs within atheism.”

                  Name one. I’ve already asked you to do that and you can’t. What was it you were saying about “saying things over and over does not make them true?” Maybe you should stop projecting.

                  “Unless you are rejecting a theistic claim for NO reason at all, then the rejection amounts to the positive assertion that the reason for rejection is more reasonable than the theistic claim.”

                  This is a common blunder by those blinkered with religious privilege, and it’s untrue. Rejecting your assertion does not indicate that I’m making an assertion of my own.

                  “Not sure what the null hypothesis has to do with anything here…”

                  No, you don’t understand it…see above.

                  “…and as for the No True Scotsman remark, the whole point is that it isn’t a fallacy if one is allowed to so narrowly define something so as to exclude every other obviously-related behavior/belief. You’re being inconsistent if you’re not willing to extend that same courtesy to a theist.”

                  No, I’m not, because the 2 situations are not equal.

                • GCT

                  “I’ve already explained what my point was. you can acknowledge it, and address it on its own terms, or you can substitute your own reality I suppose.”

                  What? OK, this is getting beyond ridiculous. I said no evidence exists. You replied that there must be evidence, else it would not make sense that so many people are theists. Sorry, but that’s a textbook case of argumentum ad populum. This isn’t some alternate reality. This is you claiming that evidence must exist because so many people believe that it does.

                  “At the linked site, you just have to navigate the different categories. I have several entries under “Arguments FOR the Existence of God”.”

                  You could have linked to one of them. I really dislike when people say, “Oh, there’s tons of evidence, now go search through some generic website until you find what I was thinking about and agree with me.” I searched for “evidence for god” and it just went back to the homepage. Sorry, but I’m not finding any evidence at your site.

                  “Did I claim that non-belief leads to an action?”

                  No, you didn’t, which is why you’re ceding the argument.

                  “Rejecting assertions is an action.”

                  Not really. It’s a default state.

                  “Applying the qualifier “unevidenced” here does nothing to alleviate this, because it is only with a particular ideology/methodology that one would consider it such.”

                  Say what? Are you actually claiming that the lack of evidence for superstitious nonsense is just an ideology that one chooses a priori? This is ridiculous. Apparently facts don’t matter to you.

                • C Peterson

                  You remain confused about what this discussion is about. Nobody is suggesting that atheism isn’t the product of some sort of personal ideology. The point is that atheism doesn’t lead to any ideology, which is very much not the case for theism.

                • C Peterson

                  All you are saying is that you don’t become (or remain) an atheist without some sort of personal philosophical system. I don’t disagree. But neither do I see how that matters to the discussion. The bottom line is that people do act specifically because of their theistic and religious beliefs (as people can act do to any beliefs), but they do not act because of atheism, simply because atheism doesn’t embody any beliefs.

                • http://www.about.me/jbchapp JB Chappell

                  That just depends on whether you want to hold the umbrella of “atheism” over the mere “lack of belief”, or whether you hold the umbrella over everything that leads to it. One can define Christianity as the “mere belief in the resurrection of Jesus Christ” and so disassociate oneself from abortion-clinic bombers, Westboro Baptist Church, etc. One can disassociate oneself from others with semantic maneuvers, but they are shallow victories. For instance,it can easily be claimed that it’s not because of “religion” or “Christianity” that people are extremists, but because of their hermeneutics. But that simply ignores how those people identify themselves as well as the commonalities between Christians and those groups (however thin they may/may not be).

                  So it is with atheism: one can claim until blue in the face that atheism entails no beliefs and so is immune to extremism, but that simply ignores how people identify themselves as well as the commonalities they hold with other atheists, such as the “personal philosophical system”.

                • GCT

                  What you are ignoring is that Xianity does make claims that do lead to people bombing abortion clinics. Where are the similar claims from atheism? In fact, name one claim made by atheism.

                • C Peterson

                  There is no “umbrella of atheism”, so there is nothing to hold it over.

                • http://www.about.me/jbchapp JB Chappell

                  I think this obviously ignores reality.

                • Ian

                  It can be argued that there is no such thing as non-belief. It can be argued that atheism is the belief that there is no divine. I love deconstructive philosophy! ;)

            • Ian

              Not until it happens that is. Not saying it ever will, and my comment is not one that is challenging the construct of atheism. Any human idea can be an excuse to justify violence. It just hasn’t happened with atheism.

        • Pseudonym

          By the way, it’s not historically vanishingly rare. In fact, atheists invented the car bomb in the name of atheism.

          European nihilist anarchists of the early 20th century identified the established churches as a root cause of all social ills, and so attacked church properties using explosives packed into cars and wagons.

          • C Peterson

            Sorry, I don’t buy that for a second. They may have been motivated by their radical anti-theism (an actual belief system, capable of inspiring action), but certainly not by atheism, any more than by their lack of belief in anything else.

            • http://www.facebook.com/judith.fursdon Judith Fursdon

              Thank you! I couldn’t quite find the words to express that thought.

    • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

      Would you agree that advocating legislation for public school instruction to teach in K-12 education “that belief in God is unsupported by logic and science, and that traditional religions are based on unreliable scriptures and outdated principles” and for students to “eventually be encouraged to become atheists or agnostics” by teachers would qualify as atheist activism? (Yes, such law would be blatantly unconstitutional; but that’s not the question. I’m not asking about whether the advocacy requires changing the Constitution to achieve the goal, merely whether the advocacy is activism.)

      • C Peterson

        No, I would not call that activist atheism, or anything at all related to atheism. I’d call it activist anti-theism and anti-religionism. It is activism that seeks to eliminate a belief system (theism) because of the perception that it is harmful to individuals or society. By definition, if you eliminate theism, everybody is an atheist, of course. But people are fooling themselves if they think they are acting out of some internal support for atheism; they are acting out of internal opposition to theism. I think that distinction is an important one.

        • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

          The nuance of the semantic distinction between activist atheism
          and atheists who are activist anti-theists seems absurdly thin. I’m dubious you can justify distinguishing whether someone supports X or opposes not-X, particularly empirically justify with psychological experiment.

          • C Peterson

            I don’t think the difference is thin at all. Indeed, I think it is fundamental and of critical importance to the social acceptance of atheists to make that distinction.

            The activism is unrelated to atheism, so using a term like “activist atheist” is misleading and damaging.

            • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

              Considering that there appears a significant empirical correlation between the two, further claiming “unrelated” seems to verge on farce — at best.

              • C Peterson

                You should know that correlation is not causation. Causes such as humanism and anti-theism obviously attract atheists. But not because they are atheists. The correlation is real, but the activism doesn’t come from atheism at all.

                • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

                  Correlation isn’t causation, but correlation is relation.

                • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

                  Correlation isn’t causation, but correlation is relation.

      • aldewacs2

        Red herring question.
        Why not ask: “Would you support legislation that removes from the K-12 curriculum those subjects and claims that are unsupported and / or unsupportable by reasonable evidence, or that are based on claims made by any religion, cult, or other organization on a faith basis.”
        My answer would be “Yup.”

        • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

          The reasons for “my” particular question are (1) it is deliberately constructed as a counterpart to a corresponding question on requiring “strenuous teaching of religion in public schools” and (2) there is experimental data on how atheists respond to the particular question I gave, and on theists to the counterpart. (See Hunsberger and Altemeyer’s “Atheists: A Groundbreaking Study of America’s Nonbelievers” for the numbers; Chapter 5, section 3, with additional comparison table in Chapter 9 on page 127 of the paperback edition.)

          In so far as such responses would indicate atheist activism (which C Peterson does not agree about), the data gives proof-by-existence of activism about atheism — which is the issue he and I were discussing (rather than what should be taught in schools). Again, the issue is not the “correct” response to the question, but instead whether such people who respond affirmatively are activist about atheists. (Insert unfriendly snarking about your reading comprehension.)

          While I would not myself consider your question signifying “activism about atheism”, as it does not explicitly reference either belief or disbelief in gods, in so far as your question is considered as one testing for “activism about atheism”, then your affirmation supports my position over C Peterson‘s, that activism about atheism exists… which was the point I sought to demonstrate. QED.

          (In that light, your response would also fit the pattern in the Hunsberger/Altemeyer data, in so far as the commentariat here at the Friendly Atheist blog can be considered an “atheist group”.)

    • Just Sayin

      An atheists who wants to eliminate religion by any means necessary, and there are some, would certainly be worthy of the name Militant.

  • http://www.flickr.com/photos/chidy/ chicago dyke

    i quit reading salon years ago, what a dump of soft thinking that place has become.

    i do call myself a militant atheist. i am not interested in physical violence in the cause of promoting atheism, but i am interested in using strident, harsh and critical language in my critique of religions and some religious people. there is a reason for this, a very personal one in my case- many religious people have called for the imprisonment or even execution of gay people. i do not respond “politely” to death threats.

    i have no obligation to show religions, religious organizations or believers respect until they earn it. i have respect for those religious allies who embrace science, equality for all, and peace. but i will not be silent in my criticism that there is still much more that they could be doing, and policing their own ranks of haters, warmongers, and superstitions that deny reality.

    i feel lucky to live in a time where i can say these things freely and i will continue to do so. if some believers’ feelings are hurt, i hope it causes them a moment of self reflection, because as i understand it, true faith is not something the words of an unbeliever can ever upset.

  • Ryan Jean

    “…and become rich on the lecture circuit.”

    That line really bothers me, too. I’ve given my fair share of speeches in the last two years, and the only things I’ve *ever* gotten as formal compensation for it were a t-shirt from the Baltimore Ethical Society (note: best website address ever – bmorethical.org) and the occasional ~$15 lunch paid for. Every time I’ve been offered even so much as travel reimbursement, I’ve asked them to donate it to Foundation Beyond Belief instead.

    Very few atheists active in the movement have I ever met that would have done much of any different, and I think the movement is better for it. Even those commanding top-dollar such as Dawkins have done incredible work with that money, and often waive costs for special events. We’re in it for the principle, not the principal…

    • http://twitter.com/jfigdor Jonathan Figdor

      There are probably 20-25 atheist speakers who can command reasonable speaking fees (more than $2500) in the Atheist movement, and the VAST majority of those elite few make many pro bono appearances in addition to their paid gigs (Richard Dawkins is particularly generous of his time, as is the Friendly Atheist’s very own Hemant Mehta), as compared to THOUSANDS of Christian ministers. Prosperity Gospel preachers tend to be particularly expensive. One of my Harvard Divinity School classmates used to ask for $8k just in travel fees for him and his entourage (an honoraria was also required) for a Sunday service.

  • Lucilius

    I suspect the furor over supposedly militant “New Atheism” – originating largely among the religious, though people like de Waal have bought into it – stems merely from the realization that we are now too numerous and getting too well-organized to dismiss and ignore.

  • http://www.theaunicornist.com Mike D

    It’s disappointing that de Waal makes such a misguided criticism of modern atheism, including complete nonsense like charging that Hitchens blamed all of the world’s evils on religion. No one who is intimately familiar with Hitch’s writing would say anything like that. And Hemant, I fully concur that he’s overlooking the innumerable matters of social justice that provoke atheists to be more vocal.

    But in fairness, I think he’s also correct about the facade of some public debating, like the silly “boxing ring” event that pitted atheists and religious apologists against each other, or the way Fox News, with the help of its guests, frames the discussion in extremes. I’d also add pretty much every Wlliiam Lane Craig debate ever. De Waal is right to say that such staged confrontations – which are usually about as far from discussion and dialogue you can get – are unlikely to change anyone’s minds.

    It’s ironic that de Waal mentions the analogy to the term “sleeping furiously”, because that analogy is precisely meant to argue that outspoken atheists are not “militant” simply because they are passionate or provocative.

    • http://twitter.com/jfigdor Jonathan Figdor

      William Lane Craig isn’t worth debating because he proved himself unreasonable when he started justifying genocides in the bible. However, there are reasonable Christians who are worth debating. At Harvard, we hosted an enjoyable debate between Dan Barker and Dinesh D’Souza, but my true favourite is the Hitchens and Fry vs Archbishop Onaiyekan (of Abuja, Nigeria) and Ann Widdecombe (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d5OMNPmoVAw).

      Debate is worthwhile. Some people will not be convinced by debates and reasoned arguments, but some will be, including me. And for those who say, “it isn’t worth having these debates, no one’s mind is changed,” you’re essentially saying, “let’s not advertise our movement to people who are interested in debate and reasoned argument.” I, for one, think debates, as well as discussions and other public events, are extremely worthwhile.

      • coyotenose

        Whether a debate between someone and D’SOuza is enjoyable is one thing, but the man is not reasonable. He’s a racist who writes libelous fiction about black people to justify criticizing them. He has vocally opposed the Civil Rights movement, but tries to invoke MLK Jr. when it’s convenient… and still manages to make up things about him, claiming psychic powers that let him know what King “really” thinks from beyond the grave.

        Oh, and he’s a first-tier hypocrite who makes pathetic special pleading arguments for the “sanctity of marriage” while cheating on his wife.

        • http://twitter.com/jfigdor Jonathan Figdor

          OK, fair enough. I didn’t realize how off the deep end D’souza had gone. Thanks for the tip.

  • Mario Strada

    How many of us would be “militant atheists”, read this or other atheist blogs and generally promote atheism if the religious didn’t try, every step of the way, to proclaim superior morals, win political influence and generally try to run things according to their holy book?

    Imagine a world where the faithful met in churches but did not try to legislate their faith or impose it on everyone else. Imagine a world where Muslims didn’t fly planes in the WTC or where they didn’t execute those they considered immoral.

    I probably would still be an atheist, like I have been for most of my life, but it would be the same atheism I practiced before I realized that without pushing back we were going to be living in a de facto theocracy before too long.

    I am not sure what De Waal is trying to say with his proclamations. Does he want atheists to pander to the religious like SC Cup does? When confronted, does he want us to respond with a “I wish I had your faith” so they can feel better about believing their fairy tales? Should we just concede they hold the moral high ground because they think it was given to us by a bearded guy in the sky?

    Should we feel and act the way the religious wants us to be? Meekly going through life “broken” because of our lack of faith? Maybe waiting for a believer to “shine a light” or “feed our spiritual hunger?

    Screw you.

    • http://twitter.com/jfigdor Jonathan Figdor

      It’s S. E. Cupp, but otherwise, right on.

  • ganner918

    A distinction I also make is that while I am an atheist, I am a “militant agnostic.” My dogmatism isn’t “there is no god, there can’t be a god, I can’t even entertain the idea of there being a god!” It is “there absolutely is no evidence for it and until someone shows me some valid evidence, it’s absurd to treat as valid the idea that god exists or that we know anything about the will of any god that may exist, or even that any god that may exist HAS a will regarding us.”

    • http://twitter.com/jfigdor Jonathan Figdor

      A lot of people who call themselves atheists would define themselves exactly the same way. Atheists can argue that atheism isn’t the assertion that there isn’t a god, but the rejection of the assertion that there is a god (rejected on grounds of insufficient evidence provided).

    • GCT

      I have no idea what you are trying to say. How does it make you “militant” or “agnostic” to reject the idea of a god based on the lack of evidence? This makes no sense.

      And, what do you mean by “My dogmatism isn’t “there is no god, there can’t be a god, I can’t even entertain the idea of there being a god!”" This also makes no sense. That is not the atheist position, and trying to speak of atheist dogma makes no sense.

  • Greg G.

    Talking on television and wearing t-shirts with slogans so the religious hoi polloi can’t ignore that atheists exist is militant to them. Posting billboards that remind them that they are pretending there is a god is all-out war. Pointing out their contradictory beliefs is a war crime.

  • Mackinz

    In regards to his comment on how religion is so seeped into our morality that even atheists are affected, he’s actually correct.

    For the most part, if you see a giant penis statue being walked down the street, you’ll avert your eyes, maybe call the cops for indecent exposure, even if the men marching the statue are devout Shintoists. In Shinto culture, sexuality is embraced, worshiped even, while in Christian culture, sexuality is shameful and repressed.

    de Waal was not wrong by that statement. We truly cannot tell what morality would be like without religion. Not yet, anyway. Give it some time, and we’ll see.

    • Ryan Bauer

      Couldn’t we simply look to isolated tribal cultures of the past and documented examples of their morals? Did they murder and rape without rhyme or reason? What about the evolutionary biology component? It seems to me that there is evidence to support the claim that morality preceded religion.

      • Mackinz

        Not possible.

        “It is impossible to know what morality would look like without religion.
        It would require a visit to a human culture that is not now and never
        was religious. That such cultures do not exist should give us pause.” – Frans de Waal.

        Of course, there is an evolutionary biological component, but that does not change anything about how true Mr. de Waal’s statement is.

        “Morality is not “Christian” even if the faith permeates our culture.”… With this, Hement misunderstood what Mr. de Waal meant.

        Nowhere in da Waal’s quote did he say that Morality is a construct of
        Christianity or religion. Rather, the morality of religions are so interwoven into our cultures and our morality, that it is impossible to tell what human morality without religion would look like.

        • Ryan Bauer

          There is a premise here that I’m not sure I agree with. The premise is that all religions have an explicit moral code built in. I don’t know enough about the world’s more obscure religions to make a claim, but I would not be surprised if there are primitive religions that have very little to say about what is immoral.

          • Mackinz

            They actually do? Though people of differing religions have differing morals, the core of morality is still there and being bad is punished.

    • http://twitter.com/jfigdor Jonathan Figdor

      Of course, this also means then that religious culture is also affected by secular culture, movements such as the Enlightenment, Greek philosophy, Confucianism, etc. If Atheist morality doesn’t exist without the influence of the religious, then religious morality doesn’t exist without secular/Atheist influence.

      • Mackinz

        This is very true. It’s wrong to say that morality is solely a religious construct, just as it’s wrong to say that morality is solely a non-religious construct.

        Human societies have developed their own senses of morality, that is both cultural and religious. There is no way to discern between the two, so, in the end, de Waal is still correct.

  • http://atheistlutheran.blogspot.com/ MargueriteF

    “Why are the “neo-atheists” of today so obsessed with God’s nonexistence that they go on media rampages, wear T-shirts proclaiming their absence of belief…”

    Who DOESN’T wear t-shirts nowadays? I wear shirts that tell the world about the TV shows I love (the number of TARDISes in my dresser is becoming truly alarming), so what would be the big deal if I were to wear an atheist t-shirt? Is the fact that I’m an atheist less relevant than the fact that I love “Doctor Who”? Is there some reason it’s okay for Christians to wear shirts proclaiming their beliefs, but not okay for atheists to proclaim their (non)beliefs? It sounds like he’s trying to imply that there’s something mildly shameful about atheism, and that it’s better kept in the closet (so to speak). Bah. I think it’s beneficial to publicly proclaim our atheism because the culture (at least American culture) is absolutely awash in theism, and people need to see that there really are different views out there.

    I will admit that I loathe the term “bright,” though. It may not be intended to subdivide the world into “bright” and “dumb” people, but it’s really hard for me not to see it that way.

  • r.holmgren

    “militant atheism”? I have no idea what that means”

    Of course you do. It’s saying, atheism is nothing more that a lack of belief in gods,” and then acting as though it’s your job to rid the world of any and all religious thought.
    thesauros-store.blogspot.com

    • RobMcCune

      Really, who does that?

      • Bubba Tarandfeathered

        Me.

        • Bubba Tarandfeathered

          Let me be clear though. I do not have a lack of belief. I totally and wholeheartedly believe that the gods exists in our minds as memories, concepts, and ideas, but I do lack a belief that gods exist outside of that scope. Unlike the religious mind, I do not believe that there is a process of transubstantiation from concept to physical existence. It is far easier to make the statement that gods do not exist in natural phenomena that to waste my time arguing that they do not exist entirely. They exist in the minds of the religious as delusional constructs and as a militant atheist it is my job to educate those minds towards understanding how Absurd that is.

    • Bubba Tarandfeathered

      Militant atheists are similar to militant religionists, they tend to lurk around blogs with dissenting themes to their beliefs and seek out ways to troll the forum looking for a fight. They also tend to write blogs exemplifying their intellectual positions.

      • GCT

        Um, no. Militant religionists fly planes into building, force women to ride in the back of the bus, blow up abortion clinics, etc. All an atheist has to do to be derided as militant is to write something unflattering about religion on a blog.

  • Randomfactor

    “It is impossible to know what morality would look like without religion. ”

    And yet from his book title he’s gone looking for it among the bonobo anyway?

  • Zoe

    Being vocal = militant when that opinion is counter to your own

  • coyotenose

    Even the staunchest atheist growing up in Western society cannot avoid having absorbed the basic tenets of Christian morality.
    Our societies are steeped in it: everything we have accomplished over
    the centuries, even science, developed either hand in hand with or in
    opposition to religion, but never separately. It is impossible to know what morality would look like without religion.
    It would require a visit to a human culture that is not now and never
    was religious. That such cultures do not exist should give us pause.

    Even the staunchest Christian growing up in Western society cannot avoid having absorbed the basic tenets of Enlightenment values, Greek Philosophy, and Roman law. Their society is steeped in it: everything positive they have accomplished over
    the centuries, especially science and modern ethics,developed hand in hand with the Enlightenment and Pagan philosophy and law, but never separately. It is difficult for insular, unreflective people to know what Christianity would look like without Pagan and Enlightenment thought.
    It would require both the curiosity to ask questions rather than to fall back on habitual assumptions, and grade-school level historical or current observation of a human culture that is both Christian and lacks Western values. That such cultures are often authoritative and superstitious should give us pause.

  • DougI

    “New Atheists” is just a term the religious threw upon people who have always been known as Atheists. I found a reference to “New Atheists” in a religious book back in the 1960s, it’s just recycled for today. As for “Brights” I suppose the author is just out of touch. That was one of those recycled efforts for Atheists to call themselves something other than Atheists that turned into a whole lot of nothing. Really, who outside a few bored Atheists still refer to themselves as these new marketing gimmicks like Brights, Atheism +, or whatever crap they think of?

    For someone against “militant” Atheists he sure does seem angry, and um…militant.

  • Adam Tjaavk

    “Why are we calling for “militant atheism”? We’re not.”

    Not? – ‘militant unionist’ and ‘militant reformer’.

  • http://abb3w.livejournal.com/ abb3w

    I’d largely agree with the points here; however, I’d disagree with the claim from the article title that it’s a full-fledged oxymoron.

    Atheism isn’t a philosophy itself; it’s an entire class of philosophies, including variants of philosophies from Randite Capitalism to Soviet Communism. The “New Atheist” strain lately prevalent (or at least, drawing media attention) in the West doesn’t much resemble either of these, being more a secular humanist techno-scientific progressive variety (with at least two competing substrains). However, the case of the Soviet Союз воинствующих безбожников gives an existence case that atheism is empirically not inherently contradictory with militancy.

    There’s also data in Hunsberger and Altemeyer’s Atheists study to point to the potential, in Chapter 5 that they titled with more precision: “Zealotry”; and in particular, the third section, dealing with attitudes on legislating that public school children be indoctrinated in religion (“believe in God, pray together in school several times each day, memorize the Ten Commandments and other parts of the Bible, learn the principles of Christian morality, and eventually be encouraged to accept Jesus Christ as their personal savior”) or irreligon (“that belief in God is unsupported by logic and science, and that traditional religions are based on unreliable scriptures and outdated principles” [...] “eventually encouraged to become atheists or agnostics”). The religious tended to be far more supportive of religious indoctrination than the irreligious on irreligious indoctrination. 85% of the fundamentalist parent sample favored legislative mandate to such religious instruction, while absolutely none of the atheist parent sample approved of irreligious instruction. However… among those sampled from atheist organizations, the support was in the neighborhood of 27%.

    Atheists tend far less “zealous” than their fundamentalist opposition numbers, but mere atheism does not inherently grant an immunity to authoritarian militancy. While the (empirically measurable) double standards of authoritarians and the tendency in the west for religiosity and authoritarianism to correlate leaves religious warnings too prone to false-positives to be useful, it’s socially detrimental for atheists to close their eyes to the possibility of the current weak tendencies increasing.

  • Earl G.

    “It is impossible to know what morality would look like without religion.”

    Says the guy who studies morality in apes and other animals.

    Facepalm.

  • http://www.about.me/jbchapp JB Chappell

    “The goal of New Atheism, as I see it, is not mainly to insult religious individuals…”

    So, you know, it’s just a corollary goal. Nothing to see here, moving on…

    • GCT

      There is nothing insulting to the individual when one points out that religious claims have no merit.

      • http://www.about.me/jbchapp JB Chappell

        It is somewhat insulting, especially when the accusation is wrong and/or the person making claim fails to actually understand what the religious claim is – as is so often the case. Furthermore, if all we were talking about is assertions that religious claims have no merit, then there would be no discussion here. The fact is that many/most of those who identify as “militant” or “New/Gnu” atheists seem to consider themselves obliged to actually insult people/religion.

        • GCT

          I hear it all the time that atheists don’t understand religion, yet the facts don’t support that conclusion. In fact, many atheists criticize the religions they were brought up in, and a recent study showed that atheists have a better grasp of religious claims than the religious do. Just because we don’t agree with ridiculous conclusions that don’t make sense doesn’t mean that we don’t understand the claims being made.

          Secondly, if you make a claim and it is wrong, how is it an insult to you for me to point out that your claim is wrong – or at least unsupported? This notion is borne of religious privilege, where society has deemed that religious notions are beyond reproach and we are not allowed to question them. Rubbish. Religious ideas have real consequences in the real world, and negative ones at that. I don’t get similar guff from criticizing a political position, so why should I hold back from criticizing a religious position? Criticizing ideas is not the same as attacking the person who put forth the idea, no matter how much you wish to claim that it is.

          If you wish to claim that “many/most” new atheists “consider themselves obliged to actually insult people/religion” then you’re going to have to support that assertion. That is an assertion about people, and not about a position, BTW, meaning that you are the one who is actually attacking persons instead of positions. Again, pointing out that Xianity is silly is not an attack on your person, no matter how much your religious privilege gets bruised.

          • http://www.about.me/jbchapp JB Chappell

            I don’t deny that there are plenty of atheists who do, in fact, understand religion. What I’m saying is that it is somewhat insulting when people make claims about one’s religion that aren’t true and then try to hold you to them. Regardless, that Pew study (that I think you’re referring to) only demonstrated that atheists/agnostics had a better overall understanding of religionS, those who were adherents to the religion still scored better within that religion.

            I agree that criticizing ideas is not necessarily insulting. There is nothing wrong with a demand for evidence, critical analysis, etc. The manner in which it is conducted can still be insulting, and at this point if you require actually require justification for the idea that many of those who identifty as “new/gnu” atheists consider it an obligation to insult religion, then I can see why you see no evidence for theism either.

            • GCT

              “What I’m saying is that it is somewhat insulting when people make claims about one’s religion that aren’t true and then try to hold you to them.”

              Being in error is not insulting. What’s insulting is when one makes inferences about the person based on those errors. OTOH, I’ve been told many times that I’ve not understood some doctrine simply because I pointed out how it is contradictory and makes no sense. I understand what the claims are, I’m simply pointing out that the claims themselves are ridiculous.

              “The manner in which it is conducted can still be insulting, and at this point if you require actually require justification for the idea that many of those who identifty as “new/gnu” atheists consider it an obligation to insult religion, then I can see why you see no evidence for theism either.”

              Oh, this should be fun. The manner in which someone asks for evidence can now be insulting? And, I’m supposed to just agree with you that atheists “consider it an obligation to insult religion”? You’ve provided no evidence to this effect. None. But, I’m supposed to just go along with it because we all just “know” it’s true. Let’s forget the fact that you are the one who is insulting right now and displaying your obvious religious privilege.

              But, of course, I wouldn’t be able to see any of that, because I so no evidence for theism either. Nevermind the fact that you can’t present any. Nope. You just act as if it’s all there and I’m the blind one because I don’t simply go along with the religiously privileged idea that it must exist, else people wouldn’t believe in it. Yet, all you have to do is present one scintilla of evidence to show that I’m wrong. That’s it. And, instead of doing that, you fall back on religiously privileged arguments that amount to nothing more than an attempt to bully me into submission. Sorry, but I’m not going to allow it. You should either present some evidence or admit that you have none.

              • http://www.about.me/jbchapp JB Chappell

                “What’s insulting is when one makes inferences about the person based on those errors.”

                Exactly, so for instance when someone claims that Christians are ignorant (at best) or hypocrites (at worst) when they don’t hold to all of the claims of the Old Testament, this is insulting. And it’s obviously a pretty common tactic to throw OT references at a Christian without any thought as to how the Christian actually applies the OT. Keep in mind I’m not saying every atheist does this; I’m only saying it’s common.

                As for the “new/gnu” atheists, that Coyne above (in the OP) implicity acknowledges that it’s a goal is already evidence. But it’s common knowledge. If you’re not aware of that, fair enough, but I’m not about to do your homework for you on such a simple matter. As for evidence of theism, I’ve already directed you to where I post my own work, feel free to visit and comment.

                And, yes, how one asks for *anything* can be insulting. Demeanor and method do matter.

                • GCT

                  “Exactly, so for instance when someone claims that Christians are ignorant (at best) or hypocrites (at worst) when they don’t hold to all of the claims of the Old Testament, this is insulting.”

                  I fail to see what’s in error about that. Most Xians are ignorant about the OT (and the NT really) and most are hypocrites when they pick and choose which verses they’ll accept and which they’ll ignore. For instance, they will quote verses devoted to bigotry against gays while getting a tattoo.

                  “And it’s obviously a pretty common tactic to throw OT references at a Christian without any thought as to how the Christian actually applies the OT.”

                  If I had a dollar for every Xian who actually applies the OT in a consistent way, then I’d not be at all rich.

                  “As for the “new/gnu” atheists, that Coyne above (in the OP) implicity acknowledges that it’s a goal is already evidence.”

                  You mean the part where he says that’s not the goal?

                  “But it’s common knowledge.”

                  So, I was right. You are going there. It’s only “common knowledge” to atheophobic bigots.

                  “And, yes, how one asks for *anything* can be insulting. Demeanor and method do matter.”

                  I reject that notion. Whether I say, “Please, may I have some evidence” or “Give me some fucking evidence now,” it is not insulting your person one way or the other.

                • http://www.about.me/jbchapp JB Chappell

                  If you fail to see where the error is with respect to appealing to certain OT references against Christians, then you are simply part of the problem. The fact of the matter is that Christians do have a hermeneutic with which to filter the applicability of OT references on their lives. Simply throwing out OT verses with the assumption that they are all binding on the Christian is ridiculously misguided. Now, attacking the hermeneutic that they may use is another matter entirely. But first you have to demonstrate familiarity with it.

                  “You mean the part where he says that’s not the goal?”

                  No, I mean the part where he says it’s not *mainly* the goal. One wouldn’t use that kind of language if the idea was to disassociate oneself or the subculture with the idea altogether.

                  If one “asks” for evidence by saying “You can’t give me any evidence, because your beliefs are idiotic ” or “Give me some evidence, idiot”, then obviously it is insulting. Honestly, are you actually trying to defend the notion that as long as one injects the word “evidence” into a sentence, that the manner of interaction no longer matters?

                • GCT

                  “If you fail to see where the error is with respect to appealing to certain OT references against Christians, then you are simply part of the problem.”

                  When those Xians can give a cogent reason as to why the OT doesn’t apply and will stop pointing to the 10 Commandments, then I’ll stop holding them to the whole of their scriptures.

                  “The fact of the matter is that Christians do have a hermeneutic with which to filter the applicability of OT references on their lives.”

                  No, the don’t, unless you mean that they use outside moral and scientific sources to determine which parts are morally sound and which are to be read literally. It’s funny how more and more of the Bible becomes ignored or figurative as we learn more about the world around us and strive for better equality and more moral societies.

                  “Simply throwing out OT verses with the assumption that they are all binding on the Christian is ridiculously misguided.”

                  And, expecting Xians to actually hold to a coherent system and absolute morality must be misguided too, right?

                  “No, I mean the part where he says it’s not *mainly* the goal.”

                  In reply to a comment that implied that it was the goal of atheists. I read it to mean that it’s not a goal at all. Of course, you’re looking for any excuse to tar atheists, so why not make the most uncharitable interpretation you can, right?

                  “If one “asks” for evidence by saying “You can’t give me any evidence, because your beliefs are idiotic ” or “Give me some evidence, idiot”, then obviously it is insulting.”

                  The first is a statement of beliefs being idiotic, not the person. The second is directly calling the person an idiot, and that part is not a request for information/evidence. The actual request portion is not insulting.

                • http://www.about.me/jbchapp JB Chappell

                  “When those Xians can give a cogent reason as to why the OT doesn’t apply and will stop pointing to the 10 Commandments, then I’ll stop holding them to the whole of their scriptures.”

                  Christians are not obligated to provide a justification to you as to why they believe certain scriptures are not applicable. If you believe they are in error, you are obligated to at least understand their position before attacking it, otherwise all you’re doing is burning strawmen. All this is aside from whether or not their position is justified or not. There is a system for categorizing moral, civil, and ceremonial law in the OT. Pointing to one and claiming it’s binding requires familiarity with the system. You may not think that such a system is legitimate, which is fine. But then you still need to acknowledge it and rebut it on its own terms.

                  Regarding Coyne’s comment, I read it the way I do because it seems obvious to me that if your point was that it isn’t the goal *at all*, then one would say that. Qualifying it with “mainly” is significant. Furthermore, there is ample evidence for considering this to at least be a goal of Coyne’s, considering his own writing and comments.

                  You’re straining in trying to draw distinctions between where insults are directed. This is like saying “I didn’t say YOU were stupid, I said you were ACTING stupid.” If one has to resort to this kind of tactic, sorry, you’ve lost.

                • GCT

                  “Christians are not obligated to provide a justification to you as to why they believe certain scriptures are not applicable.”

                  Say what? Xians are allowed to claim that the Bible is holy, infallible, the word of god, etc, but not obliged to back that up? Xians are allowed to pick and choose which parts are true and which are not, or which parts they are held to and which they aren’t, and we can’t ask them to provide cogent reasons? This is nothing more than more of your ugly religious privilege.

                  “If you believe they are in error, you are obligated to at least understand their position before attacking it, otherwise all you’re doing is burning strawmen.”

                  Ah, yes, what I suspected. Because I point out that they have no rational justification that must mean that I don’t understand their ridiculous arguments and I’m simply lashing out because I’m too stupid to understand that the arguments really are cogent and coherent, regardless of the fact that they ignore large tracts of the Bible, are inconsistent, etc.

                  “Regarding Coyne’s comment, I read it the way I do because it seems obvious to me that if your point was that it isn’t the goal *at all*, then one would say that.”

                  Depends on one’s audience. If one is writing to people who face this false criticism all the time, then making light of it seems rather appropriate.

                  “Qualifying it with “mainly” is significant.”

                  That was a reference back to the original complaint, as it was implied by de Waal.

                  “Furthermore, there is ample evidence for considering this to at least be a goal of Coyne’s, considering his own writing and comments.”

                  Citation please. You keep throwing out these accusations without backing them up. I realize that when you are talking to your friends who probably all have the same religious privilege as you that it’s enough to simply make the accusation, but not here. They understand that atheists are to be reviled and that all accusations against atheists are automatically true, since atheists are the worst people in the world and all that. Unfortunately, in the real world you have to actually back up your assertions.

                  “You’re straining in trying to draw distinctions between where insults are directed.”

                  Not at all. I’m saying that simply asking for evidence is never an insult. Throwing in an “idiot” or something similar is, but the actual process of asking for evidence can never be an insult in itself.

                  “If one has to resort to this kind of tactic, sorry, you’ve lost.”

                  You’ve got lots of room to talk there, LOL.

                • http://www.about.me/jbchapp JB Chappell

                  –”Say what? Xians are allowed to claim that the Bible is holy, infallible, the word of god, etc, but not obliged to back that up?”–

                  This is an entirely separate issue. We were discussing how Christians personally apply OT law. Nevertheless, i do think my statement needs to be amended: Christians do need to account for how they apply OT laws if/when they use those laws in an attempt to influence others’ morality or public policy. Regardless, my point was simply that at some point the onus is on the person attacking a point of view to properly understand what’s going on, not that Christians bear no burden of proof.

                  –”Because I point out that they have no rational justification that must mean that I don’t understand their ridiculous arguments …”–

                  No, you’ve *demonstrated* that you don’t understand at least how a large segment of Christianity understands and applies OT law. If there’s some Christian (Messianic Jew, maybe?) out there who actually still holds that all of the Mosaic Law is binding, then perhaps the criticism you level might be legitimate.

                  –”If one is writing to people who face this false criticism all the time, then making light of it seems rather appropriate.”–

                  He posted this on his blog, which as far as I know, is not necessarily directed at any one particular audience. I don’t see any contextual clues that would indicate he’s “making light” of the “false criticism” he’s reacting to.

                  –”That ["mainly"] was a reference back to the original complaint, as it was implied by de Waal.”–

                  If you’ve read the excerpt from de Waal that Coyne was criticizing from, you can see that the term “mainly” is not used, and I’m not sure how it would be implied. Coyne introduced that all on his own. It is a signficant addition.

                  –”I realize that when you are talking to your friends who probably all have the same religious privilege as you that it’s enough to simply make the accusation, but not here.”–

                  Please. I’m a regular reader of Friendly Atheist, Pharyngula, WEIT, Sandwalk, Secular Outpost, and other atheist blogs. It’s not as if I accuse every atheist of being an ass. There is a distinct difference in tone between blogs such as this, blogs such as Secular Outpost, and others like Pharyngula. Coyne is regularly insulting, as is P.Z. Myers. The only citation needed is a reference to their blogs. If you don’t see it, I don’t know what to tell you.

                  –”I’m saying that simply asking for evidence is never an insult. Throwing in an “idiot” or something similar is, but the actual process of asking for evidence can never be an insult in itself.”–

                  “Simply” being the operative term. Obviously the scenarios I was referring to were not referring to a “simple” request. But again, you’re trying to draw a distinction in referring to the “actual” process. If someone says to me, “listen dumb@$$, you need to give some evidence” – sorry, but that is insulting, and it is simply unhelpful to draw a distinction between the insult and the “actual process” of requesting evidence.

                • GCT

                  “Nevertheless, i do think my statement needs to be amended: Christians do need to account for how they apply OT laws if/when they use those laws in an attempt to influence others’ morality or public policy.”

                  Or when they put them out in the public marketplace of ideas.

                  “Regardless, my point was simply that at some point the onus is on the person attacking a point of view to properly understand what’s going on, not that Christians bear no burden of proof.”

                  And, you assume that those who disagree must not understand, which is a religiously privileged view.

                  “No, you’ve *demonstrated* that you don’t understand at least how a large segment of Christianity understands and applies OT law.”

                  I’ve demonstrated nothing of the sort. I know all about the legalities that Xians try to employ in order to excuse themselves from what is supposed to be god’s absolute morality when it suits them as it suits you now. Then, they’ll go and get all offended when someone wishes to remove the 10 Commandments or quote Leviticus back at gays to condemn them. It’s because Xianity is incoherent and contradictory.

                  “He posted this on his blog, which as far as I know, is not necessarily directed at any one particular audience. I don’t see any contextual clues that would indicate he’s “making light” of the “false criticism” he’s reacting to.”

                  I’m sure regular readers would disagree.

                  “If you’ve read the excerpt from de Waal that Coyne was criticizing from, you can see that the term “mainly” is not used, and I’m not sure how it would be implied. Coyne introduced that all on his own. It is a signficant addition.”

                  Ugh. It’s implied, which is what I said. De Waal doesn’t say “mainly” but he implies that it’s the most central idea among a few others. Thus, it would be what he thinks atheists “mainly” do.

                  “Coyne is regularly insulting, as is P.Z. Myers. The only citation needed is a reference to their blogs. If you don’t see it, I don’t know what to tell you.”

                  They are insulting to people who are asshats. They also say that most Xians are normal people who are generally pretty good and that religion is the cause of the twisted morals. But, hey, demonize and try to bludgeon us some more with your bigoted religious privilege. Perhaps you should look in the mirror more.

                  “If someone says to me, “listen dumb@$$, you need to give some evidence” – sorry, but that is insulting, and it is simply unhelpful to draw a distinction between the insult and the “actual process” of requesting evidence.”

                  Yes, people can insult while they are asking for evidence, but the actual asking for evidence is not an insult. I wish you could get that through your head, but you seem to be holding onto this very tightly. I can only surmise it is because you are still clinging to the religiously privileged notion that asking for evidence for your ridiculous claims is not OK. You’ve shown that abundantly. Sorry, but you don’t get to have immunity from having to show your work. (That reminds me, I went to your linked site and finally found what you were on about, and I can see why you wanted to hide it. It allowed you to claim you’ve posted evidence while at the same time hiding away the fact that you were using such clunkers as the Kalam Cosmological Argument, which has been soundly refuted and is nonsensical anyway. If I were you, I would have hidden that too. Still no evidence.)

                • http://www.about.me/jbchapp JB Chappell

                  I make no assumption that people who disagree also misunderstand. There are plenty of quality conversations to be had about whether or not how many Christians filter OT laws is warranted/legitimate or not. But circumventing that conversation and merely throwing random OT verses at Christians demonstrates at least one of many possible things…. but not comprehension of Christianity. Invoking the term “absolute morality” certainly implies the opposite.

                  You seem to be reading quite a bit into Coyne and de Waal, but not providing any of the contextual clues that you seem to think they imply. Feel free to provide these indicators, otherwise you’ve offered nothing more than a motivated interpretation.

                  –”They are insulting to people who are asshats.”–

                  Ah, well say no more. I don’t like you, ergo, it is OK to insult you. Got it. Sounds reasonable.

                  –”Yes, people can insult while they are asking for evidence, but the actual asking for evidence is not an insult.”–

                  I find it humorous that this is the point your hammering, when I have never claimed otherwise. I said *HOW* one asks matters. Not the “actual asking”. Unless you are trying to claim that civility simply isn’t important in discussion/debate, I’m not sure why you keep trying to draw this distinction.

                  And, yes, I’m just terribly afraid and ashamed of content that I’ve posted, which is why I link to the site and explain where to find it. Please. Feel free to engage with the material; I invite discussion on the arguments I’ve posted. But hand-waving dismissals and empty assertions hardly amount to effective argumentation.

                • GCT

                  “I make no assumption that people who disagree also misunderstand.”

                  Laughable.

                  “You seem to be reading quite a bit into Coyne and de Waal, but not providing any of the contextual clues that you seem to think they imply. Feel free to provide these indicators, otherwise you’ve offered nothing more than a motivated interpretation.”

                  I’ve read Coyne, and that’s how he writes. Of course, your least charitable interpretation couldn’t possibly have come from your atheophobic religious privilege now, could it?

                  “Ah, well say no more. I don’t like you, ergo, it is OK to insult you. Got it. Sounds reasonable.”

                  That’s not what I said, but what do I expect from someone who shows blatant disregard for what I and other atheists say so long as he can make the least charitable interpretation and use it as a cudgel to prop up his bigotry?

                  “I find it humorous that this is the point your hammering, when I have never claimed otherwise.”

                  I make the point because people infused with atheophobic religious privilege, like you, try to stop criticism of your precious religious beliefs with underhanded tactics like this.

                  “And, yes, I’m just terribly afraid and ashamed of content that I’ve posted, which is why I link to the site and explain where to find it.”

                  You did a piss poor job of linking to it and telling me where to find it. I had to do my own searching, which I normally wouldn’t have done. But, it was worth it in the end for the LOLZ. Face it, you have no evidence.

                  “But hand-waving dismissals and empty assertions hardly amount to effective argumentation.”

                  This is simply dishonest. You linked to it because you didn’t want to present arguments here. But, now you claim that those arguments stand because I’m not refuting them here (as if they’ve never been refuted).

                  And, posting shit that has already been debunked, makes no sense, and is self-defeating anyway as well as ignores the science is effective? It’s only effective for preaching to the choir and smug people like you who want so desperately for there to be a good reason to believe. Sorry, there isn’t.

  • Azazyll

    And if atheists criticize religion, so what? Religion implicitly criticizes atheists. The central tenant of Christianity is belief in Christ is essential to salvation. The corollary is that those who do not believe, atheists included, go to hell. It’s a popular tactic of conservative bigots to try and turn tolerance into a weapon: “you can’t criticize me, it’s my religion!” I can an I will. I have to tolerate your religion, but I do not have to suffer silently its criticisms of me. So don’t ever let someone religious make you feel bad about your beliefs in criticizing their religion, because they are criticizing you with their beliefs.

    Besides, if your religion can’t take criticism, it’s a pretty sorry excuse for a worldview. Too many people hide behind “faith” and assume that means they don’t have to be rational when applying it to the rest of the world. If your god made the universe, he made reason, and you can be damn sure he did so for a reason.

  • Anna

    That’s a shame. I thought this book sounded so interesting, but I don’t feel like reading a diatribe against outspoken atheism.

  • Thatguy

    So you’re telling me the people who call me retarded for believing in a high-power, constantly refer to it as a ‘sky fairy’ and who, on every turn, mock me and feel oh-so-smart are just trying to get me to learn? Because it’s really fucking condescending.

    • Matt McDowall

      yes it is condescending….however ridicule is often the best way to get people to understand how absurd their belief is…

      Do you think LGBT rights, women’s rights, slavery and the such would have ever past ground without people Ridiculing it? and being condescending? No it wouldn’t have…

      Essentially, just because you have a belief doesn’t mean it has to be protected and bubbled wrapped because you get hurt feelings…if it is stupid idea…call it for what it is.

      And yes, your belief in a magical sky daddy is completely irrational

  • Down low booty humpin nigga

    “Because we’re rational, intelligent people and we’re tired of treating that as a shameful secret”

    Openly stating what you would consider to be your ‘personal qualities’ is like writing a CV – it’s shallow – like wearing a shirt with your IQ printed on it. As for the ‘shameful secret’, it seems as though you’re trying to take refuge in the bandwagon of oppression. Don’t you criticize Christians for this behavior?

  • ATM

    Not sure what you mean by atheist did not publicly call for violent, how about extermination.

    In 1929, the Second Congress changed the society’s name to The Union of Belligerent (or Militant) Atheists.[8] At this Second Congress of Atheists, Nikolai Bukharin, the editor of Pravda, called for the extermination of religion “at the tip of the bayonet.”[12] There, Yaroslavsky also made the following declaration:
    It is our duty to destroy every religious world-concept… If the destruction of ten million human beings, as happened in the last war, should be necessary for the triumph of one definite class, then that must be done and it will be done.[13]

    You need to understand that the militant group mentioned here is the root of many militant atheist org

    Not exactly an isolated quote and if you read the article Stalin was not the instigator he was against this as extremism.

    If you need more evidence I can help you understand how militant views in general lead down to road to death and distruction.