"Why can't atheists just keep their lack of faith to themselves? Why do they have to write books and have blogs and speak out all the time? They're in the minority. No one cares about their crazy godlessness. Why can't they just shut up and stop criticizing us? Why do they even call themselves atheists? Can't they just say they don't know if they have doubts? Why do they have to be so militant about our dear lord and savior?"
This kind of questioning sets my teeth on edge. It's extremely ignorant, but worse than that, it screams of hypocrisy.
Hypocrisy: falseness; the practice of professing beliefs, feelings, or virtues that one does not hold or possess.
Yesterday a friend of mine told me that his friend asked him, "What's wrong with just saying "I don't know, and no one really knows" in regards to spiritual questions?" My friend had written a book review for God Is Not Great and his friend said that atheists can be just as zealous and hardcore as religious people.
First, yes, it's true, there are extremists in every walk of life. People seem to have a tendency to get extreme about things. Not everyone, but there are definitely personality types that are not satisfied with moderation, whether it be eating, dieting, exercising, working, lifting weights, collecting weird things, religion, politics; you name it, someone is doing it to excess.
Second, just because someone holds a different view than yours, that does not make him an extremist, or militant, or zealous. Everything falls on a scale, or a continuum. For example, some people don't exercise at all. They never leave the house, hardly move, just sit on the couch and move as little as possible. This is an extreme. Then there are people who are relatively inactive. And so on. As you go up the scale you get to professional athletes who basically work out for a living. Then you get to people who work out every minute of their waking day. They set an alarm so they can start exercising sooner. They don't do it for money or a career, they are just extremely driven to exercise for whatever reason. They are extreme on the other end of the spectrum.
Neither extreme is healthy. Being somewhere in the middle is the way to go. You can say the same about religion and the lack of religion. On one extreme, you have fundamentalists who blow themselves up in bus stations or kill doctors in clinics for thinking differently than they do. Then there are tons of people in the middle.
On the other end you have ... well, the thing is, I can't really think of anything that extreme for atheists. Now, don't get all bent out of shape. If you're religious you're screaming at your computer screen right now about Hitler and Stalin and Pol Pot. It seems to me that both Pol Pot and Stalin wanted to control the populace and keep them completely repressed. One way was to ban religion and persecute religious people. This is not about them being atheist and insisting that the state must therefore be godless as well. It was about absolute control of the people.
Hitler, on the other hand, was not an atheist. He praised christianity and was more than happy to do his best to wipe out Jews. Read Mein Kampf to see what he said about it all. But he was not an atheist. You would have to put Hitler in the nutbag-with-extreme-religious-issues then, because he despised the Jews and wanted to eradicate them. (NOTE: This is all my opinion of what I know of history. I know you pedantic religious and historical folks will happily and pompously correct me. I'm not giving you a history lesson here. I'm simply giving a brief overview of my perspective of three heinous men. If you want cold hard historical facts, Google to your heart's content.)
Anyway, where was I? Right, extreme atheists. Most people think of Dawkins and his friends when you say militant atheist, which is downright silly. Here's this mild mannered British guy who writes books and gives talks. He's a scientist. Oooh, so scary and militant! He talks! That's all he does! But christians are so deeply upset by his thinking that they have coined the term militant atheist.
Militant: vigorously active and aggressive, especially in support of a cause. Engaged in warfare; fighting.
So if someone writes a book, he's a militant? Why? Because he disagrees with you? If you don't like Dawkins, don't pick up his books. You aren't forced to read his work, or to believe the way he does. In fact, I disagree with him, and I'm an atheist. He holds some ideas that go against the way I think, so I don't generally read his books, or listen to him talk or visit his website. See how easy that is?
Let's go back to hypocrisy and talk about fairness and honesty. Dawkins and other atheist proponents use science and philosophy to put forth their ideas in clear arguments that are rational and thoughtful. Yes, they question the status quo. Yes, they don't like religion. I don't either.
On the other hand, my experience with christians is underhanded, unfair, fallacious, hypocritical, and manipulative; aggressive arguments that are based on trying to bend the person to their beliefs through fear and thoughtless obedience. They rely on logical fallacies, bullying, fear tactics and pure hypocrisy to fight as nasty as possible. It seems to me that they believe the means justify the ends, and if they save a soul for their god and win someone over, it doesn't matter how unfair their tactics are.
So who's militant then? The insidious and hypocritical liars that preach obedience to god then do whatever they like? The bullies that insist that evolution is wrong because it goes against the bible so they force public school boards to teach intelligent design and creationism? The same bullies that want every person to pray and follow the morals of the bible, which are hypocritical, flawed and tyrranical, if they would bother to read all the rules laid out?
Years ago, I was quite happy to keep my godlessness to myself. I would never talk to people about religion because I felt it was a personal belief system. There are christians and other religious people that go about their lives trying to be good people. They keep their beliefs to themselves. My aunt is like this. I'm pretty sure she knows I'm an atheist. She's a methodist. They go to church every sunday and I know she is a good christian. We respect each other's beliefs and keep it to ourselves. We get along just fine. She doesn't try to proseletyze and I don't talk to her about how silly and hurtful I feel religion is.
Of course, I've got this blog, but basically it's for people who are already on the fence with the god issue, or are already atheists. If you're religious and you don't like what I have to say, close this window. This isn't intended for you. I'm not trying to convert you.
Most atheists fall somewhere in the middle on that scale. Sure, we might argue a bit when pressed at a party, but overall most of us just want to be left alone. Ok, that was a huge generalization. I think most atheists under ideal conditions would not be so pesky and uppity about their godlessness.
But, when religious people demand that they are right, that their morals and beliefs are the only ones that are correct, and we must all follow their strict rules for how to live our lives, when public education is threatened with religious dogma and morals are being forced on people through laws pushed through with religious agendas, when churches don't pay taxes on the money they bilk from their parishioners, but then try to get taxpayer money to proselytize or force people to follow their rules, that's when atheists get fired up.
Religious people, whether they be christian fundamentalists or muslim extremists, seem to want to force everyone to believe their dogma and follow their musty old holy books which were written by angry middle eastern men in the iron and bronze ages. Their holy books are the be-all, end-all of their belief systems. They cherry pick what they like from those holy books and try to bully everyone into believing the lies and tell everyone how wrong they are. It's all about faith and a bunch of other nonsense that dies in the light of reason, science, common sense and decency.
So, yeah, that's why I speak out. That's why I blog and try to help fellow atheists. That's why I'm uppity and that's why I criticize religion. Because it's bullshit. It's based on fear and control of people, not on anything good or noble.
But I'll happily keep my atheism to myself if religious people will do the same. All of you. That will never happen though, because you want everyone to be as miserable under the jackboot of an angry, childish, tyrant in the sky as you are. SoI then, I'll continue to speak out and help educate people. That doesn't make me militant. It just means I'm thoughtful and that I think for myself and hope to help others that want to do the same.