RationalWiki will be going through an upgrade cycle this weekend. This will cause some down time, details are at the tech blog. As a reminder, we try and add information to the tech blog during any outage, you can always refer to it for details or as a form of communication if the site is down.

from Tmtoulouse (Talk), group Site wide (urgent) at 15:23, 18 April 2014

Militant atheism

From RationalWiki
Jump to: navigation, search
The Atheist's Guide To


Icon atheism.svg
Key concepts
More about atheism
Notable atheists
It's rare to walk anywhere in public and not see some religious advertisement every few moments. Imagine if the cause of non-belief were promoted to even one hundredth this degree? Theists would be totally outraged. Yet if an atheist decides to react to the overwhelming pro-religion propaganda that's in his face on a daily basis, he's labeled as "militant", "intolerant" and "extremist."
—Morgan Matthew, Why atheists care about religion[1]

Militant atheism is a derogatory neologism associated primarily with the New Atheism movement, used to describe atheists and secularists who actively campaign against religion or religious influence in public life or government ruling. Countering religion, criticising it and exposing it to rational argument is somehow seen as wrong. Militant atheism is generally thought of as "being on the rise," particularly given the religious turmoil spurred on by 9/11.


[edit] Militant activities and double standards

Actions that can get an atheist branded as "militant" include:

  • Campaigning against public and enforced prayerparticularly in schools.
  • Holding rallies against religious figures.
  • Questioning public policy based on religion such as running abstinence programs rather than teaching about contraception.
  • Questioning religious authority.
  • Vocally expressing disbelief in God.
  • Working against discrimination on religious grounds.
  • Writing books.

Basically, any vocal activity by an atheist or group of atheists will be called "militant" by some religious pundit or another. At the same time, religious groups and individuals are free to openly profess their beliefs and proselytize without much public outcry. Thus, outspoken religious belief and atheism are held to a double standard, where religious criticism of atheism is held as conventional wisdom, but atheistic criticism of religion is regarded as controversial.[2]

[edit] Militant? Really?

Militant, but definitely not an atheist.
An actual militant atheist.

Most generally, the term "militant" means anyone who is organised and vigorous about their cause and the activities they use to go about supporting it. In this case it is just an adjective to describe a particular attitude and is technically accurate — the only reason that "militant evangelical" isn't a widely used term, though it would be equally technically accurate, is because it would be pretty redundant.

However, the word derives from the Latin militare, which is associated with soldiers and the military, and while not exclusively associated with "official" armies, is still used to describe armed militias, rebel groups and those with a violent predisposition. The connotations of using violence, particularly armed violence, are still strong especially when used as a noun, e.g., "a militant." This is probably not helped by the fact that "Militant Islam" is a term associated with terrorism and wielding AK-47s in the Middle East, and "Militant Christianity" is associated with gun nuts in the United States. The fact that these people are sort-of atheists is funny, but not really the point.

By contrast, the most militant action done in the names of Richard Dawkins and Christopher Hitchens was a peaceful rally against the Pope's state visit to the UK—so the wider implications of the term "militant" is somewhat unfair when applied to atheists.

[edit] The real deal

The League of Militant Atheists (Russian: Союз воинствующих безбожников) was an antireligious Communist organisation that existed in Soviet Russia in the first half of the 20th century. It was disbanded in the 1940s, after Stalin decided to tone down the anti-religious activities during the Second World War.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

Personal tools