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Militant atheism

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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. The term describes atheists and secularists who actively campaign against religion and against religious influence in public life or government ruling. Countering religion, criticising and arguing rationally against it is somehow seen as wrong. Militant atheism is generally thought of as "being on the rise," particularly due to religious turmoil following 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.
  • Stating openly one does not believe in God.
  • Working against discrimination on religious grounds.
  • Writing books.
  • Stating non-belief in any sort of public fashion.

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

[edit] Militant? Really?

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

Most generally, the term "militant" means anyone who promotes their cause in an organised and vigorous way, and the activities they use to support it. In this case it is just an adjective describing a particular attitude and is technically accurate. "Militant evangelical" isn't a widely used term, though it would be equally technically accurate, because it would be pretty redundant.

However, the word derives from the Latin militare, which is connected with soldiers and the military. Militant is not exclusively associated with "official" armies but is still used to describe armed militias, rebel groups and those with a violent predisposition. The implication of using violence, particularly armed violence, is still strong especially when used as a noun, e.g., "a militant." The association with violence is strengthened because "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.

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 unfairly applied to atheists.

[edit] The real deal

The League of Militant Atheists (Russian: "Союз воинствующих безбожников". In the Russian name, the word "godless" instead of atheist is used) was an antireligious Communist organisation in Soviet Russia during the first half of the 20th century. It was disbanded in the 1940s, when Stalin decided to tone down anti-religious campaigning during the Second World War.

[edit] See also

[edit] External links

[edit] Footnotes

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