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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|
Militant atheism, also known as all "making the case for atheism and/or antitheism in a frank but unapologetic manner", is a derogatory neologism called upon against any and all nonbelievers who won't just shut up about it (and is, as a result, a snarl word primarily directed against vocal New Atheists).
The term describes any given atheist or secularist who dares profess their own views against religion or against religious influence in public life or government ruling within earshot of a religious person who has grown accustomed to never having their views challenged. The term thus denotes the enormous social faux pas one commits by not simply giving in to the arbitrary privilege accorded religion in the United States.
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. As a result, the charge of "militant atheism" amounts to nothing more than a tone argument if one considers the complete absence of actual militancy within popular atheism (compared to various religious actors). QualiaSoup provides a summary of this view in his Lack of belief in gods:
Some theists (who are determined for atheism to mean more than "a lack of belief") note how fervent some atheists are in discussion, and point out that "fervency doesn't just come from a lack of belief". No, it doesn't. A great deal of fervency is a response to the hostility directed at us [Atheists] simply for not believing in Gods.
To being condemned, criticised, marginalized and dehumanized by people who are unwilling to allow us to live our lives; who impugn our morality, who tell us we don't belong in the country in which we were born, who distort our education, attempt to monopolize government, and ostracize us for not participating in their rituals.
Treat any group of people with such profound disrespect, and it would be surprising not to see fervency from some of them. Fervency is not a result of simply being an atheist. But nor is it solely a response to the disgusting manner in which atheists are treated. It also comes from a wider sense of injustice at the way human beings are being treated around the world.
How church leaders are invoking baseless religious priviligies to keep the details of child sexual abuse cases secret. How children are dying from torture and neglect after being branded as "witches" and "demon-possessed". How adulterers are being stoned to death, gay people are being hanged, and other barbaric acts are being commited — all in the name of an entity whose basic existence can't be demonstrated.
Militant activities and double standards
Actions that can get an atheist branded as "militant" include:
- Campaigning against public and enforced prayer — particularly 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. 
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 anti-religious 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.
Another group which can legitimately be referred to as Militant Atheists were the Hébertists during the French Revolution as they were out to erase all religiousness from society by proscribing the Republican Calendar, destroying and desecrating churches, etc,...
- Definition of Militant Atheism
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