I’ve noticed that the term “militant atheist” is being used more frequently lately, particularly after reading through the threads about the review of Unscientific America: How Scientific Illiteracy Threatens Our Future at Pharyngula and at The Intersection.
The term “militant atheist/atheism” is a rather stupid one because it implies that atheists are violent, which they are not – well, not the ones that I know, anyway. I can’t recall any news reports of atheists strapping explosives to themselves, or of atheists crashing planes into buildings. No, it seems the term refers to those of us who question religion or, as has happened to me, just merely admitting that one is an atheist can bring about accusations of being a “militant atheist”. *sigh*
The links to the threads above also made me question whether one should take an accommodationist stance or a more confrontational view when dealing with religion. I still haven’t found the answer. It’s difficult, especially when dealing with family and friends, after all we don’t want to hurt their feelings. Yet, on the other hand, I no longer want keep quiet about my atheism just because someone may find my lack of belief offensive. Why is it considered “militant” to question people about something that, in some cases, makes very little sense? Is religious belief so fragile that it cannot stand up to scrutiny or criticism?
Recently, I was attempting to have what I thought was a fairly straightforward discussion about someone’s spiritual point of view. This person doesn’t believe in god, but in a Universal Spirit – which after some questioning, turned out to be god anyway, just with a different name. The only differences were that this person didn’t believe that the bible was in any way god’s word and that Jesus had not existed, otherwise everything else was the same. After a few more questions, this person ended the conversation by saying that I was making things too complicated. Perhaps I was. I had learnt that the Universal Spirit was the creator of everything and I wanted to know who had created the Universal Spirit. Was asking an obvious question “militant”? I don’t think so.
Just like there are Evangelical Christians and Islamic fundamentalists, I’m sure there are “evangelical” atheists, I just haven’t come across any in my social circle or on the web. But, by just questioning someone’s beliefs does not make me a “militant atheist”.