There is a common misconception that atheists are “militant” and extremely aggressive in their activism. Today, I will address this misconception.
It is not far-fetched to think that some religious folks distort reality to adhere to their own beliefs. For example, there are people that will happily believe that a walking, talking snake doomed all of mankind, but refuse to accept that everything on this planet changes over time. This distortion of reality is highly evident when they refer to us as “militant atheists.” Militant, when used as an adjective, means combative and aggressive in support of a political or social cause, and typically favoring extreme, violent, or confrontational methods.
If we were to consider that definition, we would have to concede that this actually has described the approach of the religious for centuries—and still continues to describe much of their movement today. When the media and others refer to a “militant atheist”, the object of that slander is usually an atheist who has questioned religious authority, is sharing or stating their non-belief, or has campaigned against public and enforced religious practices.
But this reflects a double standard, because it seems to apply only to atheists. Religious individuals and groups frequently declare, sometimes subtly and sometimes not, that you are a sinner and that you will suffer in hell for eternity if you do not adopt their supernatural beliefs, but they will almost never be labeled “militant” by the media or the public. Being an atheist is illegal and usually punishable by death in several countries in Africa and the Middle East, but those believers are never labeled militant.
Recently, a friend of mine complained about a “Bible Man”, a preacher that has been visiting her child’s school to teach children about the Bible. The children were not told that they did not have to attend and those that did not want to attend were “thoroughly encouraged” to attend. A further investigation uncovered that these students were often coerced into attending these sessions during school hours, a complaint was filed, and Bible Man was removed. My friend and her family began to receive death threats, including posting pictures of burning houses and sending her hate-filled messages, from Christians who were described as “loving and kind-hearted” instead of being labeled militant. I will include a link below to this story, if you are interested in learning more about the religious persecuting those that decide to opt out. Despite this unacceptable terroristic and villainous behavior, these religious individuals are called “devout” or “righteous” and churches or mosques that support this behavior are called “evangelical.”
The problem here is clear. If you’re an atheist, shut up about it. If you are open or vocal about the harms of religion, actively working against religious discrimination, or attempting to address the presence of religion in the public sphere then you are a “militant atheist.” You should be silent about what you do or don’t believe, even though that same standard does not apply to those who passionately, and sometimes violently, disagree with you.
There are no atheists armed with modern weaponry attacking Bible printing presses. There are no atheists attempting to silence your freedom of speech. There are no atheists taking away your rights by legislating against you. There are no atheists preventing you from going to church or sending you death threats. There are no atheists forcing or indoctrinating you into a lack of a belief. There are no atheists making it illegal for you to have a religious belief with the threat of death. It is impossible and will never occur.
People do not act on the lack of a belief, they act on the presence of them. Atheism has never done anything, especially not anything militant, other than doubting the claim that your god exists. If you call asking you to apply logic, reason, and rational thought to claims that have been baseless and unconfirmed for all of human history “militant”, then so be it.
Here are a few reasons we speak out against religion
Atheist receives death threats over “Bible Man”
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