Fundamentalist Atheism …

EDIT:  The comment is out of moderation, it seems, so thanks to Ophelia for that.

There’s a discussion over at Butterflies and Wheels about the whole accommodationist thing again:

In one of the comments, frequent commenter Sigmund compared fundamentalist/militant theism and fundamentalist/militant atheism and wondered what the problem with fundamentalist/militant atheism was supposed to be:

” know why the accomodationists spend so much time on attacking the gnus. According to many of them and their ‘moderate’ religious allies, ‘militant fundamentalist atheists’ (I think they means us!) are just as bad as the worst sort of religious fundamentalists.

If you really see it that way then it becomes obvious why we need to be targeted.

Now personally I don’t see the equivalency of beheading Daniel Pearl on camera with a rusty knife or killing three thousand people in the twin towers, with PZ Myers calling Michael Ruse a clueless gobshite, but if they really are equivalent behavior then it makes sense to target us.

Perhaps I am too much of a ‘moral degenerate’ to be able to see how throwing a sacramental cracker in the garbage bin is the same thing as throwing acid in a schoolgirls face, or how telling Rob Knopp that his belief in a Jesus that rose from the dead and flew up to heaven and is as scientifically verified as a Leprechaun hiding his crock of gold at the end of the rainbow, well that just happens to be equivalent to executing someone for deciding they don’t believe in Islam.

Is our act of publicly pointing out that the catholic church have no right to be seen as ‘moral guardians’, particularly in the light of their global coverup of abusers, is that just as bad as the church’s action in actively preventing the use of condoms in HIV prevalent Africa?

I guess it must be! I just can’t see it.

I just thank my lucky stars that there are some nice accomodationists that CAN see this and do their utmost to stop me before I get to do much more damage.”

I ignored a lot of aside comments and focussed on the impression of why fundamentalism and militancy is considered bad in a reply I made there that at this time is still under moderation:


Well, I think the focus is more on the attitude than on the specific actions. The attitude of what could be called militant atheists seems to be quite similar to that of militant theists, but it’s just on the other end of the spectrum. That could suggest that it isn’t the views that stop atheists from committing similar actions, but just opportunity. And then we can point to the Soviet Union as an example of what happens when an anti-religious philosophy gets the power to do what it wants to religion:

“The history of Christianity in the Soviet Union was not limited to repression and secularization. Soviet policy toward religion was based on the ideology of Marxism-Leninism, which made atheism the official doctrine of the Soviet Union. Marxism-Leninism has consistently advocated the control, suppression, and, ultimately, the elimination of religious beliefs

Anti-theist and anti-religious views do seem to tend, at times, towards the latter, and some Gnus do seem to be anti-theist and anti-relligion. And if that’s the case, could that attitude spread to these sorts of actions:

“The state was committed to the destruction of religion[2][3], and to this effect it destroyed churches, mosques and temples, ridiculed, harassed and executed religious leaders, flooded the schools and media with atheistic propaganda, and generally promoted ‘scientific atheism’ as the truth that society should accept”

Gnus do seem to promote the last one, and probably aren’t doing the others … yet. Now, they may well never do that, because there may be something else in their make-up that avoids that. But you will forgive people for being skeptical.”

In hindsight, Gnus clearly support ridiculing religious leaders, and do promote a scientific atheism.  Or, at least, most of them do.  The rest they aren’t doing … yet.  But perhaps my age is making me cynical, and I am no longer willing to accept the claim of “Look, you can trust US”.  Especially when they’re pointing out just how bad humanity can be by pointing to the worst abuses of their opponents.  Sorry, but I don’t really see how you’re going to be better than anyone else has been when they’ve gotten the power to do whatever they want; you need to prove that you will be instead of just asserting that it’s something about them that was the problem, but that you lack that.

(Note that I’m posting this because I think it is a good answer to the question of why fundamentalism bothers people and I’m not sure it will appear there.  I’m not saying anything about the moderation there, nor complaining that it has not yet appeared, nor presuming that it never will.  But at least if it doesn’t I’ll have what I said so I don’t have to look it all up again to post it.)

4 Responses to “Fundamentalist Atheism …”

  1. Sigmund Says:

    Why don’t you point to modern secular societies like Sweden or Denmark?
    There are a higher percentage of atheists in those countries compared to former communist countries and yet there is no persecution of the religious by atheists.
    Are there any gnu atheists who sound like they are advocating anything like a communistic style society?
    If there are I’d like to see an example.
    It seems to me that there are at least two paths that a secular society can travel and the gnus are firmly advocating the Scandinavian example rather than the Soviet one (there are even alternatives such as an Ayn Rand style objectivist libertarian system but that is not one that the gnus support, in my experience).
    To compare the gnus with extremists you are forced to describe old style totalitarian communism – does that not tell you something about your argument?

  2. verbosestoic Says:

    I would say that those countries are not anti-religious, and suspect that the shift to an atheist majority was a not particular fractious or confrontational one. Heck, I think Sweden still has an official state religion, if I recall correctly.

    I would disagree that the Gnus are really advocating that model because a lot of Gnus are, in fact, actually anti-religious and anti-theist. They may think they’re promoting a Scandinavian style, and they may actually WANT a Scandinavian style society, but the anti-religion is closer to the Soviet than the Scandinavian.

    Again, I am comparing anti-religious philosophies. If the Gnus aren’t actually anti-religious, then I’d be wrong. But that description there of what Marxist-Leninism promoted as anti-religious does seem to describe the Gnus quite well.

  3. Wonderist Says:

    VS, your focus on ‘anti-theism’ as the core of gnu atheism is misguided. It is not theism per se that we are against. Not even religion per se. It is faith-based dogma that is used to trample on peoples’ rights to free speech and free thought.

    We are against dogma. When one of us appears to become dogmatic, we criticize *them* too. We constantly challenge arguments from authority, from popularity, and other baseless assertions. We challenge people to provide good reasons and evidence for their claims.

    To hint that anti-dogmatists will probably/plausibly become violent, authoritarian dogmatists — for the sole reason that being ‘anti-religious’ they share a property in common with anti-religious Soviets — is to completely miss the point that we are, at heart, anti-dogmatists, have consistently been anti-dogmatists, and spend all our time speaking out non-violently against dogma. Stalin had a moustache, too. Are you paranoid about people with moustaches then?

  4. verbosestoic Says:


    First, it seems to me that a lot of the time religion for Gnu atheists gets defined as faith-based dogma. Certainly the big discussion point in incompatibilist discussions is about faith, and since that’s used pretty much against “religion” it seems that they consider religion to be based on faith by definition, and most of the time the argument is that religion is dogmatic. So I think focusing on anti-theist and anti-religious views is pretty much on target, since that’s pretty much what they have, even by your definition.

    As for going after people on their own side who make bad arguments, that’s kinda hit or miss, and usually is driven more by disagreement than by the actual bad arguments. A fair number of arguments made by Gnu atheists are fallacious themselves, and those arguments often get cited instead of argued against. I’m also not sure that they aren’t dogmatic at times. Myers seems fairly dogmatic. Hitchens does as well. Harris is pretty dogmatic in his moral discussions, at least, and I have no reason to think that his religious views are less so.

    But you are missing the point. The point was that if Gnu atheists — or any atheists — are fundamentalists about their views, then that attitude seems to be the problem. Fundamentalism includes being dogmatic. So if Gnu atheists aren’t really dogmatic, then they aren’t fundamentalist or militant and the link can’t be made. But I’m not convinced they aren’t. But we should be able to settle that question, shouldn’t we? And that question should be one that anti-dogmatists ask themselves, right?

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