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How do I identify a militant atheist?
I am blessed to have lived in a country with a state religion—which ends up tantamount to no religion at all—and in an aggressively secular country. So while I may have had the zeal of Voltaire in my teens about atheism, I no longer get, nor particularly care to get, strident atheism such as abounds in the US.
That’s strident atheism, to make a distinction my confrere Michael Masiello makes.
Why not Magister, Michael, as I usually call you? Because this time around, I’m dissenting, and that calls for fraternity rather than tutelage. 🙂
I dissent, because while I understand the distinction made by Michael between atheism and antitheism, it is not a distinction of any great age, and not one I would impose on the question. I haven’t read of the antitheist Soviets, for example, just state atheism.
And of course that’s why I find the notion that militant atheism is inconceivable to be a cavil. Of course there have been militant atheists. If we take the maximalist definition of “militant” used by other respondents, I don’t know what else to call the killing of 28 bishops and 1200 priests from 1922 to 1928 in the name of Leninism (Religion in the Soviet Union – Wikipedia). If we take the less lethal, but to my mind no less valid notion of militancy as the systematic suppression of religious practice and destruction of religious sites, the Soviets excelled in militant atheism as well.
And to my mind, an activist destroying a religious symbol to protest religiosity, still counts as militancy and not just stridency. What Femen did in chainsawing the public square crucifix in Kiev to protest Pussy Riot (Femen – Wikipedia), for example, might have been militant atheism, anti-government protest, or any number of other things. (Mostly, I think what Femen does is simply inane, but I’m not their target audience.)
So if militant atheism involves organised acts of actual violence against believers (if you want to differentiate militancy and stridency in that way), is that a current issue? If it is, it’s mostly limited to North Korea, China, maybe Cuba. And to tell a militant atheist, you’re looking for the willingness of the atheist to commit violence to advance their agenda.
Does that excuse belligerence and contempt, from either side? Not in my book. YMMV.
Go in peace.