Militant Atheism: Good or Bad?
While watching an old lecture from Richard Dawkins, who I’m sure you’re all familiar with by now, I couldn’t help but feel a sense of pride, excitement, and anticipation. He was speaking at a conference in front of some of the world’s leading scientists, and intellectuals. Dawkins urged them to be what he described as “militant atheists” — people who are open about their atheism, and not afraid to stop being polite to the religious. Many atheists, as Dawkins explained, are pressured and forced to keep their beliefs hidden. In a nation predominantly Christian such as the US, we are wrongfully labeled as “unpatriotic,” and distrustful. While we’re all aware that something must be done to promote awareness and tolerance for atheism, is being militant the best solution?
I feel excited about the prospect that people will one day be able to gather, and speak openly about their atheism at conferences like this more often. However at the same time I have to worry about the possible unfavorable consequences our nation might suffer to get there. Let’s face it, atheism isn’t for everyone. One of the risks we face is even more hostility, and intolerance from our religious counterparts than we experience now. One the plus side though, being open about atheism will undoubtedly produce more “deconverts” — those who leave religion behind — but are we ready to give them the support they’ll need?
Those who are comfortable with atheism often forget that for newcomers atheism isn’t easy, and in fact it can be quite scary. I remember after first being “deconverted” to atheism, I felt both a mixture of fear and excitement. I was excited because I could finally let go of the burden of religion. I no longer had to futilely attempt to reconcile its many fallacies and contradictions. Being atheist allowed me to throw away faith, and embrace science and reasoning. However, along with that also came the head-on confrontation with my own mortality. Since I no longer believed in an afterlife I was faced with the fear of what it meant to stop existing. Eventually atheism helped me realize just how fortunate I was to be alive, and I no longer took things for granted that I once did as a Christian. Even though I personally found new meaning to life in my friends and family, not everyone could do the same.
So why am I hesitant of militant atheism? I think we have to take into account that not everyone can lead what they’d considering fulfilling lives without religion. Some people were raised with it since birth, and have become too dependent on it. What I worry is that our nation is not yet equipped, or prepared for the affects militant atheism would have. Although I’d love to have the freedom to be as open about my beliefs in public as those who are religious, I wonder if now is the time and place for it. Are they ready? Will they ever be? Should I continue to keep my difference of opinion hidden? I’ve always been willing to share what I believed in if I were approached and asked, but do I have a duty as an atheist to be more aggressive? So those are the questions I leave you with. I realize that the consequences I’ve listed are a bit extreme, but nonetheless I’d like to hear your opinion on Dawkins’ call for militant atheism.