“Militant Atheism” Doesn’t Exist August 6, 2008

“Militant Atheism” Doesn’t Exist

This Albert Sweigart fellow has a point.

And I like the mockup video towards the beginning 🙂

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  • that was pretty good.

    if we are militant, then so is anyone else who writes a book or speaks their mind.

  • Tom


    Here was my take on this a couple months ago. Albert’s is a whole lot more thorough. Good work!

  • I thought he made great points. Thanks for sharing that, I’m going to check out more of his work.

  • TXatheist

    Albert is talented. The points at the end..priceless.

  • Freak

    Didn’t Gandhi refer to his own methods as “militant nonviolence”?

  • Richard Wade

    A yery talented and articulate young man. I look forward to more of his videos. Did anybody else notice that his voice inflection is almost identical to the very unique inflections of Carl Sagan? He even looks like Sagan.

  • Vincent

    I’d never heard the term “militant nonviolence” before, so I did some searching. Apparently it was invented by members of the War Resisters League and the Fellowship of Reconciliation, two pacifist organizations that appeared in the USA during the peace after the First World War.
    I can’t find if Ghandi himself actually used the term – or MLK Jr. to whom it’s also ascribed – but it wouldn’t matter. It still does not apply to the people described in the video.

    Militant nonviolence is meant to describe people taking action for a cause in a non-violent but definitely physical way. The peace movement moved to militant nonviolence when it stopped just publishing books and editorials and took to marching on Washington and picketing military bases.
    Last I heard, Dawkins had not picketed at the Vatican or chained himself to a 10 Commandments monument to prevent it being put up on public property.
    Speaking and writing are precisely not militant.
    If a bunch of atheists decides to go fill the seats of the local church so the congregation members can’t get in, that might qualify as militant atheism.
    It’s unfortunate that the word, which clearly refers to war and fighting, has been coopted in this manner, but it was coopted long before the latest wave of atheist literature and you can’t blame it on the Christian right.

    However, they clearly misuse the term because free speech is not militancy.

  • Great Video

  • “Nothing happens when you die!… Boom!”


    I disagree with one point though. If religion could be shown to have a net positive benefit then the supernatural claims would be secondary to the “good” done. They could be wrong and good at the same time.

    Not that I think there is an overall positive benefit, quite the opposite. I’m just saying already. Sheesh!

  • OK, I’m going to have to play Devil’s Advocate here. First, let me just say that I don’t like the term “militant atheist” and I understand Albert’s point about what militant tends to mean in the context of religion.

    However, the term is perfectly appropriate going by the dictionary definition. For example, in my dictionary, the very first definition for militant is
    militant: vigorously active, aggressive, or combative: a militant group of reformers

    I don’t see anything in that definition that wouldn’t apply to Dawkins, Harris, etc. Even combative doesn’t necessarily mean violent. My dictionary doesn’t have a definition for combative, but the very first definition it has for combat is
    combat: to fight or contend against; oppose vigorously: He vowed to combat crime.

    So while I agree that in the context of discussing religions, the word militant will conjure images of violent individuals, in the general sense, the usage is appropriate.

  • For me the issue is simple: for someone to aggressively attempt to convert me to their dogma against my will is unacceptable. For someone to aggressively attempt to convert someone to my dogma against my will is unacceptable.

    I would strongly suggest that we confine ourselves to agitation for the separation of church and state and against discrimination against anyone for their beliefs.

    I have not embraced science or anything else as a religion. I am not so narcissistic as to think that humanity is now somehow supreme. Free of the hoax of religion, I can now focus my caring on my fellows, our animal and plant companions, and trying to keep my side of the street clean so that you may all walk on it.

    Be at peace.

  • Amy Black

    Wow, that vid made me think.

    Having read both Dawkins and Harris I would say their writing is harsh but not nearly as harsh as saying someone is going to hell for disagreeing with you. I recently read a debate between Sam Harris and Rick Warren and I thought Harris was much more polite than Rick. Rick told Harris he was gong to hell and all Sam said was that the existence of God can’t be proven. I thought Rick was rude in the interview.

    “Militant” as is used to describe crazy religious extremists should NOT be used to describe authors Harris and Dawkins.

  • Anne

    Albert is hot. He does remind me of Carl Sagan, only even cuter.

    You think he dates older women?

  • Vincent

    I disagree with TSP. Militant even in your dictionary indicates activism, and speech is not activism. Unless you are making a physical act of promotion of your position, merely publishing the position is not militant.

  • J. J. Ramsey

    “Militant even in your dictionary indicates activism, and speech is not activism.”

    Much of activism, though, involves speech, and publishing one’s position and calling attention to the publication is definitely activism.

    Now whether this sort of activism is militant depends, of course, on the content of the position and how it’s promoted.

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