Since I became an atheist, I had never thought about the terminology much; that is, until I left a comment on a blog that sought to depict the anti-theist movement as a hate group. My comment, as is like me, contains hints of being offended, but after I went through and dissected the argument, I realized I would have to contemplate the matter further.
Because the post had details I wanted to address, I’ve posted the actual post with my thoughts inserted:
“The motivating topic for this was atheism, or more specifically, anti-theism. What I find so astonishing is not the increasing number of atheists, but anti-theists and its increasing social acceptability.”
Is anti-theism on the rise? Has anti-theism become increasingly more socially acceptable? From what I can gather from the Internet, apparently the “nones” are on the rise, though there is a suspicious attachment to the study that suggests, people wish the U.S. was more religious. What is anti-theism then?
RationalWiki defines it as “outspoken opposition to theism and religion. It is a subset of atheism which holds that theism and religion are harmful to society and people, and that if theistic beliefs were true, they would be undesirable.”
“From my experience, these people are, almost to a person, bitter, amongst many other rather unpleasant words, and all-around readily dislikable people for atheists and non-atheists alike.”
That the anti-theist takes a specific action against a religion, such as the posting of a “Dump The Myth” billboard in Times Square, the psychoanalytical model fitted to the anti-theist tends to be characterized by bitterness, as though some deep-seated wrong had been committed, in need of being avenged.
“But, then again, what came first, the chicken or the egg. In my opinion, these are little people; they do not seek to advance atheism.”
And because of the actions they take in the wake of their bitter feelings, they are perceived as little people who incite elements of social hostility, as opposed to the advancement of society in the atheist vein.
“Rather, they exclusively seek to denigrate religion. This all begs the question, ‘Why?’”
The offshoot of criticizing religion is the denigration of religion. The significance of this denigration, however, lies in the extent to which religion has permeated national law. In this manner, religion sets itself up for free speech denigration, just as a politician would.
“It is only logical to presume that in the extremely vast majority of cases, anti-theists are subscribers to the school of thought out of solely their own choosing, not influenced by that of a parent or community. Therefore, they were either religious or atheistic or agnostic prior to their adopting anti-theism.”
While stereotyping is always a shaky ground to argue upon, it is nevertheless difficult to avoid. The development of general anti-theistic thought naturally arises from the atheist position, and many atheists exist. Yet if the atheist decides she wants to champion causes that promote rational thought, equal rights for women and the LBGT community, anti-terrorism, etc., the highlighting of religious influence, behavior and provenance becomes an invariable source of campaigning.
“It is my belief that one does not convert to anti-theism from atheism, let alone an established religion, out of any reason other than disillusionment with the establishment with which they were associated with prior.”
Reasons other than disillusionment can include basic observation of behavior and the judgment of right vs. wrong, grounded in the aspect of education; thought and decisions based on group discussion; the vision to change society; etc.
“So, their conversion to a destructive, rather than constructive, orientation is purely out of spite. The situation likens itself to an unprecedentedly large instance of a group of people throwing a hissy fit. The primary driving force for these people is not an inability to harmonize religion with rational thought, but is instead an unwillingness to subject themselves to a temporal authority, irrespective of its (true or stated) spiritual affiliations.”
The anti-theist role is not to enact vindictive behavior based on a perception of religion, the role is to point out and display the reality of religion, where it came from, what it does to people, and how it serves to depress society rather than situate it in a position of progress.
“My other comment is on the focus of anti-theists’ efforts. In the Western World, particularly the United States, the single target of anti-theists are Christian religions. Granted, Christianity is by far the largest religion in the United States, the distribution is still greatly disproportionate. Once again, I would like to rhetorically ask, ‘Why?’”
According to Wikipedia, 97.1% of the 111th Congress of the United States is affiliated with the Abrahamic religion. As this is a clear indicator of the ingrained nature of religion in public policy, Christianity has no choice but to accept the assaults upon its character. When people get fed up, they point out issues and act on them, the tool of denigration being a powerful one. Just by saying, “Look, we abide by the rules of rational thinking and science, people should listen to what we have to say,” it doesn’t always work. What is irrational has to be exhibited as a means to an end.
“The answer is twofold: because Christians are the majority and because of the nature of Christians. An attack on a non-Christian religion is deemed socially unacceptable because they would be ‘beating up on the little guy.’ Muslims, Buddhists, Jews, Hindus, pagans, etc are all free from the bellicose ‘statements of logic’ put forth by these anti-theists. My theory is that minority religions are prone to act much more frequently as a bloc and would therefore be much more coordinated and effective, coupled with increased public attention, at countering these assertions. Islam and Judaism are different, however. Both religions are much more mainstream.”
No religion is excused from examination, yet when Christians arm themselves and start gunning down anti-theists, they just may succeed in prevailing with their dogma. Fact is, while Christianity is relatively peaceful, physically speaking, intellectually they are dangerous. Because of Bible contradictions, the fictive nature of its stories, and the invisibility-of-God factor, Christians have to maintain their principles by sheer passion and emotion, one of the prime reasons why atheists are so hated. Their emotions keep them from believing anything but the Bible, and with its stipulation of converting the other, their passions drive them to act accordingly; yet atheists do more than refuse to comply, they challenge the message.
“So, my proposal for the lack of attacks on them [non-Christian religions] is that they have international support. Both are very small groups in the United States. An attack on Islam could spell riots or simple verbal backlash from the international community. An attack on Judaism would result in a condemnation from Israel and many influential Jewish politicians and businessmen. Just to clarify: I do not believe these groups or any religion should be subject to the treatment of anti-theists. However, I find it peculiar that Christians are uniquely subject to it in the United States.”
Not believing in the “treatment of anti-theists” is the same as silencing the opposition, something mainstream religions would happily do if it weren’t for the progress of secularization — which is done primarily through the voice of anti-theism.
“Finally, I just find it patently wrong that anti-theist groups more frequently than not operate under the auspices of being an atheistic group, and are therefore afforded certain privileges. The government considers such groups as in the same class as religious institutions.”
“Therefore, one such privilege they fully exercise is advertising by means of large, deliberately offensive billboards. An example is one that read to the effect of, ‘You know he’s not real’ (depicting Jesus), at Christmas time, no less. The categorical classification of these groups as non-profits and community groups prevents them from otherwise being inevitably classified as hate groups. I rather dislike analogies to infamous events and the like, but I will make one. Today, the KKK (officially) breaks no laws nor disturbs the peace. Yet, it is prevented from advertising such intentionally offensive, disrespectful and outright morally deprived messages as those advertised by atheist groups. This classification by the government, be it negligent or deliberate, is simply a failure to exercise its role as a facilitator of social cohesion and public good.”
The comparison of anti-theism with the KKK is not wholly fitting. The KKK is a racially-based religious organization with a history of violence. Anti-theism, alternatively, exercises freedom of speech laws to question an ideology that is known for its tendency to influence the public sphere. Wikipedia informs, “According to the United States Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI), hate groups’ ‘primary purpose is to promote animosity, hostility, and malice against persons belonging to a race, religion, disability, sexual orientation, or ethnicity/national origin which differs from that of the members of the organization.'” Slogans such as, “You Know It’s a Myth this Season, Celebrate Reason,” or, “Dump the Myth,” are statements that question the validity of religion, via the word “myth.” Such terminology is a far cry from the discriminating voice of Pastor Charles L. Worley, who proposed nationally a 100mile fence to house homosexuals.
Since the day when I confirmed myself as an atheist, I have to agree that I have become something of an anti-theist. I am admittedly perturbed with religion of all kinds, specifically when their ideologies seek to control people who don’t bend their way. I am also bitter for the loss of my mother as a child during the Baby Scoop Era, a social phenomenon defined by religious control, to which my life then became immersed in a parental situation that could be likened unto something seen in Brian De Palma’s Carrie (written by Stephen King). On some levels, I have to admit, I’m not sure if I would go to the extent of posting anti-religious billboards, though I am amused when it happens, if for the reason that when a pastor or priest sees it and realizes, he can’t control people and freedom of speech through his church, he probably gets miffed. I have ideas about being anti-theist through the sheer effort of promoting atheist, rational thought. I have ideas about performing the role that religion plays in feeding the hungry, solving problems with the homeless, and being useful to society.
That being said, I have no intention of relinquishing my continued efforts to examine religious texts nor my observations and publishing of religious behavior. I also don’t believe that the Anti-Theist Movement in general is “bitter” and “disillusioned.” As long as religious institutions seek to continue to influence public thought, based on unsound, unchanging ideology inspired from the age of myth making, I will be there to point out what I can, so that people grappling with the stranglehold of religion will know, they are not alone. My actions are for social consciousness, and while I tend to use the term “religionist” as often as possible, so that no single group suffers the brunt end of my criticism, it is Christianity that has done the most damage to me, it is the Bible that I know quite well enough, and thus it is this particular religion that will have to endure the message I am bringing to the world, whether it be atheist, anti-theist, or both.
The outline of these thoughts originated from this post:
And I am happy to leave myself open to criticism.