“I’ll tell you what you did with Atheists for about 1500 years. You outlawed them from the universities or any teaching careers, besmirched their reputations, banned or burned their books or their writings of any kind, drove them into exile, humiliated them, seized their properties, arrested them for blasphemy. You dehumanized them with beatings and exquisite torture, gouged out their eyes, slit their tongues, stretched, crushed, or broke their limbs, tore off their breasts if they were women, crushed their scrotums if they were men, imprisoned them, stabbed them, disemboweled them, hanged them, burnt them alive.
And you have nerve enough to complain to me that I laugh at you.”
― Madalyn Murray O’Hair
“Many religions now come before us with ingratiating smirks and outspread hands, like an unctuous merchant in a bazaar. They offer consolation and solidarity and uplift, competing as they do in a marketplace. But we have a right to remember how barbarically they behaved when they were strong and were making an offer that people could not refuse.”
― Christopher Hitchens, God Is Not Great: How Religion Poisons Everything
In his book, Fighting God: An Atheist Manifesto for a Religious World, David Silverman makes the argument that non-believers should self-identify as ‘atheist’ with the caveat “when it is safe to do so”. He contrasts ‘atheist’ with other terms that are sometimes used such as ‘freethinker’, ‘humanist’, ‘naturalist’ and various others. His argument, and it is a compelling one backed up by data, is that most people have absolutely no clue what someone means when they label themselves as a ‘freethinker’, let’s say. On the other hand, everyone knows exactly what you mean when you tell them that you are an ‘atheist’. I can attest from personal experience that Silverman’s observation is accurate. I’ve used terms such as ‘humanist’ and eventually the question comes up, “But you do believe in God, right?”“No, I’m an atheist” has always my reply. These days, however, in addition to stating at the outset that I am an atheist I always say that, furthermore, I am an anti-theist. So what’s the difference? An atheist is someone who rejects claims for the existence of god due to the complete lack of evidence. An atheist thinks much the same way regarding trolls, fairies, angels, and Leprechauns as they do about god: no evidence at all so the claim of their existence is rejected. Things would be fine if both sides left at that. Unfortunately, the religious never do.
“Religion is not the belief there is a god. Religion is the belief god tells you what to do.”
— Christopher Hitchens
While many atheists hold to a live and let live philosophy when it comes to theists, anti-theists view the beliefs of theists as positively harmful. In fact, were it not for theists being so active in proselytizing and expecting special privileges for themselves, their beliefs, and their institutions in society there would not be any anti-theists in the world. It isn’t what theists believe but their insistence that everyone else believes as they do and acts accordingly that is the problem. While religious theists tell you that it is the eternal destiny of your soul and the life after this one that concerns them over and over we see this is just a lie. They discriminate against women in this world. The seek political power in this world so as to require everyone to believe as they do or suffer the dire consequences of being convicted of blasphemy, which is another word for thought crime. Not only do they presume to tell you how to act they even claim the right to tell you what you think. The are after power and property in this world, the most valuable property by far being the inside of your head. They will stand in front of your claiming to ventriloquize the divine and issue commands at you telling you how to live and what to think as they point to “god’s word on the page.”
The anti-theist will have none of that and will let the zealots know in no uncertain terms that he or she will do everything possible to stave off this poison using the antidotes of science and reason where ever it is found. This anti-theist refuses to go back to the time when religion “was making an offer that people could not refuse.”
One thought on “Atheist or Anti-theist?”
Sounds like a really good read! I prefer the word ‘anti-religionist’ to ‘anti-theist’. As you said, it is not the belief in god that is harmful, it is how so many of those who believe in god act upon that belief.