It has been suggested in discussions, both here and elsewhere, that there are "atheist fanatics" and that they are "just the same" as religious fanatics.  Personally, I find this assertion ludicrous and loathsome.  To me, it is simply a new formulation of the "fundamentalist atheist" canard--it is just a way of trying to get vocal atheists to shut up by bringing social pressure to bear.  It is just another way of calling us "intolerant" for daring to think they are wrong.  I think this is the first step to forcing us all to either embrace religious belief again or go back in the closet and pretend to embrace religious belief. 

 

So the question for discussion is whether atheistic fanaticism really exists and, if it does, whether or not it is comparable to religious fanaticism.

 

As I think I have made clear, I do not think that atheistic fanaticism really exists.  I think it is just a label put on those atheists who dare to state that they are right and the religious are wrong as a matter of fact.  The religious can say this without a label being attached to them; we cannot.

 

I think it is also clear that even the most extreme atheists do not even remotely come close to the fanaticism of the religious.

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I think it is also clear that even the most extreme atheists do not even remotely come close to the fanaticism of the religious.

Though this is very true, fanaticism is fanaticism... In all it's extremities. 

I consider myself an atheist fanatic. I see nothing wrong with this label. I consider myself an empiricist. As there is no empirical evidence for or against the supposed existence of god (as absurd as the idea is), the only purely rational approach is agnosticism. When I was ten years old, I realized there was no such entity. Now that I am 70 and though still healthy close enough to dying to not live in denial about my mortality, I no longer feel any need to pussyfoot around about the matter to protect fearful religionists.

At the age of 36 or so, I realized that I have the psychological makeup of a religious fanatic. As I have always been an atheist, and as I am not a sociopath (I am pretty sure, but don't test me on this), I am not harming anyone, so I might as well come out of the closet. If you are a religious believer (unlikely on this web site), just deal with it. If you are are squeamish about atheists who proudly ethical extremists such as me, we should just set a good example for religious fanatics by living in harmony and mutual forbearance.

Yes.

It is more about experience and what 'lessons' are 'learned'.

While it is very tempting to disagree in the strongest terms during debates or conversations, many times it would be better to listen and understand.

During a free church dinner last Friday, local neighbors were invited. During the dinner, I and a few folks that were overwhemingly more religious than I got into some rather intense conversations. I mentioned my philosophy training and suggested that there are 'good' people everywhere, some of which are 'not' believers. This was meet with a very terse response, 'but God's people are best'. To which I discontinued my conversation for fear that there was little room for kindness ahead of us, should I continue.

At the end of the dinner, as the group disbanded, I offered my thank-yous, and my little one liner 'thank you for your 'fellowship'. Over the years, I have noticed that, there is a lot of 'good' that can be done with and between persons of 'good will', but try doing the same in an armed camp and between the moments of bombing each other. I have tried to maintain this state of 'good will' as much as possible for fear that I have learned the 'wrong' lessons from my experiences and intellectual training. Debate is a good skill, but if debate destroys a useful relationship, how much 'good' is lost?  

Do you live in a community which is predominately religious?

Very likely.

I have found that many local theist groups 'control' or 'monopolize' activities that might have positive social effect. I think due to the fear that other organizations might get the upper hand on social legitimacy and power.

At the last church dinner I attended last Friday, the Salvation Army was in full force, with volunteers, donations, food from the local Food-bank, even a prayer circle for the low income/street people folks. The local SA members were in full dress blacks, with full neo-military signs of 'rank'. I might consider such uniforms as pretendous, I quess If I were 'christ' I would roll over in my grave, if I had one. 'Doing the good work', does not need props.

Because of my interest in neighborhood gardens, one local minister is in on-going conversation with my significant, I, and others for this coming spring's gardens. He knows that I am not a 'theist', but I have attended his bible studies, and showed a deep respect for others ideas and beliefs, but will also not back down when necessary. I have mentioned that I figure 'Christ' should be on similar footing with Socrates and Plato, due to his social/cultural effects, but I have mis-givings about 'details'.  

While I am not criticizing your approach in the context provided, I mostly find it interesting that in a thread on 'atheistic fanaticism' it sounds like you're the one moderating yourself to accommodate theists. I understand the phrase "won't back down when necessary" and take it at face value, but if someone in my social circles said "God's people are best" in earnest, it would be perfectly acceptable to call it out for the faux-pax it is. I wouldn't expect it to sour any relationships.

Good will is fine, but it has to be predicated on [mutual] respect, in my opinion. In the afore mentioned scenario, would you argue that there was all that much respect on either side?

Yes, as to moderation.

I pick my battles as best I can, sadly many battles could be joined on the lightest pretense. The fellow that asserted the 'God's people are best', was also a man out work, just lost his marriage, and was wearing the only suit he had to the dinner. I gave him a pass, since I also was there for the dinner, but with maybe a better set of pre-conditions. As a 'quest', I was not going to create one more layer of nuttyness while all around me seemed of good spirits and of kind hearts.

I am still running a 'test' of my ability to find some common ground with people that otherwise might show me the door, or pray over me as away to validate their personal obsession(s).

Their respect is conditional upon 'ignorance' of my metaphysical commitments. Being a good man inspite of their tendency to define my humanity away, is my first stage goal. My second goal to be a 'good man', and still be who I 'am', without resorting to the maintenance of ignorance. Not all theists define 'the other' as 'evil', but many do. In contrast, atheists should consider a different path than some standardized alienation or the 'language of battle'.

The world is a very big place, can we really afford to cast ourselves into armed camps?      

I think there is such a thing (for reasons others have given), but that simply disagreeing with the religious doesn't qualify.  It's an over-used accusation, and it's a common technique practiced by both sides of just about every political debate.  The real deal is a problem, but is rarer than the other side thinks, and the OP has correctly identified that this is an intimidation technique.

Your last statement is pretty obvious though, after all, no one would blow themselves, or in fact anyone else, up for atheism.

As for whether fanaticism is real or not, I think it is important to acknowledge that many atheists do not contribute to reasonable discussion, which, if you are a rationalist you must oppose as you should support bringing people to your side of the argument via evidence and logical argument.

Obviously the term "atheist fanatic" is often used to silence atheists when all they desire is to put forth their point of view, as seemingly everyone on here needs to point out. But that doesn't necessarily mean it doesn't or can't exist.

It is also wrong to use atheism as a synonym for rationalism, though I would laugh at anyone who isn't an atheist, or at least a secularist, who identifies as a rationalist, there are millions who don't believe in any god worldwide, and overall humans are a very irrational species (not that there is a rational species (on earth(that we know of)) since every other animal is incapable of comprehending the concept of rationality).

Remember Buddhists are often atheists, are their beliefs rational?

I was doing a Google search on "Athiest Fanaticism" and this article came up.  The community here looks interesting and I wanted to reply so I joined the forum.  Now I see that the conversation may be a little cold.   Since I am brand new to the community, I wonder if it is better to reply here or to start a new article on the subject?

Probably here. The thread isn't all that long yet, and previous posters will get an email notification that there are responses in the thread again (unless they've switched that feature off).

I think we are on the road to fanaticism the moment we stop being agnostic.  Theists and Atheists come in all forms.  Some are very quiet and harmless, some are loud and dangerous.   The thing that they both have in common is that they hold a certainty in their views.   That certainty is the thing that can bloom into fanaticism.   This happens in secular ways too.  People in this discussion have already pointed out the fanaticism of people recovering from addiction, or the fanaticism of the communists.  I would say that more modern political parties can also show a great deal of secular type fanaticism.  

All fanatics are holding onto the same dysfunction.  It is an unwavering certainty in their own views (usually reinforced by others who share the views) that has them coming across as either obnoxiously superior or overbearingly "helpful" to others who don't believe the same way.   Add the temptations and abuses of power into that equation and it gets dangerous and bloody at it's worst

There is a human condition known as "the illusion of knowledge" and/or "confidence bias" that we all have.  It has evolved into us to help us get past anxiety and take risks when operating in the world.  The gist of it is that we all think we know a lot more about things than we actually do and we think that risky actions are safer to us than they are to others. . .  so we operate from a condition of constant over confidence.  

This is mostly helpful in getting things done but it also has a downside.  To me, a fanatic is the result of this natural condition becoming over inflated.  It then morphs from productive over confidence into neurotic over confidence which then spills over into judging the value of other people.

I don't know if the origin of this over confidence is as important as the result.   So Atheists, for example, can't claim that they are not in danger of neurotic over confidence because their views are based on "rational facts".    People of faith can't claim that their is no such thing as too much faith if they are fanatically looking down at other people with a different type of faith.   Competing political parties would both say they use rational facts yet they can still be over confident fanatics about the way those facts should be interpreted.   The same is true of scientists who follow competing theories with too much determination.

For me fanaticism isn't as much about harboring the beliefs as it is about how those beliefs are communicated to others, or acted on against others. . .   and nobody is safe from it.   We are all halfway there before we even start.


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