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.
My first addition to this discussion is to reiterate that "atheist fanatic" is just another way of telling us to shut up--as is most name calling in the middle of a debate.
Greta Christina wrote a nice essay on this tactic in which she identified several of the things the religious say in an effort to pressure us into shutting up:
wildly excessive or irrational devotion, dedication, or enthusiasm
I think they key words here are "irrational devotion". I think anyone could be a fanatic about anything, and just because a word has negative connotations to does not mean it's a bad thing to say about something or someone. I am a red wine fanatic. Maybe fanatical about Hitchens. But I think when it comes to atheism and arguing for it, being a fanatic, by the definition above, irrational, just does not work because our ideas are based on rational thought and evidence to support that thought. So I would clarify your argument and ask if there is such thing as a fanatical atheist who is also irraitonal, and I'm sure there are. But for the most point, I would say we all just really love being free thinkers and kick ass in doing so. Call me a fanatic if you must be please do call me a fan!!!!!
I think it depends on who you talk to, when a religious person hears an atheist express their opinion it is fanatical considering you could have been tortured or killed for expressing your atheism in the not to long ago history (or Islam today) .
Ever met anyone who stopped smoking or doing drugs? There is a fanaticism about their expression on the subject. Someone that has just come to realization or decided it's time to express their atheism can be fanatical.
If we as atheists decide to start killing people for not become atheist then we will have to wear the mantle of the fanaticism that we witnessed in the religious world.
"I think it depends on who you talk to, when a religious person hears an atheist express their opinion it is fanatical considering you could have been tortured or killed for expressing your atheism in the not to long ago history (or Islam today) ."
That is exactly what upsets me about this accusation. We are called "fanatics" simply for daring to speak up and say "wait a minute, this 'god' doesn't seem to exist".
I think that theists love to point out that the godless communists regimes are an example of how an atheist world would be be like. They don't realize that the so called atheist communist regimes are set up more like religions than governments.
A great example of this would be Nineteen Eighty Four by George Orwell. The government set up in the book is very much like a religion.
Every party member is always watched, their schedule is controlled by the government. Dissent is not allowed. The Big Brother is the figure head of the government & every thing is done in his name or in the name of the party. The ministries do the opposite of what their names suggest. Ministry of Love punishes members who don't follow the doctrine of Big Brother. Ministry of Plenty is in-charge of supplies & there is always a shortage of things. Ministry of Peace is fighting the war against the other two nations in the world, constantly changing its alliances. Ministry of Truth changes old articles in the newspaper to change the position of the Party now. If the Party breaks its alliance with one nation & goes to war with it & ends war with the other nation & aligns with it, all the past newspapers articles are rewritten to reflect that, as far as the general public is concerned, the Party was always at war with the current enemy. There is a daily 2 minutes of hate where the people gather and very vocally focus their hate on the image of a person who is supposed to have betrayed the party & big brother. Children have been indoctrinated into unquestionably believing in big brother & the party and are taught to spy on their parents. People have been conditioned to not enjoy sex & having kids is a service to the party.
Theists will love to argue that this is an example of how a godless world will be like. But what they don't or won't see is that the party is set up more like a religion than a government.
'wildly excessive or irrational devotion, dedication, or enthusiasm'
Well, the degree of devotion, dedication or enthusiasm has to be irrational in order to qualify as a fanatic, not the subject of those (in case atheism), so I'd say yes, some of us (myself included) are fanatics.
'I think it is also clear that even the most extreme atheists do not even remotely come close to the fanaticism of the religious.'
I am pretty convinced that our method of examining the universe is correct, since I see its benefits around me all the time (the computer I'm typing on now is a working proof of quantum mechanics, for example), but no believer can see any sign of god anywhere. I can easily imagine that I'm more fanatical than some of them.
Thanks Mo for taking the effort. :)
I think the term "atheist fanatic" deserves a bit of analysis, and here is my go at it.
Firstly, to look at some of the implications of the term "atheist". As we all know, it literally means not believing in a God, that is the simplest definition. However, seeing as we encounter God/s mostly in the organized religions in our everyday lifes, it would not be stretching the term too far as saying that many/most atheists are also areligious. (I don't have any specific proof other than it sounding logical to me right now, like everything in this post.)
Secondly, as areligious people, it is not difficult to see that many would prefer an areligious society vs a religious one. As religion permeates modern societies to a lesser or larger extent, our preference is therefore to reduce its influence vs status quo or an increase.
Thirdly, this would lead to a certain level of innate anti-theism in atheists. The vast majority of us won't go around burning buildings and killing people, but if a popular vote which would increase the role of religion somehow, we would tend to vote no. Equally, in a popular vote to decrease religion we would tend to vote yes. Since regulation of religion generally happens within the realm of law, such a yes/no dictonomy is applicable. Blank votes and staying home could count as middle ground, but I don't actually think that would be the preferred strategy in this scenario, nor does it really inform the debate.
A hasty conclusion is that there is a certain level of anti-theism within atheism. We would certainly not support religion, and we would tend to support actions that limit it.
(To avoid a wall of text crit on any of you (and to eat something) I'll deal with fanatisicm in a bit.)
To further expand a bit, I'd like to go back to the previous example of the Soviet Communist example of atheist killing and toturing Christians (and Jews during pogroms) in the early days of the USSR.
First, I'll specify a bit how I'll use the word. I find food, wine, car, etc., "fanatic" is a bit of an overapplication of the term. I find the word enthusiast to be more applicable and descriptive when used in a positive sense. So in context of the discussion and the following, I'll work under the presumption that it refers to negative fanaticism, and fanaticism to be the irrational acts/behavior of a fanatic. Essentially, illogical behavior.
Secondly, I'll have to say I don't find an immediate issue with atheists being fanatics. They won't be religious fanatics, but they can easily be fanatics for other causes. Seeing as people occationally get killed over weak performance in sport events, humans seem to have the ability to be fanatical about pretty much anything.
My third point will revolve around the USSR. Your interjection that (applied) Communism shares many values with religion (i.e. personality cult based, thought control, world conquest, indoctrination of children, subjugation of women, and importantly: justifying killing of non-believers) is certainly valid, but it's moving the goal post a bit too far in my opinion. Communism doesn't have an expressed wish of atheism. However, it does logically follow from its philosophy as religion will hold non-state power over people, which there is an expressed regulation of.
Fourth, Lenin was certainly militantly anti religious. Though Stalin might just be concidered someone with enormous psychological issues willing to kill anyone without cause, Lenin was a slightly more docile figure by comparison. That the killing of a large number of Christians, even by using Christian symbolism in the act, occured, caused by his commands, is therefore evidence that they were killed primarily because they were religious, and caused by atheist fanatical hate.
Therefore, as communists were both atheist and fanatical, as well as killing probably hundreds of thousands because they refused to renounce religion, I would conclude with atheists not only having the capability of being fanatical, but already having killed in the name of atheism.