Wrong Idea: The “Militant” in “Militant Atheist.”

WASHINGTON - JANUARY 20:  In this handout phot...
Atheists March on Washington?

I was recently given a copy of Hitch-22: A Memoir, by New Atheist Christopher Hitchens. I haven’t had the chance to start reading it but put it in my pile for the summer. But I thought I’d Google a couple of Reviews, maybe check Amazon, and see what others are saying about it in case I wanted to move it up the list (I’m currently reading like four different books already).

One of my Google hits lands me on the San Francisco Gate website [SFGate.com] to a review written nearly a month ago titled, “‘Hitch-22: A Memoir,’ by Christopher Hitchens.” And one line in the review just kept nagging at me: “Currently, of course, he’s best known as a militant atheist and the author of “God Is Not Great” [emphasis mine], which I initially just read past without stopping. But it nagged me.

“Militant Atheist.”

What does this mean, precisely? I’ve blogged about it before. So have several other atheist bloggers. I’ve noticed some atheists who proudly take on the moniker, but I’ve been in the military. Retired from the U.S. Army. I know what the word “militant” means.

I don’t see any atheists that can truly say they take their atheism to a “militant” level. A truly “militant” atheist might form a group of like-minded friends and stockpile some guns, wearing camouflage fatigues on the weekends with a big scarlet scarlet_a_tiny on the sleeve. Perhaps they would show up at Meetups in Washington or their state capitals toting their assault rifles and holding signs proclaiming their right to bear arms and life under church-state separation.

“Militant” atheists would rally their peers with fear-mongering bigotry, alluding to the possibility of violent overthrow of “Christian” judges and politicians.

“Militant” atheists would likely hijack small remote controlled airplanes, and instead of chanting “Allah ackbar”, they would be quoting admiral Ackbar[1], as they fly them into the Starbuck’s sign of a local mega-church.

“Militant” atheists probably wouldn’t wear suicide vests into crowded church buses in hopes of getting 72 virgins since they don’t believe in an afterlife. And it isn’t likely that anyone is going to promise them payment in advance, but a truly “militant” atheist might consider stepping on a church-bus to be suicidal without the vest full of C-4 as long as that little scarlet scarlet_a_tiny is visible, pinning down an otherwise conservative tie.

The idea of a “militant” atheist is pretty funny and ridiculous when you think about it and compare with the Christian and Muslim analog. We don’t carry assault rifles to political rallies or give them away at our meetups (Christians do); we don’t wear combat fatigues bearing our cause (did you see Jesus Camp?); we don’t call ourselves “warriors for [insert whatever]” (Onward Christian Soldiers anyone?). We don’t fly planes into buildings, detonate vests of plastic explosive and rusty nails in crowds, suggest violent overthrow of government, pray for deaths of Presidents, or etch chapters and verses of Dawkins and Hitchens on rifle sights destined for soldiers in Iraq. We don’t have video games where we are killing atheists in the apocalypse.

We leave that militaristic, bigoted crap to Christians and Muslims.

If we have to be stuck with the moniker of “militant atheist” each time we disagree with superstition being forced upon citizens in a secular nation like the United States, then we should also refer to Tea Party nuts as “militant conservatives” and hate-filled, bigoted Christians who deride atheists, homosexuals, muslims, and others who don’t share their particular superstitions or notions of god, as “militant Christians.”

**The photo above isn’t really a bunch of atheists marching on Washington.

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  1. “It’s a trap! []
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