The term “evangelical atheism” may seem like a contradiction, but, hopefully, the image above clarifies what it means. It’s the zealous pushing of others to abandon religious beliefs, and it isn’t helpful to anyone.
John Lennon never, to my knowledge, publicly proclaimed a personal religious belief, but he didn’t apply the word “atheist” to himself, either; others did that. The same thing has happened repeatedly to Neil deGrasse Tyson, as he explains further, below. In both cases, these are people who are fiercely independent in their thinking, and not afraid to offend others — but that doesn’t mean they want to be associated with evangelical atheists, whose hostility to religion, and religious people, makes the world a more dangerous place. The more logical goal is a peaceful world, and that means one where the faithful and the skeptical can coexist peacefully.
For this to happen, work is needed on both sides, by the people on each side. The reasonable and moderate religious millions have religious extremists to (try to) calm down, each in their own groups, and they’ve got their hands full with that. It falls to non-religious people to deal with the extremists on the other side — the type who go beyond Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and the late Christopher Hitchens, all three of whom conceded, in books of theirs which I have read, that they would change their minds on the subject of the existence of a deity, shown adequate empirical evidence for the existence of one. This was a consequence of the fact that all three men have written things based on rational thought. (They’ve also let their emotions get in the way sometimes, and become overly angry, but I’m referring to their better works, especially that of Harris.)
Evangelical atheists don’t write books. They can’t calm down long enough for that. Instead, they are more likely to speak out through angry and insulting videos they post on YouTube, harassment of believers (or agnostics, or those who simply don’t want to be labeled by others) on Facebook, and, of course, old-fashioned, face-to-face bullying.
I prefer the term “skeptic” for myself, as I have explained here before, for I like that balance struck by that term: insistence on evidence, balanced by openness to new evidence, even if it contradicts previous views (about anything). I also don’t want to associate myself with the evangelical atheists, which is the primary reason I abandoned use of the word “atheist” for myself, some time ago.
This made a few evangelical atheists angry, some to the point of losing all ability to reason (predictably), to the point of open warfare on my Facebook. To stop this, I literally deactivated that account for several days, that being the easiest option to shut that down quickly.
As for Neil deGrasse Tyson and John Lennon, I will let them speak for themselves.
Religious people aren’t going away any time soon. Neither are the non-religious. If we’re going to enjoy “living life in peace,” the hatred and hostility both need to go, from both sides of the “divide of belief” . . . and that isn’t too much to ask.
Great editorial. There is another more widely used term used to describe “evangelical atheists” (see: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/New_Atheism). I completely agree with your assessment of this movement, and have engaged in numerous heated debates with its followers. That it espouses an insular intolerance and hostility towards all critics is no exaggeration.
Recently, New Atheist bloggers chastised noted writer Chris Hedges for not agreeing with their extreme views. The irony here is inescapable considering that Hedges once wrote a book (“American Fascists”) which exposed and condemned Christian fundamentalism in the sharpest way possible.
As a contributing author on an atheist blog, I quit after a couple of months or so. The animosity directed at me for self-identifying as an “agnostic,” and for taking an empirical approach to the concept of god(s), was nothing short of vile. Even when I equated my agnosticism to Richard Dawkins’ “de facto atheist” admission (one of their former heroes), the New Atheists’ vitriol only grew stronger.
From my vantage point, New Atheism has become so obsessed with its ever-narrowing rationalizations that it might correctly be seen as cult-like. Furthermore, it should not be surprising that some of its advocates are ex-Christian fundamentalists. Both, it would appear, have a predisposition towards absolutism and authoritarianism.
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There’s only one reason I didn’t use the “new atheist” label, and that’s this: I didn’t want to include Hitchens, Dawkins, Dennett, and Harris. I’m using “evangelical atheists” for people who are simultaneously more zealous, and less reasonable, than any of those four authors.
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I appreciate the distinction. There’s the philosophical professionalism of the movement (i.e. the so-called “Four Horsemen”), and there’s the rank amateurism of its grassroots followers. The latter has not only taken on a character of its own, but is often at-odds with the former. What a bizarre sociological phenomenon!
The trouble is there is nothing definitive which qualifies anyone as enlightened. Online I’ve encountered those who put on a slightly convincing façade of being enlightened but expose themselves quite quickly with their ridiculous beliefs: some will say they’re atheist but believe they’re wiccan, or claim they’ve encountered aliens etc. It’s disillusioning to discover such fools will borrow from the credibility of reason and enlightenment by calling themselves atheist. That’s probably one of the pertinent considerations in avoiding the label of atheist. But the author of this post to label atheists as evangelical is pure idiocy. When you know the real meaning of the word evangelical then you’ll see how foolish he is. As for his claim that being an outspoken atheist “makes the world a much more dangerous place” is laughable in the face of how militant theists are in asserting their beliefs on others consistently throughout history and still now. Atheists never burnt witches or held inquisitions. Atheists never held enormous congregations to ransom with threats of hell, death and torture with the express purpose of fleecing the gullible out of money. A truly enlightened rational reasoning person does not go looking for an argument, though we refuse to allow the ridiculous to go unridiculed, an enlightened person addresses nonsense with logic and reason. Though I concede once again, there’s those who claim to be enlightened duplicitously. I am more inclined to be far less lenient towards them than militant theists simply because they discredit the truly enlightened among us. Measure for measure though, if theists initiate a militant argument, we must be equally as militant lest we are all forced to endure the absolute authority the church used to torture and murder those they chose without contrition. Remember the dictatorship of christianity was no more forgiving than the abhorrence of militant islamists in modern times. We can never allow any theistic mythology to dominate us. If that requires the truly enlightened to sometimes appear adamant and stubborn, we do it out of a far more altruistic reason than theists want you to believe. Theists are the ones with everything to lose should their flocks they fleece diminish their Earthly gains. There’s nothing heavenly about their absolute hypocrisy.
“It’s the zealous pushing of others to abandon religious beliefs, and it isn’t helpful to anyone”. —— “evangelical atheists, whose hostility to religion, and religious people, makes the world a more dangerous place”.
So you invoke gospel and the christian belief of a saviour to duplicitously draw a correlation between indoctrinated mythological dogma and the practice of logic and reason simply to elevate your own sense of relevance and credibility. Anyone of sentience and rational espousement immediately can see how fallacious your piece is. The ridiculous association of evangelical and atheist is dismissed.
While some who rely on the credibility of reason, logic and rationality will militantly accost theists uninvitedly, serious atheists rely on willing opponents to debate reasonably. For the purpose of my comment, it is extremely vital that proponents of this kind of nonsensical commentary are held to account. It’s overtly obvious this blog was written with incredible theocratic bias. When the argument for free thought, void of ancient dogmatic dogma, falls silent that isn’t helpful to anyone except those who are willing to brainwash the vulnerable into submitting to thought control. Religious elders revel in theistic spokesmen with ingratiating smiles deluding fools into showering them with the social currency to rip off the gullible. Pushing religion to the fringes of society is a far more honourable position than that of a charlatan who uses ancient myths to dupe the already disadvantaged.
Additionally, to assert atheists are not only hostile towards religion, but are also dangerous, is an extremely vile slander only the most desperate theist could make out of utter desperation after their own faith has been violently shaken. There’s a very good reason your faith has been disturbed, a glimmer of reason got through to you. But to make the disgustingly insidious duplicitous claim that “atheism makes the world a more dangerous place” illustrates with overwhelming clarity how really desperate a theist must be. How dare you suggest free thought makes the world more dangerous as you access your computer, internet and modern medical care etc. that allows you to sit in your dim corner of a sickly sullen room with your droll putrid opinions and spewing them online. The pure stupidity of implying religion has made, and continues to make, the world much safer is the kind of banal drivel a child would recite fresh out of Sunday school. It shows how vastly and inadequately intellectually equipped someone must be in order to write such idiotic crap, let alone sign their name to it. What kind of revolting moron would assert religion is such a peaceful endeavour. No one acts so inhumanely as those who have been indoctrinated to believe they fight on the side of absolute truth and righteousness. Free thinkers have consistently been held to account, usually in the most horrific manner, throughout history: including modern times. Never again shall we allow the church to assume the absolute authority it did five hundred years ago when witches were burnt at the stake and blasphemers were tortured. It wasn’t atheists that instituted, and carried out, the many inquisitions that allowed innocents to be horrendously brutalised and tortured to death. How fucking dare you insinuate free thinking rationalists are the cause of such danger. You are an putrid liar. Why should anyone be forced to ignore the stupid contradictions in the christian bible. Theists are never more perplexed when their idiotic doctrines are held in contrast with each other to illustrate how ludicrously contradictory they are. But that takes intelligent free thought, something which the christian church, among others, condemn with vile hatred and threats of torture and death. As the author of this rotting façade of integrity you are the kind of vulgar liar your supposedly perfect book labels a sinner. This kind of idiotic blog is the precise reason people of logic and reason become militantly adversarial. Your intellectually impotent exposition of reason and free thought merely demonstrates how morally bankrupt you are in trying to level the playing field between theology and logic by attempting to discredit reason. You are a liar, slanderer and idiot. Dogmatic doctrines can never be elevated in credibility to enlightened free thought and reason. You and your cohorts are the antithesis of enlightenment and your sort will never rest until you have succeeded in bringing everyone down to your archaic mentality.
I appreciate your taking the time to provide my blog’s readers with such a vivid example of the problem I was writing about.