Militant Atheists?

These two words, appearing in this order, are reliably able to set me into a fit of the scoffs: “militant atheists.” The phrase is something of a false equivalency. I’m sure there must be some authentically militant atheists in the world, but I know of no contemporary examples. Compare this to the idea of militant theists, where a litany of offenders come to mind. A number of artists and writers have addressed this particular cliché, but this response embodies the essence of what it means to be a militant atheist in today’s society. It is immediately apparent that these three interpretations of militancy (Islamic, Christian, and atheist, for the lazy non-link-clickers out there) are not equivalent. Let’s look at one dictionary’s definition of militant:

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Moral Character

If there were no God, there would be nothing stopping me from murdering anyone who annoyed me and stealing everything I wanted!

Could there possibly be a more frightening statement? I identify as an antitheist because of the harm religions cause by teaching people that it’s okay to accept bad reasons for both belief and action. Yet any time I encounter someone who makes this claim, I am deeply thankful for their belief, irrational though it may be. My natural inclination is to smile and be thankful for my ability to avoid people like this. (Seriously, if you agree with this sentiment now and still do at the end of this article, I will absolutely think less of you for it. Come see me after class, as it were.)
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