Radical Atheism (An Open Letter to My Chemistry Teacher)

This is sort of an open letter to Mr. Rast. I had a conversation with him during 7th period last Thursday which I did not feel I was able to completely have my say in.

Douglas Adams used to call himself a ‘radical atheist’ just to distinguish himself from the agnostics or Atheists without testicals (scientific term, eh). I don’t often go about using the term to describe myself, but I think it would be fitting.

You (Mr. Rast) said that I’m an ‘extremist’ or ‘Fundamentalist Atheist(!)’ for being an activist for Atheism.

First off, I question what exactly constitutes a ‘Fundamentalist Atheist’. A Fundamentalist Christian would be a Christian who believes that every single part of the Bible is true (and I don’t want to make it sound like I’m agreeing with them or anything, but if anybody has the correct interpretation of the Bible it’s them). That’s why they love the death penalty, assasinating abortion doctors, making life difficult for homosexuals, and trying to bring on the Rapture (literally) beyond all reason.

Obviously, Atheists have no real holy book, so what do we have to take literally? Even if you argue that the recent stream of Atheism books counts, I’d like to see someone point me to one that suggests that it would be OK for us to stone people who don’t agree with us.

I do not believe in killing people for believing in God, nor do I believe they should have their right to belief taken away.

I believe, however, that they should question their blind faith.

You do realise that these people often devote their entire lives (Fundie or not) to their blind faith in Mr. Skyfairy, spending hours on street corners holding up ‘Jesus Saves’ signs, lobbying to get the government to meddle in the sex lives of teenagers (I quote Mitt Romney, “And we start by teaching our kids that if they want to have kids of their own, they better get married first!”), trying to convert other countries to bring God’s Kingdom to Earth (if you really want an example of extremism: http://www.skepdic.com/dominionism.html), etc.

And of course, there are the moderates who don’t take the Bible literally. They modify their faith to fit with modern standards, as opposed to 2,000 to 5,000 year old ones. I have a relatively high tolerance for them. But the reason why the Bible isn’t treated like any other work of literature (as it should be) is that it is supposed to be the word of God. If they decide that one part isn’t true, how do they decide that any part of it is true? They haven’t got a leg to stand on, and they know it. To quote Thomas Huxley, “it’s like punching pudding.”

But they have their blind faith.

It’s blind faith that I really take issue with. It’s blind faith that puts people in denial about the reality of science. It’s blind faith that convinces people to waste their lives trying to convert others on street corners. It’s blind faith that convinces people to get the government to control other people’s sex lives. It’s blind faith that propelled the ‘Manifest Destiny’ ideology, causing the genocides and displacement of the Native Americans. It’s blind faith that convinces people that if they go flying airplanes into buildings, they get a guaranteed ticket to paradise. It’s blind faith that convinces world leaders that God told them to invade foreign countries. To quote Richard Dawkins in his book, The Selfish Gene, “Blind faith can justify anything.”

Maybe this is a thin-edge-of-the-wedge argument, maybe it’s a slippery slope argument, I don’t really know.

But think about it.

5 responses to this post.

  1. Posted by Samuel Skinner on February 10, 2008 at 7:50 pm

    The humorous definition of non- “fundamentalist” atheists is one who disbelieves in gods- except on Sunday.

    The appropriate term for your stance would be either antitheist, sane or active.

  2. The term fundamentalist atheist is complete nonsense, as you point out. Fundamentalist does indeed imply that you believe the word of the Bible is true in a literal sense, but it’s a little deeper than that. Fundamentalism is a mindset that interprets the Bible as having literal authority, and that submission to that authority is a good thing.

    When you expand the definition of fundamentalist like that, you can cover other common uses of the word easily. Religious fundamentalists are those who believe their holy book has literal authority that individuals must submit to.

    So, you are QUITE correct to point out that calling an atheist a fundamentalist is really stupid. Atheist means one thing – no belief in god. There’s no holy book, no central dogma, nothing to submit the individual to at all.

    Your teacher therefore was just calling you names. He’s not a very nice person, in my opinion.

  3. Bravo! I hope you can communitcate this to your teacher, who appears to share the same silly misconception that so many people have about us atheists. (I love the discussion by Douglas Adams, but my preferred term is “passionate atheist”.)

  4. if all young people have same views about faith where one should respect another one, this world would be a safe-wonderful place for everyone.

    may god bless your steps!

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