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Fundamentalist atheism?

One of the more annoying claims some people make is that atheists are or can be fundamentalists. This is annoying for two reasons: one is that atheists rarely go out and picket funerals or insist on what people can do in their own bedrooms based on a literal reading of Voltaire or Hume. The other is that it implies that atheism is like a religion or ideology. In an otherwise balanced article that takes issue with the first point, u n d e r v e r s e inadvertently adopts the latter position.

He [Chris Schoen] writes:

…, the fact that one of the major fault lines today between theism and atheism is “al-Darwinia” is a red herring. The real reason that atheists are supposed to be incapable of fundamentalism is because the values of the Enlightenment (not atheism per se, but its wellspring) are a hedge against intolerance. But this proposition was falsified long before Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot (who massacred, it is true, not “in the name” of atheism, but instead in the name of a putatively scientific ability to engender political and economic fairness at the point of a sword) in the terror of Robespierre. The brigades of the eminently rationalist and vehemently atheist “al-Jacobin” and “al-Marx” were all too numerous and all too real.

And so far as I can tell, none of them, including Pol Pot, Stalin or Mao acted positively in the “name” of atheism. They instead acted on the basis of various degrees of Marxism, antimodernism or modernism, and nationalism. So they are excellent moral lessons against these ideologies; just not atheism. As the author knows well, atheism is not an ideology; there are many atheist ideologies, such as freethinking, liberal secularism, Marxisms, libertarianisms, and so on, but being atheist is at the least a side effect of the overall ideology itself, and at most is a doctrine of the ideology. There are also Christian versions of these same ideologies; and likewise also of the use of scientific reasoning in various ways.

I agree with the author that many traditions that take their origins from the Enlightenment hold, usually without a lot of evidence to back it up, that they are immune from overall error because they are skeptical, or scientific, or whatever, but that doesn’t license the conclusion that all Enlightenment rationalism is liable to become extremist or do horrible things.

The claim that atheism has led to bad things, or that it can be “fundamentalist” is to reiterate the falsehood that atheism is a religion, an ideology. It is not. It consists in a single “doctrine”: there is no god. All else, ranging from politics to culture to metaphysics or even ethics, are entirely open. There is no atheist line other than “there is no god”. It’s very hard to be “fundamentalist” about a single declarative sentence.

What those who claim atheism is a religion mean to say is that they object to modernism, to Enlightenment ideals ranging from the sufficiency of reason through to egalitarianism. They dislike some or all aspects of various things, which are sometimes (not always) concomitant with atheist views. And yes, some of those who take those lines can be strong about it; they can be assertive or even aggressive, nearly as much as the real fundamentalists of religion. If there were a society based on Enlightenment ideals, I have no doubt that there would arise those who were exclusively committed to some set of views, which may or may not include the single sentence “there is no god”, but the fundamentalism that would result would be nationalist, or Marxist or libertarian or whatever. It can’t be “atheist”, because it’s a belief that has one fairly unequivocal proposition, and you either think it is true or you do not.

The problem that u n d e r v e r s e has is that he thinks that opposing theism is a set of values, a set of beliefs, and sure, some atheists have constructed a viewpoint that might be called a worldview, although personally I don’t think taking science seriously is a worldview so much as damned good sense. But this is in virtue of a set of what philosophers call doxastic attitudes, such as a healthy skepticism, a reliance on empirical data, and on fundamental rules of reasoning. It is, if you like, a fundamentalism of reasoning. It is not because they are atheists; in fact they are usually atheists because they have the doxastic and epistemic commitments they do.

But there are many paths to atheism. Some rely on the Enlightenment. Some rely on experience of bad religion. Some rely just on a desire to get on with life. One cannot be fundamentalist about something that lacks any overall coherent set of beliefs. I hope this is clear now.

Incidentally, I write this as an agnostic, as I have many times said before. If atheist fundamentalism is a contradiction in terms, agnostic fundamentalism is like the old joke about the Unitarian KKK: they burn a question mark in your lawn. It’s hard to be fundamentalist about the belief that a question makes no sense, even more than about a single sentence. So stop talking about atheist fundamentalism and name the actual targets you have in mind, and deal with them as they are, and not in terms of some bogeyman.


  1. You’re right, atheism shouldn’t be treated as an ideology, but it’s currently being made to walk and talk like one by many of its own. We now have symbols, a marketing campaign and, more telling still, we have infighting between alleged factions of atheists. Right down to challenges inre: ideological purity (“Placatheists!!!!”)!

    It’s all getting a little weird.

  2. John,

    I think you misrepresent me here. I made the same points you make, right within the quotations you are arguing against. I wrote that Mao, Stalin and Pol Pot “massacred not in the name of atheism” but in the name of their ideology. I nowhere wrote that Dawkins or anyone else was an “atheist fundamentalist” though I did imply (and do believe) that the charge that they are rationalist fundamentalists has some merit. Mostly I was writing against the implicit defense that Enlightenment rationalism precludes the kind of doctrinal extremity that we loosely call fundamentalism.

    Perhaps I should have taken greater care to stress that any “fundamentalism” on the part of atheists does not and cannot owe to their absence of belief in god. But I think I was clear enough that it was not the negative beliefs of the neo-atheists that concern me, but the positive ones many of which are, as you note, very dubious and unscientific.

    • John Wilkins John Wilkins

      Chris, I’m sorry that I forgot that you were the author of the blog. I get confused sometimes…

      But if your target is Enlightenment rationalism, say so. It isn’t atheism. Many atheists have had nothing to do with Enlightenment rationalism, and many such rationalists have been theists or more likely deists of various colours. Also, don’t overgeneralise what you see in your country to the rest of history.

      I didn’t even do my usual rant against using the term “fundamentalism” for anything else except a 20thC Christian tradition.

  3. in my opinion/observation, people can be fundamentalists about anything: religion, fashion, vegetarianism, veganism, punk rock, indie rock, hippie lifestyle, organic food, raw food, the republican party, the democratic party, college football, race, etc, etc, etc. YMMV.

  4. Apparently, the single “doctrine” that there is no god not enough to qualify as an “atheist” … as opposed to being a “faitheist.”

    I think you may be too closely associating the term with capital “F” Fundamentalism. That is a historic movement in reaction against Modernism, particularly in the form of Higher Criticism of the Bible. But words are changeable things and small “f” fundamentalism may have taken on a quite different meaning since Fundamentalism was founded. As the American Heritage dictionary defines it, “f”undamentalism is:

    A usually religious movement or point of view characterized by a return to fundamental principles, by rigid adherence to those principles, and often by intolerance of other views and opposition to secularism.

    The last time this all came up I got curious and found references to fundamentalist capitalism, socialism, communism, environmentalism, economic development-ism, feminism, scientism and even literary fundamentalism.

    Sure, it is a term of abuse but, then, so is “faitheist.”

    • John Wilkins John Wilkins

      Which gives the lie to Coyne’s claim that he doesn’t insult theists. Nevertheless, that doesn’t license this use of the adjective.

  5. TomS TomS

    In the USA, ISTM, one could be a “constitutional fundamentalist” in the sense of taking a literalist reading of the US Constitution. See:

    Crapanzano, Vincent
    Serving the word : literalism in America from the pulpit to the bench
    New York : New Press : Distributed by W.W. Norton, c2000.

  6. One of karl marx’s obvious main goals were to slowly eradicate religion, he called religion “the opiate of the people”, and society was obviously showing the symptoms of it. today we can see quite effortlessly that the demise of the spiritual institution is underway, science being the answer, ideologies one of the contributing factors, and personally philosophy and humanism being a contributing factor to my atheism.

    chris has a point there, yes the authoritarian communists brought on by economical depression and wars did make those huge massacres slightly in the name of atheism and most importantly with their ideology, their motive was philosophy.

    religion too incorporates philosophy, so does communism, socialism, nationalism (urgh! i vehemently dislike nationalism).

    I aggree with this poster that fundamentalism is not associated with general broad atheism but the specific ideologies, the term atheism is too broad.

    atheism can be a philosophy, but then philosophy is definately incorporated in religion.

    • John Wilkins John Wilkins

      Antifa, you misunderstand Marx’s view of religion. It was not a narcotic, but an analgesic*. He did not see it as something that dragged people down into habitual squalor, but something that was a symptomatic treatment for the squalor we now find ourselves in due to oppression. This is still being debated: are people religious because they are in trouble, or vice versa. Marx thought the former.

      * At the time opium was primarily used to treat pain; the addictive nature of it was not yet the sole connotation.

  7. TB TB

    I’ve been using the term “doctrinaire.” I think it avoids the question of whether non-belief can be described with words associated with belief, but still adequately describes what I think is a problem with some people’s position as an atheist.

  8. Defining social and ideological movements by one or two of their tenets is a lousy way to understand them. The constellation of beliefs and attitudes of votaries of the P.Z.Myers style of atheism and even more their location in society contrasts sharply with both with the Fundamentalists and the Marxist-Leninists. Lumping them together may be effective rhetoric, but it’s terrible taxonomy.

    Maybe we should refer to the village atheists as representatives of the vulgar enlightenment in much the same way that people used to talk about vulgar materialism. What gets featured as “enlightenment” these days is pretty hard to pin down and doesn’t have an obvious connection to any specific 18th Century philosopher. It simply means “in favor of reason” (whatever that means) so that it has become very easy to wrap yourself in the flag. What we have here is another instance of grade inflation. I expect that a serious analysis of the outlook of our vulgar enlightenment would find that its real affinities lie with popularized versions of late 19th Century positivism.

  9. Sorry, John, while it certainly is true of particular atheists, and is obviously an overused move that people run to simply for rhetorical effect, I don’t buy your response as a general claim; ‘fundamentalist’ hasn’t been used exclusively of religion for decades now. And John is right: when people use the term they rarely have ideologies in mind, anyway; it’s usual attitudes to particular claims that they’re gunning for, not religion or even always ideology. Moreover, in particular cases one can find perfectly good specific grounds for it. I myself have been told by more than one atheist, in more than one different situation, upon contrasting the literalistic approaches typical of fundamentalisms with more sophisticated approaches, that the fundamentalists were reading the text correctly and that everyone else was simply making things up rather than really reading. Setting aside the literary incompetence such a claim requires, those particular atheists could entirely reasonably be called fundamentalists on this point: on this point they think of things the way religious fundamentalists do, and the only difference is that they go tollens where the religious fundamentalist goes ponens. There is no more impropriety in such a designation than there is in the fact that people apply the label ‘fundamentalist’ to religious or political movements that have no connection whatsoever to Fundamentalism. If we wanted to be really picky we would confine the term to reactionary movements against more liberalizing versions of Evangelical Protestant Christianity, since that’s the only place we actually find real Fundamentalists; everyone else is just given the label by some similarity or other, and there’s no obvious reason to privilege some similarities over others.

    That said, it’s pretty clear that Jim’s right that the more general these claims get, the less meaningful they are. And the use of the term ‘fundamentalism’ says less about fundamentalists than about how much we like to compliment ourselves on being reasonable and rational people, just as the typical use of the term ‘enlightenment’ says less about Enlightenment than about how much we like to compliment ourselves on being reasonable and rational people. We are very good to ourselves in that way.

  10. J. J. Ramsey J. J. Ramsey

    I don’t think that the oxymoronic nature of the phrase “fundamentalist atheist” is entirely accidental. To call an atheist a “fundamentalist,” especially an atheist who claims to champion reason, is to make an implicit charge of hypocrisy, a way of saying, “Hey, you are acting disturbingly like the people that you oppose.”

    • John Wilkins John Wilkins

      Again, I say that it is not as atheists they do this, but as advocates of some larger notion of skeptical or enlightened thinking.

      • I should say that I agree with this; but it’s also pretty clear that it is never precisely as theists (or even precisely as religious) that even Fundamentalists are fundamentalists; and thus it doesn’t seem quite telling against the very, very general claim that (in your words) “atheists are or can be fundamentalists.” The defense that they can’t be fundamentalist precisely as atheist falls considerably short of showing that there is anything wrong with the claim that they can be fundamentalists, just as the (equally correct) claim that Fundamentalists are not fundamentalists precisely as theists (or even precisely as religious) does not prevent them from being fundamentalists. And I think this is one place (besides the mere verbal matter that people disagree about the best way to use the term) where people are having trouble with your argument. If it’s just a claim that atheism as such is not fundamentalist, it’s certainly true, but it is also not a defense against the charge of that some are fundamentalist atheists; if it is supposed to be a response to the claim that atheists can be fundamentalists, which is what it sounded like you were going for, then the claim that atheists can’t be fundamentalists precisely as atheists does nothing to address that.

      • John Wilkins John Wilkins

        I think that unless one wants to make all doxastic commitments of religion a matter of sociology (and some do), one cannot avoid saying that fundamentalists are fundamentalists qua theists. The objectionable behaviour to which Chris alluded, however, is not fundamentalist qua atheists, because, as I pointed out, one can be a theist (or at least a deist) and hold the objectionable views.

        In some ways this is like the French Revolution. Ideas that travelled together got subverted and reused by those seeking political power. Was the Revolution a necessary outcome of the Enlightenment as Burke held? I do not think so. One can (and many have since) hold to Enlightenment ideals and not be mass murderers or statists or absolutists, and one can be all those things and not hold to Enlightenment ideals.

        So also atheism. But this exchange has inspired me and I may do a Zygon piece on analysing what it is to be an atheist or an agnostic.

  11. You already know my view – that if someone who says “either the Bible is literally true or it is false, therefore it is literally true” is a fundamentalist, then so is someone who says, “either the Bible is literally true or it is false, therefore it is false“, because the underlying attitude is more or less identical. (Personally, I think the conclusion that the Bible is false can be reached without the need for such a crude false dichotomy.)

    It might not be easy to be a fundamentalist about atheism, but in the above sense you can certainly be a member of the intersection between fundamentalists and atheists, and you can even someone whose atheism is in part a consequence of their fundamentalism. I think the term “fundamentalist atheist” has a use in pointing out that some atheists are more similar to religious fundamentalists than to what I consider reasonable, open-minded people.

  12. As lots of people have observed, Christian fundamentalism is not simply traditionalism or even strident literalism. It is, historically speaking, an irritated response to modernity carried out in the name of traditional religion by people who were obviously infected with certain features of modernity themselves. In a larger sense, as was exhaustively documented in the massive volumes of the Fundamentalism project chaired by Marvin Marty, something similar to the Protestant fundamentalist movement has occurred during the last century among Jews, Muslims, Eastern Orthodox, Roman Catholics, Hindus, Shintos, and even Buddhists, though I guess a biologist would refer to these movements as belonging to the same guild rather than the same family. I personally like Jeffrey Herf’s way of talking about the fundamentalists and their allies: they are reactionary modernists. (Reactionary Modernism is the title of his book, which has somehow been very influential and yet not very often noticed.)

    Are the new atheists reactionary modernists? Kind of a stretch, though I admit that their rhetoric does have a distinctly 18th Century flavor and they are obviously protesting more than the Neanderthal attitudes of the Creationists and ID people. Maybe they are reactionary postmodernists

  13. Susan Silberstein Susan Silberstein

    Why do atheists organize? What is the reason for the Atheist Alliance and their conventions? Presumably, one goal is to discuss how to spread the Word about the Truth so as to enlighten the sadly misinformed.

    I want to say there is a class conflict here, except that organized atheism also dislikes upper class religionists. However, do they despise Episcopalians as much as Southern Baptists?

    It does appear to me that along with atheism, other values are also promoted: democracy, science over superstition, liberalism (usually), separation between church and state, the Western philosophy of how things should be.

    Does organized atheism believe that these secular notions are possible only in a society without religion? Do most atheists?

    Disclosure: I am an unorganized atheist.

  14. I think that unless one wants to make all doxastic commitments of religion a matter of sociology (and some do), one cannot avoid saying that fundamentalists are fundamentalists qua theists.

    The problem with this is that it’s obviously false — at least I cannot fathom at all what you could possibly mean by it; actual Fundamentalists can’t be fundamentalists qua theist for the combination of (1) the obvious reason that there are plenty of theists that aren’t fundamentalists of any sort, so that theism as such does not imply fundamentalism; and (2) even actual Fundamentalists aren’t fundamentalists because of their theism, but because of their interpretation of texts — the Fundamentalist movement developed as a reaction against Evangelicals, not because they thought Evangelicals were the wrong kind of theist but because they thought that Evangelicals were too loose in their interpretation of Scripture. That is, what makes Fundamentalism fundamentalist is not its theism but its hermeneutics. When the Fundamentalist approach to interpretation is combined with the acceptance of the text of Scripture as true, all the standard Fundamentalist doctrines result. This is why it makes sense, for instance, to analogize the label across the border between Christianity and Islam, because there are Muslims who make use of fairly similar hermeneutic principles but do it with the Quran. But those Muslim fundamentalists, are, again, not fundamentalists qua theist (which they share with all theists, at least of a certain sort), nor qua religious, nor qua Muslim, but entirely qua literalist in their interpretation and application of the text. So if you can be theist without being fundamentalist; and be religious without being fundamentalist; and you can change from being nonfundamentalist to being fundamentalist without changing your theism (which is what more liberal Evangelicals do on the rare occasions when they convert to Fundamentalism), and you can change from being fundamentalist to being nonfundamentalist without changing your theism (which is what Fundamentalists do when they loosen up and become Evangelicals or some other such thing), there seems to be no sense in which Fundamentalists are fundamentalist qua theist. To say that Fundamentalists are fundamentalist qua theist implies either (1) that all theists are fundamentalists; or (2) that Fundamentalists have a different kind of theism, and therefore believe in a different kind of God, than all non-fundamentalist theisms. Both of these are obviously false; there are plenty of counterexamples in both cases.

    And then, since application of the term to those not actually members of the Fundamentalist movement is by analogy, the only question is whether it’s reasonable to apply the label by analogy outside the domain of theism. And since the distinctive feature of Fundamentalism is not its theism, but its attitude and approach to texts (or claims, if one wishes to be a bit more broad), this is entirely possible to do.

    • John Wilkins John Wilkins

      I do not mean to say that theists are fundamentalists qua theists. I mean that, so far as a fundamentalist is a fundamentalist, they are a theist. It’s a term that applies solely to theists, not to atheists or nontheists. This is a historically contingent fact, not a conceptual necessity. Don’t get riled up here…

      • Sorry if I sounded riled; I was just very perplexed.

        It’s true, of course, that it’s a historically contingent fact that ‘fundamentalist’ is a term that originally only applied to theists. That’s also consistent with the possibility that it’s a historically contingent fact that it now does not only apply to theists. The termoriginally only applied to certain kinds of Protestants in the Evangelical tradition; but it’s also a fact that it was within a few years applied to certain kinds of Muslims, Catholics, etc. And about the same time, in fact, it also began to be applied to certain kinds of Marxists, and they were certainly not theists. The time we’ve been using the term outside the domain of theism is only about decade or two shorter than the time we’ve been using it to describe theists.

  15. I’m more than happy to abandon the word “fundamentalist” as inapt if it means the conversation can proceed. The attitude struck by Coyne, Ash, Chotiner, and others is that rationalism is itself an inoculation against human weakness (and as a corollary that Enlightenment values lead to moral progress) , though it is presumably so self-evident to them that this is so that no substantiation is required. Scott Atran is invaluable here in going point for point on these suppositions, and finding in most cases that either there has been no scientific examination of the hypothesis that secular rationalism reduces ideological extremism, or that the data supports the opposite conclusion, writing, in a follow up paper to the first “Beyond Belief” conference in 2006:

    Jeremy Ginges, a psychologist at the New School, finds that belief in God does not promote violence, combative martyrdom or almost anything else the “God delusion” was blamed for at the conference. University of British Columbia psychologists Ara Norenzayan and Ian Hansen have recently shown, for some 10,000 subjects surveyed in several countries and continents, that although believing “my God is the only God” increases the odds of scapegoating by 32%, simply believing “there is a God” decreases the tendency to blame others for one’s troubles by 45%. These researchers also show that atheists with exclusivist beliefs are just as likely to scapegoat others as Christians, Jews or Muslims.

    • John Wilkins John Wilkins

      Gotta love Atran. Nothing spoils a beautiful (or ugly) hypothesis like ugly (or beautiful) facts.

  16. Jeb Jeb

    I came across an article written by a theist while doing a search on google on Fundamentalism
    I found it intresting. It did remind me in places of the dabate between agnostics and those who accept new athiesim as their personal saviour (I could not resist, it’s that damm abuse term they came up with). Its the first chapter of a book you have to do a free registration with the New York Times to read it. Rather good on exclusion.

    “Stealing Jesus How Fundamentalism
    Betrays Christianity”

  17. Al Lecuyer Al Lecuyer

    Atheism has one tenet: There is no god.

    The dictionary I’m looking at has 2 definitions for fundamentalism. I believe this discussion revolves around the second one: A movement or point of view marked by rigid adherence to fundamental or basic principals.

    Based on that I’d say atheists are fundamentalists.
    And should be.

    • A movement or point of view marked by rigid adherence to fundamental or basic principals.

      Whether or not the tenet ‘there is no god’ is a principal or not is open to debate but whatever the outcome there is no movement or point of view that is based on this tenet also no fundamentalists and that if I’m not very mistaken is the whole point of the original post.

    • John Wilkins John Wilkins

      Argumenta ab lexica are not compelling, as dictionaries report how people use words, not how they should. People can misuse terms (and that is my argument here), so reporting that people use the term in various ways doesn’t undercut my main argument.

      Incidentally, it’s “principles, not “principals”, who are usually the main players in some corporation or activity.

      • Incidentally, it’s “principles, not “principals”, who are usually the main players in some corporation or activity.

        Don’t ask me I’m dysgraphic, but I thought princi-pals were the friends of the heir to the throne.

  18. Al Lecuyer Al Lecuyer

    No movement? Are we considering “The Brights” to be just an organization and not a movement? Same with Dawkins’ web sites I suppose.
    Is new atheism not a movement?
    Wasn’t the point actually that the blogger finds it annoying when atheists are refered to as fundamentalists?(I know. That would make me one of the annoying)
    Are we considering “there is no god” to be a fact instead of a principal?
    I believe it annoys some of us because it implies we are no different then religious fundamentalists.

    • No movement? Are we considering “The Brights” to be just an organization and not a movement?

      Within the definition of bright, many, but not all, brights also identify variously under other terms or identities, including atheist, humanist, secular humanist, freethinker, objectivist, rationalist, naturalist, materialist, agnostic, skeptic, apatheist and so on. Even so, the “movement is not associated with any defined beliefs,” as written on The Brights’ Net website. One of the purposes of the Brights’ Net is to include the umbrella term bright in the vocabulary of this existing “community of reason”.

      However, “the broader intent is inclusive of the many-varied persons whose worldview is naturalistic” but are in the “general population”, as opposed to associating solely with the “community of reason”. So persons who can declare their naturalistic worldview using the term bright extend beyond the familiar secularist categories, as long as they do not hold theistic worldviews. Registrations even include some members of the clergy, such as Presbyterian ministers and a Church History Professor and ordained priest.

      Doesn’t sound like fundamentalists to me!

      • John Wilkins John Wilkins

        Even if it were, it’s not qua atheists that they are a movement, but qua free thinkers, skeptics, rationalists, etc. And one can be “fundamentalist” about that if one wants to be. But if atheism is included in some packet of doctrines that “Brights” hold (and that doesn’t seem to be the case, given that it is a “may hold” doctrine), that doesn’t mean one is an atheist fundamentalist (but rather a “Bright” fundamentalist, however defined).

  19. Nichole Nichole

    Look, “fundamentalism” refers to religious organizations. If you want to use it as a metaphor, fine, but prepare to be misquoted. It’s a charged word, a buzz word- invoked to generate an emotional response rather than a logical one. And eventually the emotional response wears out, and we’re left with a more nebulous word. And English grows just a tiny bit more abstruse.

  20. Atheism is a religion as much not playing soccer is a sport. To say that something qualifies as ‘atheist fundamentalism’ usually means to say that some practice is being advanced for the sake of atheism.

    I think that using the word ‘fundamentalism’ in this way makes much more ideas or practices equally valid for being labelled as ‘fundamentalist’, so it’s just like creating a ‘semantic mist’ and making misconceptions most likely to happen. If people have something to say about some atheist idea or practice then they should say it clearly and avoid that tendentious parlance.

  21. Al Lecuyer Al Lecuyer

    I believe there is no god. Look, I now have a tenet. I’m adhering to it. I’m a fundamentalist.

    Seriously, though, my point is that being a fundamental atheist is not a negative. I concede that the use of the words by theists (or deists, or supernaturalists or whatever those that don’t believe what I believe are called) are an attempt to denigrate critics of religion.

    Atheists are the backbone of the Brights organization. allowing other ists was just a savvy political move. The actual fault in my using them as an example is that the organization is more about PR for secularists then it is about PR for secularism. They (we, actually. I’m a member) as a group are not the best example of fundamentalism.

    PS-Thony sorry about the typos on the word principles. I guess I’m not a spelling fundamentalist. Or much of a proof reader.

  22. Greg. Tingey Greg. Tingey

    And, of course, communism is a clssic religion:

    The “communist” states are classic theocracies.
    They have “holy books” which are an infallible guide.
    The “holy predictions” are also infallible, and so is the church (the Party) even when it is manifestly not so.
    [ The classic, of course is that “the revolution” will occur in the MOST DEVELOPED states FIRST … ]
    They persecute, with equal vigour, heretics (that is, believers in other forms of communism) and believers in other, competing religions.
    At one point, they even joined christianity and islam in rejecting a central foundation of modern biology: have you ever heard of Trofim Lysenko?
    They kill thousands/millions of unbelievers and “evil” people, in order to bring a perfect world about…
    In short, the whole thing is modelled on the mediaeval RC church ……

    The ultimate classic of a communist theocracy is, of course, North Korea, where the hereditary god-kings of the Kim family rule over their religiously terrorised subjects.

    Furthermore, communism isn’t intrinsically atheist; it is (just) that the theocrats/ideologues saw (and still see) all the other religions as competitors with their own holy cause, and adopted “atheism” as a convenient stalking horse for persecution.

    Atheism doesn’t lead to communism, nor even vice versa – you are pointing to a correlation but there is no underlying causation until you examine the interesting dynamics of a secular evangelical religion with a big god-shaped hole in it. Which is filled by the infallible Party.

    • John Wilkins John Wilkins

      Yes. As I recall this was Barth’s and Thielicke’s objection to the communist state.

  23. Ian Spedding, FCD Ian Spedding, FCD

    Greg. Tingey wrote:

    And, of course, communism is a clssic religion:

    If I remember correctly, we have been over this ground before.

    My view is that the problem is not atheism or religious fundamentalism. Both camps happily commit the fallacy of guilt by association by tallying the number of lives taken in the name of the opposition as evidence of their irredeemable evil. What is not fallacious is that large numbers of people have been killed by adherents of various faiths or ideologies.

    The problem, as I see it, is rather what I call ‘ultimatism’, which is defined as the belief that one is in possession of some Ultimate Truth that, by its nature, licenses behaviour which is prohibited by conventional morality. (John’s vocabulary, as a philosopher, probably contains a larger stock of ‘isms’ so he might know of a better word) We can see this, for example, in Christians who will be as appalled as the rest of us by the Holocaust but will, nonetheless, defend the Biblical Flood as just and deserved punishment, even though, if it had occurred, it could have killed far more than the Nazis.

    Agnostics, as a rule, do not fly planes into skyscrapers or send people to gulags for not doubting enough.

  24. Joe Joe

    Wonder if it was a bunch of atheists that burned down Sarah Palin’s church?

    Can atheists COEXIST with people of faith without being vulgar and inflammatory?

    It’s not like an atheist can be content with their reluctance in believing God, they have to go out and engage in a daily assault on organized religion (namely Christianity). There is a fervor to tear down and shatter the beliefs of every God-fearing person in the world.

    Atheists drive around in their Prius’ with “coexist” bumper stickers. But I have to wonder if they really want “coexist” or not..

    • Oh you poor boy. However will you cope with being a member of the 80% majority that sets the rules for everyone else. I don’t know how you can bear it.

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