In a previous post I gave the following definitions:
“An atheist is someone who sees God’s existence as being very implausible.
An antitheist (or New Atheist, militant atheist, atheistic fundamentalist…) is an atheist believing that all religions ought to disappear and that it is morally permissible (if not mandatory) to use ridicule, mockery and emotional bullying to destroy the faith of all religious believers.”
While I have a huge respect for many great atheistic thinkers of Western history (such as Nietzche, Sartre, Camus and Macky to name only a few) I have developed a healthy disdain towards anti-theists (as defined above).
I find that there is nothing glorious about using ridicule and mockery towards respectful and intelligent people you have a strong disagreement with.
Militant atheists are characterized by a bigoted self-righteousness and an intolerance towards all kinds of non-materialist points of view.
I have seen with my own eyes (across a screen) antitheists insulting and ridiculing nice persons defending the irreducible character of our conscious experience or of mathematical equations.
Following an extreme form of binary thinking, the New Atheists believe that since Islamic terrorists or Christian fundies are non-materialists, all non-materialists ought to be ridiculed.
But where does all this irrational and hateful thinking stem from?
David Leiter described in a short article what I and many other people have experienced:
“The theme that has emerged time after time, as I become closely acquainted with individual PhACT members is this: Each one who has disclosed personal details of their formative years, say up until their early 20’s,
has had an unfortunate experience with a faith-based philosophy, most often a
conventional major religion.
Very often, their family or community has (almost forcibly) imposed this philosophy on them from a very early age; but then as they matured, they threw off this philosophy with a vengeance, vowing at a soul level never to be so victimized again. Less often, it appears that they have instead voluntarily and enthusiastically embraced, for example, a New Age cult, or have become say, a born-again Christian. Then after a few years, they become convinced of the folly of that infatuation with the same basic result. They throw off this philosophy with a vengeance, vowing at a soul level never to be so victimized again.”
This leads me to make several empirically testable claims about the psychology of militant atheism.
1) The overwhelming majority of anti-theists have had a traumatic experience with one or several religions. In most cases they were raised as fundamentalists.
2) All things being equal, the strength of their materialist belief and intolerance towards other views is proportional to the amount of abuse and suffering they underwent in the past due to a religion.
3) All other things being equal, a bullying anti-theist is more likely to have always had a bullying personality to begin with,
There are many former fundamentalists who have become atheists without having taken on a hateful rhetoric.
4) The intensity of the hostile and disrespectful rhetoric of a militant atheist is inversely proportional to the intellectual strength of his or her arguments.
(While it arguably concerns only a minority of cases, I do think this nicely illustrates the kind of vicious circle or hatred going on).
Now I would be glad if you could share your own experiences with me.