The Reasons for Militant Secularism

There is nothing wrong with people speculating about the nature of the universe, their own existence, and the powerful archetypal imagery that can occur in dreams and waking visions.


Follow your bliss. BUT DON’T IMPOSE IT!

There is nothing wrong with people following spiritual or psychological disciplines as part of their personal exploration, or as mandated by a belief system that they have chosen to adhere to – unless like Anders Breivik they use their discipline to turn themselves into psychopathic killers, or in other ways harm others.

But the problem is that there is a natural tendency to spill over from personal spirituality to social action, based on non-physical premises.

  • Then you get children being raised to believe themselves or others to be evil.
  • You get schools failing to educate children with science, but instead teaching the Iron Age myths of our tribal ancestors as fact.
  • You get miseducated adults trying to cure physical diseases by chanting incantations while swinging live chickens over their heads instead of going to a doctor.
  • You get government policies that deny harmless activities and productive relationships to groups and individuals, even if those things are accepted in other societies which are richer and happier.
  • You get scientific research held back on non-scientific grounds.
  • You even get massacres, civil wars, terrorism, international wars. As the saying goes, “Science flies you to the moon, religion flies you into buildings.”

Therefore the US needs to return to the secular origins of its Constitution. And the world’s religious nations should emulate Norway, which recently renounced its centuries-old state religion as no longer an appropriate concern of the state.

Churches are money-making concerns, and of far less social value than retirement homes, private hospitals, bookstores, coffee shops, theaters or cinemas.

Tax them.

25 comments on “The Reasons for Militant Secularism

  1. teunispeters says:

    There is as much reason for militant secularism that there is for any other kind of militant religious striving. Which is to say : none at all, and it makes for bad neighbours. It’s the “militant” part which is irrational. It implies intolerance, aggressiveness and denial of reality. It sets aside debate and jumps right into a state of active war.

    What I advocate is that anything involving governance, law, policy or rule that affects any group larger than a group with 100% consent, is that it be rational upon a rational basis. This doesn’t exclude theologies, thorologies or even atheist-ologies, but it does limit the harm such groups can do. This would result in effectively a secular system, I would think, but doesn’t deny other groups their ability to speak or even – within a limited domain – to have power.


    • I think you exaggerate, Teunis. The word “militant” surely doesn’t imply “denial of reality”. It means “activist”. It doesn’t “set aside debate”, it thrives on debate. The image I like will show up if you search images for “militant atheist”: four photos:
      Militant Christian with a rifle
      Militant Muslim with a suicide vest
      Militant agnostic with his head in the sand
      Militant atheist pounding away on his keyboard.

      And I support your rule that says that any rules affecting groups larger than with 100% consensus needs by “rational upon a rational basis”. That would, I think, exclude theologies from being the basis of rules, but it wouldn’t exclude anyone from expressing an opinion.


      • teunispeters says:

        “Militant” implies stepping beyond the rational and into bending violence to a cause. It’s military at its root. So I won’t defend that a militant atheist is any safer or saner than a militant member of any other religion. the very declaration of “militant” is a declaration of war, at least on some level – by the very nature of the word. It’s the voice that says “no other voices but mine are valid” – that’s militant. It denies the reality that other voices -are- valid.

        It wouldn’t exclude all theologies, just ones that pick theological reasons that lack rational background as a basis for operations. Many kinds of Islam would make it (but hardly all. Just because their book says that science is needed to understand their own religion, doesn’t prevent many members from denying that). Some Christian. Some of the “new Pagans”. I hear Judaism would be fine with that entirely.
        But anyone who speaks without a rational and testable base … would be excluded.


        • I don’t think “militancy” needs to be anything beyond speaking out, bumper stickers, Meetup groups, safe houses, FSM parade floats, letters to the editor, and questions to political candidates.

          Maybe I just find “militant atheist” amusing, after “the Church militant” being part of my educational background. I had five years of British boarding school in my teens with Chapel every day, I think it warped me for life.


  2. A religious person can tell me that I deserve to be burn alive forever just because I was born, but if I have the gaul to stand up and say that’s wrong, I’m “militant” and need to stop being so “angry”. Thinking this way is handing them the battle thanks to Orwellian language control.


    • “Militant” is kind of a button-pushing word. It has a more aggressive overtone than “activist”, which is more aggressive than “advocate”.

      But it’s not a bad word to use when you’re telling people they have a duty to society to say if they are secular, at a time when society will otherwise count you as a religious believer by default.


  3. The problem is that Atheism functions so much like a religion that you’re not really changing anything though. Instead of teaching kids to “hate” based on religion, you’re teaching them to hate based on the lack of religion. Instead of hating “sin” you’re hating “ignorance” (this despite teh fact that Atheists are apparently increadably ignorant about the vast majoirity or religions in the world.

    Then you get stuff like this: “You get scientific research held back on non-scientific grounds.”

    Yeah, you do get this happening. Because, well, science is amoral in its nature. It cares only about discovery and study, nothing for the morality of what that study is or the possible side effects of that research. Then you get things like the Tuskegee experiments or fetal stemcell research, or any number of other things that are “morally” repugnant. And just as often, I think you will find, it is politics that stops scientific research as much as religion does: for example, where is the male birth control pill, boys?

    I suppose I shall end my mini-rant with a reply to this: “You even get massacres, civil wars, terrorism, international wars. As the saying goes, “Science flies you to the moon, religion flies you into buildings.””

    “Science gives men the power to destroy the world, religion gives you someone to pray to hoping they won’t.”

    then again, I suppose that hope is probably as rediciouls as atheists say praying is.


    • Science is not amoral. But it is guided by the search for knowledge, not for “goodness”. Goodness is such a slippery concept and has meant so many things to so many people over time (read Leviticus…) that it is ultimately meaningless as a guide to activity.

      I’m content with the search for knowledge. It tends to a better life for everyone.


      • Are you sure? Because i have been told happily by other atheists that science is amoral and they are very happy with that fact. :/


        • joe3eagles says:

          Science is not atheism. Atheism is not science. Theological concepts are irrelevant to science. The opinion of theists and atheists concerning the morality of this or that scientific endeavor is irrelevant to science.The only concern of science is the pursuit of knowledge of the natural world.


  4. … this despite teh fact that Atheists are apparently increadably ignorant about the vast majoirity or religions in the world.

    Lucius, atheists are not incredibly ignorant about the vast majority of religions in the world. They are not even unusually ignorant about the vast majority of religions in the world. In fact, if I knew nothing about someone other than the fact that that person self identified as atheist I would bet on that person knowing more, not less than someone else who did not self identify as atheist (unless the other person was Jewish).


    As an aside, it is nice to see in that survey that evangelicals are knowledgeable about the Bible and Christianity (though my intuition about that group is that it might have a bimodal distribution of a lot of unusually knowledgeable people and a lot of unusually ignorant people with regard to the Bible and Christianity).

    for example, where is the male birth control pill, boys?

    I think that part of the problem with this one is that it is a completely different problem biologically than the female pill. There is at least one approach for this in the pipeline, though. It’s basically a progestin based approach which inhibits the pituitary control through a feedback mechanism. This also shuts down testosterone production and therefore also requires concurrent testosterone supplementation.


    • I had meant to add that in that Pew poll some of the people who are recorded as “nothing in particular” are probably atheists (just not being comfortable with a label which has a certain amount of stigma attached to it in US society). On the other hand, some of the people recorded as “nothing in particular” are probably religious (just not identifying with any particular group).


      • I find the Pew Research results very predictable. The more deeply knowledgeable people are about any religion (including its history, its founders, and its basic texts), the less likely they are to believe it.


    • uh huh… why is it that when Atheists talk about religion, they only really talk about Christianity, they never deal with Judaism, they try their hardest to ignor Islam (well, except for the lame and rather tastless joke about flying into buildings)….and when it comes to the mirriade of non-Abrahamic religions, not only do their arguments fall flat, they often don’t even really apply?

      Yeah…really knowing the religion there…


      • Lucius, Lucius… those comments are bizarre, in the context of being posted on my atheist blog that is focused on religion. “Never deal with Judaism”, indeed!

        When I said (in this post) “You get miseducated adults trying to cure physical diseases by chanting incantations while swinging live chickens over their heads instead of going to a doctor”, I wasn’t making up some insulting comment at random, I was quoting an actual practice of Judaism that is still done today.

        The entire blog (well, most of it) is based on these propositions:
        Jesus was a devout Jew,
        Judaism is exclusive and genocidal,
        and Christianity is an inclusive fabrication created by Paul.

        I don’t deal that much with other religions, but I’ve commented on stoning to death with a contemporary photo, on the alleged Islamic blasphemy of Hamza Kashgari, on Scientology, on Mormonism, on the benefits and drawbacks of polytheistic belief structures…

        I’m sorry, I think your comment is simply wrong.


        • Well, you’re about the only one I’ve found that does. Most of the big public atheists tend to ignore it/them. I should have made my statement clearer. Apologies.


          • joe3eagles says:

            You’re apparently not looking very hard. Sam Harris and the late Christopher Hitchens come to mind with minimal effort.


  5. teunispeters says:

    My religion is the origin of much of what is law, order, customs of law and indeed much of what is understood as “secular”, in honour of Tyr and justice, and that law keep the peace between both ancestors and modern people and families.

    So from the history of mine, atheism brings you chaos and destruction, religion brings law, justice and a safe place to explore the many possibilities in science and beyond.

    Remember, folks. It’s all perspective. The only problem I have with atheism is its tendency to deny any others than themselves the right to be rational.
    And if you ever come to cause to question, read Kipling’s fine poem “We and They”.


    • Teunis, religion is an early attempt at scientific explanation, based on dreams, guesses, visions, and (especially with organized religion) the drive for power and wealth.

      As science develops, atheism is simply a byproduct.

      I wouldn’t *require* atheism in anyone, but I would like all laws to be entirely secular, and all education to only deal with religion as part of a broad-based curriculum for History, Philosophy, Psychology and Comparative Religion.


      • teunispeters says:

        I wouldn’t assume atheism as a byproduct of science. My own religion has a long history of having atheists around it for instance – The Saga of Grettir the Strong is a great example.

        I think you’re missing something important.
        Almost all that is imaginary has its roots in religion, faith. Justice and law are two great examples of that – entirely imaginary items that help us have civilization. The entire culture that such evolves from contains such religion at its heart. (perhaps one of the reasons striving against Christian religions is so “easy” – at it’s basis, it’s basically foreign).

        To measure, to test, to learn and to strive to make clear – these are the drivings of faith and of hope – more imaginary concepts. Things that only exist in our heads and come from, though and maintained by religion.

        (some religions are clearly better than others at promoting the above. Some are worse – such as those who deny science and scientific methods)


        • If you think justice and law have their roots in religion, I suspect that you don’t follow primatology. There are some fascinating studies of the behaviour of apes and monkeys that clearly show how deeply a sense of fairness is built into us – it is millions of years older than any religion.

          I recommend anything by Frans De Waal, his earlier work is about power and dominance, his later work deals with sharing and altruism. There is a TED talk at – anyone who finds a Dutch accent difficult can put on subtitles!


          • teunispeters says:

            That’s a rather brilliant video. (I watched it with Dutch subtitles to help understand the meanings better *grin*)

            And I counter with : you haven’t countered my assertion. You’ve addressed one part, but not the whole. Where comes hope? Where comes interlocking systems of communication that make a space for discourse?
            These come from having a systemic understanding of each other and the world and having a body of that which we trust is true – a “religion” in other words. Hope too – that system of understanding helps reveal potentials of new possibilities., or the possibilities for solving what isn’t present in the current perceptions (whose understanding is guided by that same system).

            I do theorize though that those brought up with the idea that a “religion” is entirely restrictive are choosing atheism to go away from their own belief structure – that such are still members of that religious system especially in disavowing it.


            • Hope is also far older than religion – unless you want to include dogs worshiping their humans in the hope of a walk or a treat. Dogs certainly hope. (I can’t speak for cats.)

              Religion is just very, very early science: “a systemic understanding of each other and the world and having a body of that which we trust is true”, to quote you. I like it. Thank you.

              But science continues to develop. The myths of our Iron Age ancestors have interest and value today, but clearly don’t have *the same* uses that they were put to two and three thousand years ago.


              • teunispeters says:

                Organized religion perhaps 😉

                Thank you. And yeah, that’s fair.
                Everything that does not develop, dies – no matter what body of theories it may encompass – from the strict rules of a deadly environment trying to be adapted to safer climes, or a theory that fails to hold up when faced with better research.

                Some will also always think that truth drives away beauty, and they will try to claim that beauty elsewhere are lies. We need beauty and the truths that lie within that – to live.

                Not every theory need to be a unified or unifying one, just that it prove sufficient to the task – just as Newton’s physics still is sufficient for many conditions. Like languages, belief sets can provide perspectives that can help answer questions even ones yet to be found. Also, some religions (like mine) have a history of co-existing or even encouraging both science and atheism, and some don’t. There’s a lot out there, and it’s a horrid waste of time to spend it all attacking the perspectives of people simply because you disagree.


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