Addendum: There have been some lively comments in response to the post below, but there seem to be misapprehensions that 1) I am calling all Atheists fundamentalists, and that 2) I am defending Abrahamic faiths, or that this blog is about Abrahamic faiths.
This is not so.
First, I am talking specifically about intolerance – when it appears among Atheists. Extremists (who are often marked by intolerance) are found in every group, and Atheists are no exception.
If you are Atheist and tolerant of other people’s religious and spiritual beliefs, then this article is NOT about you.
If you feel it could be about you, well, then try to take home the message of the golden rule, ‘Do unto others as you would have done to you’.
Second, please read “About the Author” And “About Helleneste kai Grammateus” before posting.
Thank you. Now for the post…
I read a new term today: “Fundamentalist Atheists” referenced in KCRW’s The New Atheists.
The label is meant for those who don’t believe in any deity (soft or hard) and view the influence of any religion or spirituality as a threat to reason and science and fight back. They believe that religion inherently fosters ignorance and war and fight aggressively against beliefs in anything spiritual. Theirs is called the New Atheism movement.
I would agree that one can be Atheist and be Fundamentalist about it. One doesn’t have to believe in spirituality in order to be so adamant about that belief (or non-belief if you prefer) to proselytize and show intolerance.
I didn’t have the term for it back then, but I had a friend once, a smart young Brit, who had been raised and educated among like-minded people (Atheists). He had very intelligent arguments but lacked…a certain compassion and tolerance for those who believed otherwise. He humilated other friends of mine because they believed in one or more gods and mocked them in a public forum. He said he felt like Galileo fighting against the church.
I happened to be reading the works of Galileo at the time, and cited passages in which he likened the astronomical phenomenon to angels and other excerpts in which his religious belief was clear.
Deeply concerned, I wrote to him that not everyone who follows a religion or spirituality is fundamentalist, not all of them proselytize. I gave the examples of Buddhists and Unitarian Universalists (my parents). It is easy to fall into the trap of over-generalizing.
Furthermore, religion and spirituality have great benefits for mental health and community.
He said that Unitarian Universalism is “among the least threatening” of religions. I told him that I was dismayed and disappointed (in a sad but kindly way) by his lack of tolerance. In the end, he said that it’s difficult growing up around many people who think the same way, but good to be challenged, and he was grateful for the opportunity to bridge the gap of understanding.
He is still atheist, and I’m still a theist, but I think we reached mutual understanding and tolerance. I think that’s the only way to approach closed-mindedness, of any variety.
Related Article: Vatican Celebrates Galileo
If you are a Theist, how do you respond to Atheists?
If you are an Atheist, how do you respond to Theists?
- Atheists also have extremists (timesunion.com)
- Those bloodthirsty New Atheists – Ophelia Benson – Butterflies & Wheels (richarddawkins.net)
- Study: Atheists Know the Most About Religion [God Is Dead] (gawker.com)