June 5, 2008

Christians pretend critical scrutiny is "persecution"

[I wrote this in response to "The Christian Persecution Delusion. Again." by Ed Brayton (Feb. 25, 2008).]

What theists/Christians who pretend to be "persecuted" for their religious beliefs really mean is that they don't want a bunch of people openly criticizing their religious beliefs for lacking rational justification (i.e., for being superstition), and if you do, then they'll whine and moan about being "persecuted." They're using this rhetoric to try to keep a lid on this open criticism of faith-based beliefs in "polite society."

This is one reason I have found the religious criticism of the "new" atheism for being "militant" so amusingly ironic. What religious people who say these kinds of things really mean is that they have enjoyed the free ride they've had when the expression of religious belief is "respected" (not subjected to rational, critical scrutiny) - and they've had free reign to bad-mouth atheism and atheists for centuries - and atheists in society have basically kept their mouths shut. What irks them is that atheism has grown enough in U.S. society that now atheists are not willing to just keep their mouths shut anymore.

A "militant" atheist is simply an atheist who doesn't automatically keep his mouth shut any more just because someone says, "Well, I believe this because it's my faith." Now we increasingly have "militant" atheists who won't let that be the end of discussion, but continue on, "Okay, so what? Now I want your reasons for that belief. Oh, you don't have any? So, what you're really telling me is that you arbitrarily believe it just because you wish to believe even though you can't rationally justify it. Therefore, there's no reason for anyone to believe it. And that's my point. That's why I don't accept your belief, and furthermore that's exactly what I'm openly telling everyone else when it happens to come up in conversation."

It is this openness of basic criticism that makes us "new" atheists so "militant." The "militant atheist" pejorative is nothing more than yet another example of the kind of rhetorical trickery commonly used by Christians and other theists to denigrate and try to ward off rational, critical scrutiny of their personal ideas.

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