Scipsy

Some notes about agnosticism, atheism, and militant atheism.

Why do I refer to myself as an atheist instead of an agnostic?

To answer, I need to point out what is it, in very simple terms, agnosticism. Agnosticism is the position in which you claim you can’t say if God exists or not, and so, you declare you neither believe nor disbelieve that God exists.

I think it’s a weak position that you can claim only if we confine our discourse to divinity. 

So, let’s talk about the invisible pink unicorn

I think it’s rather difficult that you could say you are agnostic about his existence, but you should, in fact, the evidence for the existence of the invisible pink unicorn are the same as for any other supernatural being (god included).

I think, the most reasonable position everyone could have about the invisible pink unicorn is that it doesn’t exists.

Since, in principle, I don’t see any difference between the concept of God or the concept of an invisible pink unicorn, I think agnosticism is not the most reasonable position to have.

If there are no evidence, I choose disbelief.

Why do I think militant atheism is needed?

You probably heard or read about some statement against militant atheism, there are at least two arguments against it: 

  1. militant atheism is a form of fundamentalism just like religious fundamentalism;
  2.  it is contradictory to actively negate the existence of something you claim doesn’t exists. Or more simply: To attack something, you need to believe in it.

The first argument is silly, I think it doesn’t deserve attention, at least because even if you consider me a fundamentalist atheist, I think you would prefer me as a neighbor instead of a real religious fundamentalist, like those who kill doctors or those who stone women to death.

The second argument is something like this:

"how can you be a militant atheist? How can you be militant non-stamp collector? This is really what it comes down to. You just don’t collect stamps. So how can you be a fundamentalist non-stamp collector? It’s like sleeping furiously. It’s just wrong."

So, in simple words, atheists are “right” only if they say “I don’t believe, I don’t care”.

This kind of arguments do not take into account that religious belief is not just a individual position that affect only the person who hold it. Religious belief manifest itself into society, religion influences society in many ways.

Jon Elster (Nègation active et nègation passive, 1979) wrote that “militant atheism can’t do without the believers it fights”. 

I agree.

When religious beliefs influence government policy, so that laws that matter for public health, or scientific research, or education, are based on religious position, it’s not just something you can say “I don’t believe, I don’t care”, because those laws, and those government choices, affect also you.

So, while atheism is a personal position of disbelief, militant atheism is saying “I don’t believe, but I do care if what you believe affects my life”.

If other’s religious beliefs will stop influencing society (and therefor my life too), I’ll stop being a militant atheist, and I will be simply an atheist.