The term anti-theism has been cropping up around the atheist blogosphere a lot lately. It seems like a fairly simply construct at first glance. One who believes that theism is a problem to be overcome could be described as anti-theistic (i.e., someone who actively opposes theism). And yet, the term may also be a convenient way to package some of the factions within the larger secular community.
I am an atheist in that I do not accept the theistic belief claim (i.e., some god or gods exist). Atheism is about my lack of acceptance of this claim and entails nothing else - no worldview, belief system, philosophy, or religion. To be an atheist, I don't have to be 100% certain that no gods exist; my atheism is simply my lack of theistic belief.
But I have many other beliefs that do form a cogent system or worldview. Besides not being a theist, I am convinced that theistic belief is something with which humanity would be better off without. In this way, it would probably be accurate to describe me as anti-theistic because I am actively opposed to theism. That is, I start with atheism (i.e., I am without theistic belief) and go an additional step whereby I am willing to label theistic belief as a problem in need of solutions.
What I am not, and I want to be very clear about this, is an anti-theist. I am actively opposed to theistic belief but not to believers themselves. To oppose theists, as opposed to theism, would suggest that I have given up on them. This is simply not the case.
I am convinced that the overwhelming majority of American atheists are not anti-theistic at all. These are the sorts often accused of not being "real atheists," but this is a mistake. They are every bit as atheistic as the rest of us. Where they part ways is anti-theism. Many adopt a live-and-let live attitude and steer clear of activism. They are not concerned with what theists are doing; they just want to be left alone by the theists. I know this can be a source of frustration to those of us who are also anti-theistic, but it can also remind us that many of our efforts should go toward awakening this group to the perils of theism.
I have not encountered many atheists who would proudly describe themselves as anti-theists, but it would not surprise me to discover that there was a small minority who might do so. They can be a source of energy and drive for the secular movement, but may end up doing more harm than good. I imagine that they are the sorts theists love because they confirm many of the "angry atheist" stereotypes. My concern is that they actually bring us closer to theism by espousing hate on the basis of another's belief system.
I place myself between these two groups. I am an anti-theistic atheist who recognizes that many theists have tremendous good in them and great potential to be valuable contributors to society. I reject their claim that they would devolve into a mob of degenerates without their god-belief. I think they are better than this. At the same time, I'm not content to sit idly by because I think there is too much at stake. Thus, I recognize that I need to reach out both to theists and to atheists who are not yet anti-theistic.
Tags: atheism, anti-theism, atheist, secular