July 24, 2008

Atheist Activists, Keep Stirring the Pot

The so-called "Crackergate" incident in which PZ Myers threatened to desecrate a communion wafer, enraging Bill Donahue and receiving multiple death threats from good Christians, has renewed a discussion over "militant atheism." While "militant atheism" is a meaningless term, there are certainly atheist activists and anti-theists, many of whom are passionate about protecting the separation of church and state, opposing religious extremism, and highlighting the irrationality of religious belief. In fact, we need more of this pot stirring, not less.

I disagree with PZ over the use of his academic title and university position on his personal blog, and I think it is inappropriate for him to link to Pharyngula from university-based web pages. However, I applaud the manner in which he is bringing attention to what Catholics believe through Crackergate. By messing with a communion wafer, PZ is showing that it is not necessary for atheists to pretend we respect religious beliefs. To us, it is just a "frackin' cracker," and it is okay to treat it as such.

As BlackSun recently noted,

Atheists are right to be upset. Ridicule is only the beginning. If we want a sustainable, rational and just society, religion will have to be marginalized, no matter how much that may hurt some people’s feelings.

Imagine if someone started a Church of Harry Potter or a Church of the Jedi (actually already exists). Are we really supposed to take them seriously? Of course not. We all know these are forms of entertainment and we don’t have to ‘respect’ other people who pretend they’re real.

The world’s major religions are no less ridiculous, they are just older and more widely accepted. They need to get over themselves, and quickly. I’ll be there stirring the pot until and unless that happens. Call me as many names as you like, I’ll take reason over superstition, and I’ll keep insisting you’re insane if you don’t.
He's right. What we need are more atheists stirring the pot. This is the only way we are going to see religion fade into the background, becoming an important tradition for many but having increasingly less influence in the modern world. Erroneous beliefs do not warrant respect.

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