Conditional Militant Atheism

Attributed to Athanasius - http://www.rus-obr.ru/idea/4583, Public Domain, Link

Over at Critically Thinking Through the Bible, The Poised Atheist brings us a great quote from Daniel Radcliffe:

I’m not religious, I’m an atheist, and a militant atheist when religion starts impacting on legislation.

Love it! I have a difficult time imagining going through life as a militant atheist all of the time, but I have little trouble imagining what Radcliffe is talking about here. Again and again, it is religious over-reach that brings out the militant atheist (or at least the secular activist) in many of us. If religious believers could just manage to refrain from pushing their beliefs into places where they do not belong (e.g., our public schools, secular government, legislation, military), militant atheism would be rare. Secular activism would be unnecessary.

Of all the secular activists I've encountered over the years, I'm not sure I've ever found one who has not regarded secular activism as a necessary reaction to inappropriate (and often illegal) behavior on the part of religious believers. Secular activism does not exist merely to antagonize the religious; it exists because the religious cannot seem to refrain from antagonizing those who do not share their beliefs.

I recognize, of course, that secular activism may not be synonymous with militant atheism. Perhaps some militant atheists are full-time antagonists of the religious and are not at all motivated by how the religious behave. But I suspect that many of us have an easier time relating to a more conditional sort of militant atheism. We become more militant when provoked, and we wish the provocation would cease. At least, that's how it works for me. I welcome the day when secular activism and militant atheism are no longer necessary. Until then, I expect I'll continue to be militant on a conditional basis.