Who are these "extremists"?
Many asked this question, requesting that I should name names. Others pointed out how some of the comments to my column proved my point. So, I will begin with what I believe are extremist statements culled from a couple of internet comments threads. I will get to why I thought it necessary to write about it, how I pick my topics, the "threat" that could be posed by atheist extremists in the future, the current problem, etc. in later posts. For now, I begin with a little fleshing out of the extremist position. I don't know these people personally, so perhaps they're just spouting invective for its own sake. So, while these people may not be extremist, some of the comments they've made are or at least seem to be.
Many misunderstood the concept of "extremist" to mean only those who bomb buildings, take over governments or parties, carry out inquisitions, etc. An extremist is one who's beliefs and/OR actions are extreme. As I have argued is the case with both Christian extremism and Muslim extremism, those who propagate extremist ideas provide the justification for those who ultimately move from simply "believing" in extremist ways to acting in extremist ways.
For example, someone who believes that HIS group has the absolute truth on a subjective matter and that those who disagree are inherently bad, stupid, deluded, psychotic, immoral, incapable of rational thought, bigoted, dangerous etc. holds an extremist viewpoint, one which demonizes and dehumanizes the other. This dehumanized other becomes an easy target for those unstable enough to act.
(This is what I was trying to get at with outrageous claim 1, where someone would claim in an absolutist fashion that atheism IS true and religion IS false. Believing that your beliefs are true--as opposed to an absolutist claim--is perfectly reasonable. It is in the inability to admit our own limitations and fallibility that we are given to extremism. More on that later. Sorry for the interruption.)
Frankly, I have no desire to harm those who have a psychological addiction to a mythology; I pity the harm you are doing to yourselves. Perhaps you, like any other addict, feels threatened by those who do not share your addiction. MINNIE MOUSE (From Raw Story comments thread.)
Faith is an act of mental destruction. If there is no evidence for a claim, then accepting it is irrational. Eventually, even when confronted with evidence against faith, one’s mind is so dependent on their belief that fear of one’s world view collapsing will encourage one to reject the evidence. When this happens, one acts against reality. This is an act of mental destruction. A mentally deranged state of mind defined as a psychotic individual. Psychosis: severe mental disorder in which contact with reality is lost or highly distorted. The deeper the faith, the more severe the psychosis. ADNIHILO (From Raw Story Comments thread.)
Here's a question though: Apparently only 15% of Americans consider themselves atheist or non-believers. That number may even be high. Does that mean that only 15% of us are capable of critical thought and following rational arguments to their conclusion? RAINDOG (From Raw Story Comments thread.)
She doesn't understand she isn't a liberal. Her Judaism is a religious bias she believes reasonable and not 'extremist'. Personally, I think any belief in a theology dating back more than a thousand years is 'whacko', beit jesus(christ type) muhammed, thor, even madonna. WM MALO (Raw Story Comments)
Most atheists I've met believe that people need to use their own reasoning abilities to come to atheism.
ICOULDBEWRONGBUT (Raw Story Comments)
Snark Break: You poor, lost soul, look into your heart and come to Jesus. Notice the similarities?
Freedom of religion = freedom to be stupid. (....) 2) You who believe in a god, or gods, or wicker, the pope in a magical dress, or any other such rubbish, you are all of weak mind and unsound reasoning. JM(Raw Story Comments)
Barton is a prime example illustrating religious adherents or faith-based believers as inherently intolerant. ALSO Religiously instilled Anxiety and hostility leads to its bigotry, hate, murder and genocide. Which tells us why all 3 monotheistic religions combined have and continue to be singularly the most destructive force in the history of civilization. To tolerate the intolerable monotheistic religions is tolerate this most singularly destructive force in the history of civilization. Meaning all faith-based social organizations, governments and culture are so diseased, that their total destruction is the only viable solution for its own sake, independent of any constructive plan or outcome. That I suppose is an extreme form of atheism.. Adnihilo (Pharyngula Comments)And one prominent atheist extremist for your consideration:
"With or without religion, good people can behave well and bad people can do evil; but for good people to do evil-that takes religion." Steven Weinberg (link, so not working on blogger, can be found on Pharyngula comments thread and on next post.)
So, that's the beginning. I'll be writing more on a variety of related topics and answering your questions soon. (That's if blogger ever let's me post this correctly.) Please be patient as my full-time job and long commute seriously limit my time.
Also, please be patient with my "humanness." I may use a word with (an albeit obsecure) definition or usage with which you do not agree. Please do not assume that my use of the "wrong" word carries ill intent. Language is not something so easily used that you can avoid every possible misinterpretation. Semantics is a game too easily played when you're looking for something that's not there.
One final note, I realized in following the debate over my column that atheism is more complex than I realized. Although I used a variety of sources for this piece, textbook definitions and encyclopedic explanations don't always have a 100% correlation to how terms are used and understood in the real world. So, I'd like to provide a list of atheist resources for people who want to learn more about atheism in general and atheism in America specifically. If you have any suggestions, post them in the comments thread on THIS piece. I'll post a list later on.