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How to deal with a militant atheist?

Started by cspanther, April 27, 2008, 09:33:53 PM

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cspanther

I recently co-organized a freethought group in my local area, and freethinkers constitute a variety of individuals (e.g., agnostics, humanists, naturalists, skeptics, deists, pantheists, etc. . . )--NOT just atheists of the militant persuasion.  

Our group has had four meetups thus far, and without fail, the self-described militant atheists makes at least one disparaging comment towards freethinking nonatheists every single meeting.  For instance, this person has stated that agnostics are weak cowards, while fully knowing that agnostics are an integral part of our group.  Consequently, one humanist member has already dropped out.  And two atheist members have expressed their distaste for such rhetoric, and since, have not attended any meetings.  I'm afraid this patterns will continue if this person's comments are left unckecked, which would be very unfortunate, because we are located in a small town area and thereby need to keep as many members as possible.  What do you think, and how would you handle the situation?

Will

If you're near the SF Bay Area, I'd be glad to show up and discuss it with them. If not, then direct them here and I can speak with them. I've had to deal with this before, and fortunately I've enjoyed being successful, so far.

Some atheist kids recently wrote graffiti on a local church, with rather offensive and very atheistic slander. I found out who they were and had a bit of a sit-down with them, atheist to atheist. I explained very carefully about why hey had objections to theism, and then related their grievances with theism to their actions. They understood and apologized.

This deal with atheists mistreating other atheists is unacceptable, though. Infighting and diverging based on slightly different beliefs is something for theists. Free thinkers will never require a protestant reformation because it's not in our nature to be fundamentalist. At least it shouldn't be.
I want bad people to look forward to and celebrate the day I die, because if they don't, I'm not living up to my potential.

Whitney

I'd probably explain to them that, although they have the right to believe whatever they want, that your group is not set up so that they can bash those who believe differently than themselves.  Tell them that they are free to discuss as much as they want but that the tone they are using is not welcome and that you will ask them to leave if they cannot be civil.  Even if they have to leave, it is better to piss off a couple of jerks than to lose your friendly members.

rlrose328

I would definitely have a private chat with them, explaining that while they are entitled to their opinion and to expressing said opinion, it is offensive to others in the group and you'll have to ask him/her to refrain or be asked to leave the group.  Sometimes when you have a group of some sort (meetups, mailing lists, and forums), you have to make the hard decisions and carry them out.  The needs of the many outweight the needs of the few or the one.  Be strong!  I hope you get it sorted out.  :)
**Kerri**
The Rogue Atheist Scrapbooker
Come visit me on Facebook!


SteveS

Wow - I hardly consider agnostics to be "weak cowards".  That's pretty harsh.  Maybe these guys should read Nietzsche:

Quote from: "Friedrich Nietzsche"He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.

cspanther

Willravel,

In what ways have you dealt with militant atheists in the past?  And how have you addressed the issue?  Also, what kind of response did you receive from the militant atheists themselves?    

Laetusatheos & rlrose328,

I like your approach.  If the person in question continues to spew anti-agnostic rhetoric, I'll pull him/her to the side and politely but assertively insist that it is not welcome.  Don't get me wrong, engaging in discourse or debate about the distinction between atheism and agnosticism is fair game (and could lead to a very interesting discussion), but I don't think that insisting on nondisparaging interaction makes me a Nazi in terms of censoring conversational content and group behavior.  

I havn't taken any sort of concrete action yet, because I'm very sensitive to the fact that a Freethought group is not a church and I'm not a pastor; that is to say, my role does not constitute ideological policing or enforcing a code of conduct in accordance with established doctrine.

Whitney

Quote from: "cspanther"Willravel,
I havn't taken any sort of concrete action yet, because I'm very sensitive to the fact that a Freethought group is not a church and I'm not a pastor; that is to say, my role does not constitute ideological policing or enforcing a code of conduct in accordance with established doctrine.

That is understandable...and we can run into the same issues when moderating a forum like this.  That is also why the only real rule here is to treat people with the respect they deserve (open ended yes, but it keeps it so that if someone is verbally attacked they do not end up breaking a rule if they return in kind).

It really all boils down to being able to interact decently with other human beings...I'm sure you would also expect everyone to treat a theist with respect if one happened to show up to your group (some theists do consider themselves free-thinkers).

If you are concerned if group members (other than those causing trouble) will find it inappropriate for you to say something to the militants, consider sending them all emails (call or talk in person, whatever works for you) explaining your concern and what action you plan on taking and why you feel the need to discuss it with them first.  Then ask that they provide their input.  From my experience with the wonderful free-thinkers of this forum...most, if not all, will be glad that you are planning on doing something about the unnecessary insults.

OldGit

I call myself a militant atheist but would not descend to such juvenile, ill-mannered conduct as vandalism or bullying meetings. :upset:      To me, putting the word 'militant' in front implies only that the atheist feels religion needs to be opposed, whereas 'atheist' alone does not necessarily imply anything beyond a lack of belief.
Could it be that the phrase has different implications in Britain and the US?

Asmodean

A militant atheist as I understand it is the one who actively opposes (organised) religion

But, as OldGit implied, there is a difference in ways of opposing it. Some people descend to juvenile tactics where others use language and science as weapons and others still use money or force.

As long as the way of opposing religion is at least somewhat socially acceptable, I have no problem with it.
Quote from: Ecurb Noselrub on July 25, 2013, 08:18:52 PM
In Asmo's grey lump,
wrath and dark clouds gather force.
Luxembourg trembles.

OldGit

Yup.  But we know the word "atheist" rates with "paedophile" in many parts of the US, whereas over here it's not particularly emotive.  Over here, adding "militant" doesn't alter that.  How about your side of the pond?

Asmodean

Quote from: "OldGit"Yup.  But we know the word "atheist" rates with "paedophile" in many parts of the US, whereas over here it's not particularly emotive.  Over here, adding "militant" doesn't alter that.  How about your side of the pond?
My side of the pond is just east of your side  :hide:
Quote from: Ecurb Noselrub on July 25, 2013, 08:18:52 PM
In Asmo's grey lump,
wrath and dark clouds gather force.
Luxembourg trembles.

Whitney

Quote from: "OldGit"Could it be that the phrase has different implications in Britain and the US?

Militant atheist, from how I've seen it used in common usage, typically refers to those atheists who are very aggressive in their attempts to deconvert theists.  For instance, Dawkins is a militant atheist, yet no one could rightly consider him juvenile.  Maybe we need a special word for those who take the militant approach to inappropriate extremes.

OldGit

Quote from: "laetusatheos"Militant atheist, from how I've seen it used in common usage, typically refers to those atheists who are very aggressive in their attempts to deconvert theists.
Aha! Thanks.  You see, I never saw it that way, but most likely that's just me....

 
Quote from: "laetusatheos"For instance, Dawkins is a militant atheist, yet no one could rightly consider him juvenile.  Maybe we need a special word for those who take the militant approach to inappropriate extremes.
No, I was referring specifically to the conduct mentioned earlier.  Having said that, IMO Dawkins does sometimes come across as a bit of a nerd on TV, which does our cause no good.

nikkixsugar

Quote from: "SteveS"Wow - I hardly consider agnostics to be "weak cowards".  That's pretty harsh.  Maybe these guys should read Nietzsche:

Quote from: "Friedrich Nietzsche"He who fights with monsters might take care lest he thereby become a monster.


*sniff* *sniff*. I smell a Nietzschean!!! woo!   :banna:
Hate to tell you, but.....

[spoiler]there is no god. Oh, and Dumbledore dies.[/spoiler]

PittsburghBrandon

I've always considered "militant atheist" to be a ridiculous term used by fundies to denigrate atheists who speak out.

As far as how to deal with them: You're always going to have jerks.  In my experience most of the time if you simply ask people to layoff the insults and choice their words more carefully they will.  

But at the same time, Freethinker is a pretty broad term that means a lot of different things to people.  At meetup groups hear in Pittsburgh we always have a completely different mix of people, and the tone of the conversation varies greatly depending on who shows up.  The vast majority of the conversations remain civilized, but sometimes they can get heated (especial if people bring up politics)

I love having people who disagree (discussion are boring when everyone agrees). But there's a difference between passionate arguing and people just being jerks.  As the organizer it’s your job to moderate the discussion.