The last time I talked about fundamentalism I was contrasting a reluctance to believe something without justification to holding onto beliefs in the face of a contradictory reality. This time I'm going to address the charge many Christian groups have leveled that somehow New Atheists are religious extremists.
Quite recently an atheist billboard with a message of unity - "One Nation, Indivisible" (the original text of the Pledge) - was vandalized by theists. Chrissy Satterfield, a writer for World Net Daily, applauded this vandalism.
"Atheists have been vandalizing my beliefs for years, so it’s about time the shoe was on the other foot... I also need to extend a thank-you to some people in Sacramento and Detroit. In February, 10 atheist billboards were defaced in the Golden State and a slew of atheist bus ads were vandalized in Detroit... I'm happy that I can count on other Christians to stand up for themselves and for Christians everywhere. It gives me hope."
To Christians like Satterfield, Atheist "vandalism" is apparently the act of disagreeing with her beliefs and having the audacity to say so publicly. Here's the thing Satterfield, I may disagree with your beliefs, criticize them, even ridicule ones that especially deserve it, but I respect your freedom of speech. I would never destroy your property. I am unaware of any instance in which theistic billboards erected in response to atheist billboards (an entirely appropriate response by the way) have been defaced to mock theists. So you're wrong, we haven't been vandalizing your property, and frankly I find it laughable that you think someone can "vandalize" your beliefs.
Unfortunately this isn't the only example of theists showing no sense of perspective. Atheist outreach groups in the US have been accused of being militant, extremist, and even terrorists before I'd even heard of Dawkins and Hitchens. Here's some perspective on the issue.
- Extremist theists fly planes into buildings.
- Atheists are called "extremist" when they write books and give lectures at universities, their crimes are exacerbated when they use a mocking tone.
- Extremist theists murder doctors and cartoonists in cold blood.
- Atheists are called "extremist" when they try to promote medical accessibility and education, as well as freedom of speech.
- Extremist theists take money from their congregations to support political campaigns to turn homosexuality into a capital offense, or fund "witch" hunts of women and children.
- Atheists are called "extremist" when they use money made from their books and speeches to support civil rights campaigns, oppose cruel and unusual punishment, and to promote education that will discourage dangerous superstitions.
- Extremist theists go on TV shows funded by their congregations to condemn entire societies for being unholy or worshiping the devil.
- Atheists are called "extremist" when they go onto atheist-hostile mainstream networks to demand that our culture and government stop treating non-Christians (theist and non-theist alike) like second-class citizens.
So really, what have we done? Given speeches, written books, mocked superstitious beliefs, promoted secular education and the sciences, and supported the Constitution. I'm sure you all can understand my frustration, when I see people like me being labeled "fundamentalists," "vandals," and "extremists" for these things. These people don't have a right to not be offended, they are not entitled to special privilege, and I am not acting like a criminal or religious extremist when I point it out.
In search of reason,
P.S. On a more lighthearted note: It has been brought to my attention that extremist dyslexics fly buildings into planes. Have a great day!