Secular Fundamentalists: There is no such thing…

Posted on November 26, 2007. Filed under: Atheism | Tags: , , , , , , , , |

…and the AAI conference doesn’t make atheism a movement, either.

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One of the methods used by the religious to marginalize atheists and our increasing visibility is to accuse us of becoming that which we originally opposed, or in other words, just like them. It’s even better if they have the convenience of one experience with these so-called “secular fundamentalists” from which they can draw unfounded conclusions as to the validity of this argument and, ultimately, the character of all those who have no belief in gods, goddesses, or other mythical creatures.

This is the route taken by Michael Brendan Dougherty in the November issue of The American Conservative. His article, entitled “Secular Fundamentalists: Can atheists form a movement around shared disbelief”, uses this year’s Atheist Alliance International convention as fodder for his clumsy attempt to represent atheism as a new phenomenon comprised of the dogmatically anti-religious.

The title alone is an oxymoron—would Mr. Dougherty mind explaining the fundamentals of secularism before he starts labeling us as adherents to them? He tries to use Sam Harris’ speech about the word “atheist” and the subsequent reaction as proof of this claim, pointing out the discomfort of the audience during his speech. He goes on to assume that Sam Harris would prefer that there be no AAI conference next year, which is only true in one scenario—that in which religion is no longer a menace to society and has been effectively stripped of its power.

Of course, according to Mr. Dougherty, the only reason we get together is to tell jokes about pedophile priests and fight the morality imposed upon us by the “prudes and prigs” who surround us, it is really unnecessary since all of this can be done online anyway. As a matter of fact, most of the conference attendees or those with whom I have spoken regarding Harris’ speech, which was reprinted in The Washington Post, were pleased to see a dissenting position presented, even if some may have disagreed with that position. This is an example of the very thing that makes atheism different from religion; we’re allowed to ask questions and present our differences of opinion. There’s no excommunication from atheism. Apparently, he hung around for the Q&A, but failed to mention that in my question to Sam, I stated that I agreed conceptually but see no other way to gain any influence as a group by avoiding the one word under which we can unite. Harris agrees with that, and furthermore, I think that as atheists, we all agree that we would prefer to live in a world in which the word was not even necessary…more here

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