"You fundamentalist/militant/dogmatic/evangelical/[insert projected pejorative adjective here] atheists are just as bad as those you stand against."

Imagine how much I love reading that. Not so much from the religious; I expect it from them. No, I regularly hear/read this from other non-religious people, which disappoints me, to put it mildly.

So, what to people think?

Is there some merit to this accusation?
Do we need to take it to heart?
Or is it simply nonsense?

Here is Richard Dawkins response:

"do not mistake passion, which can change its mind, for fundamentalism, which never will. Passion for passion, an evangelical Christian and I may be evenly matched. But we are not equally fundamentalist. The true scientist, however passionately he may “believe”, in evolution for example, knows exactly what would change his mind: evidence! The fundamentalist knows that nothing will."

Read the rest of the piece here.

Tags: atheism, fundamentalism

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"I strongly feel that the world is a much better place to live in when people are free to believe whatever they want: they have the perfect right to believe that there exists a God, magical healers, that studying the stars and the planets learns you something about your own destiny, that it is strictly forbidden to eat pigs, or cows, or beans or that it is absolutely necessary to now where the city of Mekka lies, in order to do some odd gymnastics with your face in the direction of that particular town."

I strongly disagree. Is the world a better place when parents prefer prayer over medical treatment for their children? Is it a better place when people believe that they are part of the choosen people and everyone who isn't is going to hell? Is it really a better place when people believe that they will be rewarded in the afterlife if they kill a lot of nonbelievers in this life? How about when priests convince entire communities being ravaged with AIDS that condoms don't stop AIDS and are a sin?

Bullshit. This isn't something like believing that vanilla is the best flavor of ice cream. Religion negatively impacts society in general.
I think you missed the point of what he was trying to say. He just meant generally, a world which embraces acceptance and freedom is a better place which is ruled by dogma and fundamentalism.
I do agree that parents who prefer prayer over medical treatment should be stopped by the government, I don't care if somebody thinks I am going to hell, because hell doesn't exist and I don't like people who think they are in any way 'chosen'. People who think they are allowed to kill other people for whatever reason belong in jail and communities that let themselve convince by priests are quite stupid.

But, the fact is that there are very few people which deprive their children from medical treatment, or seeing their religious convictions as a justification for killing peope and also very few Catholics which listen to the pope when it comes to sex: my (devotely catholic) grandparents didn't do that for more than 50 years ago and, from the viewpoint of this gerontical society in Rome we call the Vatican, things have only gone worse since then.

Problems arise when religious organisations of any kind are having political power. I agree with you that they should not have any power whatsoever.

I also agree with you that religious beliefs are, generally speaking, based on nonsensical assumptions. But I also feel that you make religion more important than it is. Till, say, thirty ago, people where killed in the name of 'the people'/'working class'/the liberation of Ulster/Serbia for the Serbians and what have you. People are still kiled by the thousands if the US or EU needs to protect their oil resources, or some African gang leader needs to protect his financial interests. Some of them use whatever religious beliefs they find useful, but do you really think people would stop killing other people if everybody has become an atheist? I think it will make little difference.

I do agree with you however that people should not believe in god or whatever name they wish to give their imaginery celestial friends or enemies. Like you, I have about a million arguments which convince me that there is nothing else in or outside the 'heaven' than the gigantic rocks we call planets and huge gass balls we call stars; that life as we know it is the momentarily outcome of a process called evolution, and that there is absolutely no reason to believe that 'somebody' guided this process; that we and only we can make up our minds about the best way to live our lives since there is nothing and nobody 'outside' telling us what to do; that sex should be a source of pleasure and that it is totally irrelevant that bible and koran tell us otherwise. I only hope as many people as possible will share this ideas, not because I see so, but simply because they are true.

But I also believe in freedom of thought, and therefor, in freedom of speech and religion, as long as it implies that I and you, and the other small minority of non-religious people have the right to point out why religious belief is the same as believing in fairy-tales.
Wow. Great choice of quote from Dawkins!
I have recently been accused of this by a "friend" of mine. It made me think about my conversation for a few days. I wondered if I was in fact being too adamant about the dangers of religion. But I think the fact that I am using evidence and logic to back up my arguement puts me in a different category. Like Dawkins said... if new evidence came along then I would change my mind. Your argument is only as strong as the facts you have to back it up with. Religious folks are grasping smoke but throwing fire which makes their arguments irrational. And I also don't think that doing nothing and saying nothing is honorable at all. I agree with the first post by Eli...playing nice only makes the problem worse and makes people think it's "okay" to stay ignorant!!
As usual I'm with Dawkins.
You are only a fundamentalist if you are not willing to change your views if evidence requires it. I am an atheist, and I admit that atheism is a belief (just like deism is a belief). Beliefs should be subject to change in the presence of evidence.

Of course, this is a belief that I doubt will ever change.
I agree, Oliver, that any thinking person should be willing to amend their opinions, beliefs and viewpoints if new and convincing evidence is presented that contradicts you current ones. I am more than willing to be convinced that theism is valid, yet having spent years listening to theists defend their faith I have yet to encounter a convincing argument.

Where I differ with your post is that I don't consider atheism a belief. I consider it the thought-out conclusion I've reached after exploring theism and critically examining theology. I don't believe in atheism, I have arrived at atheism as an inescapable conclusion. Theology makes claims it cannot support without appealing to a "reality" that it cannot show exists.

Fundamentalism represents, to me, a dogmatic position one refuses to amend in light of new evidence. A fundamentalist refuses to think any further than they have already. There may well be atheists who conform to that mold, but I don't know any. The atheists I know all came to the conclusion of atheism by thinking for themselves, and they don't intend to stop now.
This sort of argument from theists (I think there called tu quoque ) is a result of sloppy use of language by many.

The term "fundamentalism is a term derived from a protestant bible conference in Niagara at the start of the 20th century and the book "The fundamentals" which was published as a consequence. A movement grew out it stared by some theologians. The term implies acceptance on faith of a number of fundamental points of dogma among which is commitment to the inerrancy and literal truth of the Bible.

The term has been generalized to other religions e.g. fundamentalist Muslims or fundamentalist Hindus or fundamentalist Jews. To have any meaning, even if generalized it must imply an unswerving commitment of faith in a set of dogmas and literal interpretation of some scripture.

To take the term to mean merely a strong attachment to any sort of idea removes all meaning, and makes for the sort of muddled dialog which has ensued.

The point that many, and I believe Dawkins as well, are trying to make is that fundamentalism implies a rigid adherence to certain notions without regard to fact or those techniques of thought developed by our species to correctly understand the world, notably logic, math and science which collectively are commonly associated with the notion of reason.

Fundamentalism, to me, suggests a corruption of intellect, including the abandonment of intellectual honesty. It reflects an uncontrolled emotional attachment to propositions in the face of contrary logic and evidence. It is, I think caused by fear that the application of reason will destroy dearly held values.

Calling atheists fundamentalists because they are committed to opinions is simply childish folly and complete nonsense. There is no atheist dogma, no atheist scripture to be interpreted literally. Adherence to logic is merely the proper application of technique to obtain proper inference from statements. Logic is always correct because it part of system of language and not an empirical form of knowledge.

Fundamentalists are people with broken intellects. It is tempting, because of the frustrating experience of communicating with them which, in my opinion, is best restrained. Perhaps some people simply enjoy the act of put down. But I think the majority of humanity have some vestige of reason left and, once emotional resistance is overcome, difficult as that may be, some progress can be made.
You're exactly right, of course, but it isn't just theists using this argument. I relatively often read it/hear it said by non-religious people, which I find utterly bizarre.

While I obviously think it is nonsense, I can at least understand how and why theists are drawn to this argument.

It's more confusing why non-religious people are taken in by it. This is distinctly unhelpful!
"Belonging to ones innate or ingrained characteristics"is one definition of fundamental. This would classify me as a fundamental atheist.
Wouldn't that make everyone a fundamental atheist ;-)

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