This was a post on our messageboards talking about the frequent characterization of the RRS as "extremists", "fanatics", or "militant." I found it to be a clearly elucidated argument for the reasons why we are none of the aforementioned and am reposting it here, with his permission, of course.
It’s not very uncommon for the Rational Response Squad to be accused by both theist and atheists alike of being equal to extremist or fundamentalist theist groups. Their aggressive and vocal nature draws a reaction and a number of people feel this is positive, while others feel that it is negative. I would like to take a moment to seriously consider if this is an appropriate correlation.
Extremist or Fundamentalist groups are credited with taking their religious devotion to a level that would involve killing people as well as sacrificing themselves for their cause. Killing innocent people, bombing schools, market places, hospitals, as well as car bombing busy streets. Assassinating opposing religious and political figures, as well are things attributed to religious extremists and fundamentalists.
Since there have been so many things that I wanted to address in the comments, plus the fact that it got long as hell, I decided to post it here. Enjoy.
No atheism here.
Submitted by Fenriz on January 13, 2008 - 2:37pm.
Religion is different from illegal drugs because it is societally protected. Even if religion is destructive, it won't carry the same stigma as drugs because too many people support it. Your analogy is more effective with tobacco and alcohol, which are both traditionally accepted features of our culture despite the harms they can inflict. Because they are so ingrained in our culture, we won't get rid of them regardless the problems to which they contribute (though tobacco could be teetering on the brink of extinction).
I agree that it is considered taboo to critique religion too harshly, but is that respect deserved? Would we not be better off as a society if events such as these didn't happen? Some people will find other reasons to engage in destructive behaviors, but why not eliminate as many potential catalysts as possible?
Yesterday I blogged about muslims attempting to take down pictures of their invisible friend on wikipedia via petition. Today we got a letter from the head of the number one turkish atheist site which has been stripped from the eyes of Turks twice. Once under the original domain and then again under another domain. Unfortunately, the owner is unable to fight this in court because to do so he would have to identify himself which if you're familiar will end up resulting in his head being chopped off by the peaceful and loving muslims who work for Allah. If you speak Turkish and you are an atheist please support this site...
Wow. A whole barrage of nonsense came at us in the past two weeks or so. First off...a man cuts off his own hand after seeing the Mark of the Beast on it. With a circular saw. And then microwaves it. And then calls the authorities. A quote from one of the sherriff's deputies states, "That kind of mental illness is just sad." I couldn't agree more.
Now, I know what you guys are going to say--"It's not BECAUSE of religion." Actually, I don't think that a case could be made either way. Was he likely vulnerable to delusional behavior? Yeah, I'll concede that one. The fact that religion is unique in its ability to seep into the crevices of your mind so pervasively that this theme plays out in our society over and over again isn't addressed by that statement, though. How do the appeasers and framers answer that? Maybe it only manifests itself in those already prone to mental illness, but isn't that akin to excusing and perpetuating a belief system that preys on the weak? What exactly is it that causes atheists to feel this compulsion to cover for a malevolent, archaic belief that has caused mothers to kill their children, countless cases of child abuse, seemingly endless wars and violence, and self-mutilation and flagellation that can be traced back to the very foundation of the religion?
Lately, I've been realizing that, despite what I had come to believe, religion is not the biggest danger to society. Poor thinking is. Adherence to mindless dogmatism is. The self-serving desire to fit everybody into a mold, likely similar to your own, is. These traits are unfortunately not limited to theists.
Obviously, being a member of the Rational Response Squad puts me in a position to be critiqued and vilified by the people who possess the aforementioned character flaws, and recently I've been seeing it almost constantly. It literally pains me to see that so many who have managed to escape religion still cling to so many other similarly irrational ideas and use such blatantly poor logic-particularly if it involves us. Have we done some controversial things? Sure. Are we brash, loud-mouthed, occasionally immature, and possibly arrogant? Sometimes, yes. Have we made mistakes? Of course-show me one person who hasn't, and I'll show you a liar. Do we have conversations about sex, have ads all over the place containing visible cleavage (OMGZ!), and in general like to have some "old-fashioned" fun? Most definitely. Do you know why? Because atheists don't have to be stodgy intellectuals!
...represented by a small sample of letters to the editor from around the country.
Well, this will be a first with two posts in one day, but I really wanted to briefly discuss the following letters that were submitted to various papers across the US. This is certainly not a statistically significant sample, but I feel that these particular mindsets are far too common for a supposedly enlightened and egalitarian society. We'll start with my favorite one from the Salt Lake City Tribune.
In his Dec. 27 letter, Steven Fehr says he believes President Bush is the worst president he has seen. Whenever I hear someone complain about the president, I ask them, "Do you pray for the president of the United States daily?" Is that too much trouble?
There used to be a custom of praying for our president. Perhaps too many people in the United States believe this would be mixing politics and religion. If the majority of the people are agnostic and atheistic, it may be that they are partly to blame for the problems we have. To think one man is responsible for the war and the problems we face in our nation is about as foolish as to not believe in the power of prayer.
"Hereby it is manifest that during the time men live without a common power to keep them all in awe, they are in that condition which is called war; and such a war as is of every man against every man. For war consisteth not in battle only, or the act of fighting, but in a tract of time, wherein the will to contend by battle is sufficiently known: and therefore the notion of time is to be considered in the nature of war, as it is in the nature of weather. For as the nature of foul weather lieth not in a shower or two of rain, but in an inclination thereto of many days together: so the nature of war consisteth not in actual fighting, but in the known disposition thereto during all the time there is no assurance to the contrary. All other time is peace.
THIS PAGE RECOVERED FROM CACHE AFTER LOSING TWO WEEKS OF DATA
Response to Katha Pollitt's "The Atheist's Dilemma"
From The Nation, Dec 3, 2007
In this issue of The Nation, Katha Pollitt posits that what people like to refer to as the "New Atheism" is destined for failure. She argues that the devout will not be persuaded by atheists, particularly those like Sam Harris, who "[think] religion is completely stupid." She goes on further to admonish us for not appreciating the so-called moderates of any faith. Ms. Pollitt is demonstrating her ignorance of the effectiveness of the atheist "movement" (although I hesitate to use that word) and the reason why even the moderate religious acolytes need to be called to account for their beliefs.
The Catholic Church has officially ended their campaign to improve the public image of the Church with the latest papal encyclical, Spe Salvi, which means “saved by hope” for the Latin fans out there. The Catholic Church’s history is littered with crimes against humanity, and Pope Benedict XVI seems to desire the return to pre-Vatican II Catholicism. This was a concern voiced by many at the time that the former Joseph Ratzinger* was canonized to this position. The former pope, John Paul II, had made great strides in the modernization of the Church, and many were reluctant to elect somebody who would reverse that trend. Despite John Paul’s dogmatic adherence to the sexual proscriptions of Catholicism, he at least officially accepted evolution, admitted Protestants into heaven, and eliminated limbo. (Where was that place anyway? I may have been there once&hellip Pope Benedict is turning out exactly as predicted.
Well, this isn't an official response to much of anything, but I wanted to at least throw a little update out there.
First of all, living with twenty thousand thoughts and ideas running around my neuronal network constantly is frustrating, exhilirating, and exhausting. There are twenty articles to which I want to respond, thirty different ways to track and promote my progress, contact lists to be exported/imported, stats to assess...you get the drift. O_O
An amusing development is the three (?) threads about our ads at Democratic Underground. Unfortunately, two have been archived and one is in a donors only section, so I wasn't able to invite them over here for a nice healthy debate on the definition of pornography, the objectification of women, and maintaining rational and effective marketing. No matter what our individual desires or wishes are concerning the more...primitive... parts of our brain, I feel that in order to achieve our goals as a group, it would behoove us to work with those inclinations rather than against them. Statistics support that theory, and I would even argue that part of our success would fall into that category as well. (Not trying to sound conceited--just saying...) Of course, most of you already know this since it has already been beaten to death on the forums.