Extremist Response Squad?
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.
The crusades, thirty years war, milhemet mitzvah, jihad, saxon wars: all of these things, and of course countless others, were wars of religion that invoked fundamentalist and extremist faiths. People executing their faith to murder doctors that perform abortions or killing their roommates for being atheists are smaller scale localized representations of the type of things caused by extremist and fundamentalism.
As I feel the things that we talk about when talking about these two words are generally accepted on the theistic side, I would like to evaluate the corresponding things that the Rational Response Squad has done that apparently gets put on par with these act.
The Blasphemy Challenge: Through use of videos the RRS asked people both of faith and not of faith to post a video where they deny the existence of something that they already do not believe in. No one was asked to do something against their own beliefs, nor against their will. And for putting together this simple and silly little video they received a free DVD.
The War on Easter: Basically the publication of information regarding atheism.
The War on Christmas: Essentially the same thing, as well as perhaps some promotion of Winter Solstice and the origins of Christmas.
Blood Drive on Prayer Day: It’s a blood drive, no one dies.
Essentially the Extremism and Fundamentalism that is being represented is words, debates, and advertising campaigns to get the message out there. These are things that are really on a very tiny scale in comparison to the regular stadium sell-out events known as Sunday mass that happens all over world.
I believe that for both sides of the fence it is irresponsible to put the Rational Response Squad on par with fundamentalists and extremists from the theist camp.
What we see as Moderate religion goes to much more dramatic levels to promote its agenda. Moderate religion directly attempts to influence politics (for Canadians see the attempts to force Paul Martin and Dalton McGuinty to change their politics or be excommunicated from their faith, or for Americans the recent talk about changing the Constitution to reflect god better), it advertises in just about every location (street corners, schools, billboards etc).
If the current state of the Rational Response Squad is what people today would call extremist or fundamentalist then perhaps they need to take a serious second take of the history of their own faith and the faiths around them to see where they set the bar for people that are promoting the opposite agenda.
I expect this argument to come up, so I will address it now: “The RRS are extremist when compared against other atheists.” Though I believe there may be merits to this statement, I don’t believe it’s valid and that’s where I think irresponsibility lies. By using such strong words while talking about atheists who are opposing theists I believe you need to use equal terminology on both sides of the argument at least within the confines of the two sides of the messages rather than using different scales for the different sides of the argument. That style of thinking would suggest that religion is allowed more tools at its disposal in generating its message. This is a war of terminology and words so it is extremely important to be sensitive about our choice of words.
Using the same scales of words, the Rational Response Squad is fairly average. Below average even on the scale of ‘how far will you go’. The Rational Response Squad hasn’t even entered the realm of moderation when compared with the theistic opposition.
This is a really long winded way of getting across a simple message; it’s one that kind of bugs me. So much attention is given to terminology and wording in all of these arguments about theism yet for some reason The Rational Response Squad gets words like fundamentalist and extremist thrown at it despite the seriousness of those words when placed on a theist.
Let’s keep this as an even playing ground. The Rational Response Squad is vocal activists that are out there being vocal about a message. That’s it.