Threats of violence
I'm currently in a debate with Jadehawk (blog) over the question of the necessity of violence, or even threats of violence, in social movements such as the Gnu Atheist movement, and potential movements in the future, based on the prevalence of such violence and threats in past movements.
Specifically, I'm trying to pin down Jadehawk's position on the use of threats of violence, as opposed to actual violence. Read the whole blog/thread, but specifically, I'd be interested to hear others' opinions on this topic.
Here's my original comment (it soon degraded from there):
Jadehawk, although you’ve made it quite clear in your post and subsequent comments that you’re not advocating violence — which I appreciate — it does appear as if you’re potentially advocating the threat of violence:
“Two, throughout history it took serious threats of social disruption and violence (and sometimes ACTUAL social disruption and violence) to get anyone to do anything. Rights are taken, not politely asked for. Even the two most famous non-violent movements that were successes, were successful because everyone at some point realized that the choice was between dealing with MLK/Ghandi, or dealing with the seriously radical, violent elements …
Not that, at this point, I’m advocating turning to violence to get our points across, but at some times in history, it seems the threat thereof is the only way to get some social justice.”
While this may have been true of many movements in the past, I do not believe it is actually necessary, and I would urge you to avoid advocating it (or appearing to advocate it).
Personally, I am always thinking about how my words and ideas could be interpreted or abused long after I’ve said them. If I ever ‘inspired’ someone to actually commit an act of violence I would consider that a huge personal failure.
IMHO, we do not need even *threats* of violence to accomplish our goals. It didn’t require threats of violence to convince people that the world is round, that the Earth orbits the Sun, that humans are animals and the product of evolution, etc. etc. etc. Each of these, in their time, were hotly rejected by dogmatists — in some cases to the point of persecuting their advocates (e.g. Galileo).
What worked in these cases was simply persistent, unapologetic appeal to evidence, reason, critical thinking, and the rest.
Another good example would be the gay rights movement, which does not (as far as I’m aware) need threats of violence to make continual progress. We should be following their example. There are much better ways to change hearts and minds.
Personally, I advocate ‘unapologetic atheism’. If I could invent a backronym for GNU Atheism, it would be something like ‘Galvanized, Non-violent, Unapologetic Atheism’. We just keep talking about religion, criticizing it, ridiculing it, blaspheming it, proving it wrong and harmful, and never apologizing for merely being atheists. None of this requires violence or event threats of violence. It only requires Freedom of Thought and Speech, which fortunately we (most of us) have in our countries.
Also, another great way to turn the tide is to use popular media to express an open and realistic portrayal of the atheist viewpoint. I’m thinking along the lines of when Ellen DeGenres (sp?) came out as gay on her popular TV show. She didn’t have to make a big deal out if it — she just portrayed it as normal and ‘no big deal’. That’s what we need to push for.
When we’ve had our ‘Ellen’ moment, GNU Atheism will have accomplished its mission. IMHO. No threats of violence necessary.