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Why Anti-Religion Activist Atheists Are Wrong

For the past several decades atheism has been dominated by so-called ‘New Atheism’ philosophies, which are anti-religion. A distinction must be made between non-religious and anti-religion; to be anti is to be opposed to something, whereas to be non is to be absent of something. While these things may seem similar, they are actually quite different among social activists.

For comparison, let us look at the anti-racists of critical race theory. These people are not strictly non-racist people, as they do in fact harbor racist ideologies. To avoid this contradiction they have invented a special kind of etymological fallacy where they seek to redefine the word ‘racist’ to only mean prejudices against non-Caucasian peoples can be racist prejudices, and claim that because (they think) Caucasian people have social power that therefore no one can be racist against a Caucasian person, because in their view racism is only against ethnic groups that have no or lesser power. The reason why this is a etymological fallacy is because racism has nothing to do with power, it is only about prejudice that is practiced against someone because of the ethnic group they belong to. That is what the word means and has meant for over two-hundred years. The term racism was invented by pseudo-scientists in the 19th century but the belief that humans should be categorized into distinct racial groups that have identifiable traits has long existed among humans. Trying to redefine the term so as to justify racism against one particular group is an etymological fallacy and consequently not scientific nor rational.

Similarly, so-called ‘New Atheists’ have sought to redefine the definition of atheist to mean opposed to religions, when that is not actually the definition of the term. Atheism is the lack of belief in gods and the supernatural; it is not expressly anti-religious in nature. Yet, atheist groups throughout the past century have adopted anti-religious stances, which have created a cultural identity among the majority of atheists that promotes aggression and hostility toward religious people to the point that atheism becomes a form of zealotry in its own right.

The Origins of Anti-Religion Activism Among Atheists

The similarities between new atheism and critical race theory are not coincidental. Although they both have different development histories, they both originate in Marxism. The origins of critical race theory from the Marxist ideologies of the Frankfurt School are well known and documented, and so I do not feel I need to write much about this topic.

The connection of Marxism to anti-religious atheism, on the other hand, I will discuss: After having failed to defect to the Soviet Union in 1960, Madalyn Murray O’Hair founded the American Atheists non-profit for the express purpose of conducting a lawsuit against her son’s public school in Baltimore County, Maryland because she wanted to stop children from being required to recite the pledge of allegiance and engaging in prayer. Prior to this O’Hair had several disastrous romantic relationships; she was first married in 1941 to John Henry Roths, but during World War II while serving in the Women’s Army Corps she had an affair with a married officer named William J. Murray Jr. William Murray Jr. refused to divorce his wife when O’Hair became pregnant during the affair, and when O’Hair divorced Roths she legally changed her surname to ‘Murrary’ and gave birth to William Murray III. She then moved to Baltimore, Maryland and had another son, Jon Garth Murray, with a boyfriend named Michael Fiorillo, who broke up with O’Hair before the child was even born and who never met Jon Garth.

O’Hair described herself as a militant feminist and an anarchist. Despite claiming that she was not a communist, the fact remains is that she twice applied to become a citizen of communist Soviet Union. She named her dogs Marx and Engels, and she used the American Atheists non-profit to combat what she claimed was ‘neo-fascism’ by harassing religious groups in the United States and made a career out of doing so. Her writings often advocated for Marxist ideologies.

It should also be noted that O’Hair was an unscrupulous person who demonstrated bad judgement throughout her life, not only in her romantic relationships but seemingly in everything she was involved with; she published articles promoting Holocaust denialism, was frequently arrested for disorderly conduct (attacking several police officers on one occasion) and once even attempted to seize ownership of the long-standing periodical Truth Seeker by self-publishing her own version of the magazine without the necessary rights by taking advantage of the death of its IP owner, which led to a lawsuit, which she lost. Regardless, O’Hair was able to convince many people to donate money to the American Atheists who sympathized with her anti-religion viewpoints; money that was used to fund anti-religion activist lawsuits, yes, but also to pay for a mansion home, luxury cars and the other aspects of her lifestyle.

O’Hair often associated with other people who sympathized with her anti-authority leanings and many of these were morally degenerate people, as these are often the kinds of people who find these ideologies most attractive. Tragically, this irresponsible lifestyle would lead to her and her entire family being murdered by David Roland Waters. Waters was an ex-employee whom O’Hair hired to work for the American Atheists despite Waters having been convicted of murdering another teenager when Waters was seventeen-years old. Incredibly, Waters was only sentenced to eight years in prison for this murder, and he had other convictions for theft and forgery, too. One of Waters’ convictions was for beating and urinating on his own mother. Waters would, first steal tens of thousands of dollars from the American Atheist organization and after being caught and out on bond, return to the American Atheist offices with his accomplices Gary Paul Karr and Danny Fry, murder O’Hair, her son, and her grandchild, and steal yet more money from the organization’s coffers.

While a few of the lawsuits filed by the American Atheists could be viewed as having positive effects on American society, such as Abington School District v. Schempp (a Supreme Court case which consolidated with O’Hair’s Murray v. Curlett case) where the Supreme Court ruled that compulsory Bible readings in the public school system were unconstitutional, the vast majority of the American Atheists work involved what is arguably harassment that had little constructive impact. O’Hair often filed lawsuits for frivolous reasons, such as seeking to block the Catholic Pope from holding a Mass at the Mall in DC (O’Hair v. Andrus), or against the reading of Bible passages by astronauts on space flights (O’Hair v. Paine). The vast majority of these lawsuits were unsuccessful and consequently a waste of donated money. Had the money instead been spent into genuinely charitable causes that furthered service offerings (which is what the churches she despised did to grow their congregations) she may have been more successful in her efforts. While lawsuits can sometimes be necessary to challenge morally objectionable laws, it is certainly the most contestable route and generates the least goodwill among the general public, especially when the lawsuit seeks to accomplish the goal of preventing anyone from practicing their own religion anywhere in public view. Lawsuits can have the effect of ending conflicts on specific issues of contention, but they do not lead to the end of hostilities between parties. Hostilities end when there is acceptance, and O’Hair did utilize the American Atheists organization to gain acceptance for atheists. She sought to win battles but not hearts, and this is her folly.

O’Hair’s work influenced New Atheism. Popular atheist authors such as Richard Dawkins and Sam Harris have helped promote the anti-religious activism that O’Hair originated with books they publish and speeches they deliver. The O’Hair doctrine of anti-religion activism has become the model by which other atheist groups operate. At present, the largest online communities of atheists, such as the reddit group r/atheism, are among the most pro-socialist online communities and their users spend the vast majority of their time engaging in anti-religion activism. While there are some charitable campaigns from time to time, the vast majority of the donations made to atheist groups are used for anti-religion activism, usually in the form of lawsuits against private groups and public institutions who do things as benign as erecting crosses at graveyards, but also for publicity stunts such as anti-Christmas billboards and erecting a Baphomet statue in the Arkansas state capitol building. While amusing to atheists, this anti-religious activism has the effect of focusing organized atheist efforts toward antagonism instead of developing useful alternatives to religious institutions. I fear this simply means these people repeat the same mistakes of O’Hair and lead to a similar disastrous outcome for their own personal lives. Perhaps they are not murdered by a felon, but I believe they do often experience self-created hardships by rejecting the values which make for stable, happy lives — and consequently do not obtain one. The acquisition of material wealth is not in and of itself a path to happiness, as O’Hair unfortunately discovered all too late in life. This hedonistic pursuit attracted malevolent people into her life and who ultimately took her life away. Had she been less eager to collect anti-authoritarian people because they supported her hedonism, she may have still lived to see today because she would not have brought a violent convicted murderer into her organization. For as much as O’Hair believed herself to be intellectually and morally superior to Christians, the majority of Christians do not get kidnapped, robbed and executed by convicted murderers they hire as employees for their company because the majority of Christians shun convicted murderers — justifiably so.

Why I Am Opposed to Anti-Religious Activism

The first time that I visited the atheist library in Austin, Texas was in 2014, While the staff was pleasant to me, I was disappointed to see that out of the hundreds of books available, not a single book dealt with how to live a virtuous, moral life. Instead, most books were focused on why some religious ideology was wrong with no useful alternative moral structure suggested that people could use instead. There was also an alarming number of volumes that I consider to be communist apologist propaganda. This, in my opinion, is probably why many atheists tend to parrot anti-authoritative degenerates whose personal lives are as dysfunctional as their progenitor O’Hair lived. As I have detailed in my book, democracy is the most humanistic form of government yet atheism without a virtue based morality frequently devolves into misanthropy; a hated of humankind. Communism is a misanthropic form of government and so many anti-religious atheists often gravitate toward it.

In the absence of having a virtue based moral framework, atheists tend to adopt a version of Utilitarianism. In my book I speak at length at the problems of trying to use Utilitarianism as a practical guide for daily life and why it tends to lead atheists to become hedonists. I realize it is anecdotal but in my thirty plus years of being an atheist, I have almost never met a non-hedonist atheist. There are of course many atheists who claim to be Utilitarianists but the practice of their beliefs has resulted in a hedonistic lifestyle. The use of psychedelic drugs is advocated by popular atheist leaders such as Sam Harris, and this advocacy relies on metaphysical explanations and pseudo-science. Harris has made other absurd statements, such as saying that if he could eliminate rape or religion from the world, he would choose to eliminate religion. This is distressing example of the problems of Sam Harris’ moral leanings; objectively, there are many people who do objectively good actions for religious reasons. Even in his own claimed world-view, there are no people who engage in rape for objectively good reasons, therefore rape is objectively always done for evil reasons. Yet, Sam Harris would focus on religion to be eliminated over rape; this is indicative of his anti-religion sentiments taking precedence over the moral viewpoints he advocates for in his other writings. It shows his moral beliefs are inconsistent with one another.

Even the famous Richard Dawkins has been divorced three times, which ought to not be surprising considering that in his essay, Banishing the Green Eyed Monster, he argued that fidelity in romantic relationships was not important, that men should be allowed to have mistresses and lie to their partners about it. and that women who become jealous of a man cheating on her are “selfish”. Dawkins is also known to have defended so-called “mild pedophilia”, among other absurd claim such as suggest that teaching children about Hell is worse than child abuse. These are not the statements of a morally upright person worthy of imitation. While I am not suggesting everyone who has been divorced multiple times is of low moral character, I am suggesting that it should not be surprising that someone who openly preaches a hedonistic view on relationships should become divorced multiple times, for hedonism leads to instability in relationships. This is among the reasons why hedonism is problematic when practiced by the masses, for relationships between individuals are the building blocks of society. If these relationships are not stable then neither will be the society these people constitute.

As I say in my book, it tends to be that when a person leaves behind one irrational belief system but does not address the core flaws in thinking that led them to once believe in the irrational beliefs, they will just fall into another equally irrational belief system because the root of the problem has not been overcome in their thinking. This I think is true for many of the popular leaders of New Atheism, and so they become hedonists and they encourage others to become hedonists, too. These hedonists then believe their intellectual superiority at having abandoned religions provides them with a moral superiority to engage in whatever hedonistic behavior they like, which includes the harassment of religious people they view as inferior through organized social activism campaigns.

It is my opinion that anti-religious activism is a tremendous waste of resources. The money, time and energy spent into spreading hatred of organized religions could be better spent into genuinely charitable work that would better advocate for the humanism ideals that anti-religious atheists claim they wish to represent yet routinely fail to do. This is why I have founded the Chivalric Humanism school of thought, to stand opposed to the misanthropic anti-religion crusaders. While I am not opposed to litigation to protect the rights of atheists from discriminations by government, it is anti-humanistic to sue organizations for using universal symbols like crosses to mark graves and memorials, to wage war on largely secular holidays that spread goodwill and charity such as Christmas, and to encourage misanthropy, violence and brutality. The number of pro-antifa threads on reddit’s r/atheism community is disgusting, as is the obvious endorsement of one particular American political party (the Democrats), which is misrepresented by the moderators as a party that represents the interests of atheists; it does not. The Democratic party, much like the Republican party, predominantly consists of church attending Christians. Many atheists have allowed themselves to be deceived into supporting a party that advocates not for religious freedom, but instead for a different brand of zealotry; Marxism. This is fundamentally incompatible with a humanistic philosophy which is why Chivalric Humanism does not endorse any political party, and certainly not so-called Democratic Socialist’ Marxists who promote hedonism as a positive lifestyle.

How to Be Atheist Without Being Anti-Religious

It is not challenging to be atheist without becoming misanthropic. All it requires is being virtuous and humanistic. Like with any other subject, a person can disagree with someone’s point of view without needing to become antagonistic. While it is unavoidable that people will often accuse those who disagree with them to be disrespectful, it is undeniable that when you engage in trolling anti-religious activism such as erecting billboards that parody religious ideologies or erecting statues of the devil in state capitols, while you may win the legal court battle to enable you to do such things, it does not have the positive net effect of encouraging people to leave behind their superstitious beliefs and make better choices in life; and is that not supposed to be the point of becoming atheist?

I think far too many atheists have instead made their atheism all about how intellectually superior they believe themselves to be over the religious, whom they view as barbarians in comparison. This is absolutely incorrect, for the reality is that the vast majority of people in any civilization throughout all of human history and even now, who do all the necessary roles that stabilize that society, are primarily religious people. The majority of doctors, lawyers, politicians, farmers, electricians, welders, police, military, and everyone else, are religious people. Religious people make our societies function.

The only thing that atheism offers is that they will have a more accurate understanding of the world than they presently do, but this does not necessarily mean they will be more functional and stable people. We can plainly see at present that it is entirely possible to be an emotionally stable person who is religious. It may be less likely, but it’s not impossible. Many atheists behave like it is impossible and that is itself a delusional way of thinking about life.

What the problem actually is, is this: because of our present state of accumulated human wisdom it is becoming more difficult for people to be religious once they have been taught science. Not impossible of course, but it is becoming ever more difficult for people to marry the truths of reality that we learn using the scientific method to superstitious beliefs. This is the real reason why atheism is on the rise, and not because of anti-religious publicity stunts. The issue is that when someone becomes atheist they are likely to fall into the anti-religion crowd, as these are the most popular groups for atheists to join and because humans have a natural predisposition toward tribalism, many atheists adopt the anti-religious misanthropic philosophies and this leads them to become supportive of groups like Antifa and others. This is as equally bad as those religious who become zealots and commit evil in the guise of their religious beliefs. Essentially, I am saying that anti-religion activism becomes a zealous religion in own right, and it is one that is misanthropic in nature.

It is my hope that Chivalric Humanism will offer an alternative moral philosophy for atheist groups to adopt that focuses on building the new instead of destroying the old. In this way more people will actually want to become atheist so that they may able to reap the benefits of membership in the new that is created. Ultimately, people do not abandon religions because they think they have the most accurate world-view; they leave them for other religions because they think the new religion will benefit them more. This is true of even converted atheists, who leave behind whatever religion they once belonged to in favor of a secular belief system they believe will be better for them — which is, tragically, usually a hedonistic one.

As people do not necessarily always choose the best moral frameworks that serve their long term interests, it’s not surprising that many atheist become Marxist hedonists, as they view this ideology as more beneficial to themselves compared to Christianity or Islam or so on, but that does not mean Marxism is truly better. I would argue there are some Muslim dominated states that are objectively better governments than Marxist ones; certainly, the United States is objectively a better country to live in than Saudi Arabia, but Saudi Arabia is objectively better than North Korea. As for the United States and most other democratic countries, it’s important to remember that the ideals of democracy of today’s governments was developed by Christian Enlightenment writers during the 17th and 18th centuries. John Locke, regarded as the father of modern libertarianism, was a Socinian Christian and his influential ideas about natural rights — which are advocated by many atheists — were based in his religious beliefs.

Human wisdom is collective and it builds upon the achievements of prior generations. The overwhelming majority of these achievements were created and continue to be created by religious people. Metaphysical explanations for the world should of course be abandoned because they are erroneous and can lead to bad decision making, yet this does not mean all decisions a religious person makes are wrong and must be combated at every turn. It is arrogant to think like this and it is counter-productive to refuse to co-exist with religious people merely because they are religious. Context matters greatly.

So, if we want atheism philosophies to truly overtake superstitious worldviews then the philosophies must be palpable to the masses. This cannot be achieved with anti-religion activism that disgusts the masses with its heckling and harassment of things that are objectively good, such as holidays that encourage charity and humanism such as Christmas, and the use of universal symbols such as crosses (which long pre-date Christianity) as markers for graves and memorials. These things are not wholly incompatible with an atheist worldview and so it is unnecessary to combat them. It is expected that they will simply continue to become more secular, as they have been transforming for centuries since the Enlightenment.

The majority of people are religious is a fact, just as it is a fact that the majority of people contribute to human survival. This is where Chivalric Humanists can find commonality with the religious, for it is where the majority of humans find commonality– in a united effort to enhance the survival of our species. We can and do co-exist. Over the course of time, as more people find themselves unable to marry supernatural explanations with our ever-growing body of scientifically collected wisdom, atheism will become the norm instead of the exception, and it is important that atheists have useful alternative moral frameworks to adopt that will promote human excellence and stability of communities for the greater good.

Instead of becoming anti-religious bullies, let us instead focus our efforts to the development of groups that the masses want to belong to, for they celebrate human excellence and achievement. Build groups that the masses want to join and they will join. This is what Chivalric Humanism advocates for.

I hope this article has educated you about my perspective on anti-religion activism and I also hope this article will attract other like minded folks to learning about my secular virtue based moral philosophy, Chivalric Humanism, by purchasing or downloading my book.

Carey Martell

Carey Martell is the founder of the school of Chivalric Humanism, a secular naturalistic philosophy promoting excellence and virtue.