It’s popular to claim atheists, particularly those of the Big Atheist tent, are fundamentalists like the Christian Right. Besides the pathetic bastardization of the word fundamental (have you learned the fundamentals of guitar yet?) there is no there there. Just because two groups play soccer doesn’t make them the same or odd bedfellows. World War II made strange bedfellows of all Americans but absolute pacifists. But meeting them on their acrid turf may demarcate soft atheists, isolationists, separatists, and pacifists, with political atheists though that is not their point either. I use Big Atheists for ease of contrast and comparison.
I suppose in this soccer and WWII symmetry they are right. Big Atheists don’t want Islam, as it is practiced now and as it is written, to become the dominant world religion. But we don’t want Christianity to become the dominate religion either. Nor Buddhism even though they seem much more innocuous. Yet this is not simply a situation of an enemy of my enemy is my friend, though some Big Atheists, like Ayaan Hirsi Ali openly prefers Christianity to Islam and Sam Harris openly prefers Buddhism to all Abrahamics seem like that. The Christian Right has also shown they prefer Muslims to Big Atheists at least in choosing which kind they would allow their daughter to marry.
The Christian Right does not recognize the prophet Mohammed or any other prophet besides Jesus, usually not even Moses. Big Atheists say there are no prophets anywhere; it’s not a competition of prophets.
The Christian Right fights Islam because they are seen as dangerous to their faith. Big Atheists fight Islam because they are violent and many terrorists claim they do violence in the name of Islam. When Muslim terrorists claim their violence is due to their adherence to a religion everyone has to acknowledge their self avowed motivation and inspiration. When Christian Right terrorists do bad with avowed biblical inspiration Big Atheists criticize that. When Buddhists attack Muslims we’re usually gobsmacked and have to look deeper as there is little in Buddhism to encourage violence and other issues are most likely the cause–such as the invasion of Muslim immigrants decimating a Buddhist community and insisting on Muslim polity as democratic justice. In this case it is clear that any group that doesn’t breed or invade like flies loses in a unbridled democracy.
When the Christian Right wishes to be violent it is because they see Islam as a religious enemy. When Big Atheists demand violence it is because they cannot condone violence in others. A rape in Cairo is no less plaintiff than a rape in New York. Both need to stop. Big Atheists don’t give a damn who did the rape. The Christian Right will say it is impossible for a man to rape his wife. Most Big Atheists will not agree. Even the Male Rights Activists, rearing their ugly head, argue based on social justice and free speech and not on religious texts and dogmatic canon.
The Christian Right uses sacred text and the Catholic Right uses Vatican canon to support their ideology. Big atheists have no such documents though many adhere to the US constitution, the UN Declaration of human rights, or some sort of humanist manifesto that emphasize justice in this world, minority protection, and tolerance of nonviolent choices. There is no transcendent or transcendental appeal in Big Atheist law and it can be changed as necessary without evoking a prophet or revelation. The Christian Right conflates law with god(s).
The Christian Right wars, converts, proselytizes, and evangelizes to make everyone one of a kind of their own ilk. Their goal is everyone is to be saved or damned, or at least follow church authority. Big Atheists seek to stop violence, promote minority rights, and demand social justice. Big atheists would tolerate religious people if they did not use their religion to excuse violence. Big Atheists might also be against pseudoscience and other less harmful social aspects but the biggest question is what causes the most violence in the world and to fight violence on all levels. If economics or women’s rights prove to be the cause of violence then Big Atheists attack that in concordance with the debate against religious ideology that allows violence to be inspired.
The Christian Right negates their importance on Earth other than to salvation and conversion of others. They do not judge because they believe justice is done by god(s) in the next world, or this one through capriciousness; they cannot say why one evil person is punished here but another isn’t. Big Atheists judge here because this is the only venue of justice. Avoiding judgement because it is difficult an painful does not excuse the necessity of it. The Christian Right is hypocritical on this as they approve of jails, punishments, ostracism shame, guilt, and other judged decisions.
The Christian Right tries to absolve itself of responsibility of judgement but their inherent exclusivity and reliance on an all powerful phantasm makes their judging all the more harsh while absolving them of complicity and the requirement to formulate laws and justice themselves. In attempting to universalize justice to authoritarian god(s) they lose their freedom and responsibility in an impossible covenant.
The Christian Right cares less about truth, veracity, logic, reason, and science then it does about imaginative, figurative, allegorical, and mythological narrative. If they think a transcendent god(s) can help people do better they are justified regardless of actual existence. A fairy tale is more important than the truth if it inspires towards the correct ideology. Lying your ass off is OK because if it isn’t true it should be. Big Atheists can be fantastical imagineers but it is not to replace truth, reason, or science. Big Atheists find the Christian Right to be disingenuous because they violate reason, science and its materialism.
Big Atheists see reason and science as the means to success where the Christian Right does not. Again, Big Atheists allow leeway to imagination the Christian Right does not. Big Atheists do see the utility of imagination but they demand greater support for change, especially in so called just wars and violence, than phantasms. The Christian Right cannot change their minds. Big Atheists have to be willing to change their minds.
The Christian Right considers evidence useless unless it supports their ideology. Big Atheists have no choice but to follow the evidence.
The Christian Right believes in sin and that all people are equally evil from the start. Big Atheists use the term evil to show extent of egregiousness in bad behavior but do not see the world as a Manichean war of good and evil where one group identity must defeat another. Big Atheists do see heuristic biases and issues of perspective in play but consider these biased results as mistakes and not inherent sins unapproachable or irresolvable. The Christian Right requires atonement from god(s).
The Christian Right insists on a blind obedience to authority though they may court free will. Big Atheists demand egalitarianism though they court expertise while working against appeal to hominem and confirmation bias, and of course god(s).
The Christian Right relies on a hierarchy for governance based on trust. Big Atheists follow the power of individual participation where authority is to understand, encourage, and enhance personal interests and not supersede them. Both understand the importance of community. However, Big Atheists consider the importance of reason and science as moderating the exclusivity of community. Science in particular demands community far more than religions for its ability to verify and confirm. The Christian Right only allows witnessing to confirmation and doubt is only supported as proof of confirmation ability.
The Christian Right uses community to enhance group power and satisfy personal social communalism. Big Atheists see the value of social community but value a greater role for community in its ability to “crowd source” democracy, republicanism, egalitarianism, and better science and reason.
The Christian Right allows adherence to contrary religions simply because they are religious. It is less important to the Christian Right whether a religion is violent or not so long as it is a religion. It is not violence that is so much in question but whether the religion is attacking them or not. By this they cannot withstand comparisons of violence, social justice, minority protection, and tolerance. Theological unity is the bigger tent trumping all other issues. They fear comparison to Islam because they are fundamentally guilty of complicity to violence based on identity rather than utility, virtue, care, or universal rights and responsibilities.
The Christian Right uses status, exclusion, marginalization, ostracism, shame, and guilt to control members. Big Atheists deny any of these as useful, just, or appropriate; quaint but antiquated means of impulse control. In this sense Big Atheists embrace the virtue of Care where it is more important that all succeed than to choose a few or demand convergence to any particular group other than abstract achievements, based on material evidence, of universal humanity and humaneness. Even then Big Atheists see the value of caring for outsiders, strangers, and the others, maintaining core values of compassion and intolerance of intolerance.
The Christian Right is inherently violent. They praise the literal and allegorical aspects of war against others. Big Atheists are reluctantly violent and many like Nohm Chomsky are fiercely antiwar unless in literal defense. Christian Right hard core pacifists would allow themselves death before defense because there is a better world they think they cannot attend if they are violent. Big Atheist hard core pacifists would allow themselves death because they cannot promote, even by example of defense, a culture of violence and cannot elevate their life above another’s. These last two are rare examples.
Is that enough to show the ocean between these two groups?
Jim Newman, bright and well