There have been a number of items that have come up recently that revolve around the topic of atheist activism - of convincing people to believe that the proposition "at least one god exists" is almost certainly false.
(And I will repeat that the claim that an atheist is one who "lacks a belief in a god" is a nonsense claim completely at odds with the way the word is used among competent users of the English language, and which makes absolutely no useful contribution or improvement to that language.)
This blog is not a blog about promoting atheism. This is a blog about promoting virtue. And I deny that promoting atheism is a way of promoting virtue because:
Atheism has no moral implications. Atheism is as irrelevant to morality as, for example, the chemical composition of methane. We can certainly find areas in which the chemical facts about methane are relevant about deciding what to do in a given case, but it does not provide any moral guidance.
There are those who have taken every act performed by somebody who (claimed to be) religious and turned it into an attack on all religion. From 9/11, to every instance in which somebody who was religious has molested a child or stolen money from a church or viciously assaulted another member of the community, these have all been held up with a sign that says, "See what religion does!"
Now, atheists need to deal with two stories in which the assailant was an (alleged) atheist, attacking others because they believed in God. (Denver Post: "Man threatens two Christians, may lose an eye")
The other concerns an (alleged) atheist in Woodbridge, England who harassed a Christian neighbor. (Suffolk & Essex Online, "Atheist's bizarre bid to convert Christian" .
It may be possible to dispute some of the facts of these stories. For the purposes of this essay, I do not need to have the facts of these cases entirely accurate. I could take the cases as entirely hypothetical cases of what some atheists might do and make the same point.
The point is to take these articles, then take something such as this:
The Church of Jesus Christ, "When Atheists Attack"
Below are two articles on the extreme that atheists will go to - of course they are enlightened and all.
This article then goes on to mention the two stories that I referenced above.
And to point out how similar that article is to articles that many atheists would post if they should find two articles about Christians making attacks against two atheists.
In fact, I would love to write a nice post about the bigotry expressed this article, in light of the fact that it takes the behavior of two nuts such as this and extrapolates it out to include all atheists. It is clearly the case that the author in this case is engaging in hate-mongering and bigotry, trying to promote animosity against a whole group of people by using the behavior of a subset of its members. I could write an excellent argument proving this point.
However, in this case, the article I would be criticizing is too much like many of the postings that I read every day on atheist-activist blogs. Where they take a story of a theist who has committed some crime and used it in a post that says, "See why I hate religious people?"
The rule is to keep the subject tightly focused on those who have committed the actual wrong - not to over-generalize. Taking the crimes of "a theist" and turning it into an article against "theists" is as bigoted as taking an article about "an atheist" and turning it into a piece of hate-mongering bigotry against "atheists".
The only time it is legitimate to make a claim about a whole group of people is when the claim is true about the whole group. It is quite permissible to say that bachelors are unmarried, circles are round, atheists believe that the proposition "at least one god exists" is almost certainly false, or a theist is somebody who believes "at least one god exists" is almost certainly true.
If a group of faith healers kill a child in the process of trying to rid her of demons (that happen, in fact, to be asthma or some form of juvenile diabetes), then the fault rests with those people who made that mistake. It does not rest with all of religion.
If a group of terrorists destroy a couple of sky scrapers, the fault rests with those people and their specific beliefs, not with religion.
If an atheist harrasses and menaces a neighbor for the crime of believing that a God almost certainly exists, the fault rests with that atheist, not with atheists.
I would like readers to keep this example in mind . . . the example of a case in which two articles about some deranged atheists resulted in a story about "the extremes that atheists will go to", and ask whether some of the atheist activist postings one is reading (writing) fit too uncomfortably close to this model.
If they do, then let's see about putting an end to it, or at least reducing the number of incidences that commit this violation.
To the degree that we pride ourselves on reason and truth, let take these examples of "hasty generalization" and commit them to the bin of inappropriate behavior where they belong.
And then go ahead and criticize any theists who violate the same rule.