I can’t believe how often I see the term “militant atheist” in the press coverage of the New Atheist movement! The generous interpretation of the use of this term is that the author is pointing out that atheists are finding their voice and speaking out against our society’s tendency to un-reason. The adjective “militant” has also been used to smear other movements in the past such as feminism, so it doesn’t make us special to be smeared with it as well, but because of certain myths about atheism I think it is far more dangerous to us. Unfortunately there are far too many people who believe the bullshit about how the atrocities of Hitler, Stalin and Pol Pot can be laid fairly at the feet of atheism. I won’t bother debunking this childish belief here, maybe later. This myth makes it far too easy for our fellow citizens to believe that there are atheists living among them that want to eat their babies and attaching the label “militant” to atheism only adds to the the completely unjustified conflation of atheism and violence. The bottom line is that atheism is not a philosophy, contains no doctrinal elements, and as such cannot advocate anything, let alone violence. There is nothing militant about atheism in any way.
Another one that bugs me is “secular fundamentalism” which is a cheap attempt to conflate secularism with fundamentalism’s connotation for radical dogma. Every time I see it I think, “Yeah, secular fundamentalists, you mean like America’s Founding Fathers?” Those darned secular fundamentalists who want everyone to have equal access to justice, liberty, and the other fruits of free democratic society, regardless of race, creed, gender, etc.? What jerks! In my mind arguing against secular government is tantamount to treason against the U.S. Constitution, and needs to be pointed out as such by journalists reporting on those advocating theocracy.
Set your brain to alarm when it sees either of these terms because they indicate the spin of the person using them.