Recently an atheist blogger asked his audience what they thought of The Rational Response Squad. Now I recognize and expect for about half of the atheist community to disagree with us. I think that’s a good thing. I do however find it ironic that people who disagree with us rarely take the time to find out that we think a passive atheist is needed as well. We wish we could be the passive atheist, and it’s only after many years of experience in this realm (and being the passive atheist for a while) that we decided a more blunt approach from a few intellectuals is necessary and vital. We recognized this niche wasn’t being filled properly and have fallen into it quite nicely. When we started our group we envisioned it as a jump off point for strident ideas. We envisioned ourselves as a united front of people who agree that religion must go, and that our collective activist power would be strong enough to actually make an impact on a wider front, this was the “Squad” aspect we were hoping for. We see ourselves as the people who shake up those comfortable with irrational beliefs, a passive atheist can spend compassionate dialogue time helping the theist overcome religion, and will have a more receptive candidate after the individual was “shaken up” a bit. However it is entirely possible that the passive atheist will have little chance to help a friend overcome theism if that friend never had the RRS “shake up.”
We have contributed behind the scenes or in front of everyone to a great many projects. The Blasphemy Challenge was spawned from a phone call in which I remember feeling as if Brian Flemming was calling the head of a security organization looking for back up. I remember hearing, “I’ve got this idea, but I think it would be better as a Rational Response Squad project, would you want to play a role?” Since then we’ve played vital roles in helping to spread the work of Sam Harris, Richard Dawkins, Daniel Dennett, Christopher Hitchens, as well as many others. The author David Mills calls us the biggest catalyst he’s ever had for driving his book sales.
Unfortunatly we live in a world in which negative or controversial opinions get media play and calm level headed rationality often gets put on the backburner. I’ve seen stories sent to the cutting room floor because we weren’t harsh or controversial enough in a pre-interview or during a taping. We get press because we’re bold, in your face, no holds barred, and blunt. It just so happens we are blunt about an issue that so many people irrationally adhere to and often are unwilling to accept any atheist message whether strident or passive. In the marketplace of ideas, we’re at a crucial point. As Brian Flemming once noted on our radio show, our country looks exactly like you’d expect it to look right before it slipped into a theocracy. I can only attribute atheists who think speaking up against religion is a bad thing to a disinformation meme campaign. Atheists often have to abandon religion on their own volition, unfortunatly the remnants of theistic dogmatic bullshit remain in some, and they buy into ridculous notions like “faith is a good thing.” Or even sillier yet, the meme that atheists like RRS do more harm than good, or simply reinforce the faith of the believer. These are dishonest memes spread by theists and then accepted within some atheist circles. This is evidence that it’s not theists alone that can come to poor conclusions. Shame on the appeaser “RRS sucks” atheists for making themselves a target for pointing out ignorant assertions.
From experience (not from scientific testing… it’s an awful lot of experience) I can tell you that the majority of the theists that claim debates with atheists merely reinforce their faith are merely self deluding themselves. A person prone to self delude themselves will do so whether it’s a strident atheist in your face, or viewing “God Bless America” on a billboard. Strident atheists aren’t hurting the cause, atheists who use the platform given to them by strident atheists to take pot shots at strident atheists are hurting the cause. And as far as I can remember this is the first time I’ve typed words along those lines in public. And the reason is simple… I don’t want to denigrate the work of other atheists, they are too important to a much bigger common goal. Even when those atheists lack common sense in how to overcome the dangers that thinking irrationally can lead to.
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