Harold Wilson was once accused of “stirring up apathy”. There are moments when I wonder whether militant atheism and even its brilliant spokesvehicle which is this Blog, could not be accused of the same. Let’s face it : the message is not new. The choice of ridicule and reductio ad absurdum is no innovation. Some might even say that its impertinent content is sometimes not all that pertinent. Maybe we should chuck in the towel.
No way ! Perhaps it’s the Irish in me but I am as pig-headed as Paddy’s. Readers would not be aware of the fact but my militancy is not limited to this Blog. For example, like so many millions of others around the world, I was horrified by the beheading of that American journalist, whether or not his butcher was British. And like so many other readers of “The Guardian”, I reacted with a comment (August 23 at 8:29 p.m.) – one of the more than 1000 comments published. For the record, here’s what I wrote :
“A former Roman Catholic Franciscan priest, I recognized forty years ago not only religion’s absurdity but also the crimes against humanity it motivates fanatics to commit. My blog (blindfaithblindfolly.wordpress.com) is dedicated to the destruction of religion : “Delenda Religio”. But Carthage could be, and was, destroyed. Religion cannot, and never will be. So I have to content myself with the mantra “Ridenda Religio”. Its beliefs, rules and rituals are too silly for words. But ridicule is not enough. Nor are indignation and outrage at beheading journalists in the name of Allah. The world should wake up before this unholy Third World War makes our own Inquisition and wars of religion look like a parish picnic.”
A quoi bon ? To what purpose ? What good is it to vent one’s anger and outrage ? Stéphane Hessel was right in inviting us, in his pamphlet read by millions, to express indignation, in the tradition of the French resistants who refused to accept the status quo of Vichy’s submission to and collaboration with the German occupants. His “Indignez-Vous !” was the opposite of “sit down, shut up, don’t make waves !” But what’s the point in screaming, literally, “bloody murder !” at outrageous Islamic fanaticism ? And what hope do we have of having any effect whatsoever on the damage religion continues to inflict on the world ?
The only possible, respectable response is “What other choice do we have ?” Resistance is potentially dangerous and too often ineffective. As a militant atheist I am a voice in the wilderness perhaps, though far from alone in trying to make my voice heard; our name is, in fact, Legion. History’s heroes, people who made a difference, have always been those who dared to condemn injustice, crime, torture, manipulation, oppression, obscurantism and obstruction of human liberty. They were not looking for fame but for freedom, for themselves and especially for others, often at considerable cost including loss of their own lives. Against criminal fanatics and exploiters of credulity, silence is not an option.