What's a Radical Atheist?

Chalk Graffiti
Christina Reichl Photography/Getty Images

Many religious theists -- and even a few atheists -- try to attack atheists through the use of derisive labels designed to make atheists seem worse than they are. It's common to see atheists labeled as fundamentalists, militant, and of course radicals. Although labels may be common, evidence for the labels being justified is not so common -- on the contrary, it's practically non-existent.

Articulett writes:

I hear people use the term "radical atheist" or "dogmatic atheist". When I ask for an example of such a person, often they'll mention Richard Dawkins...sometimes they mention Penn Jillette or Sam Harris or just people they've read on-line. But when I ask them to define the term and then cut and paste a quote that reflects that definition, so that I can understand the kind of thing a "radical atheist" woulds say--who knows, I meant be one for all I know. Or it may just be a stereotype that no one actually fits. People will paraphrase something they think Dawkins said, but when I look at the words, I think he sounds way nicer than say a panel of peers challenging an oral presentation of your thesis.
I think people are just so used to bending over backwards to respect religion, that they have a knee jerk protection feeling for it. I don't think unsupported beliefs should be respected or promoted or given extra reverence. I think it's wrong to teach to kids as "the truth". Does that make me a "radical atheist". It seems like the standards for being radical are way lower than for other so-called radicals. I think I could find a couple of select quotes from anyone who I found radical in their philosophy or beliefs -- Pat Robertson, Fred Phelps, Ted Haggard, Osama Bin Laden, Tom Cruise, Sylvia Browne, etc.
So for those of you who believe that there are radical atheists out there, it would be helpful if you give me a definition of what a radical atheist is as well as quotes that you feel support your definition. Because I'm beginning to think it's a made up stereotype with no actual radicals. What does it even mean to be radical about not believing something? Unless maybe you were radical about not believing the measurable evidence before you that the majority found axiomatic?

I think that Articulett is raising some very good points which suggest a simple, straightforward, and productive approach for atheists to adopt whenever they find someone complaining about atheists though the use of derisive labels:

1. Insist on a clear, coherent, non-question begging definition of what it means to be militant, fundamentalist, radical, arrogant, disrespectful, intolerant, or whatever terms are being used.

2. Insist on direct quotes from the atheists who are being criticized. Paraphrasing is not permitted -- only direct quotes which can be checked, verified, and read in context will work.

3. Insist on an explanation as to what, specifically, in the quotes cause them to qualify as evidence for fundamentalism, radicalism, disrespect, etc.

4. If you actually get this far -- and, in most cases, you won't -- offer analogous quotes from religious theists and ask why this doesn't cause complaints about theists being militant, radical, arrogant, disrespectful, intolerant, etc.

mla apa chicago
Your Citation
Cline, Austin. "What's a Radical Atheist?" Learn Religions, Sep. 20, 2021, learnreligions.com/whats-a-radical-atheist-3977260. Cline, Austin. (2021, September 20). What's a Radical Atheist? Retrieved from https://www.learnreligions.com/whats-a-radical-atheist-3977260 Cline, Austin. "What's a Radical Atheist?" Learn Religions. https://www.learnreligions.com/whats-a-radical-atheist-3977260 (accessed June 5, 2023).