All or Nothing
“You’re either for us or you’re against us.”
This phrase has been uttered throughout history, and most notably (even ironically—contingent upon your religious and political views) by Jesus and George Bush. The Manichean or dualist philosophical outlook embodied by this phrase is fundamental to most religions and is a major tenet of Christianity. This form of exclusionism is made explicit in Luke 11:23 by Jesus: “He that is not with me is against me: and he that gathereth not with me scatterth.” George Bush, although lacking the poetic norm of antiquity by adding ‘eth’ to the end of verbs, said the same thing in an address to Congress during a joint session: “Either you are with us or you are with the terrorists.” The consequences of this divisive phrase spoken either of these leaders will have to be assessed individually but it doesn’t take an advanced degree in Logic to recognize the law excluded middle fallacy. This is one more thing Aristotle was wrong about.
The atheist pushback against religious Dominionism, protectionism and privilege is often rhetorically characterized for political and religious purposes as a ‘crusade’ against belief; a concerted effort to eliminate, wipe out or exterminate religious belief by whatever means necessary. This is derisive and inflammatory language is embodied in the phrase often used by people of faith and right-wing media: ‘the war on religion.’ I’m sure there are a few crackpots and nuts who would like to eliminate all religious belief (even believers) from the face of the earth but, as in any concept, we can’t let the extreme define the middle. So, as Baggini notes on page 90, atheists are anti-religious in only one sense: they believe religion is false. This is an evaluation based on evidence and rationality, and in no way endorses hostility towards believers that the use of the negative prefix ‘anti’ brings to the conversation. Baggini puts it succinctly: “Atheist opposition to religion is essentially an opposition to its truth.” Suggestions otherwise are a reflection of ignorance, propaganda, or intellectual dishonesty.
If someone’s belief and their particular god retreats to the confines of there individual personal experience and personal conviction, a feeling that is so real and vivid that it can’t be expressed in words, then I, like Baggini, have no issue with that type of belief. Faith of this type may very well be 'beyond words.'
One’s personal religious experience has no bearing on empirical facts about the world—it’s the other way around. Maybe, on some days, this is where William James and I part ways. I’m not saying religious experience doesn’t influence one’s beliefs that, in turn, create cause and effect (we can now factor in physics), I think it muddies the waters where clarity on this matter has been discovered by science. Maybe some theists just can't admit it just yet.
The push back against religious privilege is necessary for peace, equality and understanding in a modern society. Once religious privilege is defeated by means of facts, reason, evidence, ridicule, mockery, etc., we can attack hatred, bigotry, subjugation, and violence on equal footing without the illusion that immoral religious values have some justification in divine providence.