What exactly do religious people want when they demand “religious tolerance”? What are we, the anti-religious, asked to tolerate?
It can’t be the existence of religion or the fact that the religious have beliefs. After all, we no longer kill each other for our beliefs, or discriminate against each other. It is generally agreed that we have the freedom to believe whatever we want.
No, when we examine each case where “religious tolerance” is invoked, we invariably find that a religious person is trying to silence criticism of his religion, or condemning attacks against it. We find that “religious tolerance” is in fact a defense of organized religion, in the name of the principle that “all religions must be respected.”
What they want us to do is shut up and stop complaining about their actions when said actions are claimed to be based on religion (even when they aren’t actually based on religion). They want us to simply shut up and accept the infiltration of religious dogma in the social context.
They want us to reject reality and to “accept” that their religious dogma is on the same footing as science and moral integrity.
What they want us to do is to “accept” that we, the unbelievers and anti-religious, are second-class citizens. They want us to shut up while they propagate authoritarianism, absolutism and evil.
To accept such things would be tantamount to rejecting what we are fighting for: the marginalization of organized religion (and all other forms of authority) within the social context. Therefore we must reject “religious tolerance” as a principle. We must pride ourselves in being “intolerant of organized religion,” while being tolerant of those individual believers who do not support or sanction organized religion.
This is not to say that we should jump on the “militant atheism” bandwagon. While certainly Dawkins and Hitchens, by far the two most prominent figures, have a lot of good things to say, they are both new guard leftists who praise democracy and nation-building: they are fundamentally against freedom, regardless of how much they vilify religious authoritarianism. Most atheists are leftists, who simply want to replace the god of Christianity with the god of the State, and religious control with government planning.
But why is atheism important in the first place? If you ask any atheist, he will tell you that atheism is an issue because many people who are religious are also a bad influence on society, and that this comes from the deleterious effect of religious dogma.
Whether you agree or disagree with this proposition, it clearly shows that atheism is a position of social ethics, not of epistemology or ontology as is generally claimed. It is not the fact that one does not believe in a god (whatever that could possibly mean) that is important, but rather the fact that some people claim to believe, and that because of that belief they do bad things.
Unlike “militant atheists,” however, we can identify the principle underlying this problem: the authoritarianism and collectivism of organized religion, which demands that people abandon their individual values and fight for a “higher cause.” This is the same fanaticism that animates the State’s soldiers and policemen, the same attitude that defines patriotism and nationalism, the same devotion that creates the ultimate results of statism, which are criminality and murder on a grand scale.
“Militant atheism” is very much like the peace movement. Both have a noble goal, but both fail to understand the roots of the problem they fight against, and thus cannot promote any practical solution. Thus they fall back on resorting to political means, and as we know political means can achieve nothing but the growth of political means. Political means have never, and will never, bring about more freedom.
If, as Anarchists, we are necessarily against organized religion, then we must not tolerate religious tactics. We must exhort religious people to follow the precepts of their own minds, and to abandon churches and dogmas. But we must always keep in mind that our ultimate goal is not the replacement of one authority for another, but rather the end of authoritarianism. All our efforts must be directed towards that single all-encompassing goal.