Atheism And Antitheism

Freddie at Ordinary Gentlemen returns to an old point of tension among atheists:

[T]here is an elementary consonance between evangelist religion and evangelist antitheism that I find inarguable, that both insist that their adherents have duties and responsibilities that are a product of their theological stance. I chafed early and often against the social expectations of atheism for a simple reason: I dislike being a foot soldier. I cannot work my mind to the headspace necessary to believe that emptiness insists that we must be conscripted into a grand cultural war. I have said before that the real benefit of being an atheist is that you never have to get up early to go to church or temple. I say that only partly in jest: to me, what makes atheism attractive as a practical matter is that it requires nothing of me. It asks me to observe no sacraments. It imposes no ideology on me. It provokes me to do nothing and leaves me only to live in a way consonant with my conditional and contingent values.

And, yes, those values compel me to oppose the influence of religion on government and public policy. Those are values that are shared by many who are religious and practicing. Indeed I have found in the experience of my own life that one person more dedicated to the separation of church and state than anyone else I know is a Congregationalist minister. This is again the simplest grace of democracy: that for all of the ways it fails in this, it offers at least the prospect of commensurability that is dependent on ideas and not on identity. A belief in the egalitarian necessity and pragmatism inherent in a rigorous separation of church and state is not necessarily a product of any particular inclination towards theistic claims. It is this, in part, that inspires a belief that tends to get me in the most trouble among other atheists: I find that the existence or nonexistence of God is utterly irrelevant to the question of how atheists should treat the religious.