“Merciless criticism and independent thinking are the two necessary traits of revolutionary thinking”
Religion is a Retarded Relic
I recently stirred up controversy among many atheists on Twitter, some of whom might be considered high-profile atheists, with the following tweet: “Religion is a retarded relic that really needs archiving in humanity’s library of bad ideas.”
I could have said: Religion is a frozen, progress-resistant and regressive relic that belongs in the archives of humanity’s library of bad ideas. This would have made the same point, but I chose to go with a more efficient choice of wording.
My use of the word ‘retarded’ was benign in this context yet it was quickly seized upon by many atheists who thought it unbecoming of an executive director of an international atheist organisation to use this word at all. Let me start by saying, I do not apologize for using this word in the way in which I used it because religion is a retarded relic that needs archiving in humanity’s library of bad ideas. Several atheists seemed to have seen this word and been automatically triggered by their own limited interpretations of my correct use of this word. Even after explaining my particular use of the word, some of these irrational atheists were determined to imagine themselves mind readers and told me how I truly intended to use this word.
Religion is a regressive social and psychological institution born out of fear and human ignorance. It has hijacked the notion of human morality and enforced orthodoxy upon humanity to further its own science-infringing, human-rights-abusing, civil-rights-abusing, and progress-impeding agenda since time immemorial. Some of the outraged even compared my use of this word to the N-word, which, if you understand the nuances associated with the word ‘retard’, you will see that such a comparison represents a woefully illogical false equivalence. The N-word has one meaning, and one meaning only. Let’s examine the definition of the word retarded as I employed it:
Retard: ‘delay or hold back in terms of progress or development’
Here are a few poignant examples of the use of ‘retard’ from the Oxford Dictionary:
- ‘He said the slow pace at which the deal was being negotiated was retarding the development of the park, which he said had remained closed to tourists for sometime.’
- ‘Famously, Forster accused the educational systems of the time of retarding the emotional development of schoolboys.’
- ‘Restrictive legislation could retard the development of technology and slow the growth of electronic commerce.’
- ‘our progress was retarded by unforeseen difficulties’
Here is another example from an atheist author whose works have been a heavy influence on my career as an anti-theistic atheist author:
“God did not create man in his own image. Evidently, it was quite the other way about, which is the painless explanation for the profusion of gods and religions, and the fratricide both between and among faiths, that we see all about us and that has so retarded the development of civilization.” ~Christopher Hitchens
Yes, the word ‘retard’ can also be used as an outdated slur/description against people who suffer various forms of physical and/or mental challenges/disadvantages. However, it is clear to the cautious reader how I employed the term, and several more sober-minded atheists correctly pointed this out beneath outraged replies to my offending tweet. I was not referring to an individual, nor even to religious people as a collective, but to an ideological institution that profits by holding back human progress at almost every turn. Some may see this piece as me “doubling down” on an “indefensible” use of language but this is not me doubling down, it is me defending the initial meaning of the word I used and will continue to use in this way. It is a perfectly applicable and benign word in the context in which I have used it. This brings me to the next issue.
Blasphemy in the Atheist Movement
There appears to be a growing militia of morality police in what might loosely be described as the “atheist community”. This is a small yet vocal handful of self-righteous and self-appointed conformity crusaders on a jihad for puritanical purity among atheists, who see it as their moral duty to cleanse the atheist movement of its “heretics”. The heretics are the atheists they perceive as being imperfections and impurities within the desired orthodoxy they crave for the atheist community at large. Sadly, these atheist crusaders generally belong to the political Left (predominantly in America), and I say sadly because I share the large bulk of their social and political values. I do not, however, share their imam-like zealotry for enforcing informal blasphemy laws on a diverse array of atheists who do not share their personal beliefs, values, and opinions. If you believe that causing offense is the criteria by which atheists should judge one another as impure, then it is a bold hypocrisy when any of these virtue police say something critical of religion, because the majority of our species still believe that criticising religion is a deviant and indecent form of behaviour. Where is your compassion for the adherents of this age-old institution who become emotionally hurt and deeply affected when you laugh, joke and jeer as you publicly barbecue their sacred cows? And don’t get me wrong. Keep it up!
Atheists and atheist activists are united by a small selection of core outlooks and ambitions, and even within this core selection of outlooks and ambitions there is intellectual diversity. It is like Dawkins once said; “Indeed, organizing atheists has been compared to herding cats, because they tend to think independently and will not conform to authority…” These two qualities represent the greatest strengths of the atheist movement. We are independently-minded. We have different approaches to atheism. Some take a gentler Sagan-like approach whilst others a more brutal Hitchens-like tactic. All approaches to atheist activism serve to appeal to a multitude of different psychologies and our aversion to the authority of the majority makes us unstoppable. Yet, despite our diversity we do share qualities which might loosely be defined as a lack of belief in gods, a pro-science outlook, and an appreciation for the valuable freedoms that secularism supplies to both atheists and the religious alike. It is rather ironic, then, that such atheists would rather impose their own versions of orthodoxy upon the “atheist community”, telling atheists what the movement should look and sound like on an array of issues that frequently have nothing at all to do with atheism. This growing attempt to patrol conformity in the movement, I can only imagine, is little more than an attempt to gain for such wardens of righteousness the personal comfort of being able to live in an almost Saudi Arabian-styled sanitized echo chamber. This growing handful of atheist morality police use the mechanism of social deviance to publicly coerce an intellectually diverse population of non-believers to surrender their sovereignty of mind and speech and compliantly place down their prayer mats and bow in the direction of their own particular version of far-Left atheism.
Let me be perfectly clear. I will not yield to your coercion. I will not forfeit my freedom of thought and expression to appease your own personal desires for orthodoxy among atheists. I am an outspoken atheist, a humanist, a freethinker, an unapologetic secularist and a proud and staunch heretic. I fucking refuse to quietly and politely live in a world in which the forfeiture of intellectual diversity is the price we willingly pay for the fearful adherence to ideologies that leave human progress retarded.
If the atheist movement is to succeed in normalizing non-belief, promoting the proven benefits of secularism, and creating a world in which it is legally and socially safe for people to express non-religious points of view, the atheist movement must truly live by, and protect, the freedoms afforded to it by secularism. We can no longer afford to yield to the retarding orthodoxy of regressive leftist atheists whose vain desires rest almost exclusively in an insatiable lust to appear pure at all costs and on the “right side of history”. On this point, if you glance over the annals of both ancient and modern history, you will see that retarding the fundamental human rights of freedom of thought and expression for the sake of some perverse perception of purity and vanity has always retarded peaceful and intellectual progress, and in so doing it has left even the most well-meaning of culprits on the wrong side of history.