Here we go again, trying to own words. No one can dictate what the term “atheist” means. It has several definitions. As rational people, we should know that, and yet because people in our group have personal agendas, we see several people claiming ownership of the word “atheist” and the term “militant atheist.” It’s a dead-end, and it’s not even rational. It has the same root as theism: the human desire to shape the world.
Among other things, “atheist” can mean:
1. A person who insists there is no god (in the sense of god-being).
2. A person who sees no evidence there is a god and therefore does not believe there is one.
3. A person who does not attach himself or ally himself with belief in a god.
Among other things, “militant atheist” can mean:
1. A person who is firmly grounded in reason and evidence, has little patience for making up stories about the universe, and therefore speaks out assertively about how “God” is a product of wishful thinking.
2. A person who is angry about “God” (as an idea, as a cultural manifestation, as a set of associations in her own life, etc.), and therefore lashes out reflexively at everything that goes under the name of God.
The two are diametrically opposed in at least one very important way: the first is grounded in reason, the second is grounded in emotion. If we are to be consistent, we must be as critical of the emotion-driven thought represented in the second category of “militant atheist” as we are of theistic ideation.
We are well-advised to stop trying to limit these terms to suit our personal agendas. They mean different things to different people.