More and more I hear the argument from New Atheists and strong atheists that they can’t be fundamentalists, and there are no such things as “atheist extremists.” Though I realize that the vast majority of atheists are far from extreme or fundamentalist in their views, I think that to claim that people of any section of society are incapable of holding or professing extreme views is to go easy on that group of people.
Many say that atheists are unable to be fundamentalists because there are no fundamentals to which they cling. This is a claim that I take issue with, because it assumes that they are an entirely decentralized group with no connections whatsoever. Though there are many for whom atheism is merely a description of their position on one question, the question of the existence of gods, many more associate with specific groups that promote this idea. These groups inevitably hold ideas about certain topics, philosophical, political, or otherwise, and they have the potential to become “fundamentalists” for their ideals.
Internet atheism is as diverse as it is in the rest of the world, but when your ideals are tied to a specific group or individual, then there is a prevailing dogma amongst the group that will be enforced between members and promoted outside of the group. Followers of specific Youtube atheists or atheistic philosophers will adopt not only the atheism, but the other parts of that person’s philosophy. This is where atheism becomes fundamentalism. It isn’t because of atheism that fundamentalism develops, rather it is because of the philosophy that builds up around atheism. In the same way, theism is usually not the fundamental about which religious fundamentalists complain, rather it is some theological or philosophical point of their religion.
I don’t mean to insult any atheist readers, on the contrary, I mean to discuss atheism as a phenomenon which pervades the culture of the internet and to comment on some common trends among its adherents. My ontological position is primarily agnostic about God, closer to atheism than to theism, and I am as interested in irreligion as I am in religion.