An evangelical manifesto to recruit “closeted atheists” to become firebrand activists.
Silverman is the president of American Atheists, the same post once held by the late Madalyn Murray O’Hair, who long took pride in being called the most hated woman in America and whom Silverman tries to emulate. Thus, his brand of militant atheism is not one of gentle persuasion, nor does it employ the more intellectually nuanced arguments made by the likes of Sam Harris. For Silverman, there is no continuum of belief, no gradations, no alternative such as “agnostic” or “humanist” or “freethinker.” Either you believe in a “literal god,” which he calls a “living, thinking, supernatural being,” or you don’t. This means that all agnostics, most Buddhists, and likely many Christian ministers and parishioners alike are, in fact, atheists. And that some are charlatans, others fools, though, like the Christian who claims to hate the sin but love the sinner, the author maintains that what he describes as a war is against religion (all of them), not the religious (whom he mainly pities). “I have read, thought and studied enough to satisfy myself that there is no god, all gods are imaginary, and actively believing in a god is silly,” he writes. For the author, the ultimate arbiter is human rationality, which he holds supreme. Some might argue that it is reductive to restrict a divine spirit that inspires faith and awe to a god that is living and/or thinking. Some might claim that plenty of value transcends logic—the meaning of a poem, the power of an abstract painting, perhaps the creative impulse itself. To Silverman, however, anything that lies outside the realm of human logic is unprovable and therefore false. Some issues worth raising—such as the relationship between church and state and particularly the tax-exempt status of religious institutions—are undermined by assertions such as, “atheism is perfect” and “the Ten Commandments are not benevolent but barbaric.”
Silverman’s unrelentingly combative tone will likely only appeal to the choir.