In mainstream culture, the word phobia is often appended to the disparaging noun, 'homo'. Thus the commonly misplaced term 'homophobia', meaning the irrational fear of homosexuals. And I say "commonly misplaced" because mere disagreeance with the practice of homosexuality can earn a person the stigma of being homophobic, which is just as much an irrational and fear-based reaction as being afraid of homosexuals.
Nevertheless, I have to wonder how far the notion of a phobia can be spread before it becomes one of those words that means little-to-nothing. If a simple disagreeance with a practice, perspective, philosophy, or what-have-you can gain the 'Phobia Badge of Dishonour', how long before having an opinion is considered a fearful thing?
Which is where this little gem comes in: atheophobia. Atheophobia? The irrational fear and hatred of atheists.
It's certainly no secret that there are some rather loose-tongued, unloving 'religious' people out there who have taken arms against homosexuals. I'm thinking in particular of such evangelical disasters as Fred Phelps and his army of irrationalists. But I've never personally met, heard of, or even read of anyone actively 'hating' or 'fearing' atheists.
But this is where such obfuscations as labelling something a phobia comes in. If I disagree with something because I hold a reasonable position to the contrary, am I thereby 'fearful' and 'hateful' of the opposite position? On personal reflection, I can very pointedly state, "no." I am a Christian, convinced and content (in the best sense of the word). On top of that, I have an enormous lack of fear and hatred for atheists.
Admittedly, I only speak for myself in all of this. Apparently there are enough people out there who claim to be both religious and fearful and hate-filled toward atheists. So-much-so, in fact, that the term atheophobia has swung into the vocabulary of the British citizenry, and leaflet campaigns are attempting to raise awareness of this problem.
Atheophobia, it is alleged, leads to anti-atheist bigotry, including the following examples:
"- are morally inferior
- are a cause of evil
- have rejected God and embraced sin
- intend to destroy religion and religious holidays
- have meaningless or decadent lives
- should not be allowed to express their beliefs
- are unsuitable for positions of responsibility"
I truly am baffled by this. Like I said earlier, I have not seen a single example of any of this happening around me, or even in extended acquaintances and engagements. The closest I've come to seeing a possible and highly improbable case of this is in reading and viewing debates where religious scholars question the basis of morality if God is non-existent. Certainly cross-examination of another's position isn't bigotry, irrationality, or hatred is it?
If we reduce the logic of "disagreement equals irrational fear and hatred" then almost everything is fair game. If I disagree with my wife that we should purchase eco-wool for bed-making, am I suddenly woolaphobic? Is an adamant pipe-smoker cigaphobic? If I'm suspicious of being labelled am I nounaphobic? Was Plato Aristotlephobic? Are Catholics Protestaphobic? Well, okay. Maybe we can make a case for that one!
In any case, is there a rational basis for labelling someone phobic because they hold to a different view of reality and the divine? If not, then who has the phobia? And really, who does it benefit to slather a moniker on anyone? All it does is pronounce a segregation that would be more rationally dealt with through sincere and meaningful discourse. As soon as you crusade against something, no matter how benignly you crusade, you invite combat, and that, historically, is the breeding ground for phobias.
Does anyone else out there get tired of seeing people running around π?