So What’s An “Anti-Theist” Anyways?

Feb 11, 2015 at 3:47 PM ET

The North Carolina man who admitted to killing three Muslims Tuesday wrote on Facebook about being an anti-theist, not an atheist. What’s the difference?

Both atheists and anti-theists believe God doesn’t exist. But anti-theists take a way more aggressive anti-God position. While atheists are happy to keep their anti-religion views to themselves, anti-theists are eager to proselytize about the dangers of religion. Anti-theist author Christopher Hitchens wrote that while someone who’s simply an atheist could actively “wish that belief in God were correct.” However, he said, “An antitheist, a term I’m trying to get into circulation, is someone who is relieved that there’s no evidence” for the fact that God exists.

Hitchens used the same language to describe Mother Theresa that most would use to describe an ISIS militant: “She was a fanatic, a fundamentalist and a fraud, and a church that officially protects those who violate the innocent has given us another clear sign of where it truly stands on moral and ethical questions.”

Let’s look at it this way: If God were an abortion, the atheist is the person who thinks to himself that getting an abortion is wrong. The anti-theist is the protester actively trying to keep you from getting an abortion.

Are All Atheists Anti-Theists?

No, in fact, only approximately 15 percent of atheists say they are anti-theists, according to a survey conducted in 2013.

Are Anti-Theists Islamophobic?

Anti-theists are Islamophobic because they are religion-phobic. Anti-theists are literally “phobic” of the potentially harmful effects that religious beliefs can have on society, anti-theist scholar Robert Johnson wrote. “To single out anti-theism as Islamophobic would be to purposefully ignore that it is, to the same extent, phobic of other religious beliefs,” Johnson wrote.

Most anti-theists are denying that there is anything inherently violent in anti-theism that compelled Craig Stephen Hicks, the 46-year-old man in Chapel Hill, to kill the three young adults. Yet, anti-theist Facebook groups are at the same time arguing that the victims were wrong to be Muslim in the first place. They are also saying the murders arose from a parking spat, not religious hatred.

(The above Facebook group has over 200,000 followers.)

What Do Anti-Theists Believe About Violence?

Anti-theists criticize organized religion for spawning religious wars. Ironically, as Vox points out, now anti-theists fear that people will paint them as being violent.