How do I identify a militant atheist?

I am blessed to have lived in a country with a state religion—which ends up tantamount to no religion at all—and in an aggressively secular country. So while I may have had the zeal of Voltaire in my teens about atheism, I no longer get, nor particularly care to get, strident atheism such as abounds in the US.

That’s strident atheism, to make a distinction my confrere Michael Masiello makes.

Why not Magister, Michael, as I usually call you? Because this time around, I’m dissenting, and that calls for fraternity rather than tutelage. 🙂

I dissent, because while I understand the distinction made by Michael between atheism and antitheism, it is not a distinction of any great age, and not one I would impose on the question. I haven’t read of the antitheist Soviets, for example, just state atheism.

And of course that’s why I find the notion that militant atheism is inconceivable to be a cavil. Of course there have been militant atheists. If we take the maximalist definition of “militant” used by other respondents, I don’t know what else to call the killing of 28 bishops and 1200 priests from 1922 to 1928 in the name of Leninism (Religion in the Soviet Union – Wikipedia). If we take the less lethal, but to my mind no less valid notion of militancy as the systematic suppression of religious practice and destruction of religious sites, the Soviets excelled in militant atheism as well.

And to my mind, an activist destroying a religious symbol to protest religiosity, still counts as militancy and not just stridency. What Femen did in chainsawing the public square crucifix in Kiev to protest Pussy Riot (Femen – Wikipedia), for example, might have been militant atheism, anti-government protest, or any number of other things. (Mostly, I think what Femen does is simply inane, but I’m not their target audience.)

So if militant atheism involves organised acts of actual violence against believers (if you want to differentiate militancy and stridency in that way), is that a current issue? If it is, it’s mostly limited to North Korea, China, maybe Cuba. And to tell a militant atheist, you’re looking for the willingness of the atheist to commit violence to advance their agenda.

Does that excuse belligerence and contempt, from either side? Not in my book. YMMV.

Go in peace.

Has Melbourne been the financial center of activities for advocates of annexing Greek Macedonia to FYROM?

Oh, fuck.

Let’s put it this way. And for the purposes of this answer, I’m going to assert that there is indeed a distinct Makedonski minority in Greece, rather than refer to FYROM overtly.

If you were an ethnic Macedonian living in Florina/Lerin or Kastoria/Kostur, you had the option of embracing a Greek identity and rejecting a Makedonski identity, or of asserting a Makedonski identity.

If you did the former, your motivation to leave Greece for other pastures would be no greater than for any ethnic Greek living in Northern Greece.

If you publicly asserted a Makedonski identity in Greek Macedonia, which included at minimum speaking Macedonian in public, and at maximum advocating the union of your territory with FYROM, your life would be made uncomfortable, to greater or lesser extents. And you would have greater motivation to leave Greece for other pastures.

So a lot of ethnic Macedonians from Greece with a Makedonski national conscience ended up in Australia.

So did a lot of ethnic Macedonians from Greece with a Greek national conscience.

It was not pretty. There were violent disputes within families. The anthropologist Loring Danforth wrote the account of what went down in Melbourne (The Macedonian Conflict), and it’s terrifying. In the ’90s, there was literal bomb throwing on both sides.

The crucial point here is, if you’re an ethnic Macedonian from Greece with a Makedonski national conscience, you are far likelier to be vocal about that in Australia than you are in Greece. You’re also far likelier to spend your money, to support any activities supporting the assertion of a Makedonski national conscience in Greece.

That’s not a conspiracy theory, that’s not even an accusation of anything. That’s just fact.

At the time of the bomb throwing, the Australian media was full of third parties snarling that these people should fuck off back to their own country and fight their stupid battle there. At least one commentator (I wish I remember who it was; it might even have been Danforth) pointed out that there is no battle within Greece: it’s because they were in Australia that they felt free to wage a battle.

Oh, and the “Slavomacedonians” of Australia are my fellow citizens, and I have no beef with them. Even though the beef did prevent me dating one…

Full Disclosure: Victor Friedman, advocate for the Macedonian language and well known bugbear of Greek nationalists, has treated me to absinth in his flat while working in Melbourne. In the eyes of some, that might recuse my testimonial…

Are linguists more likely to have a musical background?

Zeibura S. Kathau has a rather more perceptive and fine breakdown on this than I’d hope for; vote #1 Zeibura S. Kathau’s answer to Are linguists more likely to have a musical background?

I’ll just add two observations.

  • Of my fellow PhD students in linguistics, one was a composer and pianist, one a bassist, one an orchestral violinist, and me, who at least attempted to compose once. That’s out of a sample of I dunno, 20.
  • In my day job in Schools IT policy, we have 8 people in the consultancy. Outside of me, the CEO is a folk mandolinist, the CTO a bassist, and the Comms guy a sax player.

So I suspect that musicians don’t just gravitate to linguistics. But I do also suspect that people interested in formal systems gravitate to also working with other formal systems. Though that’s nothing like as thorough an analysis as Z-Kat suggests.

I’ll note a potential counterpattern. There were a fair few refugees from computer science (as it was then) to linguistics in my cohort too; I was one of them. My master’s supervisor observed to me that when computer people came to linguistics, they did not want to do syntax or formal semantics, as she expected. They did the fluffiest linguistics they could stand: discourse analysis, for example, or historical linguistics. If they wanted to do formal symbolic analysis, after all, they would have stayed in computer science.