When you hear the term 'militant atheist' what do you think of? An outspoken atheist. Atheists critical, maybe vehemently critical, of religion. It could be the type of atheist who can't stand to see religion in the public sphere, working to have the wall of separation between church and state bolstered. It might be an atheist who seeks to erode the influence of, and the assumed respect for, religion. They may be passionate about these issues. They might even be an asshole about it.
When you hear the term 'militant Christian' what do you think of? Pro-lifers bombing abortion clinics or shooting doctors who perform abortions. Those who believe that the US Armed Forces are an apparatus to fight other religions and as a mechanism to convert our 'enemies.' Nationalistic Christianity which seeks to impose Christianity on others via force, threat of force, or via the force of the state.
When you hear the term 'militant Islam' what do you think of? Jihadists. Al-Qaeda, The Taliban. 9/11.
When you hear the term 'militant Hinduism' what do you think of? Nationalistic Hindus burning Christian Churches and Islamic mosques? Physically attacking 'westernized' people. Religious nationalism.
When you hear the term 'militant Buddhists' what do you think of? Roving gangs of Buddhists who attack Muslims and burn down their mosques. Yes...it happens.
Which one of these is not like the other?
The term 'militant atheist' is a stunt word, loaded with false connotations to evoke a visceral, negative reaction. It is meant to invoke fear and disdain for atheists by comparing them with the worst of the religious. It is a lie.
Do not accept the falsity that someone who criticizes religion and faith and the consequences of these via debate, writing, multimedia, etc. as 'militant.' Don't accept the falsity that someone who advocates for a reasoned ethical behavior over outdated and false scriptural adherence—no matter how passionate—is 'militant.' This is propaganda. It is a diversion from having to actually defend the position in question, it is disingenuous and intellectual cowardice.
It is the mark of someone who cannot reasonably defend their position to build a straw man. Exaggerating the opposition in order to present them in a negative light making it seemingly easier to criticize them and their position. It is nothing more than standing up to a fun house mirror version of someone and jumping up and down to claim how warped they are.
When that happens it is a sure sign that the group accused is getting under the skin of the dominant group. It means whatever the mischaracterized group is doing, the majority feel threatened. It means those that are peaceably making their voices heard for the first time are winning, however incrementally. For those who ignore this tactic allowing the equivocation to occur unchallenged; it is akin to endorsement. It is not an actual defense of your position or critique of the opposition. It is cowardice.
“In the end we will remember not the words of our enemies...but the silence of our friends." - Martin Luther King, Jr.