Posts Tagged ‘atheist activism’

Being the Atheist Guy

July 22, 2013 5 comments

by Noah Lugeons

Before I started this podcast, I wasn’t very public about my atheism.  I’d tell anyone interested enough to ask that I was an atheist and if they wanted to know why I would tell them.  But I never invited the conversation.  I’d been told so many times that it was rude to “attack” someone’s faith that I started to believe it.

And now that I’m “the atheist guy”, I really wish I’d flushed that nonsense along time ago.

Again, I’ve been an “out” atheist for years.  It wouldn’t be fair to say that I was “quiet” about it, as I’ve always been quick to point out the bullshit in a religious claim and I’ve never given much of a damn about whether the person I was pointing it out to was religious.  But I never allowed it to be a defining part of my personality.  I’d never been an activist.

But now I am.  Now everyone I work with or regularly interact with knows that I’m a vocal atheist and many of them see this as my defining characteristic.  I’d never wanted this before because I feared it would land me in one pointless debate after another.  But it turns out that that fear was entirely unfounded.  Much of this is geographic, of course.  Living as an open atheist in NYC is quite a bit different than being the atheist guy in Vinegar Bend, Alabama, but even with New York’s notoriously diverse religious population I worried about the constant barrage of well-meaning devotees trying to save me from the bad parts of the afterlife.

And yes, there’s been some of that.  I have an acquaintance that seems obsessed with turning me “back to Jesus” (her phrase, mind you, as I’ve never been a Christian).  She’s a nice person, she means well and I put up with it with a smile.  I rib her a bit for it and I tell her I know she means well and I avoid her every chance I get.  To be honest, she’s one of those people everyone kind of tries to avoid.

But those interactions are a trifling minority compared to the people who have come to me with genuine curiosity.  Many of these people have known me for years without knowing that I was an atheist.  And contrary to the fear that I would lose some of their respect, it turns out that by and large I’ve given them more respect for atheism.  They know that I’m a moral, friendly, intelligent, well-mannered, polite, hard-working (and occasionally self-aggrandizing) guy and knowing that I’m a nonbeliever has helped chip away at their stereotype of the angry, unhappy atheist.

Of course, this shouldn’t be a revelation to me.  It’s been one of the dominant thrusts of the atheist movement for the last several years.  Be vocal, counter the stigma by being openly atheist, give them an example of an atheist that isn’t frothing at the mouth.  In fact, I feel like I’m one of the last people to the party on this one.

But I’m not the last person.

So I’m writing this to everyone who is still on the fence about “coming out”, or, more appropriately, being vocal about your atheism.  I was guilty of overestimating the negative reaction and underestimating the positive reaction.  I think most of the people who are vacillating are probably guilty of the same.  Sure, some people have to be careful, as they risk alienating family, losing friends, losing social and financial support, damaging their marriage, losing their job… but that’s all the more reason the rest of us should be as vocal as we can be.  It’s up to those of us who can change the image of atheism to do so for the sake of all those who stand to lose so much.

AIG Responds to the Dinosaur Quiz

April 30, 2013 3 comments

by Noah Lugeons

I’d start by asking if you’d seen the dinosaur quiz yet… But you’ve seen the dinosaur quiz, right?  It’s been everywhere the last few days.  I didn’t find it all that surprising, as I’m quite familiar with what “Answers in Genesis” is teaching children, but judging by the buzz this quiz got, I’m in the minority there.

For the 3 people and the spam-bot who haven’t seen it yet, it’s this ridiculous shit:

At first people couldn’t decide if it was a parody or not, but eventually the name of the school popped up, the facts were verified and yes, this is precisely the kind of shit that AIG promotes in religious schools.

And now, of course, AIG is crying foul.  They’re weeping themselves to sleep about how mean the atheists have been about it.  After all, what’s wrong with pushing demonstrably false bullshit on children under the guise of science, thus ensuring that they have no chance in hell of succeeding in any intellectual field after graduation?  What’s wrong with arming children with ignorance and finishing a test by making sure they know exactly how to pass their ignorance on and reinforce it?  What’s wrong with lying?  It’s not like there’s a commandment against it or anything.

So on his website, Ken Ham is pissing and moaning about it.  He’s upset because atheists are getting so aggressive.  He even has a list of “Evidence” that supports the claim that atheists are increasingly “intolerant”:

How Are Atheists Becoming More Aggressive in America?

  • Billboards promoting atheism and attacking Christianity have popped up across the country.

  • The American Humanist Association has launched a special website for children to indoctrinate them in atheism.

  • An atheist rally in Washington DC last year had a special promotion to encourage kids to attend their atheist camps.

  • Atheists have been increasingly using terms like “child abuse” to describe the efforts of Christians who seek to teach their children about creation, heaven, and hell.

  • Many atheists claim that children belong to the community, not to their parents.

  • Atheists have actively opposed any effort in public schools to even question a belief of evolution or suggest there are any problems with it.

Heath is on his way over to record and I’ve gotta get prepped, so I’ll trust the comments section to provide the editorial on these, but I just wanted to hop on really quick and let everyone know that they’ve noticed.  Keep up the good work.

Gay Christians Ask the Pope to be Christian

by Noah Lugeons

Before you ask, no, homosexual Christian is not an oxymoron. While the percentage of gays that are Christian are somewhat lower than the general population, it only correlates to about an 8% drop. That is a far smaller correlation than we find with age or political affiliation. It seems vexing to an atheist that one would voluntarily belong to a group that believes they themselves are evil, but there are enough liberal churches around and the promise of eternal paradise is too strong for the overwhelming bigotry to outweigh the decades of indoctrination.

In the wake of the Catholic Church’s increasingly central role in worldwide homophobia, the Lesbian and Gay Christian Movement (LGCM) is pressuring the Pope to publicly denounce this increasingly rampant bigotry. They’ve endorsed an open letter that simply asks the Pope to stop pressuring gays into “reparative” therapy and to respect the human rights and basic dignity of same-sex couples.

Before we move on to what a heartless jackass Benedict will eventually be when he decides to complete ignore this letter, let’s take a minute to reflect on the stakes here. In the US, this kind of thing manifests itself when, for example, the Catholic Churches in Illinois threaten to shut down their orphanages rather than abide by a law that would give equal rights to gay couples. But in places like Africa it manifests in laws that would make being gay a crime, punishable by death.

Could a few words from the Pope bring all of this to a screeching halt? Of course not. Would a strong Christian voice calling for gays to be treated equally and fairly be a powerful message? Would it reach the right ears? Would it make a difference? Of course it would.

One of the chief problems with empowering religious institutions is the fact that they’re slow to move. The Catholic Church is struggling to catch up with the 18th century at this point so it’s hard to imagine that they’ll adopt any of these new-fangled “modern views” about equal rights and eclectic human dignity. They’re quick to forgive their own priests for torturing and raping children of both genders, but a simple word condemning executing gays is probably too much to ask for.

The failure of the Christian community to rise up with a powerful voice that condemns the worst elements among it is the primary reason why I feel that the world needs atheist activists. We need to be there to say what they won’t. We need to be their to criticize those voices that the religious community holds above criticism. We need to embrace the handle of “anti-Christ” and wear it as a badge of courage. Given what Christ represents in the modern world (homophobia, intrusive policies, inhibition of scientific progress, historical revisionism, massive ignorance and misogyny), I’m happy to be as far on the other side of the spectrum as I can get.