The Importance of Being An Active Atheist
This post is designed to work in conjunction with the post I wrote for Martin S. Pribble’s blog titled What is Atheism? Why The Definition Matters. You should read that before/after reading this. In that post I discussed what atheism is and is not and why that is important. A quick summary would be: atheism is the lack of a belief that gods exist. It is not a positive belief that requires proof, but the absence of belief. This definition matters because theists will often try to shift the burden of proof to the atheist or will incorrectly define atheism when attempting to discredit the atheist. This clarification is important to get right if we are going to “speak up”.
I recognize fully that atheism is nothing more than the lack of a belief in the existence of gods. However, many of us have very similar goals that while not a part of our atheism, do unite us. These goals tend to fall into the areas of social justice, politics, and science. It is not difficult to see that many atheists have strong opinions on certain matters within these larger subjects. Anyone familiar with the atheist blogosphere will know that they are often the topics of conversation. The reason for this, as far as I can guess is that there is not much to talk about when it comes to atheism and all of the parties agree. As a result we talk about other topics that are important to us and relate them to our atheism.
In this post I am going to specifically address Christianity as it is the dominant religion in countries with Western European traditions. Many sects of Christianity are actively engaged in pursuing their own ends in the three areas of social justice, politics, and science. The goals of most atheists and the goals of many Christian leaders are at odds when it comes to these things. There is a major difference to note at this point. The atheist’s view is not shaped by his/her atheism. The idea that most atheists seem to support same-sex marriage for example has nothing to do with our atheism. We are just a group of people in which the majority of us support that conclusion. Theists on the other hand believe what they do regarding those three subjects because of their theism/Christian views. One of these two sides will win the “war” (their word–not mine) so to speak and it will likely happen this century. For that reason it is important that we speak up for what we believe socially, politically, and scientifically so that the terms of these issues are not dictated to us—not because we have those beliefs due to our atheism (that would be false), but because we are atheists who believe in those things.
Atheists winning the fight on each of those issues will result in Christianity taking a credibility hit. For that reason alone, the “existence or non-existence of god” is going to enter these debates. This is why it is important that we understand the nature of the debate, as I detailed in my post at Martin’s blog. Theists often try to reframe the debate, to move it to a field of their choosing. That is not an option. If Christians are going to claim that same-sex couples cannot get married, that women cannot have abortions, cannot have access to birth control, that they (religions) deserve a special place in our political system, that science is wrong and biblical truths are correct, if they are to make all of these claims base on the god of the Old Testament, the burden of proof is on them! It is not for atheists to prove that god does not exist—that is a straw man argument that can no longer be allowed into the fray.
To win the fight on these issues religion will need to be placed on the table for criticism. As things stand right now, it is impolite to criticize religion in public. That needs to end here and now. Nothing, let me repeat, nothing gets passed or accepted as a social justice, political, or scientific issue without being vetted. If Christianity is going to try to propose or oppose anything, based on the dogma/doctrines of their religion, then let the honest and public examination of those faiths begin!
Why is it important that we as atheists speak up? Three reasons come to mind. First, in many ways our having already rejected the claims of Christianity make us extremely qualified to do the vetting. While our social justice, political, and scientific goals are in no way tied to our atheism, our atheism is a tool that we can and should use when fighting for those goals. Who better to challenge religion on its social, political, and scientific claims than the atheist? Second, we are a growing force in the world today. Recent studies have shown that our numbers are growing. This makes us a force to be reckoned with. Third, as atheists, you could argue we have the most to lose if Christianity gains in power. There is no one that Christian leaders fear more than the atheist. Our goals may not be rooted in our atheism, but to deny our atheism when fighting for our goals is a mistake. My atheism does not define me. My humanist goals are a more accurate description of who I am. However, when Christianity is the major foe to my humanist goals, my atheism needs to play a role. Does yours?
I fully realize that publicly defining one’s atheism is not an option for everyone. For many the consequences of doing so could be severe. That does not mean that there is not a part to play for those people. Today, social media can and does play a major role in affecting social change. One of the best ways to enact change is to get people talking about ideas. When you see an article, blog, tweet, etc. that you identify with share it! Like it on Reddit, Stumbleupon, or Facebook. Tweet it. The more we spread the word about our ideas—our atheist ideas and/or our social, political, and scientific ideas the greater the chance that we will effect change.
Thanks for Reading. I look forward to your comments.
If you have a blog please feel free to promote it on my “Promote Your Blog” page above.
If you would like to share your story of how you became an atheist, please do that on my “Share your Atheism Story” forum. Our stories may help to encourage others with similar feelings to know that life is more than just okay without god(s).
If you have not yet checked out Alltop.com’s Atheism Blogs….what are you waiting for?