NPR’s Barbara Bradley Hagerty had a really positive piece on the Reason Rally on “Morning Edition” today. The piece feature Greta Christina (“The Firebrand”), me (“The Diplomat”), and Dave Silverman (“Dave Silverman”).
But the main point of the rally, Silverman says, is not to tweak the faithful. It’s to encourage closeted atheists to take heart.
“The message is that if you can come out, you can out come out,” he says. “And if you can’t come out, at least you’ll know you’re not alone, and maybe sometime soon you’ll be able to come out of the closet to your family.”
Silverman says this is their moment, as important to atheists as the Stonewall riots were to the gay-rights movement four decades ago. But fellow nonbeliever Hemant Mehta says it’s not easy to reveal your nonbelief. Atheism has an image problem.
“People have this notion that atheists are immoral, not trustworthy, unelectable,” Mehta says. “How do you change that at such a huge level? It starts by people everywhere just coming out of the closet as atheists.”
Christina says there’s a tension in the movement. On one side are what she calls “firebrands,” such as Oxford biologist Dawkins, who has called some believers “staggeringly ignorant” and “insane.” On the other are the “diplomats,” such as Mehta, who deliver the same message of a Godless universe — but politely. Christina says every modern social movement — civil rights, feminism, gay rights — had the same tension, and you need both.
“We certainly want to let people know, again, we’re your friends, we’re your neighbors, we’re good people,” she says. “But I think it’s also to our benefit to let people know that we’re to be reckoned with, that we’re not going to let ourselves be doormats, and that we’re mobilized, we’re organized, and when people get us angry, we’re going to take action.“
Of course, Greta’s one of the most polite people you’ll ever meet, and I get plenty of commenters on this site who accuse me of being the opposite. It’s not like most people are either one or the other.
There is a running theme in that piece, though: whether you’re a firebrand or diplomat or something else, get yourself on that spectrum.
It starts by telling someone else you’re an atheist.