Kansas City Star columnist Cindy Hoedel believes 2014 is the year society should start accepting atheists and that begins by giving society someone to accept:
I suspect a large number of the 33 million are in-the-closet atheists who don’t want to be the only person in their family, workplace or book club to use the “A”-word.
Let me go first: My name is Cindy, and I am an atheist.
I really want to like this article. I mean, she’s advocating for something I obviously support.
But I’m having a hard time. It starts with the line “Let me go first.” The admission is welcome, but Hoedel isn’t even close to being first. (Hell, she’s not even the first newspaper columnist to use her platform to come out. That link’s from a decade ago, but I’m sure it happened before then, too.)
Then there’s this line:
Salon jumped on the atheist wave last week, posting a column with the headline “15 ways atheists can stand up for rationality.”
Well, Salon’s been publishing articles about atheism for a while now (usually in a critical way…). But I’ll grant that the article in question was a good one.
She says of the article’s author Jeffrey Tayler:
Yes, she’ll be an out atheist… unless that’s uncomfortable for other people, in which case she’ll pretend to be religious. (Way to take a stand!)
I appreciate his logic — if it is OK to say you believe in God, it should be OK for me to say I don’t. But some of his suggestions sound confrontational; for example, opting out when invited to join hands and say grace before a meal. I think that’s just silly. I will keep on saying grace with friends and family who enjoy that, and we’ll skip it when they eat at my place.
It’s one thing to admit you just don’t want to stir the waters with family, but opting out of saying a group prayer is hardly confrontational unless you’re being an ass about it. If others can’t accept that, it’s their problem, not yours.
Finally, Hoedel makes this astonishing claim:
Just as gay marriage is not a threat to straight marriage, atheism is not a threat to religion.
Gay marriage is definitely no threat to straight marriage, but part of the reason atheism is so despised is precisely because it’s a threat to religion.
Letting people know you can be good without God? Showing them you don’t need religion to give your life meaning? Raising your children to be healthy, happy individuals without religious indoctrination? Part of what makes religion so powerful is the belief that you need it to have a moral compass and direction in life. Atheists debunk that notion entirely. As more of us come out, the rest of society will have to confront the reality that some of their reasons for being religious aren’t good ones.
I appreciate Hoedel’s column — it’s never easy to come out — but it’s also not as hard as it used to be. What we need now are atheists who are willing to be more vocal about why they don’t believe in God (and, if they believe it, why religion is harmful). An article like this could have been pretty influential a decade or two ago… but now? I doubt it’ll raise much of a fuss. And that’s in large part because the heavy lifting of making atheism acceptable in society has already been accomplished by others.