Atheists outnumbered in Jesus Land; tell them this.

I got an email recently from Gordon Maples, who leads the Southeastern Collegiate Atheist Alliance (SECAA).  It was a forward of an email from Sheenan Cole, the secretary of the SSA at the University of Northern Alabama.

My name is Sheenan Cole, I’m the Secretary for our new chapter of SSA at UNA.  Our university is located directly in the middle of the southern bible belt and we need help.  Most of our students were able to attend the Reason Rally which was a wonderful thing until we had to return home and back to reality.  Jeremy Green along with the Freedom From Religion org recently called out Brooks High School here for broadcasting Christian prayer over the loudspeakers at football games and forced the county to stop or face lawsuit.  This should have been a wonderful victory but instead has invoked anger, hatred, threats and hostility against our Secular population by the Non-Secular population.  One can simply look at the comments on the news articles and that doesn’t cover the half of it.  For the first time in what may be our areas history our SSA organization gathered to protest a prayer rally sponsored by the Teaparty for our Lauderdale County school system to put prayer back in local schools.  We joined up with a local humanist group and while we were not allowed on the grounds we preceded to march around them. Two local papers covered the event the Times Daily and the Quad Cities Daily.  The links to the coverage are:  http://timesdaily.com/stories/Students-call-for-return-of-prayers-at-schools,189043 and http://quadcitiesdaily.com.s140587.gridserver.com/?p=14181.  Any help would be greatly appreciated.

Of course, the SSA will help in whatever ways we can.

But UNA is smack dab in the middle of Alabama – not friendly territory for the godless.  Gordon worries that it may be a bit draining hearing all the vitriol from the surrounding communities and asked if I could say something to these students.

Tell them this, Gordon:

Tell them that religions do not win by playing fairly.  When I was driving to the Reason Rally I couldn’t go 30 minutes without seeing a billboard threatening me with hell for disbelief.  There was a conspicuous absence of any billboard saying, “Come to our church, we have evidence!”

Evidence, reason, winning honestly…these are not the weapons of faith.  Bullying, social consequences, and fear are their tools.  Look at what Jessica Ahlquist’s community did to try and break her spirits.  Look what they did to Damon Fowler.  And this is what they do to high schoolers.  You bet your ass they’ll do that and worse to collegiates.  This is how religions win.  It is how they have always won: by fear and by attrition.  They win by silencing dissent, once by the point of the sword, now by social punishment.

If we are to wait until believers respond amicably when we demand equality or obedience to the Constitution, we will be waiting a very long time.

If we are to wait until we are no longer outnumbered before we raise our voices, we will have just caved to the only weapons of organized religion.  By pushing through, by saying in a unified voice that our spirits will not be broken, we have instantly disarmed religion of all the power they have over us.

Tell them to get back up and march right back out there.  Tell them that there’s a generation of children growing up right now who will soon take their place, and the looming threat of social punishment at the hands of the majority will suck just as much for them. Tell them we may not win in our lifetimes, but we owe it to those kids to fight anyway.  We would not be better by waiting to hand them the responsibility to change the world when we had the opportunity.

Tell them I know it’s a slow, uphill battle, but tell them also that we are making progress.  If a day will come when atheists are no longer outnumbered, it will not be because we decided it was easier to be atheists quietly to avoid the inevitable pushback that comes with being vocal about injustice.

Tell them that we have a weapon on our side that has proven throughout history to be more devastating than a mob and more powerful than money: we’re right.  We have no need to cow our opponents through fear.  We have no need to make allies of Satan or other avenues to fear in order to win – we need only to be honest.  And when, after begging the courts to let them break the law fails, the faithful resort to bullying, we need only have the fortitude to keep standing, and to say we are atheists, we are proud to be atheists, and you may not like it but god dammit you are going to treat us as equals.

Tell them I know it’s not easy.  Tell them I know there are consequences for rocking the boat.

And tell them I’m proud of them.

About JT Eberhard

When not defending the planet from inevitable apocalypse at the rotting hands of the undead, JT is a writer and public speaker about atheism, gay rights, and more. He spent two and a half years with the Secular Student Alliance as their first high school organizer. During that time he built the SSA’s high school program and oversaw the development of groups nationwide. JT is also the co-founder of the popular Skepticon conference and served as the events lead organizer during its first three years.

  • Aliasalpha

    I’m reminded of a quote from the Babylon 5 episode Intersections In Real Time

    You just have to say “no, I won’t” one more time than they can say “yes, you will”.

  • http://niftyatheist.blogspot.com/ niftyatheist

    JT! You made me cry. Thank you, this is wonderful.

  • Rory

    Here, here. And good for them for keeping the faith (snicker) from in the belly of the beast.

  • http://idioprag.com WilloNyx

    Awesomely inspirational.

  • http://peternothnagle.com Peter N

    Here’s what I would say to the Christians who bully and threaten and try to shout us down: Your faith is weak. If you truly believed half that stuff about talking jackasses and pregnant virgins and their dead savior, they wouldn’t give a hoot what we say or do. Their faith is at the point of crumbling.

    And seeing as how it’s Easter and all, ask them how it is that if the resurrected Jesus could walk through walls (John 20:19), then why was the stone rolled back from the entrance to the tomb?

  • http://bigthink.com/blogs/daylight-atheism Adam Lee

    Fantastic, JT! And let’s not forget that their bullying is a sign of insecurity. If they really believed what they say they do, they’d be content to leave us alone and believe that their god would ultimately take care of us. If they’re right, they can’t possibly lose, so why is it that they seem so threatened by our mere existence?

    The only reason they’d have to petulantly lash out like this, to try to silence us through fear or intimidation, is if they’re not so certain after all, and they’re afraid that our publicly challenging their beliefs will stir up their own inner doubts.

  • auntikrist

    Thank you. Just Thank YOU.

  • http://www.facebook.com/ccupples1 calebcupples

    Thank you. As the treasurer of the UNA SSA, thank you. We need all the encouragement we can get, especially with the “godly” trying to shove their propaganda down our throats and convert us.

    To pull out an often misattributed quote from Nicholas Klein, back in 1918… “First they ignore you. Then they ridicule you. And then they attack you and want to burn you. And then they build monuments to you.”

    We’re already to the point of being attacked, so it shouldn’t be much longer.

  • http://clevelandatheists.com Sam Salerno

    People who have to bully to prove their religion is true are not very confident in their religion or their god. JT is right. bullying is their last ditch effort to silence us. And all we have to do is speak up.

  • http://justdfacsmaam.wordpress.com MarkNS

    Tell them that outside of the bible belt, secularists are not a minority among the people of western liberal democracies. The US is a religious anomaly among first world nations.

  • Pierce R. Butler

    If an atheist is a person without a god, is an Alabaman a person without Labama?

  • http://www.manowar2000@hotmeal.com James

    I had some questions and comments about this post. 1) I am a Christian but don’t worry I’ll be leaving soon.
    2) Why is Satan capitalize and God is not? Is it because Satan is a formal name?
    3) Comment number six by Adam Lee is absolutely correct, we should not fear you or fear that our God cannot take care of himself.
    4) I am sorry that a few individuals put forward such a bad name for Christians. I apologize. I will keep this post in mind anytime I preach the word of God. I will always keep you and your cause in my heart. Make you gain equality.

  • Rebecca

    Beautifully stated, JT.

  • Laura

    Thank you, JT.
    I’m bookmarking this for bad days.

  • Anonymous

    The stone was rolled back for the women coming to annoint HIS DEAD BODY…:)

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