Outspoken atheists are as annoying as street preachers.
I spotted this specific sentiment on Twitter yesterday, but many like it are shared to my social spaces on a daily basis. It’s a bit like a broken record: every day, new people who’ve clearly never thought this idea through, insist that outspoken atheists are just like pushy Christians. Of course, we’re not and here’s why.
First off, Christian street preachers are there for one specific goal: to change your mind and win your soul for Jesus. Some of them certainly come at it from a very sincere place, concerned about their fellow human beings burning in Hell. Others feel they might be more gloriously rewarded in the afterlife if they can turn many hearts to Jesus. I’m sure there are plenty of other reasons. While I can only speak for myself, I can assure you I am not here to change anyone’s mind about god or turn them into an atheist. Of course, I have received many letters and messages from people who say I played a role in their deconversion from the world’s major religions but this is not what I have set out to do. I know from speaking with many of my fellow outspoken atheists, that they are not trying to do that either. Sure, I love to create small amounts of doubt in the believers’ mind when I can, but this is not to rob them of their faith, but rather to have them realize that maybe their beliefs aren’t rock-solid enough to act on. A person with doubt is a less dangerous person than someone who is absolutely certain and uses their beliefs to inform their actions.
People who push religion also tend to invade your space with it. Whether they are street preachers interrupting your peaceful stroll or they’re Jehovah’s Witnesses knocking on your door every week. Outspoken atheists don’t go door to door asking if you’ve heard the good news about nothing. We don’t leave copies of the God Delusion in every hotel room across the globe. We don’t send missionaries to war-torn and poverty-stricken areas so we can manipulate the desperation of the locals to get them to deny god. No, we tend to speak amongst each other and on our blogs, in our books and podcasts and that’s about it. Myself, I love to discuss and debate religion with theists but only when they’ve posted something publicly or come to me with it. I also love to do this with mutual respect and kindness. I would never dream of violating someone’s personal space to push my ideas.
Atheists also do not have an organized church system across the world where the godless are expected to attend weekly indoctrination sessions. There is no guilt to be felt in missing any secular conventions, no reason to feel we’re not being good enough atheists if we don’t show our face at atheist events from time to time.
An outspoken atheist is someone who simply speaks publicly about religion from the perspective of a nonbeliever. That is literally it. There are various goals for this. I asked you on Twitter what you thought these goals were. Here are some of your answers:
Some of you spoke about discrimination against atheists:
Some brought up religious-based discrimination against other marginalized groups:
Others mention scientific progress:
There was talk of standing up to barbaric and harmful customs and rituals:
For some of you, it’s important to normalize atheism to ensure other atheists know they’re not alone and that they have support when they decided to out themselves as atheists:
Many talked about peaceful coexistence:
For some, it’s about politics and secularism:
A huge number of you talked about bringing awareness to the fact that the godless can have morality, too:
Some of you talked about assisting those who might have questions about their faith:
These seemed to make up the sentiments of the vast majority of the people who answered this question. The goal of outspoken atheists is not to make more atheists, though we are definitely not opposed to that. The goal is to make this a better, fairer world.
You can follow me on Twitter for more discussions like this here: @godless_mom
I’d love to know what you think the main goals of outspoken atheism ought to be. Note I said outspoken atheism and not atheism alone. I had an awful lot of people on Twitter point out that atheism itself has no goals, and I agree. This discussion is about outspoken atheism. Let me know what you think in the comments!
Images: screenshots via Courtney Heard