I have been a part of the atheist movement since 2013.
My journey to apostasy from being a self-described “Jesus Freak” proselytizing and leading church prayers has been an arduous one. For at least a year prior to becoming more public about my rejection of god beliefs, I suffered in silence or otherwise wrestled with hesitancy.
I didn’t want to make waves. I was unsure of how to express my loss of faith. I feared what others would think since most family or friends I had were religious. What further stoked this trepidation was the fact that society reinforces deity-centric assumptions widely accepted uncritically.
Something I frequently talk about is the significance of narratives. Media and culture thrive off narratives—established values and attitudes, as well as social group representation and stereotypes, are all influenced by this aspect of human socialization. Author and academic Robert McKee rightly points out “Storytelling is the most powerful way to put ideas into the world.” The stories we are repeatedly told and believe shape our worldviews.
Some commonly held beliefs considered “ordinary” rely on mainstream narratives. The problem is that dominant group input is a key factor that goes into what stories become lodged in the cultural imagination. This means there is a tendency to normalize the tribal concerns, anxiety, preferences, and agenda of majority group representation at the expense of other groups who, as a consequence, become misrepresented or marginalized communities relegated to the periphery.
This is why atheist activists doggedly fight for separation of church and state. This is why atheist activists oppose organizations like The Good News Club that try to indoctrinate children in public schools. This is why atheist activists remain vocal in confronting various expressions of religious bigotry so well integrated into society that it’s considered normal.
My atheism is but one identity that makes up all that I am. Still, my rejection of the god hypothesis is something I refuse to conceal or downplay to pacify god-fearing sensibilities. This is why it’s so vital to explicitly draw attention to our nonbelief. We must be brazen in our pushback against social norms if we are to upset cultural standards that imagine atheists to be demon-possessed glitches in the matrix.
Shanon and Mark Nebo, atheist activists who founded Be Secular, present a simple yet unambiguous message to the public – #NormalizeAtheism.
Sometimes it’s all about planting a seed. Even if that kernel is only curiosity, that’s enough to begin a discussion that could lead to much more. The #NormalizeAtheism campaign is a good way to build awareness, challenge bogus notions, and open dialogue related to putting stock in supernatural beings some imagine as taking a special interest in human activity.
Atheists aren’t anomalies. We are everywhere. We are relatives, neighbors, co-workers, and peers—desensitizing this taboo is long overdue. What #NormalizeAtheism looks to do is simply state, “Yes, I’m a nonbeliever – and that’s okay.” That’s all. For those who are hesitant, always remember you are not alone.
Let’s join Be Secular’s founders in advocating this message both through social media and by sporting these products. This idea is on-point and falls in line with the reality that there is no progress without confrontation. If we are to gain more public acceptance, it will take openness as well as broad, consistent exposure.
The #NormalizeAtheism T-shirt campaign is running until July 1st. Check out the link to the store and join this opportunity to freely express your nonbelief in style. #NormalizeAtheism can also be found on Facebook and Twitter.