May 1, 2006

We Atheists Could Learn Something From Christians

Yep, you heard right. If we atheists are serious about making a difference in the world, we need to organize in our communities. I can already hear the protests - atheists aren't really joiners - but I'm sticking to my guns on this one. I should also admit that I've never been much of a joiner either. In other words, I've done a lousy job of this too. Maybe it is time to put up or shut up.

Here is the story that got my attention. Instead of bitching about all the Jesus crap in the article (my first reaction), I want you to join me in considering something else. What if there was a small group of atheists in your community who did something like this? Would you join them? I submit that such a group, combined with the publicity their actions would generate, would do more to educate the public about atheism and even change attitudes toward atheists than just about anything else could.

So what gets in our way? If I'm going to be honest with myself and with you, I'll have to admit to three main obstacles. First, I'm busy. Work requires an average of 60 hours/week. I have a home to maintain, and I've been developing the first actual hobby I've had in years (digital photography) which I really enjoy. Fitting more in is certainly possible, but finding the energy for it is challenging. Second, I'm not exactly what you would consider the most social person. I value my alone time and have never been much of a joiner. In this context, I suppose you could say that I tend to be more comfortable with ideas than with people. Third, there is the fear of being publicly "outed" as an atheist in my community. This didn't bother me at all when I was living in other parts of America. Here in the deep South, I feel that I have reason for concern. I think I can live with threats, periodic vandalism, etc., but I worry that becoming known as an atheist would jeopardize my job. I have worked too hard to get where I am to take such a possibility lightly.

I'm not going to pretend that I have all this worked out and am now committed to community activism. I can say that I find myself moving increasingly in this direction, but I haven't arrived yet. The struggle continues, and this one is more internal than anything else.

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