May 1, 2007

Censorship, Personal Safety, and Unorthodox Atheism

Convinced that atheists have nothing to fear from believers and that to suggest otherwise is just being paranoid? I want to draw your attention to a disturbing account over at Unorthodox Atheism.

After Reed lent his copy of Dawkins' The God Delusion to an atheist friend, the friend's father found the book, took it so that his son could not read it, and contacted Reed in what sounds like a threatening manner. Picturing Reed obsessively checking his locks and actually sleeping with a baseball bat makes me sad. It makes me sad for we atheists who must always consider scenarios like this before speaking our minds, and it makes me sad for open-minded Christians who strive to practice tolerance.

I think that Reed handled this difficult situation extremely well. It is a good thing he had the foresight to alert personnel at his school since his friend's father actually showed up to demand that he be punished for distributing atheist literature. Evidently, the father refuses to acknowledge that his son is already an atheist.

Believe it or not, it sounds like Reed may end up facing some sort of punishment at the hands of the school. Could he actually be punished by the school for loaning a friend a book outside of school? I certainly hope not, but we'll see.

The censorship issue is certainly relevant in that the friend's father wants to make sure that his already atheistic son is prevented from accessing atheist literature. But what strikes me as even more important in this case is the safety issue. Here we have a rabid Christian willing to call a high school student at 11:00pm to tell him that he is on his way over and who then shows up at school the next day. Is it any wonder that many atheists have trouble speaking out?

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