June 4, 2008

Atheist Liberation: Our Civil Rights Movement

This is a follow-up to a recent post I wrote about atheist liberation. Several readers left insightful comments. I really appreciated the reminder about the vast regional differences in attitudes toward atheists throughout the United States. This is an important point, one of which I need to be periodically reminded. However, I believe that the bulk of what I wrote previously, and certainly my motivation in writing it, stands above even this consideration.

Like each of you, my experiences color my perceptions and impact my priorities. The fact that I now reside in the state of Mississippi undoubtedly influences my thoughts, feelings, and behaviors with regard to the subject of atheism. The experiences I have had here, and elsewhere, help to make me who I am and influence these very words.

I have been extremely fortunate, in large part because I did not grow up in Mississippi. I have never been openly discriminated against, completely ostracized, or physically assaulted because of my atheism. I have been the victim of theft and vandalism multiple times but never because I am an atheist. I have never lost a close and important friendship because of it, and my family handled my disclosure of atheism and refusal to attend church remarkably well. Sure, I've experienced a good bit of anti-atheist bigotry but never in the sense that I lost something I could not afford to lose.

So who the hell am I to write about atheist liberation? To put it briefly, I am someone who gives a damn. It pains me to know that so many others have had it much worse than I, simply for the crime of being atheists. The knowledge that many atheists right here in America cannot openly discuss their beliefs without fear of retaliation keeps this blog going. Nobody deserves what so many of us face. I also despise what I see Christian extremists doing to a country of which I desperately want to be proud. I want to reduce their power.

I know many atheists are reluctant to get involved and may view atheist liberation as a waste of their valuable time. They may live in less oppressive environments where they can be open about who they are and what they believe. I expect them to care because I care. Wishful thinking? Perhaps, but I hope not. I want to make the world a better place. This involves promoting science, reason, education, and yes, atheism. But it also involves reaching out to other atheists and working to shape the culture around us. This is our civil rights movement.

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