December 17, 2010

Atheists Will Be On Right Side of History

march_on_washington.jpgI've been generally pessimistic as long as I can remember. I suppose I'm probably wired that way. And yet, I do have periodic flashes of optimism that keep me going. One of the most enduring is that we atheists, agnostics, skeptics, and humanists who make up the reality-based community will be on the right side of U.S. history.

The women's movement, both in the form of suffrage and later in feminism, has made great strides toward equality. That is not to say that American women have fully achieved equality, but it is difficult to deny that they are closer today than ever before. And who has been most consistent in opposing their efforts? Socially conservative Christians.

The Civil Rights movement has also made considerable progress, even though the goal of true racial equality remains elusive. And who has been most consistent and vocal in their opposition to racial equality? Socially conservative Christians.

Compared to these social movements, the gay rights movement is in a different place. While significant accomplishments have been made, LGBT persons still cannot serve openly in the military and lack even the basic right of marriage. The military has long been racially integrated, and interracial marriage is commonplace today. And yet, it is difficult to imagine that "Don't Ask, Don't Tell" and bans on gay marriage will last much longer. Once again, we find socially conservative Christians opposing these forms of equality.

The atheist movement is not only in its infancy compared with even gay rights, but the battle for atheist equality promises to be the most difficult yet. We are so thoroughly despised throughout the U.S. that we have repeatedly been a rallying point for bigots of all kinds. When socially conservative Christians finally lose DADT and gay marriage (and lose they will), secularism is likely to be their last stand.

And yet, I believe we will win. Not in my lifetime, but we will win. Once again, socially conservative Christians will be our most vocal and enduring opponents. But like who have come before us, we will be on the right side of history while socially conservative Christians continue to play the villain.

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