Reaching Out to Those Reluctant to Adopt the Atheism Label

The United States is a large and diverse country. And yet, only 3% of the population identify as atheists. That means that most of our religious diversity still has to do with which god(s) one believes in. This strikes me as unfortunate.

Some people, including some atheists, don't know what atheism means. That is one reason some may reject the label. There are more people who don't believe in gods but don't want to identify themselves as atheists. They might have negative associations with the label. They might worry about how their religious neighbors would react. They might feel disappointed with what they've observed from other atheists.


Social Media Can Ruin Lives and We Should Reject Mob Justice


Over the last several years, I've noticed a terrifying trend that seemed to be getting worse. I say "seemed" because I think it might have peaked, but I'm not sure. A growing chorus of voices has called on us to accept all accusations of wrongdoing made by women against men. This seems potentially dangerous but is just the tip of the iceberg. Many of these same voices expanded their calls for us to accept any accusations of wrongdoing made about anyone they do not like. This includes people who disagree with them on social media, politicians from the other party, and public figures who dare to say things they don't like. Some demand the uncritical acceptance of criminal accusations.

They have no interest in due process, the rule of law, or the rights of the accused. Some reject the presumption of innocence. For them, accusation = guilt and is more than enough to warrant punishment. This is mob justice, and it is beyond dangerous. If you are an atheist or a member of a religious minority, you already know this.

Most of those who seem eager for mob justice would claim to oppose the brutal murders of women accused of witchcraft. They'd condemn the treatment of black men in the South accused of being too interested in White women. They are not fans of tormenting gay men accused of immorality. Most would agree that police officers sometimes arrest innocent people for bullshit reasons. Thus, they know that some accusations are false. They also know that some charged with crimes are innocent. The message seems to be clear: mob justice is okay as long as we are the ones doing it.


Harmful Beliefs Deserve No Respect Even When Justified By Religion

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Everyone can think of at least one belief system which is detrimental to human welfare. What I mean by "detrimental" in this context is that it leads to unnecessary pain and suffering. This does not mean it could not still have some positive attributes. But whatever positives might apply cannot make up for the harm caused.

Consider something like racism. The detrimental nature seems obvious. So obvious that it is hard to think of anything positive. Should you respect the racist beliefs of others? That question seems absurd, doesn't it? You might respect someone who held racist beliefs. You might respect the fact that they have the right to believe whatever they want. We all have that right, and it is rarely in jeopardy. But isn't respecting the beliefs themselves quite different?


The Right to Say Whatever One Wants on Someone Else's Platform

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Suppose I decide to be outraged at something I saw on my local TV news. I hop in my car and drive down to the station, demanding to appear on camera to present my largely incoherent argument against whatever they broadcasted. Do they mic me up and put me on the air? Probably not. They are far more likely to turn me away and call the police if I refuse to leave.

But what if I whine that my "free speech" has been violated because this TV station will not permit me to use their platform? This won't change their minds. Most reasonable adults would conclude that I am a moron. So why does this change so dramatically when we switch the context from a TV station to a blog, Facebook page, YouTube channel, or something similar?