August 10, 2007

The OUT Campaign

Regular readers may be surprised to learn that I do support the idea behind the OUT Campaign given my recent reaction to what I initially perceived as little more than a marketing strategy. Although my negative reaction focused on a statement made by PZ Myers at Pharyngula, I clearly expressed distaste for Dawkins' OUT Campaign. So how can I now say that I generally support the campaign? Dawkins has since clarified what the campaign is all about, and I now believe that it is something I can support.

The negative comments I previously made about the OUT Campaign were based on the contents of the campaign website at that time and comments made by PZ Myers. I perceived the campaign as a way for Dawkins to line his pockets by encouraging atheists to buy t-shirts with his scarlet letter. However, I was careful to state, "In truth, my real objection has little to do with Dawkins trying to make a buck off of this and more to do with a statement by a certain prominent blogger that those who refuse to wear Dawkins' mark have no right to claim that they are helping the atheist movement." PZ Myers clarified the statement in question, and this issue has been resolved.

According to Dawkins, the OUT Campaign is based on his conviction that there are far more atheists in America than anyone realizes because so many are closeted.
It follows that a major part of our consciousness-raising effort should be aimed, not at converting the religious but at encouraging the non-religious to admit it – to themselves, to their families, and to the world. This is the purpose of the OUT campaign.
I am happy to see that Dawkins recognizes the risks involved in "coming out" for some atheists and is not encouraging blind disclosure when it is unsafe.
If a closet atheist wants to come out, that is her decision to make, and nobody else's. What we can do is provide support and encouragement to those who willingly decide to out themselves.
Absolutely! Regardless of whether we are out or not, we can and should provide support to other atheists. This reminds me of a letter I wrote not too long ago. Even if there are many more of us than is realized, we are still a minority. This support is invaluable.

The other point Dawkins makes, which goes even more directly to my previous reaction is that there are a multitude of ways atheists can assist the campaign. Even for those who cannot safely "come out," there is much we can do to help.

So while there are still some aspects of the campaign with which I disagree (don't look for any scarlet letters to appear here), I find that it seems generally constructive and is something which I can support. I'm glad Dawkins took the time to clarify what the campaign was all about. I just wish he had done so from the beginning.

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