March 19, 2010

Atheist Activists: Stand Your Ground

revolution.jpgWould you agree that the LGBT community in the U.S. is now in better shape than they were in the 1970s? There is no denying that gay rights still has a long way to go, but I think we can agree that tremendous progress has been made. Do you suspect that there were people both inside and outside the early days of the movement who thought that the activists should tone it down, be more respectful to mainstream culture, and the like? Good thing the activists didn't listen to these critics!

It is often said that the atheist movement is now where the gay rights movement was in the early 1970s. I'm not sure I agree with this. I see us as being closer to where they were in the 1950s, but I digress. That is not what I want to talk about here. Instead, I want us to examine the frequent criticism leveled at the atheist movement and realize that we had better not listen to it either.

As I have repeatedly suggested here, we atheists can learn volumes from the struggles of the LGBT movement. One of those lessons is that this sort of criticism is expected, from within and without, and we cannot let it detract from the task at hand. Atheist activists are going to be told to tone it down, but we must stand our ground.

And to those who keep insisting that we'd be more persuasive if only we were nicer, more respectful of religious delusion, and would just keep our damn mouths shut, I'm not playing your game. At this point in the development of the atheist movement, I am not particularly interested in persuading religious people to give up their religion and become atheists. That is a distal aim. What I most want to accomplish in the short term is to achieve true atheist equality. And the path to that goal is noisy, scary but liberating, and even confrontational. Deal with it.

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