August 19, 2010

Same-Sex Marriage and Atheist Community

In a recent post on the same-sex marriage issue and California's Proposition 8, Daylight Atheism wrote:
...the more places that same-sex marriage moves into the mainstream, the more it will become familiar and accepted. More and more, people are getting the chance to see for themselves that gay and lesbian couples are normal human beings, deserving of the same rights as everyone else, and religious prejudice is weakening. Every fight we win sets the stage for further victories, and brings us ever closer to the time when true equality is the rule everywhere, not the exception.
I think it could be argued that the decision of so many gay men, lesbians, bisexual persons, and transgendered individuals to "come out of the closet" and embrace membership in the GLBT community is a big part of why they have made the civil rights gains they have made. Not only is there strength in numbers, but there is much to be said for familiarity as a path for changing public attitudes. I suspect Daylight Atheism is right that the mainstreaming of same-sex marriage will lead to greater acceptance.

This same rationale is often applied to atheism and used to make the case that it is important for more of us to live our lives as openly atheistic, to claim membership in the reality-based community. In many areas, we remain closeted, and even those who are "out" rarely seem to take genuine pride in their community. Few would deny that there is such a thing as a GLBT community; the same is not true when it comes to atheism.

I do not mean to suggest that gay rights is the only viable model for atheist civil rights or that the GLBT community is the only model for atheist community. I have made it clear that I think these are some of the better models available to us, but there are undoubtedly others.

One of the most commonly heard arguments against any sort of atheist community is that atheism is an insufficient reason around which to unite people. Again and again, we are reminded that atheists have nothing in common but a lack of belief in gods. But what do members of the GLBT community have in common besides their sexual orientation? Why have they been able to create an effective community while we seem too stubborn or fearful to do so?

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