September 1, 2010

An Atheist Blogger Apologizes

admit you're an assholeI have seen a handful of former Christians turned atheists apologize for some of what they did as Christians (e.g., bigotry, evangelism, etc.). I think this is a positive development, and I hope that such examples continue to inspire more to do the same.

While I was generally content to keep my Christian beliefs to myself when I actually had such beliefs, I do have something much more recent for which I'd like to apologize. In fact, my apology isn't for something I did as a Christian at all but for something I did as an atheist.

Until the last few years or so, I was what I'll describe as a "live-and-let live atheist." I sought to avoid conflict and attempted to respect religious beliefs even though I suspected that they were false and destructive. I told myself that these beliefs do not really harm the believer or the broader society we share. I was content to ignore religion as long as it was not being shoved in my face or used to pass laws that took away my freedoms. As if that wasn't bad enough, I would have been one of the first to defend liberal to moderate forms of religion, insisting that religion is "not that bad" until it reaches the level of religious extremism.

I was wrong. I see that now. My complacency and refusal to risk ruffling any feathers contributed to the problem of religion. I granted religion an exception that I did not offer to other false beliefs. In so doing, I granted religion the same privilege against which I now rail.

My greatest offense of all, however, was my failure to stand up for the civil rights of my fellow atheists. I was afraid that standing up against the bigotry experienced by others might make my own experience worse. I was selfish and short-sighted.

For these actions, and especially my inaction, I am truly sorry. I screwed up. I see now that religious belief itself - not merely organized religion - is irrational and not deserving of respect (although many individual religious believers so deserve respect). I recognize that we have not just a right but an obligation to speak out against dangerous ideas which threaten our well-being. I also see that I must stand up against religiously-motivated bigotry whether it is directed at me or not.

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