March 26, 2011

What is Your Opinion on "A Week?"

Atheist WeekThose of you who are on Facebook probably knew that this past week was "A Week," a week in which you are asked to change your profile picture to the one like you see to the right. This idea is simple: it shows people that there are way more atheists than they ever realized, including some in their circle of acquaintances.

Obviously, the other purpose of "A Week" is that it involves a large number of atheists publicly outing themselves (at least on Facebook). In this way, it seems perfectly consistent with Dawkins' Out Campaign.

In spite of my reluctance to encourage people to reveal their atheism without at least considering the possible consequences of doing so, I think this effort is positive. It forces people - at least temporarily - to confront the reality that some of the "good people" they know are actually atheists. It makes us harder to demonize.

I know some don't like the idea of everyone using a fairly uniform profile picture, but that probably does make it easier to identify those who are participating in the event. When I have seen profile pictures of non-standard As this week, I cannot tell whether this is someone participating or someone who uses an atheist symbol all the time. But that is fairly trivial because they are still identifying as an atheist, and that is really the point.

Others have pointed out an entirely different sort of problem: few outside our community know that this symbol has anything to do with atheism. Some will look it up, others will ask, and others will probably just ignore it. Again, I see this as a fairly minor issue. We are still quite early in the life of this movement. If efforts like this catch on, more ground will be gained each year in terms of public recognition.

If there is to be a criticism of "A Week," it would have to be that many atheists refuse to accept the A as a symbol of atheism at all. I am not one of them, but I hear from enough of them that I suspect their numbers are considerable. They do not want atheism associated with any sort of symbol and are unlikely to go along with such efforts.

H/T to Friendly Atheist