May 23, 2012

The Kind of Atheist I Want to Be


I want to be the kind of atheist who does not pick fights with the religious but does not run from conflict when it is encountered either. I want to be the kind of atheist who defends secularism when necessary and recognizes that strengthening the wall of separation between church and state is of vital importance. I want to be the kind of atheist who models reason, critical thinking, and basing beliefs on evidence. I want to be the kind of atheist who can utilize anger effectively without getting carried away with it.

These attributes are aspirational. I'm not there yet. I do sometimes pick fights and resort to childish mockery when it may not be the best strategy for the situation in which I find myself. I do avoid conflict, especially when I'm feeling burned out by the constant struggle to stand up to the religious majority. I regularly lose sight of the central goal of church-state separation and get distracted by lesser concerns. I have periods where I am anything but rational and during which the only thing I model is avoidance and apathy. And yes, making sure that my anger works for me rather than the other way around is something I do not do nearly as well as I'd like.

I recognize that my flaws are part of what makes me who I am. I gave up on perfection long ago, realizing that flexibility is more important. I will continue to screw up and be a different sort of atheist than the one I want to be. But as long as I don't lose sight of my goals or give up pursuing them, I think I'll be okay. I may never truly be the kind of atheist I want to be, but I'll also never give up trying.