The Kind of Atheist I Want to Be

man falling

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. 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 to all of us, including those who do not value it. I want to be the kind of atheist who models reason, critical thinking, skepticism, and freethought but also tries to balance these things with empathy and humanism. I want to be the kind of atheist who can utilize anger effectively to achieve goals 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.