March 24, 2019

Brief Reflections on Atheist Day

Atheist Day symbol

March 23 was Atheist Day. It may have been little more than a clever opportunity for a website called Atheist Republic to market itself, but I am okay with that because I think it managed to accomplish something valuable anyway. First, it gave those of us who wanted to do something to mark the occasion an excuse to do so. As someone who has little interest in holidays that don't fall on October 31, I'm open to having a new one. There were small gathering of atheists in some communities who got together to celebrate Atheist Day in various ways. Second, it gave all of us a needed reminder that there are still too many places in the world where atheism can get you killed. This needs to change. No, let me revise that. We need to change this. Third, Atheist Day led countless atheists around the world to take to social media to say something about atheism (e.g., expressions of solidarity with other atheists) using #AtheistDay. This resulted in many of us finding interesting atheists to follow we would have otherwise missed.

For me personally, the coolest thing about Atheist Day was seeing the outpouring of positivity from atheists about atheism on Twitter. Sure, some people used the hashtag on tweets criticizing religion; however, most of what I saw was very positive. Examples included offers of support to other atheists, efforts to connect with atheists, quotes about atheism, sharing stories about one's journey to atheism, and general expressions of goodwill. For a group of people all too used to being shit on by the religious majorities that surround them, this was wonderful to see.

I realize this may sound cheesy and prompt some eye-rolls, but I am going to say it anyway. What I saw taking place on Twitter through the #AtheistDay hashtag put a smile on my face and made me feel less alone in the world. I know there are other atheists out there, but this is easy to forget because of where I live. Moreover, knowing that there are other atheists out there in some abstract way is different from seeing a whole lot of evidence that other atheists are out there in a short amount of time. I knew there were a lot of us, but damn. We're everywhere!

I checked in on the the #AtheistDay hashtag on Twitter a few times throughout the day. When I saw someone saying something I thought was thought-provoking, I checked out their Twitter bio to learn more about them. I ended up following some people I had not seen before this way.

By the end of the day, whatever mild skepticism with which I had approached the day was gone. It didn't matter if this had started as a PR stunt or an opportunity to sell green merchandise. It had turned into something else, something bigger. I think that lots of atheists needed something like this, and I was surprised to discover that I was one of them. Here's wishing everyone a belated Happy Atheist Day! I hope we do this again next year.