How to Get on an Atheist's Good Side
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And especially in small rural towns, anti-atheist bigotry can turn truly ugly. Being an out atheist means risking ostracism and worse. Out atheist teenagers have been kicked out of public school programs, and then kicked out of public school. Out atheists have been the targets of vandalism and death threats. Even believers can be targeted with anti- atheist ostracism, threats, and vandalism, if they're perceived as being atheists because of their stance on separation of church and state (such as the anti- intelligent- design activists in Dover, Pennsylvania).
And I'm just talking about the U.S., where atheists are, at least in theory, guaranteed equal protection and freedom of non-religion under the 1st and 14th amendments. I'm not even talking about overt theocracies, where denying the existence of God will earn you a death sentence.
Religious believers might think there's no way for them to be allies with atheists. Aren't atheists trying to do away with religion? How can you be allies with someone who thinks your most cherished beliefs are a myth, and wants to rid the world of them?
Okay. First, not all atheists are trying to do away with religion. Many atheists are fine with religion, as long as it's respectful of people who don't share it. They just don't believe it themselves, and just want to be left alone to give what they have to the world and to practice their lack of faith in peace. If all religions minded their own business, if religions didn't have the depressingly common habit of demonizing people who don't agree with them and shoving themselves down everybody else's throat... most of us wouldn't care about it very much.
Second: Even the atheists who would like to see religion disappear, and who are actively working to make that happen, still passionately support religious freedom. We don't want to make religion disappear by law, or coercion, or even social disapproval. We want to make religion disappear by persuasion. We want to convince people, in an open marketplace of ideas, that religion is mistaken. Even the most strongly and rudely anti- religion atheists I know are passionate in their defense of religious freedom, and of people's right to believe whatever crazy bullshit they want as long as they don't inflict it on other people.
And even though atheists obviously think religion is a mistaken idea about the world, and believers obviously don't... well, we don't have to agree about everything to work together. Atheists and progressive believers have a lot of common ground: a passionate support of religious freedom, a fervent belief in the separation of church and state, an intense respect for diversity. The fact that we don't agree about the existence or non-existence of God doesn't mean we can't work together on issues we share.
If you're white, it's important to speak up about racism. If you're male, it's important to speak up about sexism. If you're straight, it's important to speak up about homophobia. Etc.
And if you're a religious believer, it's important to speak up about anti-atheist bigotry and ignorance. Familiarize yourself with the common myths about atheism and the truth about those myths (see above)... and when you hear someone repeat the myths, speak out.