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2 Shocking Attacks on Atheism -- And How Atheists Fought Back

In the last few years atheists have become seriously organized, mobilized, visible, vocal and unapologetic about their atheism.

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And focus simply on this: The man put a sign on the door of his business, explicitly saying that he would not do business with attendees of an atheist conference.

That's not just bigoted. That's almost certainly illegal.

Imagine if he had put a sign in his door saying, "Jewish Federations of North America is NOT Welcomed To My Christian Business." Imagine if the sign had read, "Living Buddhist Conference is NOT Welcomed To My Christian Business." "Catholic Family Conference is NOT Welcomed To My Christian Business." "Muslim Congress is NOT Welcomed To My Christian Business." Would there be any question at all that this was an attempt by a public place of business to discriminate on the basis of religious affiliation?

So what happened?

Atheists brought the nuclear smackdown.

Someone took a photo of the sign, and within minutes it was Facebooked, Tweeted, G-plussed, texted, blogged, emailed, and probably sent by smoke signals and carrier pigeon. It raced through the atheosphere like a wildfire on meth. Gelato Mio was inundated with angry calls and emails; their ratings on Yelp and UrbanSpoon sank to the basement; on UrbanSpoon, their "most popular menu item" was quickly voted as "Bigotry."

And Drennan apologized.

Boy, did he ever. He took the sign down. He apologized on his Web site. He apologized again, on Facebook. He apologized yet again, on Reddit Atheism, profusely. He said he was completely wrong and that his actions were inexcusable. He said he'd happily welcome atheists and Skepticon attendees into his store, and offered them a 10 percent discount.

There's been much discussion in the atheosphere about whether atheists should accept Drennan's apology or not. Whether his apology was sincere or self-interested, and whether it matters. Whether he understands the principle that atheists have a right to make fun of religion at their own conferences -- conferences which religious believers are free to attend or not as they choose. Whether he had a right to be offended or not. Whether he understands the principle that there are appropriate ways to express offense -- and that banning people from a public business based on their religious affiliation is most emphatically not one of them. Whether atheists should mend fences and patronize his business in the future, or continue to boycott it. But one thing is crystal clear:

Atheists will not be fucked with.

Gelatogate is far from the only example of this. Remember the American Cancer Society story? Remember how the American Cancer Society rejected participation by a non-theistic organization in their Relay for Life... along with the massive donation that would have come with it? And remember how the story went viral? Remember how the ACS was inundated for weeks with emails and phone calls and letters from furious members and supporters -- atheists and others -- demanding an explanation, angrily withdrawing any future donations, or both? Remember how, for weeks, the ACS's Facebook wall was filled with almost nothing but angry comments about the story? Remember their shoddy attempts to cover their tracks and erase or distort the online trail of evidence? Remember how they issued press release after press release after press release, in increasingly hysterical attempts at damage control?

Remember that.

Atheists now have a community, and a movement. Both of which are growing by leaps and bounds. They are organized -- especially with social networking and the Internet. They can be mobilized in a heartbeat. They can make themselves seen, and heard... and are getting better at it every day. They are increasingly unashamed of their atheism, and increasingly unwilling to accept any attempts by others to shame them. And when roused to action, they are a force to be reckoned with.

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