28 February 2012

Rallying against the atheist bogeyman

Sometimes I think that certain other atheists are exaggerating when they claim that American society at large is out to get them.  This suspicion is usually proven wrong.  The past few weeks have been no exception.

It's official: "atheist" is a dirty word

It's a sad realization we've come to time and time again as godless Americans: to be an atheist is inherently offensive.  It's bad enough that we're labeled "angry" or "militant" for applying critical reasoning to people's deeply-held religious beliefs; now it's apparent that we can't even publicly announce our existence.

A group of atheists in Pennsylvania decided to steer away from the "your religion is a myth" theme of recent billboard campaigns and come up with the most innocuous message they could think of to advertise their group's existence:

This was apparently too controversial to appear on the side of a bus.  I'm shocked, but at the same time not as shocked as I probably should be.  Public displays of godlessness fit right into the worst fears of people who believe agents of Satan are lurking around every corner.

Seeking to lampoon the ridiculousness of it all, my fellow atheist blogger Astrid created an even less threatening image that's probably still too controversial to make the cut:

How abrasive, in-your-face, and militant is that?

When "reaching out" becomes "targeting"

This may come as news to some people: black atheists do exist.  There.  I hope that no one sustained any injuries when any stereotypes they held about atheists and/or black people came crashing down.

Now that we've established this fact, it should come as no surprise that said black atheists might want to reach out to other members of their racial demographic who are having doubts about religion.  And they've been doing exactly that, with the most innocuous advertising possible.  African Americans for Humanism launched a billboard campaign this month letting other nonbelievers know that they're not alone.

This, of course, makes some religious people very upset.  The headlines themselves are telling:

Note the word choice here.  Atheists are targeting black people.  It's stated as though the two are non-overlapping circles, and that some godless outsiders are seeking to spread discord among the African American community.  The intention of the authors is clear: exploit racial tension to promote anti-atheist bigotry.  It's the exact opposite of what AAH's positive campaign seeks to accomplish.

(A big thanks to Dren Asselmeier for her many tweets on this topic!)

Santorum seeps into the church-state divide

In order to get elected, John F. Kennedy had to reassure the majority-Protestant electorate that he wasn't a Catholic theocratic mole who wanted to turn our country into a satellite state of the Vatican.  A half-century later, Rick Santorum is twisting JFK's words around to tell us how the concept of separation of church and state makes him nauseous:
He had said that he "almost threw up" after reading JFK's 1960 speech in which he declared his commitment to the separation of church and state.
Perhaps he'd also feel a little queasy if the Protestants he panders to called his Catholicism into question in the general election.  Secularism starts to look pretty good when you're the target of bigotry from the majority religion.

Isn't mocking the Prophet a crime in this country?

Last Halloween, a random Muslim man physically assaulted an atheist who marched in a parade dressed as a Zombie Muhammad.  Police were called and a court case ensued.  The perpetrator learned that you don't assault people for saying something you don't like, right?


It's bad enough that some Muslims take their religion seriously enough to get violent when someone satirizes it; worse yet is when our legal system decides that you were asking for it when you're the victim of such violence.

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