A reader shares the above image via GSpellchecker, adding, “I think this just about sums it up.” Another reader would agree:
The problem is that atheism by its nature is silent. You tend not to talk about something you don’t believe in unless it specifically comes up as a topic. If you’re in a group of friends and you want to indicate you’re a Christian, you can mention something about church. How do I casually indicate my status as an atheist? Mention that I’d like to go mountain climbing but I don’t want to risk death because I don’t believe in an afterlife?
The joy of Dawkins is that he comes out and tells us we’re not the only ones, that there are lots of other really smart and sane people out there who realize that the entire religion thing is completely ridiculous.
In the discussion of atheists “coming out,” I’m surprised no one has mentioned The Out Campaign promoted by – wait for it – The Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science. (There is a similar project for closeted atheist clergy.) In my opinion, the New Atheists are trailblazing in the culture wars, pushing the so-called Overton window for religious opinions. They are also alerting closeted atheists that there are more like-minded people out there than they may realize. This all makes it possible for mild-mannered atheists to simply come out in their own boring way.
Another argues that militancy is more than justified:
The accusation of the strident atheist is similar to the “angry black man” trope in that it is designed to get people to shut up and disenfranchise people who are saying things that the accuser does not like.
The irony is that the worst Dawkins, Dennett, Maher, and Hitchens say about religion is quite mild in comparison to what the religious say about atheists. The core belief of Christianity and Islam is that atheists will be tortured in hell for eternity. This is not some Old Testament throwaway line but is integral to belief itself.
I would remind the reader who wrote about their grandmother who lost a son and uses the promise of heaven as a coping mechanism that she is saying in the same sentence that you (an atheist) are going to hell to be tortured for all eternity. You can’t have the kingdom of heaven without the damnation of hell; that’s an implicit bargain.
But a few readers suggest that strategy might backfire:
I’m as secular-lefty as they come (hell, I’m a professor of social theory; it’s practically a professional requirement), but the tone-deaf pompousness, the lack of regard for nuance, and the circular arguments that the New Atheists sometimes display have pushed me towards a much more sympathetic regard for religion – what it does for societies, and what it does for individuals. From someone who was unthinkingly a little scornful by default of religious belief, I’ve found myself becoming more understanding of the meaning it can have in people’s lives. And in large part that was due to dismay at some of those New Atheist writings – they served as a kind of reductio ad absurdum of my original position, and so forced me to move away from it.
While I’m a fan of Bill Maher, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and of course, The Hitch, it always bothered me that the most prominent and vocal representatives of atheism were these bright, oratorial, privileged, condescending, caustic, and sarcastic middle-aged white men who have publicly (and quite literally) sneered at people with the audacity to believe in God. I don’t think they realize how poorly they actually represent their cause, or the majority of moderate, more inclusive non-believers out there. They certainly don’t appeal to most women or minorities. It’s as though their target demographic is a Redditor.
Where’s the Ellen Degeneres of atheism? Where’s the easy-going, non-threatening, relentlessly charming atheist who realizes that atheism isn’t a very big deal at all? Where’s the happy-go-lucky personality on TV that casually confirms, “Yes, I’m an atheist. Now, tell me what you’ve been up to lately …”
Well, as far as minorities like African-Americans, they simply “outrank every other group where piety and religiosity are concerned,” so of course there are fewer outspoken black atheists – a subject the Dish has covered quite a bit. Regarding female atheists, there’s a thread for that, and the Dish has also given an Ask Anything platform to one of the most prominent female atheists, Jennifer Michael Hecht, author of Doubt: A History: The Great Doubters and Their Legacy of Innovation from Socrates and Jesus to Thomas Jefferson and Emily Dickinson. Of the three “doubters” she praises in the following video, two are women: