It has always fascinated me how some people react to a personís admission of their atheism. Atheists have come to expect the ubiquitous "How can you be so foolish, throwing your life away, damning your eternal soul forever..." from most Christians. Others religious people will attempt to "reach out" or "administer" to the atheist, as though the atheist had suffered an injury or a death in the family. In most cases, the attitude of the religious towards the atheist is almost always a condescending, belittling one -- a reactionary guilt-trip that is as instinctive as breathing. It is difficult for some atheists to deal with people who treat them with this instant revulsion; they instantly ridicule right back, and angrily chastise the religious for being so narrow-minded and arrogant. Other atheists condescend right back, though politely, teling the religious "oh, Iím very sorry that you are so mis-informed or not understanding enough..."
The attitude that many religious people have towards atheists is almost identical to the attitudes that white people show towards minorities; a mixture of revulsion from some, or overkill pity from others. In the racial-political world, bleeding-heart liberals tend to feel pity for anyone who is a minority, a pity that assumes that the person in question has lived a hard life, and cannot succeed without help from some kind, charitable institution or social program; others, usually more conservative, want to be as far away from minorities as possible, and want them to help themselves. In many ways, the feelings and attitudes that the religious have towards the atheist, is very much like racism. Religious people are either frightened of atheists, or they see them as less-than-adequate humans requiring something that only religious people can give them.
Itís been argued ad nauseum that belief in god is necesary for moral behavior, that belief in god is central to being an American, and that one cannot love unless one believes in god. According to former U.S. President George Bush, belief in god is a prerequisite for being a citizen of the United States. All of these premises of the religious fail miserably, but still get a argued over and over again by dueling atheists and Christians. One thing is certain from all the repetetive debating: There simply is not enough advocacy of atheism in the marketplace of ideas to keep religious people informed of our beliefs, and the marketplace is clogged with errant notions about atheism that keep resurfacing like a broken record keeps playing the same fragmented verse over and over again.
What atheism needs is a movement of agressive advocates, who will go out into the media, make our beliefs known, and take on the challenge of correcting the false notions and misinformation that religious people tend to spread about atheism. These false notions include the ideas that all atheists are evil, that we are communists, that we hate christians, that we are immoral, and that we have had some terrible events in our lives that "made us blame god" for our misery. As long as these advocates are honest, frank, sincere, and display superior reasoning skills, the time it takes to get the respect that all people deserve, no matter what their beliefs are, can be shortened.
The 21st century must see atheism emerge as a valid, viable, respectable, non-threatening belief. Itís time for atheists to come out of the closet and demonstrate that their belief is not only valid, but superior to any theological system. We need exposure, celebrity endorsement, and air-time to answer up to the many questions and accusations that we see from religious people every day. The longer we remain in the closet on Internet, and off of the radio, television, and print media, the longer we will be considered a meaningless minority. Though some might enjoy the slience of anonymity, there are those of us who feel the time has come to go mainstream. Itís time that religious people understand that atheists are human beings who live, love, and care, just like anyone else.