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Sat Feb 2, 2013, 02:21 PM

Hey atheists: Youíve got a friend


Posted at 11:49 AM ET, 02/01/2013
Hey atheists: Youíve got a friend
By Roy Speckhardt

While there is such a thing as atheists who prefer to antagonize the religious of every stripe-and thatís certainly their right-itís not the position of the bulk of people who donít believe in a god. This shouldnít be surprising because people who by their very definition avoid wishful thinking are pragmatic enough to realize that minorities like themselves need friendly allies in order to get things accomplished. And of course, people who highly value freedom of and from religion are also likely to respect people of differing opinions and donít want to constantly offend those who otherwise share many values.

Most atheists and agnostics want to be clear about convictions regarding the existence of gods and other supernatural concepts. And being in the minority in the U.S., it also makes sense for those who donít share the majority belief to advocate for strict separation of religion and government. And at times itís appropriate to criticize religion since some religious ideas hold our society back, such as not yet embracing full LGBT rights and unnecessarily dividing humanity into the chosen and the damned. But in pursuit of respect, in seeking freedom from religion, and in challenging religious injustice, do atheists ever cross the line into activity that may be counterproductive and alienate religious allies?

There was a time when Americans-even in the freethought community-thought that simply identifying as an atheist was automatically offensive to any person of faith. Thanks to the increasing acceptance of disbelief in America, those times have changed, and now you only hear such concerns from people who are behind the times. Because of the emergence of popular atheist authors and celebrities, as well as the prevalence of humanist and atheist advertising, weíve moved away from the time when atheism was perceived as synonymous with being anti-religion. While prejudice certainly persists against those who donít happen to believe in a god, today most people understand that being an atheist only means that oneís belief system doesnít include gods; it doesnít mean being unfriendly to people of faith.

Still, there are situations where the line may be crossed by atheists and agnostic activists that offend their religious allies. In humanist circles, itís a matter for serious debate where to draw the line in godless self-promotion and challenges of government involvement in religion. So what do progressive religious leaders think? I asked a few for their thoughts.

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Reply Hey atheists: Youíve got a friend (Original post)
cbayer Feb 2013 OP
longship Feb 2013 #1
cbayer Feb 2013 #2
pinto Feb 2013 #4
cbayer Feb 2013 #5
pokerfan Feb 2013 #3

Response to cbayer (Original post)

Sat Feb 2, 2013, 03:22 PM

1. This is encouraging.

I tend not to get involved in arguments involving labels. I call myself an atheist simply because I see no credible evidence that gods exist. I also use the label to help promote others who think like me to adopt it just as the "gay" label was used by the LBGT community. That's why I very much liked the atheist billboards that showed people professing the label. They basically said, "I am an atheist and I am your neighbor."

But other than that, I don't really care what people call themselves. I will gladly discuss my beliefs and my reasons, but will gladly listen to others who may choose other labels.

After all, these are very personal opinions and choices. I try to respect those.

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Response to longship (Reply #1)

Sat Feb 2, 2013, 03:36 PM

2. It's kind of ironic that the people who reject the labeling the most, now have a label - "nones".

I ran across one recently that was new to me "apatheism". I kind of like it, because I honestly don't care whether there is a god of not. I do however care about people that believe or don't believe and will advocate for them if their rights are being threatened or violated.

Anyway, I also found this article very encouraging. He says it much better than I could have.

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Response to cbayer (Reply #2)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 01:18 AM

4. Overall I reject labels of all sorts.

Yeah, I'm white male, baby boomer, single, gay, political, religious, activist, PWA, public health advocate, dabbler in science and horticulture, train fan, etc.

All are true. Yet none solely define me nor do I choose to define myself by any one aspect in that scenario.

I learned a good lesson early in my life. Everyone's unique in their own way. No one looks like me and no one sees things just like I do.

It's a good thing. Labels have their limits.

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Response to pinto (Reply #4)

Sun Feb 3, 2013, 11:26 AM

5. I'm just a woman on a boat. I don't like labels but people sure like to label me.

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Response to cbayer (Original post)

Sat Feb 2, 2013, 11:48 PM

3. delete

wrong place

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