I am very aware of the degree to which the regular person can openly discriminate against atheists without it being deemed politically incorrect. I know this because I can see it happening often, without repercussion. I myself used to be on the other side of that line, but multiple life experiences altered me and now I find myself shaking and frustrated as the butt of the old condescending, arrogant and hedonistic atheist joke – this fact often unknown to anyone in the room but myself. I promise you this is not pleasant, but I feel compelled to remain silent. The worst part, though, is knowing that I can’t be the only one.
I have recognized a systematic effort to smother the atheist voice in society. Sure, there are the few crusaders who stand up and fight, but not all of us are so bold; not all atheists are outspoken about their beliefs, or lack thereof. There are many pressures in modern society, from a push for tolerance of belief (but not non-belief) to a hefty majority of our society that considers faith instrumental in everyday life. To reveal that you are a non-believer does nothing but hurt you. Job opportunities can be lost, people may develop conscious or unconscious prejudices against you as an atheist and, most disconcertingly, by announcing your lack of faith you become a project – an object of pity or charity to be converted.
To me, it’s the attacks on my person that sting – and there is no escaping the fact that many see atheism to not only be dangerous, but also see atheists as lacking morals or values. This is false: Doctors Without Borders is a great example of the power of secular aid, an organization that does good without allowing any sort of religious belief or values to bleed into it.
I don’t mean the above as an attack on religion. I believe we all need to take a look at the way we weave our biases into everyday life and let them colour our perspectives on the world. I don’t believe anyone should have to be afraid to be who they are; nobody should be judged for the way their mind grasps what is around them. I don’t want to stand up and fight Christianity, Islam, Hinduism or any other faith. This isn’t about theologically being right or wrong – this is about accepting others’ stances. We don’t do this those with religious beliefs – why must we persecute those who have none? All I ask is the acknowledgment that a kind and generous atheist is not a paradox.