I been wondering lately, as atheists, how much progress we’ve made in society lately? By lately I mean, say, the past 10 years. Heck, I’ll even take the past 5 years. I’m not sure. It’s certainly not negative, but what can we claim as overall positives in atheism just in the last few years?
In America, we’re still viewed as untrustworthy by society. We can speak as we wish, but having that speech accepted by all is tenuous at best. We’re viewed in the same light as rapists and murders here even though it’s unusual to hear that one of those caught, was actually an atheist.
There is less of a stigma than in past years, but that still doesn’t allow some atheists to declare themselves openly. Some are fearful of keeping employment while others face family or friends that may hostile simply because they are an atheist. We have a long way to go.
It didn’t help that a few years ago we were fighting amongst ourselves, but those disagreements were mainly internal and I don’t think they made much, if any impact, on anyone else. What that did, I think, was make many apathetic and even drove some away from any appearance of activism.
Those that are believers consider us no different than they are: we are just another religion. They think we have substituted one god for another. Atheists have not given them a lot to dissuade that view.
Atheists are not very welcoming to those that have political or social views different than what is accepted among most. I can say that as a conservative who has been derided by other atheists simply for that fact. So, we don’t see a great number of conservative atheists, at least those that will claim to be, because not only do we have to work for acceptance in general, we have to make a greater attempt for acceptance among atheists.
This all sounds like doom-and-gloom, but it’s really not. I’m just trying to point out obstacles we have to overcome, some of which we have created ourselves. I’m not proposing that atheists become like evangelicals, but that we are more open, welcome, to all. We need to be what political parties refer to as a Big Tent; A group that has many voices – some that may differ from others – and not be constrained by groupthink.
We have an opportunity to do just that today. Atheists can become something greater than what we are, or are perceived of, today, or we can remain as we are and in 5 more years look back and wonder why we’ve made no progress.