How Combative Atheism is Like The Gay Rights Movement, but Less Fabulous

For a while, I was enamored with the idea of aggressive non-believers like Christopher Hitchens, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and Bill Maher. Sure, every generation is becoming less religious, even if measured in p0rn downloads alone. Yet the non-believer must still lurk in the shadows – or risk being ‘the weird one’ in every room. Combative atheists offer those weirdos something special: balls.

It parallels the vocal minority in the gay rights movement. Not everyone will march in protests, oil up for the parade, or marry Ellen. But even the most timid get a transfusion of courage from those who do. Plus, prolonged public exposure can de-stigmatize almost anything – especially if it involves Neil Patrick Harris.

Back to atheism. Many aren’t ready for a life ruled by cold, hard evidence and reason. Religion offers comfort and stability at a time when some find hope in Donald J. Trump. So I respect each person’s pace, even if it’s glacial. At the same time, godless ‘fundamentalists’ serve a different purpose. Their greatest value isn’t in converting believers, but in empowering the converted to peek out of the closet. Extremists always take the lumps moderates can’t or won’t. (Of course, this isis not always a good thing.)

As economies develop and people get more educated, religions evolve from belief systems to cultural constructs. We’ve seen this happen with European Christianity and American Judaism. Dogmas weaken without wiping out traditions. No one is at war with Santa. (Though, the Easter Bunny is a complete asshole. Can’t blame him. He’s a religious icon, a pet and a meal. Total mindf*ck.)

Finally, anyone else find it ironic that all these famous atheists have so many followers?

Epilogue

I originally wrote this post in December of 2012. Recently, I wondered if I’m prepared to apply the same logic to fundamentalist movements that don’t necessarily speak to me. There are old standbys like Greenpeace and PETA. There’s climate change and anti-GMO. And maybe the closest recent parallel is Black Lives Matter.

Honestly, I’m not sure. In some cases, maybe it’s because I think animals are delicious and science is close to synthesizing cheaper, tastier substitutes. In other cases, my ideas are more nuanced than the binary answers these movements promote. Or, I think they’re only addressing symptoms of much deeper, more systemic problems. Or, I’m just another over-rationalizing rabbit-killer…

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