I can deal with people telling me I’m wrong and should stop saying what I say on that account. But it irks me a great deal when atheists tell outspoken atheists like me that we’re basically right–but should shut up anyway. So, yesterday I tried to provide a comprehensive reply to such atheists, so that my fellow (respectfully) confrontational atheists and I have a thorough resource available to answer their wide range of complaints in the form of one sustained case for speaking up about atheism.
But I still missed at least one reason other atheists react with disdain towards us. It’s a reason that has only hit me recently. These atheists are sometimes resentfully reacting against feeling conscripted by us into a fight against theists that they personally want no part of. So not only are they put off by perceptions of even the civil confrontational atheists as proselytizers and find that whole business distasteful (my key defenses of trying to deconvert others is here and in the December issue of Secularite’s digital magazine) but, further, they sometimes seem primarily agitated at the implication that they themselves should be having arguments over religion with their family, friends, co-workers, and other acquaintances. Similarly, I have found that some of the visceral pushback against atheist attempts to form quasi-religious groups and practices for providing secular alternatives to theistic community and ritual has been based on an unfounded fear that they will be pressured to join.
So, whereas my inclination has been to defend atheists’ rights to stand up for ourselves and what we think is true and to encourage efforts to make available to atheists quasi-religious alternatives that meet their communal and “spiritual” needs while respecting their atheism, a certain segment of atheists reacts as though all of this is a threat to their desire to not associate with other atheists and, especially, not have boring, intrusive, potentially destructive fights with religious people over issues they don’t personally think are worth fighting about. But is that what I or others are really demanding of them?
Written By: Dan Fincke
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