FreeThought Fort Wayne

        Be Reasonable

How to ally with atheists

Posted by neuralgourmet on December 17, 2008

National Tertiary Education Union.Contrary to popular belief, atheists are not necessarily loners. On the whole, we enjoy socializing with other people as much as anyone. And corrolary to that, organized atheists such as FreeThought Fort Wayne want to ally themselves with other social and community groups that share our values. We recognize that there’s power in numbers.

That can be a bit of a minefield though as many groups that might naturally be our allies can unintentionally make it hard for us by perpetuating common myths and soft discrimination against atheists. To that end, Greta Christina wrote a great article on How To Be An Ally with Atheists that lists some of the top dos and don’ts when working with atheists. I’ll summarize Greta’s points here but please do read her whole blog post.

  1. Familiarize yourself with the common myths and misconceptions about atheists — and don’t perpetuate them.
  2. Familiarize yourself with what it’s like to be an atheist, both in the U.S. and in the rest of the world.
  3. Find common ground.
  4. Speak out against anti-atheist bigotry and other forms of religious intolerance.
  5. Be inclusive of atheists.
  6. Don’t divide and conquer, and don’t try to take away our anger.
  7. If you’re going to accuse an atheist or an atheist group of being intolerant — be careful, and make sure that’s really what they’re being.
  8. Do not — repeat, DO NOT — talk about “fundamentalist atheists.”
  9. Be aware of how religious belief gives you a place of mainstream and privilege.

Now, after reading Greta’s post, some might be tempted to say, “Oh those atheists, whining and stomping their feet again.” Well, if you’re one of them I can assure you that Greta’s post went over your head. Atheists are natural allies of progressives everywhere. You may not agree with or understand our disbelief in the supernatural, but you do share, at the very least, our desire for a society in which there is equality and justice for all regardless of who they are or what they believe. And while organized atheists are a relatively new phenomenom, we are getting organized and our numbers are growing. Can you really afford to ignore us?

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3 Responses to “How to ally with atheists”

  1. agnohumanist said

    Timely post, Neural. Haven’t read Greta’s piece yet, but I will soon. Her blog is great. I like the advice to those who would like to connect with atheists. It’s important for them to get past the stereotypes and find common ground.

  2. Yes, please do read Greta’s post. It succinctly sums up all the ways in which people can sometimes alienate atheists without even intending to. Although there are some nominally liberal types like Jim Wallace who seem determined to piss off nonbelievers by deliberately refusing to understand them, they are by and large, in the minority I think. Many believers just have a hard time understanding where we’re coming from.

    Oh, and of course, I should point out that some atheists need to read and take this list to heart in regards to believers, especially points 1, 3, 4, 5 and 7. Again, I’d hope that those people are in the minority too. I’ve had great success working with believers on church-state separation issues, especially with Blog Against Theocracy. Liberal and moderate theists are our allies on many issues and we’ve got to work together.

  3. agnohumanist said

    Hey, just read her post, and (as usual) it was great. Her writing is just plain terrific–stylish without being pompous, lucid without being simplistic, informative without being pedantic, logical without being dry. She deserves an even wider audience than she has. She should publish a book of her essays on freethought and other social issues. I’d buy it!

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