Sep 012011

After reading Richard Dawkins’ “The God Delusion”, and becoming aware of the OUT Campaign, I decided to do my bit, and began writing and publishing pages on the topic of “gods and religions”. There are now about 30 pages. Recently, I started to blog here on this topic.

I live in England; this was easy to do, with little risk of adverse consequences. The non-believing position in England, indeed most of the UK, isn’t really controversial, except in some unenlightened communities. But vast numbers of people across the world run various sorts of risk, from alienating families, losing jobs, violence, or even worse such as “honour [sic] killings”.

Even where there is no physical risk, there can be weird attitudes. Famously, Monique Davis (Illinois House of Representatives) said to an atheist:

“This is the land of Lincoln where people believe in God… What you have to spew and spread is extremely dangerous… It’s dangerous for our children to even know that your philosophy exists… Get out of that seat! You have no right to be here! We believe in something. You believe in destroying”.

And Pastor Mike Stahl posted …  that all atheists ought to be placed on a registry to make it easier for Christians to both proselytize to them and stay the hell away from them and their businesses:

“Brothers and Sisters, I have been seriously considering forming a (Christian) grassroots type of organization to be named “The Christian National Registry of Atheists” or something similar. I mean, think about it. There are already National Registrys for convicted sex offenders, ex-convicts, terrorist cells, hate groups like the KKK, skinheads, radical Islamists, etc….”

Come OUT

The above attitudes, which may be common, can be shown to be silly and futile by: keeping the public aware that there are atheists around, for example with bus and bill-board campaigns; and by making it clear just how many of us there are.

The latter can be helped if people “stand up and be counted”. For some, the risk is too high. For many of us, there is no significant risk, and we should do what we can. There is strength in numbers. (This should also gradually have an influence on government policy everywhere; it may eventually occur even to politicians that a substantial proportion of the electorate isn’t religious).

Consider this to be a battle in the war for enlightenment. There are lots of ways to do this (sometimes depending on the country); here are just a couple:

The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of Atheism

"The OUT Campaign"

We Are Atheism Symbol

"We Are Atheism"

Some encouraging research

Here is some encouraging, perhaps counter-intuitive, research:
Finding the Faithless: Perceived Atheist Prevalence Reduces Anti-Atheist Prejudice

Atheists are often distrusted. For other distrusted groups, perceiving or believing that they exist in large numbers increases the distrust. But in the case of atheists, perceiving or believing that they exist in large numbers decreases the distrust:

“Prejudice against outgroups generally increases if those outgroups have more members, but this pattern was reversed for anti-atheist prejudice. In four studies utilizing drastically different methods and employing a wide variety of control variables that tested possible alternative explanations, a coherent picture emerged. First, across 54 countries representing most of the world’s population, anti-atheist prejudice among believers was reduced where atheists are common, even after controlling for numerous important individual and international differences…. Second, in a university sample, anti-atheist prejudice was reduced among participants who thought that atheists were more common…. Third, information about high atheist prevalence reduced explicit distrust of atheists but did not affect perceptions of contact with atheists or a general attitudinal measure of prejudice…. Finally, atheist prevalence information reduced implicit atheist distrust…. Perceived atheist prevalence reduced anti-atheist prejudice.”

If you believe atheists eat puppies for breakfast, you can sustain this belief if you think there only a small number of atheists. But if you think there are lots of atheists, even if you don’t know who they are, you are less likely to believe atheists eat puppies for breakfast. After all, where do all those puppies come from, and where are all the bones of eaten puppies? [1]

Or more seriously, if you think there are only a few atheists, you can believe they do lots of evil and/or have bad morals. But if you think there are lots of them, then there isn’t enough unexplained evil around, or enough atheists in prison, to sustain the view that they have bad morals.

[1] We have large farms where we breed puppies for eating, and we feed ground-up puppy bones back to other puppies.

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