We often have people tell us that we shouldn't label ourselves as "atheists" because atheism is lack of belief in god and we should be focusing on things we believe rather than things we don't. The argument usually goes something like this:
"You don't golf, would you start a group for non-golfers? Of course not! There are groups for golfers but it would be ridiculous to start a group for non-golfers! So you shouldn't be creating a community centered around something you're not, you should focus on the things you ARE."
On the surface this might seem like a valid argument. It's true that atheism is no more than a lack of belief in god, so should we be focusing on a community built around non-belief? Let's continue with the golfer metaphor. Let's say that one day, golf legend Arnold Palmer looked around him and thought, "I love golf, it enriches my life and brings me purpose. The world would be a better place if all people were golfers like me."
And so, clever Arnold sent out an email to all his golfing contemporaries. He outlined his vision for world domination of the sport of golf. And together, they drafted an idea for legislation giving preferential treatment to golfers in the private sector, including exclusion from paying taxes. The golfers also wanted other special considerations. For example, sometimes they have holidays that celebrate the golf ball and the invention of the tee and they shouldn't have to go into work on those days because those are sacred golf days.
Later, they host a big fundraiser and then they get a lobbyist to push their ideas through the political process and they win! Over time, they get pretty much everything they want. Even though golfers are a small percentage of the world population at large, they have now positioned themselves as a preferred group. And all the golfers rejoice!
As the golfers gain influence, they become disgusted by the way non-golfers dress. These golfing heathens don't ever wear plaid or sweater vests and their shoes don't even have cleats. It's appalling! So they use their vast wealth and influence to get more laws passed requiring everyone to wear golfing attire. And while they're at it, they want to make sure people are set on the right path early so they create physical education curriculum that only includes activities that would favor golf. From now on, kids will learn no other sport but golf.
But what about the non-golfers? The people who think, "I'm ok with those guys going out on the green on a Saturday and playing golf, but I don't like golf, it's boring and the rules seem arbitrary and the rule book is confusing. Also, their songs are atrocious. It doesn't seem fair that I have to follow this stupid dress code and pretend to like golf just to be sure I don't get passed up for a promotion"
What is a non-golfer to do? So they start a non-golfing group and they call themselves the non-golfers. That is how they identify everyone who does not want to golf. Some non-golfers want to focus on the problems with golf curriculum in schools and others want to help oppressed non-golfers in places like Florida where the golfers have a stronghold. Some hold rallies and announce publicly that they don't like golf.
They might even start a website and a Facebook page and start writing and conversing about the issues surrounding their current situation of being non-golfers in a world of loudmouthed golfers.
Atheism should indeed be the de facto status and as such, not require a label, or organizations or movements. Religion, gods, holy books, etc. are all things added. But the dominance of religion in the public sphere and the pressure religious individuals and organizations put on governments, the legal system and educational institutions, necessitates the creation of communities like ours for advocacy, support and education. When the concept of god is used for all kinds of ways to promote a religious agenda, then our lack of belief becomes more than disbelief, it becomes a path for people to find each other and a rallying point for shared values.
Many members of the Atheist Republic community are looking for effective ways to stand together in a fight against the oppression that has come on the heels of the spread of religion. For example, some have found that when it is safe, announcing their atheism publicly or to a handful of friends and family can do wonders. Many theists are surprised by how many atheists they know personally, or even are in their own immediate family. This might not change their religious beliefs, but for many it has made them more accepting of atheists.
Atheism itself is nothing more than non-belief but the Atheist Republic community stands for more. Our atheism is merely the starting point that brings us together. Not all atheists will agree with all our values and goals. Being an atheist doesn't mean that you necessarily care about worldwide theocratic injustices or the spread of superstition and religious oppression. But we have discovered that many atheists do, and we see value in bringing these people together. That view is the driving force behind the goals and visions of our community is the foundation that the Atheist Republic logo was based on and what it represents.
As a Citizen of Atheist Republic, your views and ideas will shape the goals and direction we take in the future. So please, share them with us by replying to this email.