I’m not interested in making a claim about which is the “better” atheism but I am interested in the type of “unbelief” that we present and promote within our communities. Secularism shouldn’t be interested in competing because it doesn’t stand as an alternative to religion but rather a political philosophy that stands alongside belief and nonbelief. I think atheists should be championing secularism in the public/political realm.
A small city in heavily Christian northern Florida is about to become home to the first public monument in the United States dedicated to atheism.[...]
[...]"We'd rather there be no monuments at all, but if they are allowed to have the Ten Commandments, we will have our own," said Ken Loukinen, the director of regional operations for American Atheists who designed the monument.
I don’t think a courthouse should have monuments or memorials or anything political or religious in any way. It should be a neutral safe space. No person of any belief should be made to feel any more vulnerable in a courthouse than they already do. Which leads me to wonder if erecting an atheist monument in response to the ten commandments is a helpful response. I’m inclined to say it’s not.
This is related to the assertion by most atheists I know that “non belief” is/should be the base line. But that is secularism. Secularism is not atheism. Secularist roots are in Christian political philosophy. Secularism is not an enemy of religion and it’s important that we can communicate this. Secularism accommodates religion. As Jacques Berlinerblau puts it, atheism concerns itself with addressing the existence of God, “Secularism, on the other hand, has nothing to do with metaphysics. It does not ask whether there is a divine realm.” It’s a political idea about church/state relations.
In addition, not all atheists are secularists. Many atheists are actively working toward eliminating religion. They’re not interested in living side-by-side with religion or engaging in interfaith relationships. It’s these atheists who are frequently confused with secularists, putting the promotion of secularism at risk.
I’m not interested in making a claim about which is the “better” atheism but I am interested in the kind of atheism we take into the public sphere. I’m interested in the type of “unbelief” that we present and promote within our communities. Because regardless of what ideal atheists might want, there is a reality in which we live, and in most places around the world, that reality includes people with religious convictions. I believe secularism is an ideal that is possible to attain and worthy of pursuing and I don’t believe it puts any atheist “mission” at risk.
It seems to me that the kind of atheism being brought into the public sphere in the situation in Florida, is an atheism that is attempting to compete with Judeo-Christian religion which further fuels the assertion by the religious – especially Christians – that secularism and atheism are one and the same and because of that, secularism must be quashed. Perpetuating this assertion and worse, confirming it, runs counter to the cause of advocating for equal rights and protections for those without religion. In other words, we completely shoot ourselves in the proverbial foot.
Secularism shouldn’t be interested in competing because it doesn’t stand as an alternative to religion but rather a political philosophy that stands alongside belief and nonbelief. I think atheists should be championing secularism in the public/political realm.
In the case in Florida, the American Atheists have been fighting to have the Ten Commandment monument removed. I’m not privy to the details and they may have tried this already but I wonder what would happen in cases such as this if atheists would advocate for secularism by communicating that creating a secular environment does not promote atheism and in fact supports the freedoms of religious and nonreligious alike.