First of all, let me congratulate each and every one of you for the courage to step away from the self-labeled 'sheep' that still roam our little planet. You took a large, potentially very brave step away from fiction and towards the nirvana that is a firm basis in reason and reality.
[For those of you who do not wish to read the whole thing, let me summarize. Atheism is important because we live in an age where reason and NOT having a religious disposition should have equal rights to that of all the world's religions. The problem is, we do not have the same rights, the same voice, or the same kid-glove treatment as of the time of this writing that the religious institutions do. Change never happens immediately, and with so many non-theists oppressed into silence, THAT is why Atheism is so important. Right now, and forever. Silence will not close the door on ignorance, just as silence will not open a new door to knowledge.]
I have heard the same question recently more often than before;
"There are so many people that don't believe, why do you have to stand out and be vocal as an Atheist?"
Many people get questions very similar to this, in many countries where we live out our everyday lives. People who have beliefs have been the vocal majority for thousands of years (since Plato, and the days of the old Greek gods), and in society it is considered politically incorrect to offend those who hold religious views.
Where that becomes a problem is that just by saying we don't believe in the supernatural, the divine, or in the deities required for either... Many religious people tend to be offended. People get defensive, and those who sit on the fence of the issue tend to finger-point at Atheists saying 'you shouldn't say things about their religion'. But in a world where (completely) tax-exempt religious institutions are able to trespass on private property to protest things they don't agree with on religious grounds, they are able to send missionaries to bother people around the globe and tell them that they are wrong because they don't believe.... What is political correctness?
It's wrong to tell someone their religion is foolish, but it is perfectly fine to accuse those who don't believe in your religion of foolishness of being wrong, criminals in the eyes of the divine? And then religious zealots now like to claim that Atheists are 'repressing' them. Some even threaten to kill Atheists because that's what the bible says to do! (See Randall Terry)
I live in the USA, where 'In God We Trust' is printed on all of our money, posted in our courthouses, government buildings and on 'patriot' flags. 'one nation under god' had been added during the cold-war era to the pledge of allegiance, and just putting posters on a church is considered a hate crime, punishable as a felony. Yoga was banned in schools because it 'might teach Buddhism or Hinduism to the christian children', but many states still have the 'debate of evolution' ongoing. Religious zealots can vandalize, shoot at, or even bomb doctor's cars or clinic workers' houses and workplaces if they're even thought to have associated with abortion clinics, and that's not considered a hate crime. Protesting a church's views makes people out to be mean-spirited Atheists with an axe to grind, and yet a church protesting at a hero's funeral is considered exercise of the 1st amendment.
So why is Atheism important? Because when people have the right in our countries to walk around the malls, colleges, parks, and government buildings with a cross and corpse around their neck, then we should have the right to equally express our desire to be left out of the madness entirely. If a necklace isn't supposed to offend anyone, then my 'big A' t-shirt shouldn't offend anyone either. Double standards are the bane of a fair society, and that, my friends is why it is important that we have sites like this to gather in.
In a world that still can't shake 'faith healing' nonsense, I think it is reassuring to find a growing community of people who realize that your surgery going well has nothing to do with an invisible man in the sky favoring you for some unknown and unrealistic reason, but it has everything to do with your surgeon having paid attention through medical school and his internship!
...And perhaps having a steady hand. Be well, remain informed... And as always peaceful. Communities like this that encourage discussion and open-ended informative debate are the best possible thing for the Atheist movement: christians and their kin have the misconception that Atheists are angry, violent heathen people. We may be a little frustrated and grumpy, but they would be too (and perhaps were, once) if we actually had all the rights they currently enjoy.
See you around, Atheist Republic!
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