I recently wrote a blog where I pulled an article from the UK Telegraph saying that our movement is nothing more than the "least inspiring movement in recent years".
I am adamant that one of the main reasons for this and other types of negative press out there is because of the billboard campaign by American Atheists. The billboards are inflammatory. They are not thought provoking or lead to thoughtful debate or discussion. They are insulting and I am frustrated that this is how American Atheists think our movement should be perceived and represented. I have wrote to the Chairman of the Board of AA and asked him to reconsider this campaign. Although the idea of the billboard I'm all for, what they say needs to make people say or think "wow, that's great, and it's something I want to check out further". We need to do better!
What are your thoughts on this? Do we need to write to American Atheists via petition?
Oh but I AM tolerant - tolerant of people to BELIEVE whatever they wish. I don't knock on their doors Saturday mornings, uninvited, to convert them to atheism. I don't demand that I be allowed to teach evolution in Sunday School, the way they want to teach unintelligent design in my public school, because what they do in the confines of their church is none of my business. They can all believe what they wish, as far as I'm concerned - Muslims, scientologists, Wiccans, whatever; the First Amendment properly says so. If they go to Heaven and I am not there to greet them, oh well, more power to them. The trouble is: they refuse to keep it in their churches and homes.
When they try to import their nonsense into my domain, and dictate what I must believe - how I must behave, then yes, I am intolerant. I am determinedly INtolerant - intolerant of the gross ignorance of people who use their belief in God to justify their own intolerance. There is a difference, though: my intolerance doesn't kill and torture millions of people. I am intolerant of politicians who parade their presumed religiosity to justify their misogyny, homophobia, and even their claim that Jesus favored the rich! I am intolerant of hacking off an infant's foreskin just because Abraham (who almost gleefully intended to murder his son) did it. I am intolerant of murderers of abortion providers because they believe that God meant women to be slaves (Read the Old Testament). I am intolerant of the religious zealotry that produced the hate-inspired and unconstitutional Proposition 8, in California, which denied loving couples the right to marry, just because they managed to find a brief mention of "lying with men" in their silly black book. I am intolerant of religious wars around the world because of a differing view on just who the Messiah was. I am intolerant of people like that moronic girl who prays for the U.S. to experience the same catastrophe that Japan experienced (and deserved, she implied). I am intolerant of politicians like Michele Bachman who believe that public schools (as opposed to religious ones) should be abolished and replaced by home schooling where parents can teach about Jesus and not evolution. I am intolerant of the massive efforts by evangelical Christians to take science out of schools and replace it with rank ignorance. I am intolerant of people who believe I should go to Hell for not believing what they believe; I don't think the same about them. I am intolerant of the specious claim Christians make about our being a "Christian country," and that the founding fathers were Christians. They WERE NOT! Most of them were deists, and a few, like Tom Paine, were effectively atheists (Read "Age of Reason"). Even Thomas Jefferson wrote extensively about his antipathy toward the Christian church, which is why the State of Texas is systematically downgrading him in textbooks, replacing him with arch-racist, Jefferson Davis, BASED ON RELIGIOUS BELIEFS! . I am intolerant of the many Christian denominations that still practice racial exclusion in their churches. Try finding a black face in a Mormon church; or an atheist in a boy scout troop. I am intolerant of a political paradigm so skewed toward religious orthodoxy that only ONE out of 535 congressmen and senators (Pete Stark) is an avowed atheist. Why? Because people have been conditioned to think "dirty atheist" when thinking of atheists at all and are afraid of voting for one. I am intolerant of those Christians who seek to deny the right of Muslims to build a church wherever they wish. Most serial killers have been white Christian men (e.g., "BTK" - Dennis Rader - Lutheran deacon and serial killer for 20 years); perhaps Lutherans should be denied the right to build Christian churches in Kansas, where the murders took place. I am intolerant of being told I will be morally corrupt without God directing me. If I WERE tolerant of these things, I should be ashamed of myself and my hypocrisy.
As to how provoking people's anger relates to standing up for reason, it's self explanatory: it lets religious zealots know just where I stand: that reason is superior to superstition. Religionists are, by definition, UNreasonable. Being nice and tolerant to them doesn't accomplish a thing; in fact it enables their inanity. All one has to do is read the Pentateuch, which is in nearly every Christian Bible, to understand what REAL intolerance is. When God leads His people on a rampage through the middle east to slaughter all the men, women, and children that stand in His and his followers' way, THAT is intolerance writ large. People who celebrate that heinous litany of death and torture don't DESERVE tolerance. I don't see the efficacy of tolerance, unless you believe that, had we been more tolerant of Hitler, he would have not killed 6 million Jews (which many Christians applauded). By the way, despite what Bill O'Reilly keeps screaming, Hitler was NOT an atheist. He was born and raised a Catholic (just like Billo). He often claimed in speeches to be a Christian. "Mein Kampf" is peppered with allusions to his religiosity, and he repeatedly invoked God (as did George W. Bush) as his leader in battle. And if he was an atheist, why, in March of 1933, did he outlaw "atheist and freethought" organizations in Germany? O'Reilly doesn't know and doesn't care; it's a convenient label, like "fascist" (see below) that he uses to attack and demean.
On the contrary, Dawkins, Harris, Hitchens, and Dennett have demonstrated that principled intolerance gets results. Many, MANY people who have read their best selling books are giving second thoughts vis a vis their religious upbringings. I consider these "Four Horsemen" the first of a new breed of courageous scientists who have had enough of being kind and understanding (tolerant) to bigots.
I don't suppose every single atheist is a humanist, although it's hard for me to see why not. Humanism is a paradigm that is virtually inseparable from atheism. Conversely, religious people cannot be humanists because with them, God comes first, even before family and country. It's "In God we trust," not "In parents (or brothers, sisters, or friends) we trust." With atheists, Homo sapiens come first. Atheists and humanists alike resist the requirement that "under God" be recited by everyone in public schools when reciting the Pledge. Anyone who refuses is labeled a traitor to the country. Were they traitors before 1954 - before the McCarthyites got those two words inserted? Confession: I NEVER recited those vile words! I kept my mouth tightly shut. I suppose there are a few atheists who are nihilists, but, by and large, we atheists believe that our focus should be on our fellow human beings, not on placating some vengeful Yahweh who will send us to hell if we don't worship Him obsequiously. That is what a humanist IS! Try reading secular humanist, Paul Kurtz' "Statement of Principles of Humanism," or his "Secular Humanism Manifesto." They are principles to which every atheist heartily subscribes, but which religionists despise, since it leaves God out of the picture.
One more point of interest. Your use of the term "mental fascism" suggests to me that you're probably a Fox News viewer. People like O'Reilly, Hannity, and - especially - that addle-brained faux Mormon, Glenn Beck, demonstrate that they have no idea what the word "fascism" means (check any good dictionary or poly-sci text). The most prominent feature of fascism is that government and business should be co-rulers to the benefit of the latter; I oppose that. It also regards strict authoritarianism as key in governing; I don't even have the power to advance any authoritarian aims, mentally or otherwise. It also posits that governments are best led by a dictator; I disagree, and couldn't dictate if I wanted to. "Fascism," in the sense you are using it, is not in the dictionary. You are using it in the manner that the right wing began when they co-opted and redefined it as a sloppily-applied pejorative term employed to label anyone with whom they disagree just because it sounds bad (like "atheist"). In fact, they use it interchangeably with "communism," or "socialism" which are actually the polar opposites of fascism. The Bush Administration was a wannabe fascist government, and came very near succeeding. "Mental fascism" indeed sounds bad; but I don't really know what it means; because it's meaningless. I suppose one could say that "fascism" as used by you implies my desire to impose my beliefs on other people. I absolutely do not do that. I'm not into tilting against unconquerable windmills, even if I gave a damn. It's the actions of religionists I deplore, not their theology.
I freely and proudly admit and embrace enthusiastically my intolerance. If tolerance worked, we would have been free of the scourge of religion long ago. I can't really see the fascism connection, though.
I don't watch faux news - oh, sorry, fox - and I've never seen a full episode of O'Reilly. I am likely not nearly as tolerant of Christians as you are, but when I do engage them I don't start with a line like "Jesus affirmed a gay couple." I'm not even sure what that is supposed to mean, but I believe it will incite hatred and that it does anything but appeal to 'reason'.
I am just one of many atheists I know who aren't interested in taking the heat for atheists who are looking to entreat the hatred of theists, and I'll be the first to closet my views when those tactics lead to the torches and pitchforks coming out. I resent that you seem to think my sort of view makes me an 'apologist' because in point of fact I have no interest in apologizing for atheists who intentionally invoke hatred - my only interest is in dissociating from them. If you want to fight a war, then do so on your own and lay off the ad hominem attacks of those who aren't interested - which was the basis of my accusation of fascism.
Atheists will always get negative press. That's just what christians do. The internet is helping our cause, and christians are getting scared, because now Atheists talk to each other, and the group is growing. Scientologists systematically get onto Atheist sites and pretend to be Atheists. They stand out a mile, and are so funny.
Christians that are challenged turn nasty, and I think Atheists are just sick of being nice. But I still prefer taking the high road, and discuss and 'argue'. My hero being the fabulous Christopher Hitchen.
I really do think that effective billboards that are not aggressive, but have to be clever, work better. Being nice gets under 'christians' skin more than being aggressive. "Aggressive" gives them a reason to go on the 'attack'. I like sarcasm, and wish I could come up with something really clever. But I wouldn't get my knickers in a knot over these billboards. I understand how you feel - but nothing will change a true Christian's mind. They have to find, and study, for themselves. That is when the light pops on. And in the meantime, Atheists web sites will continue going around the world, and the numbers keep on growing.
We are all atheists to some degree. We just believe in one less god than you - and smile.
People with power don't like the concept of the power they have being undermined. You think bad press is a problem? Try getting burned at the stake just for suggesting that the stars are other suns. The press aren't interested in truth for the most part, just in providing easily digestible mush to the people who want their news spoon-fed to them the way they know they like it. If they think their audience wants outrage at Atheist billboards, they'll provide it. Even if they think that what their audience really wants is someone else to be outraged on their behalf at Atheist billboards, because actually their audience can't be bothered to summon any outrage, they'll provide it. As long as it sells their product. The media are interested in profit for the most part, and lots of media outlets are just in the business of providing people with what they want to hear.
If Atheist billboards generate stories in the media, then they are doing a great job. It's that old "There's only on thing worse than being talked about, and that's not being talked about" gag.
So, I say go billboards. You're generating stories and making people think. And the more we make people think, the better off we'll be. And the more billboards there are, the more people who are suffocating in religious communities will find a beacon to follow toward an exit.
Remember, religion thrives on requiring respect for stupid ideas. Part of the process of deconstructing it must be to ridicule stupid ideas, and to insist on the right to do that.
"We are losing the war here in Northern Europe against the Christians."
The fact do not quite support your personal observation. In fact, Sweden is becoming decreasingly religious at an increasing rate. The fundamentalists have to a certain extent grown in numbers and become more vocal, but they still constitute such a tiny part of the population that they are generally ignored by the rest. They have essentially assumed a similar role to that of the extreme left wingers of the seventies and find themelves eqully marginalized in society.
I guess one could say the only place religious people have had any particular impact in the Nordic countries is alcohol policy and GM foods - and that's only because they could ally with labor. In addition, in the Nordic countries the emergence of atheism has been done organically, and yet they are less religious than most FSU states which had forced atheism for about 75 years.
Seeing as religious groups are advertising heavily in the US, I support that atheists do the same. Christians in particular has set their aim upon doubters, and are using bad science as a weapon and seek to restrict free speech. Taken that to account, confrontation might be the best weapon.
"You can't convince a believer of anything; for their belief is not based on evidence, it's based on a deep seated need to believe." - Carl Sagan
This discussion has been amazing and want to thank everyone for the time they point into their comments.
I guess my point is that yes, I recognize that different atheists have different and valid ways of expressing their thought and opinions. Some like to be more agressive and some less. However for me, the more visible we become, the more it becomes the responsibility of those at the forefront not to give these stereotypes people have of atheists. My problem with the billboards and Silverman is that the audience both have could be in the millions. I think it is his and his organization's responsibility to take a "higher road". We can call people wacks all we want, but this is clear; it will not gain respect or understanding to what our movement stands for. I hope to bring people in by thoughtful debate. For those on here who could care less, that is your absolute right, but I also think then you are not concerned with furthering the atheist movement. You don't have to be a humanist, or non-violent, or anti-gun to be an atheist. But I would hope with reason comes the reasonable. In my opinion, insulting people in the public sphere, is not reasonable debate.