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So no doubt a lot of you were at the Reason Rally and those that didn't I am sure have had ample opportunity to view some of the youtube videos that have been doing the rounds. In particular a lot of the atheist sites of late have been writing particularly about Richard Dawkins and his drive to openly mock theists - I just wonder really what people think of this?
The thing is Atheists are still in the minority and I think we are possibly at a delicate phase right now - we are seeking approval from not just closet atheists/skeptics/freethinkers/agnostics and so forth but also seeking acceptance from a lot of perhaps liberal religious groups as well as certainly people who are devoted to the constitution of this country, irrespective of their faith (or lack of). But then there is also the side of me that sees publicity, whether that be good or bad is still publicity and gets us known to people.
The recent Slavery campaign by the American Atheists was at first I thought was a very bad, almost insensitive idea - not to theists mind but to the African-American people as a sad reminder of their ancestry but it did bring a lot of coverage and got a lot of media coverage (though sadly not all good). I'm just wondering if this was more damaging than beneficial ? Would perhaps some African-American Atheists be repulsed by such an advert?
At the RR however there were a lot of clever, often hilarious banners & T-shirts being paraded around which certainly caught the eye of me and many other people there but were some of these just a little too high-brow for the majority of hard line bible bashers who accept creationism as fact and hide behind their god as the answer to everything they cannot fathom (the great religulous cop-outs as I call them). It is these people that I see as prime targets for mockery but should we insist on this instead of reason? I mean when dealing with the likes of the infamous Westboro Baptists, reason does not seem to be a verb in their vocabulary, but I think the 'God hates Figs' does more to not just ridicule the bigots but also publicize atheists as non-abrasive, reasonable and funny thus likable people. Also you win more if you can make a person smile or laugh I think - and religion is inherently full of opportunity for making a joke out of it.
Another sign I saw at the reason rally went something along the lines of 'Being an atheist is like being gay in the 80's' - I think probably a fair comparison. So how did the LGBT communities gain their acceptance? Certainly flamboyance and a pure in-your-face attitude and visibility which got them noticed (I did write a piece recently on my blog equivocating an idea of LGBT communities and how it might work for atheists at www.waynster.com - but that is another issue for discussion maybe?). We can learn from these fellow minorities about acceptance and especially making ourselves visible which I think is half of the battle - as through visibility you will encourage others to come out as ASAFH's (my new abbreviation for Atheists, Skeptics, Agnostics, Freethinkers and Humanists).
I guess what I am asking is do we need to address the methods of how we get our point across to get our acceptance? Is mockery really going to help or is this something we should use lightly, perhaps targeting at those whose ears are firmly shut to reasonable discussion if anything to make their more approachable peers giggle at their expense? Or should we take a more militant stance so we can simply get more people aware of the cause, if that is at the expense of losing some potential recruits?
Also if there is a preferred abbreviation or phrase on this site for Atheists, Agnostics, Skeptics, Humanists and Freethinkers can someone inform me what it is? It's hard work keep typing that all out :)
This isn't a new question. The whole accommodationism/confrontationism debate has been raging for years. It's a false dichotomy though. For some people, both the atheists doing the talking and the theists doing the listening, accommodationism is what works. For others, confrontationism is what works. It's going to be different in different circumstances with different people. But we need both strategies.
Yes, not a new question. I remember talking about this early 80's. I was the co-director of the atheist group at PSU (Portland State, Oregon). I was a member of the confrontation camp, then but I have calmed down, a little, maybe its age and boredom.
The Park blocks, around PSU was a very good place to confront the local soap box preachers at the time. After a while it seemed that it was just encouraging them.
Latter, they got smarter, and would schedule meetings/debates where they would pretend to be in power over the precedings. About 1998, I noticed that the local college christian groups would host book sales and debates with prof's from the philosophy department OSU. The few of these I went to seemed to indicate that the prof's that would volunteer, should have stayed home. They were very good in their area of study, but out of their depth debating with the christian apolgists that showed up. The apologists where not interested in honest debate, but only baiting the prof's, and even offending the audience and the basic rules of debate.