The Heckler hits the mark in the Sydney Morning Hearald

Oh my God, atheists want to speak out

* Heckler
* March 31, 2009

THESE days, holding an opinion or a belief is far from frowned upon. That is unless that belief is theism, or rather a lack thereof. I find so often, being an atheist, that you must tread carefully around any topic that incorporates some form of higher power so as to avoid offending anyone, yet religious groups are free to openly advertise and to criticise science.

The suppression of atheism extends far beyond this. The churches are allowed soapboxes in the form of TV commercials, door-to-door canvassers, billboards and an Adelaide bus campaign. However, when a non-theistic organisation uses their own funds and attempts to run an ad on a bus celebrating reason, it is deemed inappropriate.

We seem to do everything we can to cater for religious organisations, and in return get nothing but childish comments that sound like school children teasing each other. Fatuous statements like "Jesus loves you". While we are forced into taking a neutral and ambiguous stance when saying "I believe God doesn't exist", others have the freedom to say "God does exist". It is considered intolerant and insensitive and offensive to come straight out with "God does not exist".

The truth is, many of us find the relentless push for funds from some organisations like Hillsong just as offensive, let alone comments from Pastor Danny Nalliah claiming that the Victorian bushfires were the fault of the grieving families, the blocking of stem-cell research on biblical grounds, or the Westboro Baptists' picketing of funerals - yet we are the only apparent minority without an avenue for expressing ourselves.

As a university student, I find most people I know are atheists and religious student groups are becoming increasingly diminished. Yet we are still burdened by a stigma that prevents us from airing our opinions. Religious groups, on the other hand, are free to delve into the private lives of others and declare them to be immoral and worthy of damnation.

We would like to have as much freedom of speech without a narrow-minded few finding our opinions offensive and attempting to prevent us from expressing them.

We could spend hours fighting wars over creationism and whose imaginary friend is better, but I'd rather chance my fate than surrender my right to freedom of speech.

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