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Flamboyant gays and ‘militant’ atheists

March 3, 2009

Generally, when you talk about groups, people make a distinction between two kinds…they’ll usually say something like, “Oh, this one part of the group is fine…but unfortunately, this other part ruins it for everyone.”

The part that ruins it for everyone will usually be a louder, more extreme, more demanding group. And, as the saying goes, the squeaky wheel gets the grease, so that’s what happens. And then people make all kinds of stereotypes based on those squeaky wheels.

It happens when you’re in a religion (regular Mormons vs. super conservative faithful reactionaries…regular Christians vs. fundamentalists…regular Muslims vs. those who would use Islam for terrorist aims)…it happens to you when you’re *out* of a religion (nonreligious vs. “militant” atheism [although really, I don’t like the idea of them being called “militant” because militant atheists or “new atheists” like Dawkins or Hitchens don’t bomb clinics or churches…]…or ex-Mormons and “anti” Mormons).

And it even happens in spheres outside of religion completely (sports stars vs. total meathead jocks, homosexuals vs. limp-wrist, lispy gay guys, etc.,)

It seems so easy to say something like, “I wish those extreme elements would stop messing it up for the rest of us,” but…maybe these groups are just as vital?I got the insight from an article at Friendly Atheist. Some dude argues that the future of atheism might be imperiled by the actions of certain new atheists who are too inflammatory and don’t reach out to some of the common goods from religion.

And while of course, I can agree to an extent, I can also see Mehta’s counters. For example,

I think closeted atheists who participate in other religious activities are the future of atheism. They know that prayer feels good without a needing brain scientist to tell them, and they know you don’t need God to want to feed the hungry, heal the sick, and provide homes for the orphaned. What if they simply stopped reciting the words that they didn’t agree with during religious services, without calling attention to it? In many places I don’t think they would be kicked out or turned upon and beaten just for that.

They may not be kicked out, but for many atheists, the goal isn’t to simply feel good or get along with everyone. The goal is to instill rational thinking in other people, showing them how ridiculous it is to rely on superstition to guide their lives. That can’t happen if you silently idly by while others engage in their religious rituals. In fact, the notion that many atheists would do that makes me mad.

The gay rights supporters did not get to where they are today because they kept quiet.

I don’t buy the argument that the future of atheism lies with the closeted ones. The future of atheism lies with the vocal atheists who aren’t afraid to say so. They vote, they protest, and they stand in unity when they hear of discrimination against other non-believers. They don’t have to be mean about it; they just have to be willing to say they don’t believe in God without fear of retribution. There will always be a fringe group that will ridicule and despise religion. I don’t see that group being in the majority — even within atheist ranks — anytime soon.

That first paragraph is Paul Spinrad, but the rest is Mehta.

This actually reminds me of something this guy said at the pro-life exhibit at my university today (I wrote a little bit about that the other day, and today…I TOOK PICTURES! I’ll post gruesome stuff later…). The prolifer pointed out that the reason they used big, visible pictures is because when you have an issue that you want people to act on, you have to raise visibility. He quoted Dr. Martin Luther King:

A society is always eager to cover misdeeds with a cloak of forgetfulness, but no society can fully repress an ugly past when the ravages persist into the present.

Even though I’m not pro-life (and this isn’t an abortion article), it made me think about the role that exposing the ravages in modern times could do. In the end, when people say things like, “Well, gay people are ok, but not the flamboyant ones,” I don’t think they fully realize that without people to be flamboyant, no one would recognize gays at all. When people say things like, “Well, nonbelievers are ok, but not the new atheists,” I don’t think they fully realize that without vocal atheists, most people wouldn’t recognize nonbelief as viable at all.

I suppose this applies for all sides, though. Excess cannot win. So, moderate forces also must speak up and speak out to change the tide to sensibility, and to curb the excesses of compatriots.

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