These Atheist Activists Are Picking the Wrong Battles
Hemant Mehta (http://www.friendlyatheist.com, http://www.patreon.com/Hemant , https://www.facebook.com/friendlyatheist)
I’ve seen a couple examples recently of atheist activists who think they’re fighting the good fight and defending church/state separation, but they’re really getting it completely wrong.
The first one took place in Oregon over the holidays. In the city of Eugene, an atheist noticed a banner hanging over a street that said in large print “Christmas” and “Jesus,” and underneath those words, it said, “Attend a Church of Your Choice” and “Celebrate His Birth.” The atheist told a reporter that he felt like he was “being assaulted” by the banner.
He assumed this was government promotion of religion and threatened to file a lawsuit over it. But here’s why he’s wrong.
The city allows people to put up those street signs as long as they follow some basic guidelines and pay for the permit. There are three places, in fact, where they can have a sign. Some Christian put up this banner with a religious message, and that’s fine, as long an atheist or Muslim or Satanist has the same opportunity. And guess what? They do.
The city doesn’t even seem to care what anyone’s banner says. One city councilor even said they would permit banners from the KKK, which seems like a horrible idea, but the point is this is an open forum.
If the atheist really wanted to complain about discrimination by the government, what he should’ve done was try buying his own banner with a pro-atheism message. If it got rejected, then he’d have a case. He didn’t do that, and that’s why he just came across as a whiner.
The other instance of atheists getting activism wrong took place in Kenya. If you’re in high school, there are standardized exams you can take in a variety of classes. If you do well, it’ll help you get into a good college. Well, some of those exams in Kenya are optional and they test you on your understanding of Christianity, Islam, or Hinduism. Do you really know what those religions teach?
A group called Atheists in Kenya recently offered a reward for students who performed poorly on those tests. Essentially, if you could show proof that you flunked your religious education exams, they were going to reward a couple of those students with a cash prize worth approximately $100 U.S. dollars.
Here’s why that’s misguided.
If I were religious, my beliefs would not be threatened by the atheist who fails an exam asking questions about my faith. I would be far more afraid of an atheist who gets a high score on that exam and still proudly proclaims that she believes none of it.
Atheists in Kenya shouldn’t reward the kids who did poorly on those tests. They should reward the kids who scored the highest and who are also willing to publicly proclaim that the entire subject matter is absurd.
We’re atheists not because we’re ignorant about religious beliefs but because we’ve examined them closely.
I don’t enjoy picking on atheists who I typically agree with, but in these cases, these people are just handing an easy talking point to religious people who think they’re being persecuted.
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