Thursday, October 8, 2009

Stealth Atheism

I play a few games on Facebook, like Farmville and Cafe World, where you get more points or advance faster in the game by having more friends who also play. Rather than harass my blog readers or the few family members who haven't un-Friended me yet with invitations to play, I added a whole bunch of other gamers to my Friends list.

And then I post things about atheism, and the First Amendment, and faith healing. Most of my game friends appear to be Christian. I can't tell you how many times someone has sent me an angel or a "God loves you" app invitation, or how many times I've seen "god's message to you" posted on someone's Facebook wall. (That one's actually hilarious, because it's always "In God we Trust" for everyone, and it's a picture of a freaking dime. So I get to comment and tell them how that's only been on the money since the 50s.)

The majority of these people might never knowingly befriend an atheist. I may be the first open atheist they've ever even slightly known. So, I try to use these annoying pro-Christian messages as an opportunity to let people know atheists are out there. I got an invitation today to join the group "Let God in Schools" *shudder*. Rather than just ignoring it, I sent this private message back to the woman.
Hi M,

I wanted to thank you for asking me to be involved. I'm actually a fierce defender of the 1st Amendment, which calls for separation of church and state. The government stays out of churches, and churches stay out of the government, including public schools (which includes children of all faiths and no faith at all).

I am an atheist myself, but I completely respect and will fight for your right to practice your religion respectfully. I would ask that you consider the imposition of god into school, if it was from some other religion. If Muslims were the dominant population in America, would you want the Koran taught in public schools, or would you want your children to be free to worship Jesus and read the Bible, and not be required to pay homage to Allah during school?

Again, thanks for the invitation. I enjoy being Facebook game buddies with you :)

Take care,
I spectifically used the Muslim argument, not to pit Christians against Muslims, but to put them in the atheist's shoes for a second, as the "other" from the group in power. And because it worked on my mom, who didn't see why I was complaining about my son being asked to sell "Bible Verses for Kids" as a school fundraiser, until I asked her how she'd feel about him selling "Koran Verses for Kids".

Now M. here might unfriend me. My family has shown me that's an option. She might ignore my note entirely. She might think about these things, and be a little less pushy about getting her faith in school - maybe she never considered it from another perspective before. And she may email me back with questions like, "What's an atheist?" or "But why can't we have god in school?"

I encourage you to engage in "stealth atheism" as well. Make friends or acquaintances with believers. Let them know you on some minimal level, and form an opinion of you based on your character, and then let them know "Oh yeah, I'm an atheist." It's not a dirty word; it's not inherently offensives; it's not even necessarily anti-religion (that's anti-theism folks, not atheism). And the more we just own up and claim the word and say, "Yup, we exist" the less marginalized we'll feel, AND the more some Christians will consider atheists and non-Christian theists in public policy. Not every Christian is a theocrat, so the better we can educate them on atheism, secular humanism, and non-religious ethics and morality, the less distrusted atheists will become.