What is #oneATHEIST?
We need to talk about uniting under the label atheist. The only thing all of us have in common is a lack of belief in a god, right? We can be left-wing or right, liberal or conservative, pro-choice or pro-life. The differences are endless. This diversity makes us particularly tricky to bring together. The old saying that uniting atheists is like herding cats is pretty accurate. So, we at International Association of Atheists have our work cut out for us. We want to build a positive, outspoken community of joyful atheists and erase the stigma.
The label atheist doesn't tell you anything about a person except that they don’t believe in any gods. You might be able to successfully guess that they won't be in church on Sunday, but that's about it. Some atheists express disillusionment with the label because you get lumped in with people you may not see eye-to-eye with. An organization that claims to be atheist could be anything, with any goal, and any set of values.
The problem, though, is that atheists keep coming. People continue to lose their faith daily. They're in churches in Kentucky and the curling rink in Red Deer, Alberta. You can find atheists in the Australian outback and shopping in the street markets of Bangkok. They are children and teenagers, adults, and even seniors: every colour, every nationality and every shape and size. No matter where you go, people are discovering the holes in religious scripture and concluding that they no longer believe in a god. Where the issue lies is that many of these people walk away from their faith and into hostility. Some of them even find themselves in danger. There are many places where the word atheist sends a shock through one's body. It's harsh and awful sounding and immediately triggers, in many people, instant disgust.
The term atheist has, throughout history, carried with it visions of evil, immorality and reckless hedonism. We are viewed as miserable, angry and selfish parasites who suck the joy from the world. We are loathed by many, distrusted by more, and some hate us enough to hack us to death in front of our loved ones in the street (rest in power, Avijit).
At the time this was written, our friend, colleague and advisory board member, Mubarak Bala has still not been heard from. It's been 94 days of radio silence all because he dared to live openly as an atheist.
For Mubarak, Avijit, Raif, Ufa, and everyone like them all over the world who suffer because they left their faith behind, we need to come together. Not only should we unite under the term atheist, but we here at IAA feel an obligation.
You see, the stigma that comes with the label atheist isn't going to go away by itself. We're not going to change the minds of Saudi lawmakers with angry atheists taking center stage. We won't help fathers and mothers in Pakistan see that being an atheist isn't so bad by standing back and letting the hateful atheists take the spotlight. We will never help Mormon leaders in Salt Lake City see atheists as compassionate if we step away from the label and let thoughtlessness dominate. An atheist community that empowers and highlights the positive voices serves as a thread used to bring us together to advocate and support each other in the fight against the stigma. As humans, we need a sense of belonging, and that sense of belonging is what connects us to the many relationships we can develop.
It matters how these people see atheists. It matters because people are dying for it. Real blood is being shed because people don't share the beliefs of their neighbours. Lives are lost because of the word atheist.
We need to change how people see atheists so we can save the lives of newly freed apostates all over the world. We need the good atheists, the generous atheists, the selfless and compassionate atheists to be loud and to drown out the voices of the joyless, angry ones. It is the best way we remove the stigma. We must make the world see that being an atheist doesn't automatically mean you're bitter, joyless or narcissistic.
We have to remove the stigma so that our newest atheists don't walk straight into harm's way when they leave god behind. We need a welcoming community for their respite.
Our friends are dying.
We realize that not everyone feels the same way we do. Many atheists feel it's not their place or responsibility to take on the enormous task of community building and stripping the stigma from atheism. Not all of us want to do that, and that's fine. But we do ask that we don't tell the ones who do that it's futile. We have already seen little changes here and there. This past July, Sudan decided that the death penalty is no longer a reasonable punishment for apostasy. So, having the best of the godless community unite under that label for good can only make things move faster.
So, here's what we propose. Let’s grab the mic and use it to spread a positive message. We will create a welcoming place to land for all those ex-believers leaving their faith behind. We say, let's change how the world views atheists, #oneATHEIST at a time. We say, let’s build a positive community of atheists, #oneATHEIST at a time.
Take the pledge - pledge your commitment to changing how the world views atheists.
Share your story - tell IAA what the atheist community has done for you
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Become a member of the fastest-growing international atheist organization in the world!
We are each #oneATHEIST. Imagine what we can do together!