The making of a true movement…
Most atheists will tell you that the fact of holding a cosmological view that the universe operates without a designer is a statement about nature, and is not connected in any way, shape or form, to a movement. In fact, a number of atheists are disbelievers specifically because of the tendency for religions to exert their grasp in all aspects of life.
It’s important, however, to note that theories and ideas on the processes of the universe are not readily accepted by most. When Darwin published his book, On the Origins of Species, the majority of scientists at the time rejected the idea outright. It took the valiant efforts of his friends and contemporaries to pioneer this idea. It is because of their work that today we enjoy such an elegant explanation of how species evolve.
As such, we can never forget that ideas must not only be defended, but must fight with others that compete directly against it. The principles of atheism, although simple, are not readily accepted by more than 90% of the population. We cannot hope, as atheists, that others will come to accept that the universe functions without design, and without the assistance of a divine hand. Instead, we must all work in conjunction to help our fellow man see that instead of creating dread and fear, atheism and humanism create a sense of wonder and awe. The realization that we are animals, like all others, makes us realize we do not hold a special place on earth, anymore than an armadillo or orangutan.
What is at risk is our continued survival. Sectarian violence and fundamentalism are a natural phenomenon in religion, and as such cannot be dealt with through current religious institutions. We have a duty to combat the rise of religious intolerance through a campaign of education, open debate, and by making our voices heard.
At the same time, we should avoid the temptation to belittle and ridicule the faithful. They are human beings as we are, as fallible and corruptible as any one of us. For most, religion provides them with comfort and support, things they may not be privy to without their religious institution. Therein lies the problem and dilemma of modern atheism; the fact that many atheists are insular creatures, preferring to remain hidden and singular in their philosophies. What incentive is there for someone who belongs to a religious denomination to leave his community and support network simply to accept the truth about the nature of the universe?
We as atheists must also offer the same support and care that makes religion so appealing, but without any dogma, without the poisonous idea of faith, and without exclusiveness. Can we put aside our prejudices about the positive aspects of religion, and adopt the very best aspects for ourselves, or will we continue to be a fringe group of society, patiently waiting for others to see the light of reason? This is a foolish hope; without the appeal of direct compassion, community, and acceptance, atheism will always be fringe.
Let us show organized religion what we are all about. Let them know they do not hold a monopoly on compassion, acceptance, and morality. Let us move away from the safe insular bubble of self righteousness that we claim and create a truly great movement, based on principles of democracy, self-determination, clarity, and even humor. Let us not go quietly into the night, but rage against the dying of the light. Let the truth of atheism be the candle in the dark.
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