The New York Times recently ran a story about new London bus ads. That should be a pretty boring story, and it was in the UK, but it was definitely worth reporting for the US. The bus ads read, exactly, "THERE'S PROBABLY NO GOD. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life." The ads were originally conceived as a response to Christian ads before it that tended to inform passersby that they were going to burn forever if they didn't believe. It was supposed to be a one time ad, but big-hitters like Richard Dawkins (The God Delusion) signed on to raise plenty of money for these ads to be seen all over London.
In the United States, this would probably involve a bit of violence, at least where I live in South Carolina. Using the "Could I be president one day?" test, we find that every religion is mostly acceptable on the public stage in America. Mitt Romney was a serious Republican contender and might have improved their chances of victory, and he was a Mormon. There was a bit of an issue with people slandering Obama's name by saying he was Muslim (and so what if he was?) but there have at least been one or two Muslim congressmen. Pete Stark of California waited to admit that he was an atheist until the very end of his political career, so he wasn't exactly sworn in on… whatever an atheist would be sworn in on.
We've now managed to finally elect a mostly black man, and that's a great step. Race-wise, we should hopefully never have a problem again. Gay people definitely have to fight to be elected, but that hasn't stopped about ten Republicans (Larry Craig, etc., truthfully much more desperate and abnormal than someone who is openly homosexual). Mitt Romney also represented the fair chances of America electing a robot for the first time. There just aren't any taboos left that have completely excluded someone from office in America except for atheism and agnosticism.
For a quick guide, let's distinguish between atheists and agnostics. If you are more likely to believe in bigfoot than a god, call yourself an atheist (hey, at least we have photos!). If you would believe in a god before bigfoot, you should be classified as an agnostic (hopeless romantics…). I'm glad we've finally cleared that up.
Why are Americans still so intolerant of atheism? For one thing, atheists tend to be more well off on average than other minorities. As Bill Maher acknowledged in his film Religulous, your life has to be pretty convenient for you to be able not to believe in gods after being raised that way. Also, in my experience, openly atheist people tend to be (if not scientists) comedians, for some reason, from Bill Maher to W.C. Fields to Douglas Adams. Comedians aren't exactly sheepish, and they're in fact very likely to be in-your-face about everything, which might be why they're openly atheist in the first place.
For Americans to accept atheism, they need to be persuaded that it is exactly what atheists wouldn't want it to be: a religion. If you're totally fine with any Hindus, Muslims, or Jews, even though they automatically say that every other religion is wrong, then why be so offended by people who believe that every religion is wrong? It's just another belief, even if it's anti-spiritual.
Believing in anything shouldn't be the important thing. If I created a religion to worship the Flying Spaghetti Monster, (I'm too late, I'm afraid) that clearly isn't more worthy of respect than someone who says they don't follow any religion. In fact, it's less worthy of respect. So don't be afraid to call Scientologists on just how completely stupid their religion is, (even if it is secretly a business venture).
The United Kingdom, as mentioned in the New York Times article, is the opposite of America on religion in politics. Former Prime Minister Blair's office once commented that they "don't do God." Politicians in the U.S. automatically claim that they are very devout people, which I think is often done just to get elected. I hope dearly that we can get an openly atheist politician elected in the United States, or at least learn not to make religion or the laugh of it such an issue in our secular government.Powered by Sidelines