Friday, June 19, 2009

Atheist : Be proud, Come out

I had never really understood the concept of Gay people "coming out" or "Gay Pride" until I "came out" as an Atheist and identified with "Atheist Pride".
I used to think both sexuality and religion were matters of personal concern and not something to be worn on the sleeve, but now my opinion is changed. The social stigma attached to both surely needs to be addressed. While I am neither qualified nor familiar to talk about the former, here's my 2 rupees worth on the latter.

Those who have been visiting my blog for some time might have noticed the scarlet A on my sidebar. For the benefit of the few reading this from a feed :
The Out Campaign: Scarlet Letter of Atheism

The scarlet A of the Dawkins' out campaign. The symbol of Atheist pride. So why do some Atheists feel ashamed to come out?

The biggest misconception Theists have about the Atheists is that all Atheists are immoral. When I first told a few religious people many years back that I didn't believe in God, I got quite a reaction from them. It's the same many reaction many people feel all over the world. They just assume, that a Godless person is automatically an immoral, disobedient person. The idea that an Atheist can be equally if not more kind, generous, altruistic is lost on the religious.

How can you be moral if you don't believe in someone who Judges you, they ask. Where do the Atheists draw their Morals from, if they disregard the religious scripture? The short answer to this would be that the Moral code has always existed in the society.. the Theists just needed to invent an invisible being for Authority.

Anyone who thinks Morals and ethics are standard and stagnant over time is simply fooling himself. They evolve just as surely as everything else in the world. All but a few Bible thumping religious zealots would follow every word written in the book. Who would stone to death a disobedient teenager just because the Bible says so? Who would kill a person who works on a Saturday because God commanded that none should work on the Sabbath? If every "word of God" were to be followed by the Christians, the population of the world could comfortably reside within the Vatican city.

And what about the Hindus? The Christians, for all their flaws can atleast claim a central and somewhat consistent scripture.. but Hindus have no such thing. That aside, would you seek morality from Maryada Purushottam Ram, the preserver of Dharma, who goes against Yuddh Dharma(rules of war) and kill a Vali while hiding? Or would you follow everything Krishna says to Arjuna about duty and go ahead in a figh to death with your kith and kin over land.

The point I am trying to make is that even the religious choose the good stuff over the bad/irrelevant stuff. Common sense and altruism direct the religious to differentiate the good and the bad anyway, so why should it be surprising that atheists could do the same?

The other major concern some atheists have about atheism is the word itself. They refuse to be labelled as atheists and instead use pretentious word like "Brights" or "Rationalists". The problem they have is one about identity. An atheist, by their definition is one who is Anti theist, and so they would not like their identity to be dependent on that of a Theist.

So here's an answer which might put their concerns away. I have read this bit somewhere over the internet and can't remember the source, or I would surely credit the person who came up with the following reasoning.

Atheism is not Theism with an A but rather Atheos with an ism.
The first definition put us as negating the theists. Which is to say,our belief system/philosophy is a negation of that of the theists..
Atheos means godless. The second definition, Atheos with an ism, makes an atheist as having a philosophy, which is simply godless. The lack of god is just one minor thing in their existence and not the whole point of it. This definition makes us have a separate identity as against a direct comparison with theists.

I prefer using definition 2. And as long as you identify yourself this way, you shouldn't have a problem calling yourself an Atheist.

So, be proud. Come out.
And check out the Out Campaign.
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