Reason Rally 2016 may have shown how fractured the atheist movement in this country has become. Or maybe
fractured is the wrong word. Many atheists seem to be content with just living their lives free of dogma. Their
lives may be in such a state where the chains of religion don’t directly present a challenge to them.
It seems as though so much is being packed into what it means to be an atheist. When in truth all atheism means
is an answer to one question. Do you believe in god? If that answer is anything but a firm yes then you are an
atheist. And that is all that it says about who you are or what you do. It only means you check the “none of the
above box” or you’re not convinced. It doesn’t mean you care about civil rights. It doesn’t mean you accept
the LGBT community or even care about their rights.
There are many atheists who support these causes. Many atheists see that the source of hatred against these groups
comes directly from religious dogma. But not all of them want to fight or see it as need. There may indeed be atheists who harbor some bigotry of their own against minority groups. None of this speaks to the common conceptions or even misconceptions of atheists.
Atheist is a label like any other label that comes with baggage. More often we assume the baggage is put there solely
by the religious, but this may not always be the case. As any movement picks up a label, and then continues to grow
the actions of those in that movement get applied to the label. The most outspoken ally of groups marginalized by religious dogma has become atheists. This has been becoming more apparent as the movement has grown. The Reason Rally of 2012 represented the beginnings of people standing up and being counted as atheist and nothing more. This years seemed to be more like a statement of “let’s do more than simply be counted”.
While this did appeal to a large group of atheists, it did not appeal to someone who simply doesn’t answer yes to the god question. Because once again all atheism means is a single answer to a single question. If anything this years Reason Rally just simply highlighted that whatever you want to apply the label atheist to it doesn’t necessarily fit. The real question may be does the modern civil rights movement need a label to prevent alienating potential allies? Or do we continue to shout into the void begging for secular values? That’s what we are really doing, isn’t it? Is it atheism specifically or is it secularism we are fighting for?
Secular humanism seems a better fit to the values of those who wish to fight for equality and civil rights without regard to religion. But who is the arbiter of the label adopted by anyone or any group? The atheist label has carried this movement to where it is today. Or has the movement picked up some atheists along the way?