Those of you who read science and liberal political blogs are used to a common symbol in authors’ sidebars of late. Scarlet A’s pop up mostly on blogs, so if you have found this site through another route, you may be curious about the “A” in the title bar. What do these red letters mean? Simply, the A is a symbol of solidarity for atheists and represents a call for atheists to make a more vocal contribution to the public conversation.
You might expect that I would – as a Christian – object to this campaign, or otherwise be put on the defensive by it. If you made that assumption, you’d be wrong. I think the Out Campaign is an admirable effort to unite a community of Americans that have been too quiet and too persecuted for too long.
My conversations with atheists about science, politics or religion are as interesting and meaningful to me as discussions on the same topic with Christians. In many instances, my agnostic and atheist friends are more likely to be open to thinking about new and different ideas, even if they are about an old faith tradition. In the kinds of discussions I like to have about science, society and social justice, it doesn’t matter what people believe in. It matters that they are respectful, honest and open to conversation.
As Richard Dawkins writes in his introduction to The Out Campaign,
Atheists are not devils with horns and a tail, they are ordinary nice people. Demonstrate this by example. The nice woman next door may be an atheist. So may the doctor, librarian, computer operator, taxi driver, hairdresser, talk show host, singer, conductor, comedian. Atheists are just people with a different interpretation of cosmic origins, nothing to be alarmed about.
With this, I strongly agree. Too many conversations among Christians (and other people of faith) involve categorization of atheists as militant haters. Even if names aren’t used, there are underlying stereotypes of inferiority, immorality and other unfounded categories that atheists are crammed into. I resent it when as a Christian, I am labeled as homophobic, misogynistic and irrational just because other vocal Christians are these things and base their reasons for being so on a book I find illuminating.
I will not be putting the “A” on the sidebar of my personal blog, but the A in the banner above is meant in part to welcome discussion from atheist perspectives. You’ll neither find me shrinking from or picking fights with the website owners that that display that red badge of courage. If you want to display the A, head over to PZ Meyers’ Pharyngula blog. He has provided code to help intrepid atheists come out.