Right up front: I don’t have a very strong opinion on the matter. I only feel compelled to mention anything about it because so many atheists are, and I figured I might as well throw in my two cents.
I think the idea of a national time for awareness of atheism might not be a bad thing. I think it’s good if it gets people talking or gives some the courage to “come out.” I don’t think it’s harmful in anyway, that’s for sure. I think the part I least like is the use of that stupid “A.”
Why is atheism represented by a red “A?”
I even had one on my blog for a while, but then it struck me one day… “Why is it a capital ‘A’?” I wasn’t consulted, nor were other atheists, as far as I can tell. I’m more of an atheist than an Atheist. That’s just me. Other atheists are free to self-identify however they want, and other atheists can decide to wear their big red “A” with pride (though it’s a dumb thing to be proud of), and I don’t particularly begrudge them for it. I don’t think atheism needs symbols. It’s not a big deal, I just don’t personally relate to such things.
But I don’t think Atheist Week is about the “A,” so it’s more of a trifling quibble than even a disagreement on my part. What is there to even disagree about? People who like it emblazon it in social media and it’s their right to do so. What’s more, it just increases the visible presence of atheism, and that’s an idea I like.
Which leads me to the Reason Rally…
In theory, it’s also a good idea. I don’t think it’s a bad idea, by any means. I don’t oppose the idea of atheists assembling, especially for the principles the Reason Rally seems to espouse (again, the acceptance of atheists in the public forum). I’m sure it will be a big net-gain for the atheist community.
I just find the idea of rallies creepy in general. I’ve never much liked them (I’m more of a rioter than a rallier). I’m not convinced of the effectiveness of rallies. They seem outdated to me. When I hear that a group is holding a rally, it conjures images of a bygone era, like if someone were riding a horse, handing out political pamphlets. I’m sure it was effective at one time, but welcome to 2012…
In many ways, the “better” thing to do is already happening. When you look at the driving forces actually changing the world today, most of them are being organized online. Obama was elected through heavy online support. Arab Spring was spurred through social networking sites like Twitter. Even when there is a minor physical presence, as happened with the Tea Party or Occupy protests, there is an immeasurably larger online component.
The Reason Rally is the kind of event that is the inevitable result of the strong online presence of atheists. The rally is a consequence of real social activism, not the catalyst for more. I suppose it was only a matter of time before atheists wanted to all get together in one place and sell each other useless pieces of plastic with acerbic slogans.
While on some level I contend that this kind of thing may cheapen atheism, it doesn’t really. It’s just how people are: petty social beings. Perhaps there’s no use in denying or fighting it and we might as well just embrace our nature and harness our natural drive to be surrounded by cheering people who agree with us and have the time and financial means of attending such a fête.
It’s just not for me, and I doubt that’s very controversial. I can’t imagine I would be missed.