A popular bit of flare among science blogs is the Out Campaign's scarlet 'A'. I don't have a serious issue with advertising one's atheism. I can even imagine circumstances under which a scarlet A's presence on a blog might result in a positive outcome--such as disabusing someone of certain negative stereotypes... But as an atheist who blogs, my gut reaction to the campaign was ...no thanks. I wondered why that was since I couldn't honestly say I knew what the Out Campaign was all about, and what that scarlet A--beyond identifying the blogger as an atheist--was supposed to accomplish. So off to the Out Campaign I went to read all about it.
What I found was a curious mix of silliness and exhortation anchored to a few otherwise harmless and worthwhile ideas. Those ideas were straightforward enough--that stuff about raising the level of awareness of atheism I alluded to above--but there's this bit about feeling liberated? Really? Then the part about emboldening people to not feel intimidated by religion... Um, if you are so spineless or dense that religion has you by the scruff of the neck, you're probably better off believing in a supernatural big brother whose got your back and who is keeping you honest and on the straight and narrow (not to mention we're all probably better off with you worrying about him too). And are there really any atheists out there who will honestly admit to being bullied?
So question answered. The Out Campaign's rhetoric reveals them to be guilty of failing to resist the temptation of creating a bogyman for the purpose of organizing to confront and defeat it. Ugh. How very unoriginal. How about instead we embrace our exclusivity. Not just anyone can be an atheist... If religion is getting the better of you, pray for strength, guidance, God's blessing. If you find you're laughing at religion and its minions, and not with them, congratulations, you're in on the joke. Full stop. End transmission.
There, I've staked out a position, dared an opinion. I won't be sporting a scarlet 'A' on my blog except in this post. Which puts me in a mind to run a little test. With this post I've complied with the Out Campaign's requirements to be added to their "list of websites that are displaying the Scarlet Letter, or have written something about The OUT Campaign." I'll be emailing them posthaste after I publish this post and I'll be watching to see if rational thinking governs their decision on whether to add Labs to their blogroll, or whether their agenda bullies them into dissing me back.
Update: 02/27/09 I received a response from the Out Campaign today notifying me that Labs has been added to their blogroll. Their email was thoughtful and reasoned and measured. So score one for the Out Campaign. While they may be treading a fine line with their rhetoric, they've yet to be enslaved by it.
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