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My God, It's Full Of Scarlet A's

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 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.


  1. Great post. As another atheist blogger, I concur completely. Kinda over the whole atheistic, god-hating, LET'S PISS 'EM OFF fervor. It's a little middle school. In fact, I often like to imagine some of these bloggers as 14-year-old goth kids wearing striped armwarmers and those lame pyramid-studded belts from Hot Topic.

  2. 4 related anecdotes:

    - I think religious belief might be the reason our societies have thrived. I'm probably more dangerous as an atheist than I was as a believer, however half-hearted.

    - I recall being at a Board meeting a few years ago where someone noted that the work we were doing as an organization was helping people in need, and this led to the other directors acknowledging which Christian denomination they belonged to, and how although we all called ourselves different things, we were all "believers". I spoke up and said that I was an atheist. One of the other directors mentioned that he was reading The God Gene, without mentioning his own beliefs.

    - recently, someone who has influence over some minor things in my life said that she thought everything happened for a reason, and she thought it was God doing it. I smiled and nodded.

    - a friend was living in Tennessee with her scientist husband a couple of years ago. On Darwin Day, the local news station interviewed her husband as the head of the Atheist Society, or the Darwin Society, about his atheism. She told me that, although they hadn't been in the community a long time, they were relatively well-known, and for a few days she was afraid to open her front door and find a giant, burning "A" on it.

    (note to self: read Dawkins)

  3. Hi Samia (nice to see you), Dawn: Sorry for the delayed response. I got a bit carried away yesterday putting together the LPB, and I tend to obsess when I catch a bug like that.

    Samia: When you put it that way (middle school), I'm even less interested in seeing Atheism become fashionable. Maybe if I had faith in humanity I'd see it as a good thing, but I don't. Dawn, your anecdotes really do drive the point home for me. People just seem so programmed to think in terms of religion that their attempts at atheism are clumsy at best, and really do miss the point it seems, which is not replace religion; it's to shed it entirely as unnecessary.

  4. Repeatedly and loudly proclaiming one's atheism as a means of quelling underlying uncertainty about the whole mess is certainly reminiscent of middle school.

  5. =/ proudly stating Atheism.. i have one thing to reply to that... Attention Whore

  6. You know how many atheist stay in the closet, go to church every Sunday, and feel like they have to pretend. If enough of us came out maybe just maybe we could make a difference in public opinion about us so that more can come out.


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