We here at Atheism are please to support The Out Campaign. Please click the link to find out more.
Please read below the introduction to The Out Campaign by Richard Dawkins:
In the dark days of 1940, the pre-Vichy French government was warned by its generals “In three weeks England will have her neck wrung like a chicken.” After the Battle of Britain, Winston Churchill growled his response: “Some chicken; some neck!” Today, the bestselling books of ‘The New Atheism’ are disparaged, by those who desperately wish to downplay their impact, as “Only preaching to the choir.”
Some choir! Only?!
As far as subjective impressions allow and in the admitted absence of rigorous data, I am persuaded that the religiosity of America is greatly exaggerated. Our choir is a lot larger than many people realise. Religious people still outnumber atheists, but not by the margin they hoped and we feared. I base this not only on conversations during my book tour and the book tours of my colleagues Daniel Dennett, Sam Harris and Christopher Hitchens, but on widespread informal surveys of the World Wide Web. Not our own site, whose contributors are obviously biased, but, for example, Amazon, and YouTube whose denizens are reassuringly young. Moreover, even if the religious have the numbers, we have the arguments, we have history on our side, and we are walking with a new spring in our step — you can hear the gentle patter of our feet on every side.
Our choir is large, but much of it remains in the closet. Our repertoire may include the best tunes, but too many of us are mouthing the words sotto voce with head bowed and eyes lowered. It follows that a major part of our consciousness-raising effort should be aimed, not at converting the religious but at encouraging the non-religious to admit it — to themselves, to their families, and to the world. This is the purpose of the OUT campaign.
Before I go any further, I must forestall one major risk of misunderstanding. The obvious comparison with the gay community is vulnerable to going too far: to ‘outing’ as a transitive verb whose object might be an unfortunate individual not yet — or not ever — ready to confide in the world. Our OUT campaign will have nothing, repeat nothing to do with outing in that active sense. If a closet atheist wants to come out, that is her decision to make, and nobody else’s. What we can do is provide support and encouragement to those who willingly decide to out themselves. This may seem trivial to people in parts of Europe, or in regions of the United States dominated by urban intellectuals where support and encouragement is unnecessary. It is anything but trivial to people in other areas of the United States, and even more so in parts of the Islamic world where apostasy is, by Koranic authority, punishable by death.
The OUT campaign has potentially as many sides to it as you can think of words to precede “out”. “Come OUT” has pride of place and is the one I have so far dealt with. Related to it is “Reach OUT” in friendship and solidarity towards those who have come out, or who are contemplating that step which, depending on their family or home town prejudices, may require courage. Join, or found local support groups and on-line forums. Speak OUT, to show waverers they are not alone. Organize conferences or campus events. Attend rallies and marches. Write letters to the local newspaper. Lobby politicians, at local and national level. The more people come out and are known to have done so, the easier will it be for others to follow.
Stand OUT and organize activities and events in your local area. Join an existing local neighbourhood atheist organization, or start one. Put a bumper sticker on your car. Wear a T-shirt. Wear Josh’s red A if you like it as much as I do, otherwise design your own (We have, although it has yet to go on sale), or wear no shirt at all, but please don’t carp at the very idea of standing up to be counted with other atheists. I admit, I sympathize with those sceptics on this site who fear that we are engendering a quasi-religious conformity of our own. Whether we like it or not, I’m afraid we have to swallow this small amount of pride if we are to have an influence on the real world, otherwise we’ll never overcome the ‘herding cats’ problem. If in doubt, read PZ Myers’s exuberant hortation at http://scienceblogs.com/pharyngula/2007/07/come_out.php.
“Keep” OUT worried me at first, because it sounds unfriendly and exclusive, like the Barcelona Travel Agent whose travel poster, in well-meant English, read “Go Away!” “Keep OUT” here means, of course, keep religion out of science classes, and similar expressions of the US constitutional separation between church and state (Britain has no such separation, unfortunately). As yet another delightful T-shirt put it, “Don’t pray in our school, and I won’t think in your church.” Lobby your local school board. Quote Christopher Hitchens: “Mr Jefferson, build up that wall.”
Chill OUT (exhort others to do so). 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.
What other OUTs might we imagine? Well, suggest your own. Vote OUT representatives who discriminate against the non-religious, the way George Bush Senior is alleged to have done when he described atheists as non-citizens of a nation “under God”. Politicians follow where the votes are. They can only count atheists who are OUT. Some atheists are defeatist in thinking we’ll never be effective simply because we’re not a majority. But it doesn’t matter that we’re not a majority. To be effective, all we have to be is recognizable to legislators as a big enough minority. Atheists are more numerous than religious Jews, yet they wield a tiny fraction of the political power, apparently because they have never got their act together in the way the Jewish lobby so brilliantly has: the famous ‘herding cats’ problem again. And the argument applies not just to politicians but to advertisers, the media, merchants across the board. Anyone who wants to sell us anything caters to demographics. We need to stand up and be counted, so that the demographically savvy culture will come to reflect our tastes and our views. That in turn makes it easier for the next generation of atheists. Fill OUT ‘Atheist’ on any form that asks for your personal details, especially the next census form.
Break OUT! Some might like to throw ‘coming OUT’ parties where they joyously celebrate the courage of those who have decided to put behind them the habits of a lifetime, or the habits of their ancestors, embrace a realistic and superstition-free life and Break OUT into the real world. Break OUT of religious conformity and, in celebration of your new found freedom, Break OUT the champagne.
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A number of non-religious people have asked how they can help with the relief efforts in the Haiti disaster zone. Please see below:
Non-Believers Giving Aid: a religion-free way to help disaster victims
Spurred by the horrific suffering in Haiti, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason and Science (RDFRS) has set up a dedicated bank account and PayPal facility to collect donations to non-religious relief organizations. This new account is in the new name of Non-Believers Giving Aid, with all of the money donated being distributed to disaster relief.
Clearly the immediate need is for the suffering people of Haiti, and all the money raised by this current appeal will go to that cause, but the new account will remain available for future emergencies too. There are, of course, many ways for you to donate to relief organizations already, but doing it through Non-Believers Giving Aid offers some advantages:
1. 100% of your donation will be go to these charities: not even the PayPal fees will be deducted from your donation, since Richard will personally donate a sum to cover the cost of these (capped at $10,000). This means that more of your money will reach the people in need.
2. When donating via Non-Believers Giving Aid, you are helping to counter the scandalous myth that only the religious care about their fellow-humans.
It goes without saying that your donations will only be passed on to aid organizations that do not have religious affiliations. In the case of Haiti, the two organizations we have chosen are:
You may stipulate using the dropdown menu which of these two organizations you want your donation to go to; otherwise, it will be divided equally between them.
Preachers and televangelists, mullahs and imams, often seem almost to gloat over natural disasters – presenting them as payback for human transgressions, or for ‘making a pact with the devil’. Earthquakes and tsunamis are caused not by ‘sin’ but by tectonic plate movements, and tectonic plates, like everything else in the physical world, are supremely indifferent to human affairs and sadly indifferent to human suffering. Those of us who understand this reality are sometimes accused of being indifferent to that suffering ourselves. Of course the very opposite is the truth: we do not hide behind the notion that earthly suffering will be rewarded in a heavenly paradise, nor do we expect a heavenly reward for our generosity: the understanding that this is the only life any of us have makes the need to alleviate suffering even more urgent. The myth that it is only the religious who truly care is sustained largely by the fact that they tend to donate not as individuals, but through their churches. Non-believers, by contrast, give as individuals: we have no church through which to give collectively, no church to rack up statistics of competitive generosity. Non-Believers Giving Aid is not a church (that’s putting it mildly) but it does provide an easy conduit for the non-religious to help those in desperate need, whilst simultaneously giving the lie to the canard that you need God to be good.
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A few people on our travels have asked, “Why is such an organization necessary?” or “What are you going to do that organizations like the National Secular Society (NSS) or British Humanist Society (BHA) aren’t already doing?”
It is a fair question, and the main answer to this is that none of the groups mentioned actually promote atheism. They do not, as a matter of course, challenge religions directly, question the validity of the concept of faith, or criticize pronouncements made by the religious (in fact some members of the above organizations refuse to do so). We do and will!
In fact at the last NSS AGM its president, Terry Sanderson, stated that it was not their job to promote atheism, and at present there is not an organization that is doing so. He went on to explain that the current non-theistic movement is made up of three “arms”, and we at Atheism have modeled this on the above diagram as an aid to differentiate ourselves (and our arm of the movement).
Each of the circles represent the following:
Secularism: This is the political movement to separate church from state and to challenge and remove religious privilege.
Non-Theistic Life Stances: This is the movement promoting more tangible “alternatives” to religion, such as Humanists, PEARLists, those believing in scientism and the like. These promote life stances, ethical systems, ways of thinking.
Atheism: This is the challenging of religion and the concepts of faith. They challenge religious doctrines, pronouncements, teachings and all of the negative aspects of religion, indeed they challenge the truth and validity of religion and faith itself.
Until now there has been no organization in the UK that concentrates solely on atheism (the blue circle) which is why this organization has been formed.
We do of course, wish to support and promote secularism and non-theistic life stances too, when appropriate, hence the overlap (and we will work with the appropriate organizations, too); but there are things that we will be doing which organizations like the NSS, BHA and others do not (an in some cases will not) do.
So join Atheism, the nation’s only democratic, membership led, grassroots campaigning organization advancing atheism.
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Dr. Younus Shaikh, Pakistani Rationalist and founder President of the Rationalist organization of Pakistan, “The Enlightenment”, who was once sentenced to death for blasphemy in Pakistan, writes here on Islam and Women.
From pre Islamic times when women had freedom, equality and respect to the deplorable state of women today under Islam.