Back when I was in college, there would be one day every year set aside by the Gay and Lesbian Alliance for “Gay Jeans” Day, in which the student body was encouraged to wear blue jeans during one particular day of the week to show support for gay rights. Their reasoning was that accepting gay rights should take up about as much thought and effort as putting on your jeans in the morning.
For as much as I support gay rights – and supported them back then – I really didn’t think this was a productive approach. Accepting equal rights should be as natural an act as putting on your jeans or brushing your teeth. But they’re not, and I honestly believed that a better statement would have been made if people went out of their way to do something different. If they stood out, got attention, became noticed, then it would be obvious how much support was really there.
Sam Harris also commented on something similar (on atheism) in the video I posted a while back. To paraphrase the first eight minutes or so, he never thought of himself as an atheist until he was asked to speak as one. Additionally, he doesn’t like the idea that he has to call himself a “non-believer”, since it makes about as much sense as people calling themselves “non-astrologers” or “non-racists”. Atheism or non-belief has become almost relegated to the fringe of society such that believers will tend to dismiss our arguments outright on the basis of what we are instead of the merit of our position.
His proposal is to get atheists to live the rest of their lives ” under the radar”, and simply being good people who dismantle bad ideas wherever they may be. I can honestly see his point. I also think he’s wrong … at least in the context of our current situation. It’s for a similar reason I rejected the practicality of Gay Jeans Day: we’re not there yet.
This Easter Sunday, Tim Tebow spoke to a crowd of over 15,000 people in Georgetown Texas during an Easter church service.
Tebow told them he welcomed the attention on his convictions as well as the “Tebowing” prayer pose he often strikes on the field because it puts his faith and prayer in the public conversation.
“It’s being talked about,” he said. “That’s exciting.” […]
The service was peppered with lively Christian rock songs and Tebow took the large stage to cheers from those who could see him while others toward the back watched on massive video screens. He sat for a 20-minute interview with Champion to talk about his faith and its role in his public life.
“It’s OK to be outspoken about your faith,” Tebow said.
When about 85% of population of the country in which you live believes in some sort of God … and of that 85%, the overwhelming majority is Christian … I really need to know why faith and prayer need to be put in the public conversation any more than they already are. Religion – especially Christianity – is so pervasive in America that our entire culture is hopelessly intertwined with it. (Hell, even I celebrated Easter. Granted, it was by roasting a turkey and watching “Animal Crackers” by the Marx Brothers, but I still had Friday off and considered the whole weekend a holiday.)
Yet Tim is pushing for even more in a well funded public venue where the belief in the unobservable is celebrated. He’s saying it’s OK to be outspoken about your faith. My guess is that it’s OK as long as you have faith. But what if you have none? What if you’re a non-believer? Is it acceptable to be outspoken about your position then, or would you be dismissed as a troublemaker and a buzz-killer for telling people you reject their notion of a supernatural being watching your every move?
There in lies my point. And my problem. There are more atheists in this country now than ever before. I think it would be to our benefit to have more people “coming out” as a way to tell the public that 1) we exist and 2) you can be a decent normal person without a belief in a god. The problem is, Sam is right: self-described “atheists” or “non-believers” are dismissed by the average person regardless of the merit of their arguments or position. It’s a tough sell with that working against us, but I think it’s necessary if we’re ever to be considered part of the mainstream where we clearly belong.