I’m sad to say that I don’t care anymore. I got all these messages that 23 March 2019 is Atheist Day, a “global event” with a few scattered local events, some of which look rather interesting, but the whole concept is leaving me cold, and I wasn’t sure why. I tried to figure out what was turning me off to the idea.
First thing that turned up was the source: Atheist Republic. I really dislike the organization — it’s very 2005, a group of people who are proud of themselves for the simplest possible conclusion, and who refuse to consider anything deeper. Their main web page makes the hoary old argument that “Atheism Is a Lack of Belief in Deities”, nothing more, and announces that there is “no singular, decisive atheist movement,” all while trying to represent an atheist movement. It’s the denial of any social responsibility, this idea that there is no point to atheism other than slapping each other on the back and telling each other, “you’re right!” when someone says there is no god. Over that.
Also, in past encounters with the group, there’s the casual, unthinking misogyny. But then, I guess that’s just part of the old-fashioned atmosphere. The good old days, you know.
And then Twitter is flooded with the #AtheistBecause hashtag. That was just a reminder of a disappointment. Some of you might recall I had this series on the blog, “Why I am an atheist”, in which I invited the audience to send me their personal story of why they were atheists. It was very popular, and there were quite a few thoughtful, interesting submissions, to the point where I was actually thinking of putting them into a book. I had drafted some release forms and was getting ready to send them out, when there was a peculiar shift. I was still getting submissions, but I was also getting all these frantic emails asking me to delete entries or edit out names — people were noticing that when they googled their names, the first thing that popped up was…their declaration of atheism. This was not good if you were, for instance, applying for jobs (and that also tells you how messed up American attitudes towards atheism are). The day the number of retraction requests exceeded the number of submissions was the day I knew that little project wasn’t going to happen.
I’m still getting retraction requests, by the way. Every few months someone writes to me and pleads to have their name redacted, or the whole dang post deleted. I oblige every time, of course.
Also by the way — the number of women making those deletion requests exceeds the number of men. I can’t imagine why.
I think I’ll spend my Atheist Day working through a couple of papers on spiders — I still have grand plans for my summer research, once this damnable snow goes away. Funny thing, though: spiders are all atheists. I guess I’ve found my people…errm, organisms.