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Godless in Society: How Can a Godless Person Make a Difference?


Being Godless in Society:

Godless people are atheists, skeptics, agnostics, freethinkers, and irreligious nonbelievers. In a society as soaked in religion and pop spirituality as America, godless people feel like outsiders in a variety of ways. They aren’t included in public calls to prayer and devotion, in the ever increasing presence of religion in the public square, or in the constant god-talk which believers may engage in. Is there anything the godless can do to demonstrate that they exist and matter?

Be Public about your Atheism:

Atheists will never make a difference in anything if people are unaware of anyone being an atheist. This seems obvious, but it has to be pointed out because so many are in the closet about being godless. There may be good reasons for this, but being open, public, and unapologetic about one’s godlessness is important because it helps one feel more comfortable with one’s self, and it enables people to see that godlessness doesn’t make one an immoral monster. Atheists must set a good example.

Don’t Let Prejudice and Discrimination Slide By:

Whether people are aware of your atheism or not, you may encounter expressions of prejudice against the godless. Sometimes this is deliberate; often it may simply be unthinking, unreflective, and habitual prejudice against those who are different. Such attitudes are no longer accepted when directed at minorities like Jews and blacks, so don’t let them continue to be socially acceptable against you. Being nasty won’t help, but be firm and direct about how you feel and how wrong such prejudice is.

Write Letters to the Editor:

One of the few remaining forums for public opinion, accessible to nearly anyone and read by so many, is the “letters to the editor” page in newspapers. Most papers have one and you should take advantage of them. Write short letters that make one or two points quickly and clearly. Don’t waste words, but make it clear that your perspective is godless and respectable. Write often; your name may be remembered and your letters may rise to the top when controversial issues are discussed.

Join Local Atheist, Humanist, or Freethought Groups:

If there is a local group that is designed for atheists, humanists, skeptics, or freethinkers, make an effort not only to join, but to become active. The biggest problem for these groups is that few people are interested in taking the time and making the effort to cause things to happen. Be one of those people; if no group exists, start one under the auspices of a national organization. Make your presence known to the community. Participate in local activities like adopt-a-highway programs.

Stay Informed:

Knowledge is invaluable. Do what you can to stay informed about recent news, philosophy, arguments, etc. Don’t just absorb facts and news, though — take some time to think about what it means, how it fits together, and what the implications down the road may be. The world isn’t simply a collection of unrelated events; understanding how events relate can be the key to understanding what’s wrong and what must be changed. Help others to stay informed too, when possible.

Become Politically Active in Local Groups:

Joining a freethought group establishes connections and support with other godless people, but it may not impact the rest of the community. For that, you must become active in other local groups which are designed for other purposes — political, social, environmental, charitable, etc. Don’t be pushy, but don’t hide the fact that you are godless. This establishes a godless perspective in these groups and helps religious believers get used to the fact that we exist and that we matter.

Consider More Extensive Writing:

Sometimes, the few chances of getting letters from yourself and friends printed in the newspaper isn’t enough to reach the audience you want, so you may need to consider a more ambitious task. Most newspapers accept guest columns, and if the people at your newspaper are familiar with you, then you may stand a chance of being published. You may even be able to write a regular column. Getting to this point will require patience, practice, lots of writing, and lots of reading.

Adopt Leadership Roles in Your Community:

Joining local organizations can help establish the existence of a valid godless perspective, but you may be able to make a greater impact by assuming leadership responsibilities within those organizations. Consider running for any position that becomes available, especially those where you will be able to help influence decision making and goal creation. The purpose is not to make the group promote atheism or freethought, but to ensure that it doesn’t become an extension of religion.

Be Patient, but Firm:

Change rarely comes quickly; when it does, it’s often in the wake of events we’d rather not happen and in directions that are for the worse. Genuine, positive, and fundamental changes take time because they occur from the bottom up: attitudes, assumptions, premises, and basic beliefs must shift before there can be significant alterations in behavior, policies, and laws. This is why so many changes are generational, with previous generations dying off before things are completely different.

You probably don’t have to wait quite that long to see some progress, but patience will be required nonetheless. It will take time for you to come out of the closet about being godless to all those you know. It will take time for the development of a local freethought group that is recognized and accepted in the community. It will take time for the letters of you and your godless friends to appear regularly in the newspapers. It will take even longer for you all to join, affect, and come to lead various local organizations.

It will take time, but it will be well worth the time and effort you invest. As you make progress, others will come to see that being godless doesn’t make one an immoral monster or an amoral sociopath. They will come to see that godlessness is a credible, reasonable, valid option and that being a religious believer isn’t the only path open to them. This, in turn, will at the very least increase the sympathy you experience and decrease the amount of prejudice and discrimination you must contend with.

Over time, it may even increase the numbers of those who join you by sharing your godlessness — even if they don’t happen to share your political and social beliefs. Remember, godlessness isn’t a political program or a social philosophy. Even people who disagree with you about everything else may share your godlessness. Religious believers have turned their belief into a political football and litmus test — don’t make the same mistake with godlessness.

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