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December,1996

How Do Others See Us?
by Cliff Walker

Someone visited our meeting last month, asking many questions. One question got quite a rise out of us: "Are you another hate group?"

A chorus chimed back in unison, "Oh, no! We're not a hate group!"

I kept my mouth shut and thought to myself, "Great question! Needs to be asked." Memories came to me of times our meeting had no focus, so I'd get up and go to Powell's Books. I am so tired of hearing people generalize, lumping people into stereotypes -- especially since I know many exceptions to the so-called rule.

Are we here just to bash religion?

Certainly not! And this was the main focus of our Board meeting last month. We talked about whether our purpose is educational, convincing people that supernatural forces do not exist, or whether Atheism should be a method for change, in the spirit of Gora and Lavanam in India.

If we are to deal with the popular negative image of an Atheist, we had better do both. Wendy Kaminer says, "Atheists generate about as much sympathy as pedophiles." In the '80s, her article says, "Intolerance for Atheism was stronger even than intolerance of homosexuality."

We get it from both sides, and part of it may be our own doing. Madalyn Murray O'Hair (of all people) speaks volumes when she admits, "Actually, I don't like Atheists very much -- at least most of them -- because they are not motivated to move into the community and attempt to correct the injustices which are everywhere apparent against them." (Radio Address #151) The greatest of these injustices may be the bum rap we get from others.

Motivated by his Atheism, Lanny did fine work at the City Nightclub bringing dignity to gay and lesbian youth. Though not Atheistic, the Rational Recovery groups give addicted people a much-needed choice over the Alcoholics Anonymous god of disease and powerlessness. Our "Bunk Busters" show makes us bristle, laugh, cry, and think.

What else can we do to "move into the community and attempt to correct the injustices" done both to us and, at times, by us?

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    • Notes:

    • See also: Atheism in India || Recovery Watch
    • See also: The Last Taboo by Wendy Kaminer
    • See also: Are Atheist Groups Rightly Seen As Hate Groups? (Forum)

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Copyright ©1996 Cliff Walker; Portland, Oregon