American atheists are nothing to worry about or fear, says Maurice O’ Sullivan in The Wall Street Journal.
He first cites President Obama’s reference to non-religious people during his Inauguration Address:
Our new president’s cautious phrasing may suggest that the country is not yet ready for the full debut of atheists, but they are certainly claiming a louder voice in the culture wars. And that voice sounds very different from the bizarre theatrics of Madalyn Murray O’Hare. A group once relegated to the edges of our culture, to college student unions and late-night cable, is now poised for prime time.
He then references a number of atheist organizations and mistakenly says they’re now doing things like creating websites and offering scholarships when in fact those things have been going on for years. But the idea is clear: the effect of all those resources is finally taking shape.
O’Sullivan welcomes the atheist invasion. It’s good for the religious, he writes:
Why should believers welcome this emergence of unbelief? Why not? We should be glad that there are people, even the devil’s disciples, who take religion seriously enough to attack it, especially in these days when God seems to appear only in quarrels over holiday displays, during political campaigns or on the self-help shelves of Barnes & Noble…
Even my Jesuit teachers admitted, at times grudgingly, that the Protestant Reformation re-energized the Catholic Church by forcing it to respond to Luther’s call for religion to engage the world rather than separate from it. While some who trumpet their faith may be a little too eager to engage in petty squabbles, we should be able to expect our leaders in all fields to articulate how their beliefs shape their vision, values, actions and policies.
And if we truly believe that an open, vigorous marketplace of ideas will establish value and truth as clearly as honest and open economic markets, shouldn’t we encourage everyone to enter that market?
… Perhaps if we are confronted with better questions about the meaning and value of religion, we will be forced to find better answers.
That is what we’re trying to get right now — An equal place in the marketplace of ideas instead of being relegated to the outskirts of it. May the best one win out. Some atheists want to go further and just skip that middle step. They’d rather eliminate religion (or the idea of it) altogether. It can’t happen, though, unless religious people have the opportunity to explore atheism for themselves.
Thanks to all the atheist books and blogs and groups, that opportunity is being presented all over the place. It won’t be long before it becomes commonplace to be an atheist or know an atheist.
It’ll be a welcome day when people won’t have to hide the fact that they are atheists or have some in the family or are dating one.
(Thanks to Lexi for the link!)