This was a fascinating and eye-opening chart from Gallup:
There are other findings on the site, but the implications are consistent: when people spend time around gays or lesbians, they’re more comfortable around them and more willing to support their rights.
Need I go on? I’m sure you see the parallels.
This is why things like the Out Campaign are so important. We need to let people get to know us as nontheists so they can see firsthand that we’re not immoral cannibals; we’re pretty much like them.
In college at UNC, our club set up a table in the middle of campus and had a sign “Meet an Atheist”. The reaction was friendly but curious – you would be amazed at how many people had questions about our worldview. I think my favorite question is still “What do you guys think of the devil?” We explained that we didn’t believe in the devil, either. He nodded thoughtfully before walking off.
It’s difficult to demonize an entire group of people when you know one of them personally. If you’re comfortable doing it – or perhaps only mildy uncomfortable with the idea – make yourself known as a nontheist!