22 July 2008

Effective Atheist Activism

This morning, vjack over at Atheist Revolution posted an interesting question regarding the possibility, or consideration, of picketing. I responded in my usual long-winded manner, but then upon posting, I realized I had more to say. So, rather than double post, I'll blather on here (that's what blogs are for!).

First off, please go read vjack's post. Then come back here.

Have you done that? Good. Now, here's what I said:
Anything we might do in terms of organized activism will be looked at by many as extreme, or just as a nuisance. All the more reason to do it, I say.

No really. BBK is right to compare this scenario with other groups--any group that has had to transform itself into a coherent social organization in order to acquire rights that had been denied them. This isn't anything new and this dissent is truly a large part of the fabric of our society.

If we started picketing, we would get press--bad and neutral. The only good press would likely come from our own sources. And that's fine. One can't imagine that any other oppressed social group had to deal with anything different as they took those first steps towards equality.

The key really is in its organization and coordination. It's picketing, it's legislation pushing, it's letter and article writing. It's saturating all forms of media and action so that each supports the other. To do any one thing without the others would be doomed to failure.

Also, the question of whether we should or shouldn't be more vocal, to me, is moot. Atheists seem to be waiting for everyone to agree. It's swell that we're so concerned about the opinions of all atheists, but as rational beings, we have to know that ever coming to a happy conclusion that all atheists want is a bit silly. It's not possible. And that's fine too. I see an overwhelming want/need of enough atheists to warrant an organized push for change. And we would be absolutely no different than any other group that's come before us--every one of them had members of their social group who were against the change, some even actively fought against it and actually joined the opposing side. What you do is you push through that, fight them like you would fight the oppressing group, and by fits and starts, you slowly make change.

So, yes, I am for picketing extremist churches. It clearly couldn't just be thrown together willy-nilly. I would suggest it be organized not by any small group or groups, but by a large national rep. It should be carefully chosen, focused, and, like I said, supported by supplementary activism.

I would hope that by doing that, we could eventually, over time, build up enough clout in our cause to picket any ol' church for the sake of reason.
Geez, I do go on, don't I? Now, I wanted to add something in response to some other responses at AR. First and foremost is that I disagree with the idea that we should not picket extremist churches in general but only churches in which a particular, pointed event might have occurred. As in: we should not protest extremism in general, but only specific extreme actions. I think we should do both.

Picketing churches that are surrounded by a particular scandal might be a good way to start out, as any wrong-doing in that church would be a good media focus and allow the public to psychologically pinpoint exactly what our grievance is. For me, however (and I'm speaking only for myself, if you agree, then great), while I get upset whenever a religious figure or organization involves itself in some controversy (especially when it's often given a blind eye because of the religious affiliation), I am more upset about the inherant universal forgiveness all religiosity receives from all levels of society (hence the pass so many extremists get). That, to me, is also worth protesting and on a regular basis.

I thinks it's essential to not just start chipping away at the ice berg in one area, but from all sides. It's important to not only point out that sometimes some religious people/organizations do wrong, but that the entire way of thinking is wrong. Protesting individual churches for specific instances is a good strategic move in order to allow the public to focus on their bad act instead of our supposed 'bad' act (of protest). However, protesting the general problem of religion should not be dismissed--the concept behind it is too vital for our cause, as I think most of us would agree that someday, eventually, the prevalence of rational thinking so that religion is no longer the norm is the ultimate goal. Some atheists prefer not to bother with this because it won't happen in their lifetimes. Well, when I think of all the women, for instance, who fought for suffrage over decades--some fought all their lives, actively and tirelessly--and died before they could cast a single ballot, I am eternally grateful to them. Not bothering because you yourself won't immediately benefit from it is selfish. We are fighting for a better world, not just for ourselves but for humantiy and the planet in general.

In that light, I suggest we stop our bitching and moaning and get this party started. ;)

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for posting your thoughts here. I missed this post until today somehow.