From the Archives: An Open Letter to Concerned Believers

Since I moved to the Freethought Blogs network, I have a bunch of new readers who aren’t familiar with my greatest hits from my old, pre-FTB blog. So I’m linking to some of them, about one a day, to introduce them to the new folks.

Today’s archive treasure: An Open Letter to Concerned Believers. The tl;dr: It’s common for believers to express concern for the well-being of the atheist movement, to worry that our public image is so negative — and to offer advice on how we could get our message across more effectively by being sweeter, calmer, and less confrontational. In this letter, I express my, um, gratitude for their concern, but inform them that it is unnecessary, and thank them for sharing.

A nifty pull quote:

It is difficult to avoid the observation that, whenever believers give advice to atheists on how to run our movement, it is always in the direction of telling us to be more quiet, to tone it down, to be less confrontational and less visible. I have yet to see a believer advise the atheist movement to speak up more loudly and more passionately; to make our arguments more compelling and more unanswerable; to get in people’s faces more about delicate and thorny issues that they don’t want to think about; to not be afraid of offending people if we think we’re right. I have received a great deal of advice from believers on how atheists should run our movement… and it is always, always, always in the direction of politely suggesting that we shut up.

You’ll have to forgive me if I question the motivation behind this advice, and take it with a grain of salt.


From the Archives: An Open Letter to Concerned Believers

4 thoughts on “From the Archives: An Open Letter to Concerned Believers

  1. 1

    Ooooh, if you are running some highlights I remember a great piece you did on how the gay movement is bizarrely religious. For whatever reason the keywords I use to search for it never find it. Any chance that it is easier from your end?

  2. 2

    Gordon, I suspect you’re thinking of “Being an Atheist in the Queer Community,” a classic Greta post (as classic as the Open Letter here) from December 2008. Not sure I’d summarize it the way you did, but there ’tis.

    In the last year or two, after a stretch of being more focused on other issues and movements (sex radicalism, mostly, plus of course the atheism), I’ve been getting more involved again with the LGBT movement. I’ve been reading LGBT blogs; I’ve been participating in an email list of LGBT political people; I’ve been donating money to LGBT causes; I went to the recent LGBT bloggers’ conference.

    And here are some of the things I’ve experienced.

    I’ve been exhorted to pray. I’ve been told about “our Creator.” I’ve seen comments in LGBT blogs, listing bigoted and wildly inaccurate anti-atheist canards that could have come straight out of the religious right’s playbook. I’ve heard inaccurate statistics bandied about regarding how many believers and non-believers there are in the U.S…. statistics that diminish atheists’ numbers and our strength. (For the record: We’re more than five percent, people.) I’ve heard the inaccurate and insulting canard about “fundamentalist” atheists… and, when I’ve pointed out that this term is both inaccurate and insulting, had the language firmly defended.

    RTWT… but then who would need to be reminded of that?

    – Rieux, owner of a bulging bookmarks folder titled “Greta Christina”

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