Last month, several organizations teamed up to start Openly Secular -- a campaign meant to increase acceptance of secularists and freethinkers in society. One of those groups is the Richard Dawkins Foundation, and on Thursday, Dawkins took to twitter to give a boost to a simple if not ambitious hashtag started by Mark Nebo:
Having lived in two liberal metropolises for most of my life, I've been fortunate to have never really had to worry about what other people thought of my non-belief. Unfortunately, there are many parts of the United States and the world where being an atheist is tantamount to wearing a scarlet "A" or worse. Despite being one of the most advanced countries in the world, the U.S. is still a place where people who don't believe in a magical skygod are held in very low regard.
However, this is nothing compared to the cruelty that befalls atheists, apostates, and blasphemers in many parts of the developing world. While there are obviously limitations to twitter hashtag campaigns, the goal of #NormalizeAtheism is noble, and hopefully one that will encourage more than a few nonbelievers and secularists to muster up the courage to "come out," especially those who are in positions of power.
A normalization of atheism won't happen soon, and it's going to take a hell of a lot more than hashtags to get the job done. The key to realizing this goal will hinge on the courage of those living in circumstances where atheism is frowned upon or even viewed with downright revulsion. Those who are suspicious of atheists aren't going to be disabused of their misconceptions through mere dialogue, but rather by realizing that the people they know -- their sons, daughters, brothers, sisters, spouses, friends, drinking buddies, teachers, doctors, neighbors, students, and others in their lives -- don't believe in god and are still moral and upstanding people.