Let me briefly remind you about Bill Donohue before getting into this:
No institution, religious or secular, has less of a problem with the issue of sexual abuse today than the Catholic Church.
Yeah, for some reason we’re still paying attention to that guy.
Donohue’s “Catholic League” recently launched an “Adopt An Atheist” campaign, intended to make atheists “realize that there may be Christians in their community” – especially in the case of Christians who “don’t even know they are Christian”.
Hemant’s pointed out the two major flaws in this idea. Firstly, the idea Donohue was responding to – Dave Silverman’s campaign for wider recognition of atheists, even if “those atheists don’t even know they are atheists” – actually makes a lick of sense. In such a religiously saturated country as America, the idea of someone slowly abandoning their religious belief but going through the motions anyway, because everyone in their family and their community still seems to believe and it’s the only way they know how to act, is not hard to imagine, and is probably a fairly common story among American atheists. How someone can be a Christian without realising it is far from clear.
Secondly, nobody’s unaware that there are plenty of Christians in America. Donohue’s own press release puts the numbers at around 80%. It’s not plausible to suggest that Christians have an invisibility problem, or that many atheists might not be aware of how many religious people they’re surrounded by on all sides. Atheists, and gay or trans people, are among those with this problem, because there’s a genuine stigma for a lot of people attached to coming out. Christians being ashamed to admit to their religion is not a problem on the same scale.
The thing is, I think this misguidedness would be forgiveable if the intent behind this campaign was sincere and benevolent. But for a “light-hearted message with holiday spirit“, it’s deeply self-serving and prejudicial, not to mention condescending in its language.
Part of what purportedly motivated the campaign is the idea that “this time of the year atheists don’t have anything to celebrate”, even though the Catholic League’s own statistics indicate that a substantial majority of non-Christians do, in fact, celebrate Christmas. But they also claim to be trying to help atheists to…
…no longer be looked upon as people who ‘believe in nothing, stand for nothing and are good for nothing.’
You want to know how Christians could actually help atheists not be seen like that?
Stop seeing us like that.
What Donohue doesn’t get is that we’re not all sad, empty-hearted people in desperate need of any source of light or meaning to our lives. Most of us would be doing absolutely fine, if people like him didn’t keep judging us as being “good for nothing”.
He’s explicitly saying that we need to change for his sake before he’ll give us any peace. Like Greta Christina says, fuck that noise. Donohue himself has made it abundantly clear that we’re not the ones with the problem.
The parallel to homosexuality is again worth making. A lot of Christians who consider themselves loving and tolerant toward gay people still maintain that it’s the gays who need to change, not them who need to stop accusing other people of being inherently sinful. (That post has a great argument about guilt-driven gay suicides. Apparently “[e]verything in the media is pro-gay”. Srsly.)
I don’t think I have many Catholic followers, but if anyone religious happens to read this and thinks that Donohue might have any kind of a point, drop me a line. I’m honestly willing to turn the sarcasm down a notch for long enough to actually engage with anyone who wants to help me discover my inner Christian. Just don’t be shocked when I continue to reject the same old ideas for the same old reasons that atheists have been giving for years.