I’m not sure how noticeable it’s been, but I’ve felt a shift in my own attitude in recent months, toward activism and online debate and whatnot. More and more, I’m steering away from using sarcasm and mockery as a first resort, and trying to find a way to sympathise and connect with people I find myself in disagreement with.
Sometimes it’s really, really hard. And it’s not always the best way to go. I’m not wading into the whole Don’t Be A Dick clusterfuffle again here, so don’t take this as a statement on how other people should be interacting. Taking the piss out of dangerous idiots absolutely has its place. I’ve just been trying to be a little softer in my own approach.
Maybe learning about rationality has helped with that, as I’ve figured out more about the ways people can be wrong, and how human it is for us to attach ourselves deeply to mistaken and illogical ideas. It doesn’t make the ideas themselves less deplorable, and it’s still important to combat ignorance and bigotry wherever we can. But even when people exhibit traits that sicken you, and act in ways that make you ashamed to be a part of their species, they’re still people. They got to where they are through entirely human processes of personal development, and even if we condemn everything they stand for, they deserve a sincere attempt to be respected.
Having said all that, some people just need to get the fuck over themselves.
After joking about the kinds of insipidly bland billboards that atheists might have to come up with to avoid pissing off any over-sensitive Christians with a persecution complex, the organisation American Atheists submitted an ad for which they wanted to buy space on the sides of some buses. The ad featured the name and website of American Atheists and the NEPA Freethought Society, and the slogan:
Yes, that’s it. It’s one word, it’s a description of a group of people, it just names an idea, it doesn’t say anything about anything, it is a joke how innocuous and inoffensive it’s possible to make a slogan.
And the transport authority rejected it.
Apparently mentioning atheists in a single word on the side of a bus is against their policy, on the grounds that it “could be deemed controversial or otherwise spark public debate”.
…Yeah. And refusing to permit the word even be seen publicly does neither of those things.
Firstly, these buses already run ads saying “God Bless America”. If you don’t think that is something which could “spark public debate”, if you think that is so uncontroversial it couldn’t possibly even provoke any sort of spirited discussion among anyone anywhere, then holy crap your Christian privilege is visible from Betelgeuse.
Second, if you think mentioning atheists in a public space – nothing more than acknowledging the existence of a group of people who have a different opinion from you – is so controversial, so frightening, so potentially damaging and traumatising to your nation’s poor children that you cannot morally endorse such a thing: Fuck you. Just fuck you.
American Atheists want this resolved without having to sue. They’ve requested the matter be corrected, without calling anyone a deranged, prejudiced fuckwit. They’re better at this sort of thing than I am.