Saturday, August 22, 2009

Being a part of the Cat Herd - pros and cons

Being a part of the Cat Herd - pros and cons

I'm all for atheism... no doubt. And I'm all for seeing us efficiently organize ourselves as well as we can just as other single-minded groups have done (even more so since we're still relatively few in numbers by comparison to the mass of religions we have to vie with). Yet, there's something to be said about our unherdedness, too. It has its value.

Without a single clearly identifiable "atheist Pope" (Dawkins?) and without having any single atheist repository of godless doctrine, we atheists stand in the fight-ring as opponents who present a rather tough target to hit. There's something to be appreciated about that. In some ways, our natural instincts toward being unherdable as individuals and not openly linked to any single group is working to our advantage.

As a group, it appears, we can have our cake and eat it, too, if, as individuals, we remain by all appearances unattached and anonymous in the crowd.

Now don't get me wrong... I'm all for getting people out of the closet and for growing up our atheist member groups, large and small, national and local. Before everything, it's from supporting our groups and through being a part of them that we have voice. We certainly need that; no doubt about it! Its our groups who do our dirty work. They file our law suits, fight our court battles and make our political statements. They're invaluable! (And to everyone who isn't lending a hand and getting his hands dirty from time to time: Shame on you!) By the way, on the subject of improving our atheist groups, there's some very good reading to be found at Atheist Revolution... Try this article, for example: Read

But here, all I'm am saying is that we're quite lucky as a movement to be individuals who appear unattached to our own groups and who are naturally unidentifiable (as atheists) in the crowd; we need to become very aware, and even protective, about keeping this advantage.

Here's why: In comparing our atheist movement to other social change movements, to race equality, to the women's movement, and to the gay rights movement, it's easy to see how we, by our lack of outward differences in appearances, don't stand out in a crowd. Its a major plus for us - think about it. One of the most unfortunate circumstance that held back blacks (and still does hold them back) from making more rapid advances toward true racial equality is, and always has been, quite simply, the obvious physical difference of skin color. Blacks, like it or not, are "dresses" to be easily targeted for discrimination by whatever low-life numb-skull decides to take aim. Women and sometimes gays face the same uphill challenge for exactly the same reasons. They are, all of them, more easily spotted in the crowd than we are. We atheists don't have that problem. In fact, for all that anyone can guess, its turning out that we are the crowd and it's turning out that we're extremely fortunate for being so.

You may or may not have ever been asked the classic super hero question. It goes like this: "If you could choose to have any super ability imaginable, super strength, super intelligence, the ability to fly, etc., what would you choose?" One of the best possible options is "invisibility". If your adversaries don't know your around, you might get the advantage of seeing and hearing some of the things they'd rather not want you to know about. Interesting, isn't it? Well guess what, there are currently 50 million non-religious Americans mixed anonymously into society - "ghost-like and invisible" - we're out here watching and listening all the time. Our ranks include both sexes, all races and every possible outward appearance imaginable... tall, short, fat, skinny, young and old, able and disabled... and, good gosh, let's keep it that way. Our "invisibility" and our unherdedability have been helping to keep religious America a tad off its guard... and that's good.

While there may come the time when wearing a red "A" pin will help our movement along, I don't see it as giving us any extra advantage in our day-to-day lives. Better, remaining as unherded cats with of a wide variety of differently functioning atheist-friendly organizations to support for doing our dirty work, the ACLU, FFRF, SCOA, etc., seems to be giving us an upper hand.

Am I a herded cat wearing a red "A" pin...? Not on most days... Nope.

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