By Eryn Johnson
To all my fellow secular rays of sunshine, I must pose the following question: What would it take to get you out of the house to commune with like-minded people, share in intelligent discourse and get a free "Separation of State and Church" bumper sticker, graciously provided by FFRF to help combat the local authorities plastering "In God We Trust" on their patrol cars?
I ask because apparently not even free food and an open bar can drag folks out into the open here in the panhandle of Florida (aka Lower Alabama). Whenever I've hosted specifically secular events at my house, I have always had guests aplenty. However, this time I was asking people to be open about their nontheism.
I was asking them to put a bumper sticker on their car and maybe even take a picture. When I first asked how many people would be interested in a sticker, more than 35 responded, wanting at least one. I knew, when push came to shove, it would be less than that, but I never guessed that fewer than 20 people would show up and only three would be willing to take pictures of themselves with their stickers proudly displayed on their vehicles.
For some perspective here, I belong to a closed/private atheist group that in two years has grown from 12 to 250 members. I have had several discussions with people who expressed genuine fear that either their jobs or their standing in the community or their families would be in jeopardy if they were openly atheist or even participated in such an event.
While I constantly preach the importance of being openly atheist, I realize that is an unaffordable luxury for some. In fact, after a period as an open group, which led to the growth, the majority decided to close it again after a local school teacher was outed by a troll who had slipped in unnoticed. The teacher's fate with the school district is still pending as I write this.
We can't let this continue. The Religious Right has bullied nonbelievers into corners and closets for far too long. Given the recent election results, we may very well be in a political climate where all three branches of government might just be fine with tearing down Jefferson's wall of separation.
Why should we be ashamed of embracing logic and reason?
When someone asks us where we go to church, why should we pause for even a moment's hesitation before we say, "I'm an atheist, so I don't go to church"? Why should we bend and bow to brainwashed believers who mostly wouldn't know a biblical passage if it were quoted to them by a talking snake?
I still actively advocate what I call "adorable atheism." Go do something adorable today in the name of atheism or secular humanism or fill in the blank with your favorite brand of godlessness.
Volunteer at your local humane society or homeless shelter. Take on a service project like a highway cleanup or a neighborhood gentrification effort. Go play piano or sing or play checkers at a hospital or nursing home. Just make sure when you do it that the credit goes to altruism and not some imaginary almighty being. If people thank God for what you've done, kindly correct them.
We don't have to be obnoxious, but we do have to be open and we cannot be apathetic. We have to be beacons to those forced into corners and closets. There are so many hoping for a time when they will not be persecuted for their lack of belief.
We have to make that time now!
Eryn is an FFRF member.