Well said. But point is, I AM a student who is an atheist and I AM boycotted by most students in my school. There’s graffiti on my lockers, any books lying about, snide remarks in the corridors (most just slinker away, leaving the corridor empty), I’m totally ignored by the students, sometimes teachers and all. The fact is, I took up atheism when I was 7 years old (although my parents are not) and I never spoke about it. I don’t HAVE any problems talking who follow any religion. I mentioned the fact that I’m an atheist in school when I was 11 years old, and since then students have been gradually abandoning me. I said nothing then. For three years about it. But when I was 14, almost everyone had deserted me, and a sea change came across the behavior of others when a new kid came in (extremely religious fanatic). And then started this campaign of vendetta and misinformation against me, and atheism. I still didn’t do anything initially, because I held the view that religion should NOT be brought into the academic sphere. But when posters and pamphlets spreading rumors about me, and (ridiculous) ones about secret societies of atheists, they kill people, secret rituals, devil worship etc. started appearing on the school campus. I guess they were jealous too, because I’ve been to spelling bees, numerous quiz contests, math olympiads, computer symposiums, LUGs, the Intel Science and Engineering Fair, (I’m crazy about science!) and I have been winning many of them.
I held your viewpoint in those days, and initially tried to present the rational side of atheism, keeping my cool. But then, things only got worse. Like my website (the link given below) was hacked etc. Incidents like this made me depressed, ever known how it feels to have NO friends at school, huh? I had seek medical attention from psychologists (talk about atheists requiring shrinks in school) and for a brief period was prescribed Prozac.
I had had enough, and then I too, went on the offensive. With stronger arguments, I got converts (as I mentioned earlier). And with more rational arguments, people did start to see some sense in me, that I was not Satan’s remote-controlled being. And also tearing apart (eh, hacking, that is) of the sites / MySpace / Zorpia / hi5 / email addresses of all those making any vicious attacks against me. It worked for me at least.
It’s affected me so much that I couldn’t bear it any longer and I had to change my school. At least I have an atheism club here (5 members, that’s it though). I’m happy here, there are still whispers behind my back, but outright rejection, no.
You talk about children not being allowed to play. Ever asked how those children feel? Did they ignore YOU at school? Ever felt how lonely you can be with practically no friends at all when in school? And what irks me more is when they try to bring in science to prove their point. They’re trying to pollute a pure medium free from bias, and frankly, they don’t know the scientific principles properly most of the time (poorly informed), which irritates me even more.
Most people are not ready to take up atheism, acceptance is found only when numbers grow. I found that pointing out discrepancies in their reasoning puts more faith in my comments by other students. And it is they who are being irrational and discriminatory, not me. I never ignore a person simply because they’re religious.
I very much sympathize with your plight, and although I don’t care to go into details about my personal life at this point, I think I know exactly how you feel. You’ll note that I don’t use my real name on this site, and the site is registered through a company (Pants Aflame) that keeps my name off of everything.
You are, in a certain sense, an atheist in a war zone. I completely agree with you that you should defend yourself and point out discrepancies in others’ reasoning and behavior. Where it’s possible that we disagree (and at this point I’m not sure we do) is when you talk about using “strong arguments.” If by this you mean defending your position to the best of your ability, then we are in agreement. But if you mean “strong” in the rhetorical sense of being forcefully presented, then we disagree. However, after hearing more from you, I don’t think this is necessarily what you mean.
I would also like to make sure you understand that I never would say that an atheist should keep that fact a secret, or be a doormat for religious people. But I think that atheists must be careful lest their defenses perpetuate the immoral behavior of others. To take an extreme example, when a minority riots to protest being treated as second-class citizens, it will reinforce the belief of some in the majority that “those people” are like animals and not in control of themselves.
Obviously, you have to do what you feel you have to do to make an awful situation worse. The religious people you describe here are behaving in an incredibly immoral manner, so I can understand your strong reaction to them.
Where I think you are incorrect is in how you wrote about the correspondent who had written to me. Your note about her came across as very mean, even though she had done nothing to deserve this treatment. She is not one of the people abusing you at school. You say that you don’t ignore someone just because they are religious, and this speaks well for you. However, I’d suggest that you go a step farther and not speak ill of someone just because they are religious (or scientifically ignorant, for that matter). It’s that kind of behavior that makes you look biased and irrational, even if you are neither of these things.
In: Bad atheists, Dealing with religious folks