If you’re a fan of Ask an Atheist, you’ve probably already heard about the “Adopt an Atheist” campaign of the Catholic League, the stage name of perennial blowhard pundit, Bill Donahue.
In it, he suggests that Catholics adopt one of us to somehow discover closeted Christians in our community. How they intend to do this, beyond spamming the offices of American Atheists, is not explained.
However, I think it’s a great idea, and I’ve volunteered myself for their adoption program in this open letter I’ve submitted to their web site.
Dear Catholic League,
First of all, I would like to congratulate you on successfully getting your message out to the atheist community. It practically flooded my social media sites for two days. Congratulations!
My name is Sam Mulvey, and I’m a producer and host for “Ask an Atheist”, a show we run up here in Tacoma about atheism, skepticism, and the separation of church and state. I’ve been some variation of agnostic or atheist for most of my life, and for the remainder I was rarely something that could be called a Christian.
I would like to volunteer for your adoption drive. However, you say that David Silverman has it backwards about Christians not knowing that there are atheists in their community, and I find that confusing. Allow me to explain.
While the dominionist concept of a “Christian nation” is a fiction, I can’t pretend that the social fabric of our country isn’t dominated by people of a Christian faith. The statistics you mention in your press release are well known to those of us in the Atheism Visibility Movement.
So, in that context, I find it a little baffling that there might be Christians in the midsts of our smallish movement that do not have the opportunity to express their potential faith. Even in our relatively secular corner of the nation, there is a church on every street. On my radio station, almost every program before or after mine is of a Christian bent.
I’ve also noticed a burgeoning market for ex-Atheists in the church circuit these days. I have to admit that it looks as honest as the ex-Satanists we saw in the eighties, but I’m sure the modern crowd considered themselves atheists in some way.
It seems like there are nigh infinite opportunities for someone to leave the atheist social fabric. We have no structure, we have no ability to count our ranks, and we have no authority over our fellow atheists to keep them “in the fold”. If there’s fear keeping non-atheists in the atheist movement, it’s fear instilled in them by the clergy or the faithful, or the social ostracism they experienced when they made the choice to be an atheist. But, I digress.
Maybe you believe that some of us hold some Christian ideals that we do not know are uniquely Christian. I still find that hard to believe, but it’s a lot better than the other nonsense I mentioned earlier.
I try to have some humility about myself, but please allow me to say this: more than once, I’ve had Christians in my life who found it shockingly hard to believe that I am not a Christian. While I make mistakes, same as anyone, my Christian friends have described me as a good, moral person, and they find it surprising that I’m, as they describe it, “such a nice guy.”
So, perhaps, these positive things they see about me are a sign that I’m holding some closeted belief in Christianity.
Now, I don’t believe Jesus is the son of god, and I don’t believe that salvation can be found through him. In fact, I don’t believe we have need of salvation or that there is any god at all, so I think it’s fair to say that I can identify as an atheist. Furthermore, as a skeptic, there are parts of your sacraments and apologetics that I find pretty repellant.
Still, I believe that knowledge, belief, and understanding needs to be tested, and perhaps the people you put in charge of my adoption can see the way through these disagreements.
You might imagine I have some ulterior motive for volunteering, and you would be right. But I’ll let you in on the secret right now: I want to show people what we’re like. I want to lessen the fear of us by showing people how normal we really are. I want to show them that when we get angry, we have a sensible basis for our anger, but anger is not what defines us.
Despite what you may think, I’m not in the market to make theists in to atheists. I’m in the market to make theists not hate atheists. There’s no need for Catholics to see us as people who “believe in nothing, stand for nothing and are good for nothing” in the first place, without coercing us into something we don’t believe in.
That might scare you, but imagine what would happen if the Catholic League manages to turn an atheist radio show host into a Catholic? At the very least, we’d clean up on the ex-Atheist circuit.
I look forward to your reply.