In an attempt to get rid of their negative reputation, athiests need to lead by example

If you have been at the University for a while you have heard or seen the religious people who preach outside the Union. Sometimes they sing songs, sometimes they scream into a megaphone about how ‘Jesus loves me so much he’s going to send me to burn in a fiery pit for all eternity unless I do what he says’ and sometimes they pass out pamphlets. I remember sitting in ecology class in the spring. The windows would be open and cries of ‘Repent!’ would float in through the window. Lately, I’ve even been seeing large amounts of signage for various religious talks. If a label had to be placed on me, I’d say I was an agnostic with strong atheist leanings. Does all this religious hubbub offend me? Not really. Honestly, even the article written several weeks ago in The BG News stating one couldn’t be moral without God didn’t offend me. Truthfully, these ‘overzealous’ types sadden me. I have to ask myself, do people have such little faith in humankind that they believe we would be horrible people without the existence of their private beliefs? Furthermore, do they really think shrieking into a megaphone and shoving pamphlets and Bibles into unwanting hands is going to help things? These things irk me a little, but that isn’t what I wanted to write about. Another atheist I know sent me a text message the other day. Apparently, people decided to gather near the religious group and yell, mock and swear at them. They were quite smug and satisfied with themselves. These are the same people who will complain about the lack of respect religions show to atheists. Gee, I wonder why? The best way to battle the rampant misunderstanding the religious have of atheists and agnostics is not to yell and swear at them, or call them stupid or delusional. That simply reinforces their silly beliefs that we are not moral people, people who care about others and want to improve the world around us. We need to lead by example. This is where being what I call a ‘positive atheist’ comes in. Instead of sitting up on our ‘high intellectual horses,’ we need to get out there. There are so many Christian charities, why can’t there be a group of atheists or secular individuals standing for community service and goodwill? I think this school would benefit from a free thinkers group, a place where the nonreligious or curious can express their opinions in safety and socialize. The next time someone tries to yell at you through their megaphone, try to have an actual discussion with them. The next time you are approached with a ‘religious survey’ and get stared blankly at when you tell them you don’t believe in a God, start a conversation. Don’t just tell them you feel their God is stupid. Be friendly and explain why you feel the way you do. Talking with the speaker will not worsen the athiest image. I like to discuss moral values portrayed in the Bible, particularly the Old Testament. The amount of God-endorsed mass genocides present is truly staggering. Do they really feel this is all right? If they don’t, clearly their morals are superior to those of their God’s. Honestly, discussion might not get you anywhere, especially with fundamentalists. But, if you can make a good impression upon that person, they will remember that. I know not all religious individuals believe atheists are evil and immoral people. This doesn’t mean they don’t have a dim view of us, though. If we can begin, person by person, to make a good impression upon them, perhaps there will eventually be less bias against atheists. It is often said that an ‘out’ atheist would have great difficulty becoming elected to a government office in this country, and I believe it (I only know of one openly atheistic person in office). But if we start today, promoting positive atheism, perhaps one day this won’t be the case. Recall the words of former president George H.W. Bush: ‘I don’t know that Atheists should be considered as patriots, nor should they be considered as Citizens.’ We need to change this horrible attitude today, and it starts with positive atheism.