Monday, October 25, 2010

Step Two: Acting Out

I'm sure you can picture this scenario, we've all been there. The one time we're grabbing two things at the store and hitting the checkout lane, the person in front of us starts unloading ten tons of groceries, starts sorting a wad of coupons, a calculator and a slide rule, and pulls up a chair because they know they're going to be at least an hour. Then it happens...they look and notice that you only have milk and a box of cereal. They smile kindly and say..."Go ahead, I can wait."

Or you're finally enjoying a date night without the kids, you are enjoying a relaxing dinner with your partner. The manager goes table to table because a kind patron has brought it to their attention someone left the lights on in their car.

What about helping a stranded motorist with a tire change, plugging a parking meter that's about to expire, paying for the person behind you at the coffee shop/movie theater/drive through, tip 50% of the bill at a restaurant, donate a box of non-perishables to a food pantry, get the idea. After all, most of us probably do things similar to this regularly. The difference is that now, I'd like you to take a brief moment AFTER you do these kind things, and hand them a card before you go on with your day.

Why AFTER you do these kind things? Simple. Because we aren't doing these things to convert people to atheism, evangelize our beliefs, or to create opportunities to discuss our differences. The goal is to maintain anonymity, so as to encourage the association of this being an altruistic and casual event that is not contingent upon philosophical agreement, acknowledgement, or reward. We are simply allowing ourselves to be seen by our actions first, and then plant a seed of awareness for others to alter their mis-perceptions of atheists around them. The first mis-perception is that there are very few atheists to begin with, and the second being that atheists are evil, selfish, subhuman cretins. By raising awareness of our existence to others, and prefacing this awareness with acts of kindness, we are taking small steps towards bridging the gap of intolerance and prejudice against non-religious populations that identify themselves as atheist, humanist, secularist, agnostic etc.

These acts of atheist humanism will bring subtle, ongoing attention to the fact that atheists are caring, concerned people who value humanity *right now*, rather than hedging our bets on the imaginary promises of future rewards. What are you waiting for? Get started right away!

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