Sunday, July 29, 2007

Big Red A ramble

I popped over to Atheist In a MiniVan as is my wont, and noticed an intriguing big red A on her site. On following its link, I discovered the Out campaign and its connection to Richard and how you can buy T-shirts with the big red A on it. As you may know or have guessed by now, it's about "coming out" as an atheist.

Now, living in the UK, I do not have the feeling of being in a persecuted minority. I am aware, however, that my response to this movement is likely cultural, because the UK is a relatively secular society where religion does not often intrude itself into my daily going-about-my-own-business. In the US, it does appear to be different, with their "In God we trust"s on their money* et al, and their ex-president Bush senior allegedly having said he doesn't consider atheists patriots or citizens, and so on.

Of course, I am actually in a minority. Most people in the UK believe in some sort of deity or spiritual/supernatural thingy, (as is the case pretty much world-over, I think, atheists and sceptics tending to be smaller in number than believers). The UK is a predominantly Christian country, although most of its self-described Christians probably don't bother with their religion that much. Still, we have a state religion: CofE. And there are interesting foibles like, my child's non-church school has promoted Christianity and her next school (also state) proposes to do the same according to their bumpf, it was believed Tony Blair wanted to go RC but he couldn't while PM, and our national anthem is all about institutions I don't believe in saving other institutions that really don't need an awful lot of saving. As Eddie Izzard said, that's one fucking saved Queen!

Anyway, I have wandered a little, and not actually said anything about what I think about big red A's.

Well, it doesn't feel relevant to me. "Coming out" as an atheist is very easy here, ever since I figured out I was, I've been open about it. It's not really a topic that comes up a lot anyway in day-to-day interaction. I mention it more online than I would in real life: online I can spend more time with the abstract than the immediate, as online equals leisure-time for me. For me, the very notion of "coming out" is irrelevant, because being an atheist here isn't an issue usually. I also associate it with a struggle that has been and still is much more real, for the gay and lesbian community to become more accepted within society. In other countries/cultures, it may be that there is a similar stigma to being an atheist, but it's not something I've experienced. Not that everything has to be relevant to me, me mememememe, of course! It's probably very relevant to some other atheists.

The connotation bothers me a little as well: the scarlet letter, the A: it says Hawthorne to me. It meant adulterer in its time, and probably gives cheap ammunition to those who argue atheists cannot have any moral code. I shall go and kill someone forthwith, cos I've no reason not to, right? [/sarcasm]

I'm also not convinced a big red A will denote atheism effectively. Is someone who sees such a T-shirt immediately going to think "there goes an atheist" or is it more likely to pass them by? I think the latter, for the most part. I am not persuaded that it's even memorable enough a symbol to intrigue people to find out what it signifies. Although I suppose it worked on me! But then again, I was playing on the internet at the time, so it was just a click of immediate curiosity; would that have lasted long enough if I'd been out somewhere and saw a T-shirt and had no means of clicking at the time? You can't really click someone's T-shirt. I suppose you could tweak their nipple, but that might be getting slightly too familiar with someone too soon. You could even ask them what it meant, I suppose, but it's probably not something I would do, far too simple and obvious a solution!

The web-link on the T-shirt to the will give a big clue, but much as I often agree with Dawkins, he doesn't come without baggage. His reputation as the Rottweiler may turn some off right away and give a whole load of preconceptions that may not be accurate. Not to mention, the commercial aspect is off-putting to me too. Let's promote this website, and pay for the privilege, yeah!

I think chatting about the weather and all that is sadly under-rated and denigrated. Hehe. Religion or lack of it ought to be a private thing and shouldn't intrude into public life, like what you do with consenting adults in private ought to be. If you're desperate to talk about it in public, then ok, but expect to be looked at a bit askance: "how uncouth!". If you come to my door wanting to sell me a pamphlett about how great your god is or how performance-enhancing a particular device is, after I've said I'm not interested politely, I'll be shutting that door quick-smart. I won't be knocking on your door any time soon asking you to change your mind about anything, so I'd prefer the same sort of disinterest in return.

I'm not entirely comfortable with the displaying of personal belief/lack thereof upon the person: it seems a bit much and an invitation to get pigeon-holed before you even start to know someone. It's horses for courses without doubt, and if you want to do that, go ahead (in your own time). I wouldn't want to stop anyone or "ban" it, ~sniggers to self~. That'd be shades of the BA cross and hijab rows. Or the schoolgirl who was fighting a school for her "right" to wear a ring (symbolising her decision to stay celibate), against uniform code.

It's not her decision I take issue with, it's the self-aggrandising and attention-seeking that goes with it. "Look at me, look at me, aren't I great, aren't I righteous?!" (It's probably fair, however, to say that she was being used as a pawn to create publicity and promote the organisation, when it comes to the court case). You can make that sort of choice privately without making a song or dance about it. You don't need to wear a ring to stop you having sex, unless it's a wedding ring: ba-boom, tish, every one a Maserati!

That said, I do think it's a bit silly to place all that significance on virginity, one aspect of herself, and a physical one at that.

I wonder if the organisation she is part of is connected with the father-daughter prom-giving organisation? It is probably a completely different US organisation; I hope we don't get them exporting to us a chapter of that, as well. Yikes. It makes me feel a bit queasy, because it seems so intrusive, controlling and a bit, er, incestuous to have the dads as their prom dates. It also smacks of women as possessions, chattels: first of their fathers, then given in marriage to their husbands. All hailing back to times when virginity was the easiest and most detectable way of ensuring that at least your first-born was most likely to be yours, if you were a monied man with need for heirs. I don't think morality actually entered into it, it was all money, all business: the morality & religion just tacked on to make it authoritative and pretty it up a bit.

I think that's it for this particular ramble...

* It's a funny thing that, god on money. What about rendering to Caesar what is Caesar's and camels through eyes of needles and all that? Most peculiar, (if a little facetious on my part).

I have a British tenner sitting in front of me, and it simply promises to pay the bearer ten pounds. Her Maj, head of the church, on the front and Darwin on the back. Hurrah (I have a tenner!)

No comments: