Wednesday, October 8, 2014



No, I'm not going to blog about marriage! :) But I thought this graph was interesting.

I remember reading that, at the time, only 15% of Americans approved of the Supreme Court decision legalizing interracial marriage (and that was in 1967!). Heck, some people still don't approve of it.

But civil rights don't depend on majority support. Well, as a practical matter they do, since as a people, we still have to believe in minority rights. But in modern democracies, "minority rights" is the flip side of "majority rules,"... and arguably even more important.

But look how badly popular approval of interracial marriage lagged - and still lags - its legalization. It's different with same-sex marriage, probably because, as gay people have left the closet, most Americans have come to realize that they have friends, co-workers, and even family members who are gay.

That makes a huge difference. Given our legacy of racism and segregation, most Americans - most white Americans, certainly - don't have friends, co-workers, and family members of another race. Coming out of the closet, as difficult as that was for many homosexuals, was hugely important to the LGBT community.

And to change the topic a bit here, that should provide a lesson for us atheists, too. Note this quote from the latest Pew Research study on How Americans Feel about Religious Groups:
Knowing someone from a religious group is linked with having relatively more positive views of that group. Those who say they know someone who is Jewish, for example, give Jews an average thermometer rating of 69, compared with a rating of 55 among those who say they do not know anyone who is Jewish. Atheists receive a neutral rating of 50, on average, from people who say they personally know an atheist, but they receive a cold rating of 29 from those who do not know an atheist.

I'm not particularly concerned at the low rating of atheists, even from people who know one of us. Partly, that's because we really have nothing in common, except just that we don't believe in any gods. That's really a very minor detail, nothing to hold us together in any positive sense. (Atheists aren't even, necessarily, skeptics.)

But also, atheists are threatening to Christians and other believers in a way that members of other religions will never be. After all, if you're a Christian, you're not going to convert to Judaism or Hinduism or Islam. Yes, converts do happen, but very rarely. The whole idea would be laughable to most people.

No, the risk to believers is that they'll just stop believing the religion they were raised to believe. By and large, they're not at risk of switching to some other superstition, but they do fear losing their faith entirely. There's a reason why they fear atheists, and it has nothing to do with what kind of people we are.

But as with homosexuals, it still matters that they know an atheist. Well, they do know an atheist, almost certainly. But most atheists remain in the closet. You might have a good reason for that. I'm not urging anyone to out themselves if it's going to cause them problems.

But for the rest of us, it's important that we be open about our non-belief. We should learn that from the struggle for gay rights.

OK, I'm getting a bit off the subject here, huh? But you're not actually surprised by that, are you? Heh, heh. It certainly happens often enough!

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