Hey everybody, I'd like to get your opinion on this.

I'm in South Carolina and I proudly drive around with atheist signs put up in the back window of my car. I rotate them out based on whatever mood I'm. Sometimes I'll have stuff like "Blasphemy is a victimless crime", "You don't need god to be moral", "Imagine no religion" (with the twin towers), or even a copy of the "There's probably no god, so stop worrying and enjoy your life". Now I've been doing this ever since I left religion almost 5 years ago. (Most of the time I was in Jerry Falwell's HQ of Lynchburg, so moving down to SC wasn't too big of a change)

In all that time I've only had a couple of people honk at me to give me the finger, and a handful of religious tracts left on my windshield. Yeah, I get nervous sometimes but it's a bit of a rush and I have yet to have anything thrown (or shot) at me. However, there are some people, namely my parents, who are constantly upset about this. They're not religious, but they're afraid I'll get physically hurt or the car will be keyed by someone who is offended. I understand their concern, but the way I look at it: the fact that this is even a possibility is all the more reason I need to speak up and make my existence known. They'd prefer I just stay quiet and blend in, ignoring the fact that just about every car down here has a Jesus fish on it, you can't throw a stone in any direction without hitting a church, and politicians go out of their way to out Jesus each-other. I feel staying quiet doesn't help anything. I'm a citizen and I have the right to express my opinion. To not exercise my rights out of fear of reprisal is just plain wrong. Am I out of line on this?

Tags: Carolina, South, bumper, car, stickers, violence

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I'm a first and foremost a pragmatist. Thus I see no point in exercising my rights when I think no tangible good will come out of it, or when I think bad outcomes will outweigh the good ones. In your case, the only outcomes I foresee are irate bigots, an easy way for them to get rid of their propagandist tracts, and a wrecked car - none of them I'd rate as 'good'. If you have a good reason to think your stance will eventually make things turn for the better, then go for it. Otherwise, be nice to both your parents' nerves and your car.
On the other hand not speaking up violates the freedom of speech. There are plenty of people in the world who can't express their views in the fear of getting stoned, lynched or decapitated, so us who can speak our mind, really should. Applicable also to online forums and use of aliases.
On the other hand not speaking up violates the freedom of speech.

How so? If I choose to not vote in an election (for whatever reason), does it violate my right to vote?

There are plenty of people in the world who can't express their views in the fear of getting stoned, lynched or decapitated, so us who can speak our mind, really should.

Depends on whether or not speaking your mind has any effect, I'd say. Rest assured that if I had the slightest reason to think a bumper sticker could make things easier for these people thousands of miles away, I'd plaster my car with them, windshield and all. If I had a car to start with, that is.
Sure, but this doesn't really address the question.
OK, but this is a general issue. It's not necessarily relevant to a personal, specific, one-time issue like Dustin's. If he eventually concludes that the potential risks outweigh the benefits, and chooses to remove the stickers from his car, it's not complacency - it's a rational choice based on personal assessment of risks and benefits. And it doesn't impede on his future decisions to use his right to free speech, to other means or under different circumstances.
I wasn't speaking to Dustin's point but yours.

I don't see how it's different in this context. Quoting what I wrote, If I choose to not vote in an election (for whatever reason), it's a personal and one-time issue as well. It has no effect on what I'll do in the next one.

Speaking up has risks. But as more and more people speak up it lowers risk.

Speaking up is good, but it certainly doesn't lower risk in absolute numbers, on the contrary. When one speaks up, at most one car will get keyed. When a thousand speak up, maybe a dozen car might get keyed. And it's still individuals (or individual property) that get hurt: there's no thing like a 0.12% keyed car (or someone being 0.12% killed).

That's why I'm more in favor of collective organized action than individual action when it's possible. This way you can get support and compensation in case yourself or your property suffer from retaliation related to your action.
Then how come we don't see that many lynchings here in the US anymore?

And what are the stats for vandalized cars? ;-)

People spoke up.

People, as opposed to a bunch of individuals. When you can count on support like the NAACP and such, I don't really see it as individual action anymore. That's the point.
Yep, I know, I've been there already, although I have little reason to think I triggered any ripple of my own. The one thing I'm sure of is, had I kept my mouth shut, I would have saved myself a lot of trouble on at least two occasions. If I'm looking a bit cautious here, I owe it to personal experience.
Fair enough. FWIW, I'm still blowing whistles when I get an opportunity to, but being unconcerned with my own safety is no reason to tell other people to act as carelessly as I sometimes do.
I can't think of a reason not to vote. Give a 3rd party votes so they get more election funding, write a friends name in or your own.

I say that especially in a group such as this with a significant forward growth in voting power.
On the other hand not speaking up violates the freedom of speech.

No, it doesn't. Implicit in freedom of speech is the freedom not to speak. There is no obligation one way or the other to utilise any freedom.

There are plenty of people in the world... [blah, blah, blah].

The lack of a right elsewhere does not oblige one to ultilise a freedom available to oneself.

Whether or not Dustin continues to display particular bumper stickers is not contingent upon either of the reasons you put forward. It is a simple risk assessment: harm vs benefit. The harms are minor to insignificant, and only potential, not actual. The benefit is great. Therefore, keep displaying the stickers.
I personally think it's very important to speak up when possible. To let others know that they aren't the only rational minds in the area.
But on the other hand I live in rural Texas and it's not a very friendly climate for us atheists down here.
I had one that said "I like your Christ, but I do not like your Christians, they are so unlike your Christ - Gandhi" and had some pretty frightful things happen.
I was driving to work and a big truck started driving right on me, literally inches from my bumper, they started honking, they were red in the face, there were curses shouted. I pulled into the parking lot and locked my doors, I was a little afraid they were going to pull me out of the car and hurt me, but they turned around real fast, peeling out and flinging rocks with their tires.
You bet they had a Jesus Fish emblem on the back of their car.
My first instinct was to go get a better sticker, something like "Christians are weird violent fuckers."
But my husband made me take off all my atheist paraphernalia.
For every redneck in a big truck you make mad though... there are probably closeted freethinkers seeing your sticker and gaining an ounce of bravery.

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