I've been an atheist for 40 years, but only recently adopted the term to describe myself. I am making up for lost time by wearing T-shirts like these:
(with back: http://ncse.com/index.php?q=img_assist/popup/5086 )
They start up conversations that allow me to say something like "I'm an atheist, which, to me, simply means that I think that when we die, we die ... just like all other living things on the planet."
Christianity and Islam grow, in part, due to evangelical activity by their adherents. They prey on folks that are 'lost'. They provide a shelter from the storm. They let it be known that the shelter was provided by their god, which leads to conversion.
Until we provide a shelter from the storm, we will never compete with them.
It doesn't matter what we call ourselves but it has to be something and it has to make clear (softly) that imaginary gods are not involved.
I see a 'ChipIn' adv on the side of the page for Nexus 3.0 (Stage2). I read the details. I support the goals and hope that the amount needed will be raised soon. I believe non profit status is essential as is providing local community support - just as the 'religious' groups do. We are not what we name ourselves. We are what we do and what we are perceived as doing. I think using the term 'atheist' is just fine. It doesn't leave room for doubt but I would be 'diplomatic' in using it.
I think our best tool for that is the media. I don't mean the media in the traditional usage of the word, like the News, although that's a part of it, too.
We've got tv shows now portraying atheists in a positive light. And it's not just lovable assholes, like House ... although he's probably one of the most well known. I heard someone mention the character, Jane, from The Mentalist, in some other thread on this site. He's an even better example, if not as well known.
Once atheists get written into shows and movies regularly, as positive, intellectual, skeptical characters, which the next generation will want to emulate, we'll have won.
Hell, we've already won. We just need the time for the current crop of teenagers to grow up into 30-somethings, with the occasional nudge from the more serious (nonfictional) atheists. Once atheism gains an even footing with religion, in terms of media coverage, we can't help but get to over 50% of the population within a generation or two.
Why would anybody with half a brain agree with anything SamIaminHarris mistakkenly udders. Or the obscene projectile that claims Hitchens brainolollia. m
I agree that coming out of the closet is hard and alienating. But for those who have a hard time smoothly blending in and coexisting with those who preach/live nonsense, life within this society is alienating - period [another reason this place is great]. I really like the cartoon included by Dr. Terence Meaden - it is a very simple yet accurate representation of my process of "coming out" not just in general, but within myself as well ...
I think they need all the encouragement they can get.