Welcome, everyone to the world of cupcake atheism. I'm Amy the atheist. Everyone else gets a blog, so why shouldn't I?
What is cupcake atheism? Firstly, I love me some baked goods. If I had enough start-up capital, I would run my own bakery. And what better baked goodness than the humble cupcake? Secondly, as you have probably discerned, I am also an atheist. Right now, in the atheist and skeptic community, there is a brewing debate over how atheists should engage religious people. From the many podcasts/articles/blog posts that I've encountered on the subject, I gather that atheists are more-or-less divided into two camps on this subject. New Atheists (not sure why I feel compelled to capitalize that, it just looks right) refuse to give religion any slack at all, refuse to grant religion its long-held place of "respect" in our society and who instead wish to out religion for the irrational nonsense it really is. The other camp is what I've heard termed "accommodationists," those who think that nonreligious people should try to engage religious people with, well, accommodation and understanding and other general namby-pambiness.
This debate has caused me to evaluate where I stand as an atheist in an overwhelmingly religious world. What kind of atheist do I want to be? I see the options along a sort of continuum from namby-pamby all the way to vitriol-spewing, name-calling militant. I have met atheists of both sorts, but commonly the term "militant" is misused to describe any atheist who won't sit quietly down at a family meal and bow head in prayer or who dares to otherwise rock the metaphorical boat. After much reading, a little tiresome online debating, and some pensive observation of how other atheists conduct themselves publicly, I've decided to come up with my own version, my own little spot somewhere along the continuum closer to New Atheism than accommodation but my own none-the-less. That is cupcake atheism. Why? Because 1) I'm not a well-known scientist or writer or anything all that special, really. Just someone who wants to understand the world she is living in and be right about as much as she can as often as she can. 2) I'm cute and sweet, like a cupcake. This tends to disarm people who would otherwise bristle when they hear the term atheist. I think I want to represent what I would want to be WITHOUT the label of atheist applied and all of the preconceptions that it brings with it. I want to be sweet, lovable, smart, good, smart, trustworthy, and smart. All that AND I never want to give religion and the nonsense ideas peddled by religious people any undo respect. I won't budge one millimeter to accommodate someones irrationality. What, then, shall I do?
Briefly, here are the general concepts I'm going to attempt to put into practice when engaging believers or when put in religiousy situations:
1) Keep the conversation focused on the nature of belief, not necessarily religion. I truly think that if more people understood why they choose to believe some things and then discard other ideas as lunacy, they would make better decisions. How do people decide what to believe about politics, about alternative medicine, about aliens from other galaxies? What do they believe and why? Do they understand the difference between belief and knowledge?
2) Play the role of curious outsider. Instead of telling someone why their religious belief is complete and utter bullshit, I'm going to try to ask them questions that lead them in that direction and let their answers speak for themselves. Why? Because people like to talk about themselves more than they like being told off.
3) Don't shy away from the tough conversations or uncomfortable situations. Atheism has been silent for far too long. Don't participate in religious activities like prayer, or church Christmas carolling to keep people from getting all judgy with you. Instead, use those times when confronted with religious intrusion to show people who you really are.
In summary, this blog is about my interactions with the religious world and me defining and refining who I am as an atheist. I'm going to try my cupcake approach (on unsuspecting friend and family guinea pigs) and let you know how it goes!