I know I bitch about religion a lot, and my views likely aren't in line with most you. It's stories like this which remind me why I speak out so vehemently. This is the the America I see, which most of you probably don't.
This 16 year old girl has been getting death threats, had one of her R.I.'s state representatives call her an "evil little thing" on a radio show, had one of her state senators call her a "victim of fake liberal victimization," and now can't even receive flowers from local shops out of fear of violence (or their bigotry, there's no way to be sure). Stuff like this happens and people are perplexed why some atheists are verbally hostile to Christianity? It's amazing anyone can be that blind.
Being an atheist isn't like belonging to a minority ethic group, or being overweight, or being gay, or a being a woman--all groups who are discriminated against to varying degrees, in one fashion or another. Those groups tend to be more obvious and visible, though homosexuality isn't always obvious. Unless I'm wearing some sort of blasphemous attire my general viewpoint isn't known to other people. I can go out into public and avoid the discrimination those other groups would face, if I wanted too. But that's the problem. People like me don't like the idea that we have to shut up about what we see in the world. We are discriminated against, for no good reason, and you'd be damn right that we get pissed off sometimes.
Most of the people I know are religious, overwhelmingly identifying themselves as Christians. I know these people well. I have every reason to believe they don't think I'm an evil prick because I don't believe in God. And I have to think that it's not only my friends who think that way. Yet, rhetoric like this seems to permeate through most of America. Where are all the Christians who are reviled by this kind of behavior? Why aren't they speaking up? There are Muslims speaking out about the more vile things done in the name of their religion, where is the Christian push back for horrible things done in Christianity's name? I hope I'm just ignorant of it, but it seems to me the majority of American Christians are fine with this sort of behavior. Just look at our elected leaders for evidence of that. Even religious people who claim to examine the views of atheists are ridiculously off the mark.
Atheism isn't a desire to run your own life, and has nothing to say about the nature of the universe's existence, beyond the idea that God isn't part of the equation. You can't will yourself to believe or not believe something. If you're introduced to a concept you either believe the evidence supports it or you don't find it convincing. Your confidence in either position can vary, and there's nothing to say your stance is arrived at for good reasons, but it's about what you believe. Atheism is not a choice.
The treatment Jessica Ahlquist is enduring in Rhode Island is an embarrassment. You have elected leaders and business people, grown men and women, who aren't even close to being as mature in their thinking and behavior as a 16 year old girl. They should all be ashamed of themselves, but they're probably proud instead. I can be quite misanthropic at times and things like this are the reason why. These people are disgusting human beings, but in the eyes of far too many their behavior is acceptable, justified, even virtuous. And when hateful ideological mobs view themselves as virtuous and rational someone innocent always suffers as a consequence. It's just a matter of how and to what degree. This young woman should be commended for speaking out, and especially so unapologetically, in the face of all these lunatics.