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Is Atheism Becoming Like The Religious?

Friday was “Hug An Atheist Day.” It was the 4th year for this event. But this year there is a problem. Apparently the reaction to the event this year has been more mixed and instead of atheists having fun and reaching out to religious believers who far too often demonize us, there are atheists who are up in arms because hugs can be used to sexually harass people.

One reaction I got while promoting “Hug An Atheist Day” from a prominent atheist in our community was this, “Somehow, I get the feeling that ‘Hug an atheist day’ is only calling for more creepy/unwanted interactions.” Is this really what has happened to our community? Look, I know there are some serious concerns with sexual harassment at some atheist conferences and I don’t want to diminish that, but we should be careful that in dealing with those serious concerns that we don’t become like religious and become fearful of anything even remotely sexual. Maybe next year the event will be called, “Side-hug An Atheist Day” or “Stay Five Feet From An Atheist Day.” Are atheists going to need to wear burqas soon too? We have to find a way to protect people from sexual harassment without becoming so restrictive of people’s sexuality. This isn’t even sexual. It’s a fucking hug.

Don’t get me wrong here either; the atheist who reacted this way isn’t at fault. The fault lies within our community that has created an atmosphere of fear in which this reaction has become all too typical. I think it has always been good manners to make sure the person you are going to hug is open to receiving the hug. But we can’t control other people, so if someone is going to hug you and you are not into it, say something.

But we need to be careful that when we deal with serious issues of sexual harassment, we don’t create an atmosphere in which people are afraid to show each other any affection at all. There is a pretty think line between sexual harassment and being sexual or even affectionate toward each other.

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