Unfortunately, the world described by John Lennon’s “Imagine” will remain only in the imagination of freethinkers and moral human beings. The coincidence of birthplace should not be a matter of pride or righteous distinction. You did not choose to be born into an X family. You did not choose to have a more or less or X predisposed country as your birthplace.
However, at some point we’ve got to open our eyes to reality and see the facts as they are.
Throughout the course of humankind, and probably for a very long time after this, the coincidence of birthplace will continue to be a matter of pride, self-righteous distinction and inevitably, bloodshed.
In some cases, however, there are good reasons for one’s pride. The term ‘nigger’ is incredibly derogatory, but it’s used freely by those who are discriminated against with that very term. The irony is astounding and disarmingly effective.
In fact, if you take any group at any time which has been discriminated against or persecuted or ostracised, chances are there will be a common uniting theme of pride.
I disclose I am of Serbian origin. In no effort to seem holier than thou, I take great pride in my origins, not out of nationalism, not out of patriotism, but pride out of hardship. We Serbians are a damnedly hard-headed people. Serbia caused World War I, the Great War, never before seen in history of Man. Yugoslavia later on was the sole nation occupied by the Axis which refused to capitulate, and stayed strong even when being the target of Genocide at the hands of a Croatian fascist regime. When rumours broke that the King was negotiating with the Germans, the people of Belgrade took to the streets to protest and to chant “We’d rather have war than a pact”. Without getting into the intricacies of the savage Yugoslav Civil War, the brutality of it is a morbid testament to the hard-headedness of all involved. And finally, even with the entire Western world crushing Serbia’s chest over Kosovo, that the country will not let go of its heartland even after being ravaged by the world’s first superpower is, again, sheer hard-headedness and a sensation of unity through hardship.
I speak of the Serbians out of personal knowledge, but any group distinguished in any way has a common theme of unity through pride. Blacks, Armenians, Jews, gays, Native Americans, you name it.
I, personally, cannot say I’m proud of being an atheist out of the hardship of being an atheist since I live in Europe. I have personally never had to endure discrimination or persecution for my naturalist world views.
But I sympathise with people who think like me from all over the world. Atheism is unique in that it’s a state of mind, a philosophy, which transcends skin colour or, well, religion.
I take pride at being an atheist every time I read about atheists in the States being hounded or harassed or mobbed. I take pride every time I read or see Ayaan Hirsi Ali.
Atheism is the universal punching bag for organised religion. If there is one uniting theme across the three Abrahamic religions, it’s the hatred of Atheism. Which makes the struggle for rationality and reason all the more dangerous and courageous.
Atheism shouldn’t have to be a matter of pride. It’s a logical outcome. It’s science. It’s moral values and beautiful humanism.
But even if every person in the world is really born an Atheist (they are taught their religion), Atheism is a mark of persecution, in some places more than in others. And this is what demands pride of being atheist.
I live happily in secular Europe. I don’t feel the need to ‘convert’ anyone to my lack of religious belief. But seeing the struggle of freethinkers throughout the world only awakens my solidarity which inevitably engages pride.
“Imagine”, by Lennon, is the ultimate beautiful utopia, where pride is completely unnecessary. However, in the harsh reality of persecution of rational freethinkers, being an atheist is all about keeping your world views to yourself. But it’s also, in the interest of solidarity with your fellow atheist, about being damn proud of them.