Should Atheists (or anyone else) Just Shut Up to Make Everyone Happy and Expect Everyone to Like Them?

"You should just shut up and make people happy!"
"You should just 'leave people alone'"
"So many people get angry because of what you say!"

I've been contemplating a post regarding "pleasing everyone" for quite some time. I want to argue that we should not want to please everyone or hold irrational beliefs that we can make everyone happy. We also shouldn't want to be friends with many people who behave poorly or shut up just because we want to please everyone. It's impossible and undesirable to be liked by everyone and it's foolish to "play neutral" to achieve this impossible goal. I'll discuss the public opinion of me, how people treat me, the ramifications I have faced because I am a public atheist, and argue for my previous points.

Ever since I became a vocal atheist and especially since I filed a complaint to remove a courthouse nativity scene, I've been unfairly vilified, stereotyped, and avoided by students at my college. I've lost friends, family members, and acquaintances. I've received a tremendous amount of hate mail and backlash, threats of violence, after-death threats, and gained the ire of an entire community (and then some) simply for doing and saying unpopular things. I haven't levied personal attacks against people. I haven't broken the law. I haven't harmed anyone. I simply challenged a tradition, challenged beliefs, fought for the important of separation of church and state, and disagreed with people...and it's all worth it.

People might think, "Can you handle it?" Are you okay? How are you dealing with these issues? How is it to have troves of people hate you when they haven't even met you or read what you had to say? How is it to have so many students from your college send you hate mail, avoid you, spread rumors, and say really nasty things? I'm content and am actually empowered by the hate because it justifies what I am doing. If people are going to hate me for challenging religion and fighting for separation of church and state, they're proving my point that religion can cause people to do irrational things and must be challenged. Of course, as I always mention, not all theists do bad things or encourage this behavior, but many continue to behave in this irrational manner.

No matter what I do as an active atheist or no matter what Joe Status Quo Public does, we're going to be disliked by someone. We're not going to make friends with everyone. For whatever reasons, rational and irrational, people won't like us. People might not like me because they feel that I am "threatening their beliefs" and "imposing reality" on them. People might not like Joe Public because he works at a pizza shop and they feel that he is wasting potential. We can easily look at any give person, find a flaw, and dislike them because of this. We can also dislike people because they have a prevailing attribute like intelligence. We can not like someone because they are a "threat" to having a relationship with someone, getting a job, or virtually anything. At the end of the day, no matter how hard anyone tries, you're not going to be liked by everyone.

It's totally irrational to expect everyone to like you, agree with what you have to say, think you are beautiful, etc, so it's useless to try to "please everyone." No matter what, people with unpopular opinions such as atheists, are going to be especially vilified and disliked. Don't consider this to be a sign that you're doing something wrong, that you are a bad person, or that you're a total failure.

Some people might want to "please everyone" by holding a neutral position or remaining silent on issues that need to be discussed. Let's face it: some people need to be addressed and "called out" when they make insane comments or promote irrationality. We certainly can't do this all the time, but we really should when we have the chance (but it's important to pick battles). If I'm sitting at a table and someone says something like, "Atheists are bad people who have no morals," I should feel morally obligated to raise objections against this. Sure, some people (especially the person making the comment) might feel uncomfortable because their beliefs are being threatened, but this doesn't matter. The neutral position or silence can't possibly be maintained from an intellectually honest person when inflammatory statements are made.

When I find that people say nasty things about me or when I receive hate mail, I don't want to be friends with them. I don't want to have much to do with people who think that I deserve to burn in hell and exult at this idea. This saves me time in the long run and really tells me a great deal about a person in most cases. This might be difficult to accept for several reasons because people don't really think about beliefs and might change positions, people can otherwise be stellar individuals, and this greatly limits friendship possibilities. Exceptions aside, we shouldn't want to be friends with hateful people.

Don't get me wrong, though. Just because I disagree with some positions that people might hold does not mean that I don't want to be friends with them or even discuss important issues. I'm friends with many theists even though I think that their positions are unjustified. It would certainly be unreasonable, anyway, to only be friends with those who share all of your opinions. I want to have a diverse group of friends.

Atheism aside, we shouldn't even want to be friends with people who behave poorly toward others, are bigots, spread false rumors about others, or even treat us poorly. What do we possibly have to gain by being friends with people who often act in an immoral fashion? Shouldn't we instead want to befriend upstanding individuals? Shouldn't we want to distance ourselves from those who aren't so stellar?

Atheists sometimes complain and say, "I don't want to speak up because I'll lose friends." Well, good, lose them because if someone's not going to be friends with you simply because you're an atheist, they're not good friends anyway. If being an active atheist limits your social possibilities, so be it. The ramifications just prove that being an active atheist is a worthwhile endeavor, but there are many benefits such as empowering other atheists, offering support to others who share your ideas, making new friends, and being on the forefront of discussion regarding many important ideas of our time.

Unfortunately, some people are forced to be closet atheists because of the threat of losing jobs, friends, or family members. Those who can speak up should to allow for a normalization of the atheist perspective and lend a voice to the silent atheists.

Although I wish people were more willing to think critically, have discussions with me, read what I have to say, and not stereotype me, I'm perfectly fine with being "the third most hated person in Luzerne County," "the most hated person at King's College," and whatever else title I may have. I stood up and continue to stand up for great justified causes and won't back down just because people will threaten violence or even send me death threats; I won't give in to terrorism. I'm not going to back down, shut up, or give up because people behave poorly and vilify me.

I don't want to be friends with everyone, I don't want to please everyone, and I don't want to take a neutral position on everything or be silent to make people happy. I want to continue my pursuit of knowledge, promote critical thinking, raise much needed objections, prompt discussion, and "fight" for a great cause: critical thinking in all areas of life. I'm not backing down just because people don't like what I have to say.