Why? Because by being open the true numbers of that group can be counted, and more importantly, can impact the day-to-day lives of average people. By coming out in significant numbers, more people can say “I have a cousin who’s gay”, or “My niece is an atheist”. That’s the way a political climate is created, so that acceptance of a group is not begrudgingly done, but is instead unavoidable.
By simply stating who we are, so everyone can hear us, and avoiding the pitfalls of endless debate on the specifics of what we believe; we create the landscape on which tolerance for the non-religious can exist.
That’s the way each individual atheist avoids getting shit on. By being part of a vocal, proud, and mutually supportive whole; a group to whom it’s no longer socially acceptable to be rude.
*Thanks to the Friendly Atheist for that link.
**Listen, I know all the counter arguments to this notion, but you have to at least admit that it’s not an easily answered question. I don’t want to suggest that we should ‘bend over backwards’, as Dawkins puts it, to preserve the faith of others. But aggressively attempting to destroy the faith of others seems like a different beast to me.
***The hardest of them all?