This was just posted to the Northwest Greens Yahoo! Group:
Inter Press Service News Agency, Friday, September 26, 2008
RELIGION: Atheists Take to the Streets
by Diego Cevallos
http://www.ipsnews.... net/news. asp?idnews= 44025
MEXICO CITY, Sep 26 (IPS) - Atheists who have built up a virtual community over the last decade will hold the "First Global Atheist March for a Secular Society" on Sunday, with the aim of defending their views and protesting that they are misinterpreted and in some cases discriminated against.
The organisers say the main marches will be held in Madrid, Mexico and Lima, while demonstrations may also take place in London and Rome.
"We have decided to take to the streets to fight prejudice and discrimination against atheists, stress that although we don't believe in god, we have ethics and values, and demand that secularism should be respected," Alfredo Villegas, spokesman for the group Ateos Mexicanos (Mexican Atheists), told IPS.
There are hundreds of religions in the world, but only a handful of large ones, of which Christianity and Islam have the biggest numbers of followers. Meanwhile, different studies estimate that atheists (those who deny the existence of god) and agnostics (those who believe that at our present level of knowledge we cannot know whether or not a god exists) number between 500,000 and one billion people worldwide.
The "First Global Atheist March for a Secular Society" is organised by people from several different countries who over the last 10 years have established an active on-line community.
"We have been engaging in virtual communication for 10 years. But in February the idea came up to take to the streets to express our concerns, and we agreed on a date to hold our global march," said Villegas, a student of English language at the National Autonomous University of Mexico.
"There may not be many of us coming out on Sunday, but you have to understand that this is just a start, and that funds are scarce. Next year we’ll repeat the march, and we’ll organise seminars in universities and a world congress," said Villegas who, like most Mexicans, comes from a Catholic family.
The main organiser of the march is CyberAteos (CyberAtheists) , a group that is registered as a not-for-profit association in Spain. Other participants are Ateos Mexicanos, Ateos del Perú (Atheists of Peru), the Asociación Madrileña de Ateos y Libres Pensadores (Madrid Association of Atheists and Free Thinkers), and Ateus de Catalunya (Atheists of Catalonia, a province in northeastern Spain).
According to a study by Pitzer College, a private college in Claremont, California, between 15 and 24 percent of people in Spain do not believe in god.
In Mexico, 3.5 percent of the population of 104 million people said in the 2000 census carried out by the national statistics institute that they do not profess any religion.
But Ateos Mexicanos says that proportion is undoubtedly much higher today.
The Asociación Madrileña de Ateos y Libres Pensadores says atheists are people "who have decided to stop being slaves of religion and to exercise their own freedom."
"Atheism is the philosophy of those who believe there is no reason to accept that, beyond material reality, there are beings of a different nature, superior to humans, in which lie the origin and meaning of our existence," says the group’s web site.
To be an atheist is to have "a positive mental attitude that promotes freedom of consciousness and stimulates knowledge, seeks to establish a lifestyle based on man as the motor of progress and well-being, and encourages the development of an ethical system that foments mutual respect, comprehension and tolerance," it adds.
Villegas complained that, out of ignorance, many people who are religious think atheists "don't have ethics and can't tell good from bad, when in reality most of us have strong values.
"We are opposed to any religion imposing its point of view, influencing the public administration, and discriminating against atheists," he said.
The report "Discrimination Against Minority Religious Groups in Mexico 2007", by Mexico’s National Council for the Prevention of Discrimination, says that many people who belong to religions other than Roman Catholicism or who do not believe in god have problems finding stable jobs that pay decent wages.
"Since it rejects or denies the existence of God, atheism is a sin against the virtue of religion," says the Catechism of the Catholic Church.
The "First Global Atheist March for a Secular Society", which in Mexico will be held under the name "First Global Atheist Pride March", will take place in the capital in a downtown park, the Hemiciclo a Juárez, and in the Juárez Park in the city of Guadalajara, the second-biggest city in the country.
In Madrid, the Spanish capital, the march will take place in the Plaza Mayor, and in Lima, the capital of Peru, in San Martín square.
"If these atheists feel misunderstood and have a need to express themselves, I think it’s right for them to come out on the streets," Sabino Herrera, a high school philosophy teacher in the Mexican capital, told IPS.
"I’m an atheist, but in my case I haven't had any need to draw attention to it as something special, although people do definitely react with surprise when I mention it," he said.
Villegas said he hoped public demonstrations by people who do not believe in god or religion or by agnostics can help build social tolerance and contribute to "toppling prejudices."
"We also hope other atheists will realise they are not alone, but form part of a wide community," he added.
We haven't had something like that in this country since the Godless Americans March in 2002.
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RELIGION: Atheists Take to the Streets