Yesterday was Ash Wednesday –
I would guess that everyone has had the experience of suddenly noticing something that everyone else was already well aware of. I can remember when I, as a young teenager, never gave a second thought to the VW Beetle until a friend of mine introduced me to the game of “slug-bug”. After that, my eyes were opened and I suddenly started noticing VW Bugs everywhere!
Humans are like that – when something crosses our threshold of awareness we suddenly start noticing that thing everywhere.
I used to be Christian, but I was never Catholic. So Ash Wednesday is something of a mystery to me. Theoretically I know that Catholics have their minister or priest mark their foreheads with a bit of ash and water. But yesterday afternoon I actually noticed this while running errands. And for the rest of the day, I kept noticing it again and again.
And as I wandered through our local Wally-world, the geeky part of me was estimating that perhaps 10 percent of those people that I encountered had ash on their foreheads. And I started thinking that this was a quiet way for Catholics to speak up – to gently remind everyone else that they were more than merely theoretical. They reminded me that they actually existed.
Suddenly Catholics in Fresno became real – they were humanized.
Would it be useful for Atheists to do something like this?
Oh I don’t mean wear ashes on our foreheads. And honestly, I think Catholics are being more than a little hypocritical by advertising their humility.
Non-believers should realize that religious people feel they can ignore us because it is almost impossible to tell a secular person from a religious person. And because we are so easily ignored, we are often forgotten. We are forgotten when new legislation is formed and when politicians give speeches. When the religious decide what is, and what is not a basic human right, they ignore secular objections.
Maybe secular people should take a lesson from Catholics. There are plenty of symbols that non-believers could wear to show that we exist. We could pick one day a year, advertise that day, and wear one of these symbols. It doesn’t matter that there is a plethora of different Atheistic symbols, wear one that you identify with – but wear it on that day! Tell anyone who asks just what the symbol is and what it stands for.
I suggest that we do this on the first Thursday of May every year. This is also known as the National Day of Thought / Day of Reason, in opposition to America’s National Day of Prayer. On this day secular people are urged to donate blood (I did last year!). I think this would be a perfect day to wear a secular symbol of your choice at the blood donor station.
It’ll give you something to talk about.