Walker Bristol, a political philosophy student at Tufts University, wrote recently on the Huffington Post that atheists — especially those who identify as New Atheists — should focus less on buying billboard space and more on combating social inequality:

Social justice is achieved through an alliance between sister causes. Not only must the atheist movement begin to openly care about and fight against class inequality and poverty, but they must do so by breaking down the divides between themselves and religious communities that share the same goal. The Foundation Beyond Belief, in facilitating philanthropic giving for humanist organizations, already sponsors a Poverty and Health charity each quarter, a beneficiary category which almost always receives the most donations of each of those supported by FBB. Local humanist organizations such as Atheists Helping the Homeless in Dallas-Fort Worth, Texas have also taken a lead in fighting economic inequality on the local level. But our national leaders continue to pour funds into self-righteous billboard campaigns rather than improving quality of life for those whose economic turmoil leaves them without access to the education that might improve their critical thought. And as long as that’s the case, the rest of society will continue to look on atheists with scorn, and potentially fruitful relationships with the religious will be shattered.

Thought it should be a compelling argument on its own, Bristol doesn’t simply posit that many people are suffering from the consequences of social inequality and that atheists should try to help them (remember, atheists believe that humans, not God, are ultimately responsible for improving the world). Bristol also proposes that doing social justice work would help to positively change the image of atheists, who are widely considered to be cold-hearted people.

So, just in case you’re the kind of atheist who doesn’t care about social inequality, perhaps you’re the kind who cares about changing what people think of atheists. Either way, now have you have a good reason to perform social justice work.

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