Bear with me now. This is not going to seem relevant for a while, but I do have a point.
The Melbourne Atheist Convention is just two weeks away and there is a flurry of dieting (not just women either!), clothes buying and hair fluffing going on in anticipation of meeting people we've only met on line and who, we fear, think we are a lot more attractive than we actually are! I have a feeling that Australia's spanx sales have gone through the roof!
I admit, I've let myself go a bit feral over the last few years, sitting on top of my mountain and not socializing as much as I should, Knowing I had to go to Melbourne and meet with 2,500 of my fellow atheists, I've been doing my own share of pre-Convention primping.
So, (abandoning my Naomi Wolfe sense of rationality), I decided to take a stab at a 'miracle cream' from the Avon catalogue that would 'minimise the appearance of fine lines' and make my skin appear 'more radiant'. Whoopee! Ordered the cream and mentioned to the Avon lady that I needed it URGENTLY because I was attending a Convention in two weeks, and I had to have my wrinkles minimised and my skin radiating like Dr Who just before his regeneration by 12 March at the VERY LATEST.
Avon lady emailed (sadly, they rarely 'ding dong' these days) and said my cream had arrived and if I really wanted it URGENTLY I could pick it up from her house.
So, off I went to retrieve my cream. (Are you still with me - this does have a point!)
When I arrived, she gave me my miracle cream and said, "So, what's this convention you're going to in Melbourne?"
I waited two beats, took a deep breath and said, "It's the Global Atheist Convention".
"Yes, I'm afraid I'm one of those dreaded atheists," I said with what I hoped was a winning smile, thinking, bugger, just when I find a good Avon lady I'm going to have to expose myself as a godless infidel.
Blank look, then, "Atheists?"
I decided to take a different tack.
"We're people who object to the intrusion of religion into government and state education."
"Oh!" she said. "Good on you! I agree completely! And you're getting together to oppose that? Good on you!"
She was really interested in the Convention and completely onside with the idea of keeping religion out of politics and the religious from imposing their ideals on to her BUT she hadn't a clue what an atheist was.
While I don't agree with Harris that we should shy away from calling ourselves atheists, I do think perhaps we should identify ourselves more with our stance on secularism than on religion per se. We might just find that we have a whole lot more support than we imagined.
Perhaps if more people actually knew what atheists were on about, we'd find that there are a lot of people who are atheists but haven't really thought about it.
And about the miracle cream? I'm only on day two. I'll let you know whether I look 10 years younger when I've passed the magical 7 day mark. ;-)