Read the full interview here.
Anyone paying attention in the last decade or so – at least since Sept. 11, 2001 – must have noticed the rise of public atheism. Atheist blogs, websites, and associations such as the Out Campaign have sprung up seemingly out of nowhere, all emphasizing the need to speak about religion openly and without filters. In London and New York, atheist associations have even bought advertising space on city buses to promote slogans like, “There’s probably no god. Now stop worrying and enjoy your life.”
The Italian Union of Rationalist Atheists and Agnostics (UAAR) is the only association in Italy dedicated to the rights of the non-religious and the promotion of a secular worldview. The association was born in 1986, with the objective of defending the rights of non-believers and the secular nature of the State. Their campaigns include Debaptism Day (for baptized Catholics who wish to legally separate themselves from the Catholic Church) Darwin Day (a celebration of science and reason), and the removal of crucifixes from public classrooms. In November 2009, the European Court of Human Rights in Strasbourg ruled that the presence of the crucifix violates the religious and educational freedom of children. The UAAR was behind this campaign, and helped win a decisive victory.
The rising number of non-believers going public inevitably invites a backlash from more traditionalist quarters. Politicians like Ignazio La Russa and Silvio Berlusconi have publicly declared their contempt for the separation of church and state. Pope Benedict XVI regularly admonishes non-beleivers with heavy-handed phrases like “loss of dignity,” calling those without God “alienated from themsleves.” Atheists are labelled “christophobic.” Cardinal Murphy O’Connor, in a defamatory video since removed from YouTube, asserted that “atheists are not fully human.” The tendency is toward defamation, to make the atheist look like an outsider, the humanist somewhat less than human. It is in this climate that atheists, secularists and humanists have begun to speak up and defend their rights. Raffaele Carcano is the Secretary of the UAAR and co-author (with Adele Orioli) of Uscire dal Gregge (Leaving the Flock), Luca Sossella Editore 2008.