Whatever kind of bizarre ideal one may follow, one should not demand that it be the ideal, for one therewith takes from it its privileged character. One should have it in order to distinguish oneself, not in order to level oneself. […] Whereas true heroism consists, in not fighting under the banner of sacrifice, devotion, disinterestedness, but in not fighting at all – “This is what I am, this is what I want – you can go to hell!”
I first encountered that passage years ago, and it has long served as a bulwark against any tendency I have to proselytize for an issue I care about or a value I hold. As long as the basic idea here is simply to assert oneself against a hostile and bullying majority opinion, to carve out a space where one can be respected and left alone, then I’m all for it. I agree that there probably are a lot of people who are basically godless but shy away from thinking of themselves as such, preferring to keep some vague, inchoate version of Pascal’s Wager at hand, just in case the source of all life does turn out to be an insanely insecure, jealous psychopath. Empowering those kinds of people to feel good about not believing, and not compelled to make excuses or justifications for it, would be a good thing in my eyes.
Barring that desire to convert people to the cause, I do find it difficult to imagine belonging to any sort of atheist group, club, what have you — I’d imagine you run out of specifically atheist things to talk about pretty quickly, and who wants to listen to a bunch of similar stories of conflicts with religious relatives and acquaintances? I’m always glad to know if someone is an atheist because it indicates to me a healthy amount of intellectual independence (and therefore, and more importantly, a strong likelihood of an overall interesting personality), but I don’t have a desire to be part of any herd for any reason. I’ll just hope that expressions of disbelief remain for the most part a defensive action.