It’s a simple fact of modern American life that of the many organizations out there fighting the good fight — from the NAACP to the ACLU — far too many of them are lousy at public relations. They are either grandstanding ringmasters in the three-ringed media circus or they’re tone-deaf academigods who hurl holier-than-thou lightening bolts at the populace below.

Few like them, and even fewer love them, and so the points they champion often go unheard of, despite their obvious merits. All that anybody seems to remembers is that they are a bunch of overbearing dickheads. And right now, no group out there is more dick-ish than the militant wing of the atheist movement.

They growl. They grouse. They hide in the dark ready to pounce on anyone that violates the Establishment Clause of the U.S. Constitution. They’re just like Batman, that is if the Dark Knight was obsessed with the separation of church and state and engaging in sidewalk melees with street preachers and Mormon missionaries. They are on a mission to rid the world of religion, and nothing will stop them, not even the futility of their quest.

Here in the Lowcountry, you have to look no further for the Dark Dickheads in action than the brouhaha that recently erupted over a Dorchester County school’s decision to assist a charity at a local Christian church.

The Post and Courier reports:

The American Humanist Association, whose slogan is “good without God,” sent a letter last month to Dorchester District 2 officials threatening legal action over Oakbrook Elementary School’s support of students collecting food and raising money for Old Fort Baptist Church’s food pantry…

The humanist association said it received complaints from some parents, and the association threatened legal action if the school didn’t drop the project in a Nov. 20 letter to District Superintendent Joe Pye and Oakbrook Principal Monica O’Dea.

“The purpose of this letter is to advise you that such school-sponsored fundraising efforts – the proceeds of which go directly to an evangelical Christian Church – must immediately cease, and that our organization will pursue the matter through litigation in federal court if it does not,” Monica Miller, an attorney with the Appignani Humanist Legal Center in Washington, D.C., said in the letter.

While you can certainly argue that a strict separation of church and state prevents this sort of thing — and you’d be right — the actions of the American Humanist Association is a PR disaster. I mean, who the fuck opposes helping out a food bank, regardless of their religious affiliation? Even the Grinch knows that’s a dick move. It’s also an ignorant one considering the fact that many food banks and soup kitchens are religious in nature.

One of the problems here is that the AHA and others often turn to the courts to solve their problems, and as someone who has been on the receiving end of this sort of thing, getting sued is a grueling and depressing grind that just has a way of taking up all of your time, time you should be spending doing your job, being with your family, getting shit-faced in front of the tellie binging on season four of Breaking Bad. You’re not going to change anybody’s mind by suing them. You’ll only intimidate them, and frankly, nobody likes a bully — especially when they’re right and/or their name is Walter White. And no, I won’t say your name.

The truth is the American Humanist Association, Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, and all the rest would better serve the cause of atheism — and rational thought for that matter — if they quit acting like intolerant boycott-lovin’, protest-holding, book-burning fundamentalists. That means it’s time to stop attacking nativity scenes. That means it’s time to back off pre-game prayers. That means it’s time to stop putting up billboards at Christmas time mocking the holiday. Or in the case of a group of atheists, crafting your own set of 10 Commandments and releasing your list just days before Dec. 25. Fucking lame.

As a guy who doesn’t believe in any mystical mumbo jumbo, I think it’s high time atheists quit defining themselves by what they aren’t. They aren’t against anything — whether it’s Christianity, Judaism, Islam, or even anti-Scientology — although they should be since it’s less a religion and more of a pyramid scheme involving the buying of self-help merit badges. Atheism is pro-truth and as such pro-life. This is all the time we have on earth, so each life is a precious commodity. It should be protected and cherished and never cheapened.

The point is, an atheist understands that the actual existence of God — as opposed to the imagined existence of God — is irrelevant to the human condition. Barring a few accounts written several thousand years ago from less than reputable sources, the Almighty chooses to stay out of human affairs despite the efforts of pro football players, test-taking teens, and stock market gamblers — and that’s the best case scenario.

At worst, God is a fictional character that has been in the public domain for so long His brand has been cheapened by countless black market knockoffs that don’t hold up to the wear and tear of everyday life. You wouldn’t pick a fight with a street-corner Gucci bag that costs $25, so why would you pick a fight with God?

There is absolutely no reason an atheist should treat believers any differently than you would a rabid Gamecock fan or a member of the Park West Book Club or gal who puts a 26.2 sticker on her car — which means you should treat them with the same respect as you would your next door neighbor. Heck, you might even buy them a T-shirt with “Go Cocks!” on it as a Christmas present or pick up a copy of Station Eleven to discuss at the next book club meeting or strap on a par of New Balances and go for a jog with them. 

As your neighbors, you might shake your head when they put pink flamingos in their yard, or your might feel a little bit annoyed when they ask you to buy Girl Scout cookies for their daughter’s troop, but you know what you don’t do: You don’t lobby the Ansonborough Neighborhood Association to put a lien on their property and you don’t tack flyers to the front door of every house on Wentworth listing the nutritional information on a box of Caramel Delights. There is no need for you to go toe to toe with them until they do something to prevent you from exercising your rights — and I’m sorry, but the freedom to live in a world where religion doesn’t exist isn’t one of them.

It’s like trying to escape Batman. He’s everywhere: from the big screen to the boob tube, pre-school toys to office tchotchkes, T-shirts to Underoos, fruit roll-ups to Pez dispensers. This is his world and we’re all just participants in his ongoing adventures in mass marketing.

Personally, I’m glad Batman’s around. He may not be for real, but man, the world is a heckuva lot cooler with him in it.