- President Barack Obama
As an atheistic apatheist (not only do I not believe there's a god but that I honestly don't care), being included in an inaugural address is a pretty big deal for me. I mean, I have had people stop talking to me because of my atheism; I have been mistaken for a Satanist due to my atheism; and more than once people have reacted as if I've betrayed them in some way by being an atheist and not Catholic like they normally assume. To be included in the bigger picture, to have my nonbelief offered up as a strength for our nation, is pretty moving for me. It gives me hope that one day, being an atheist won't be something that elicits a horrified reaction; it gives me hope that one day, being an atheist won't immediately be equated with the opposite of goodness; that being an atheist won't immediately make someone assume that I am not trustworthy, or a liar, or that I am a thing to be pitied; that I am only an atheist because I don't want to own up to my sinful ways, and if I only knew of the glory of God, that I would be saved.
One of the stories on Talk of the Nation on the 15th was about atheism and the advertising of it in a public square, focusing mainly on the bus ads that had been present in D.C. during the Christmas season, proclaiming that we should be good "for goodness' sake". The idea behind this discussion was atheist activism, how others felt about it, and if there were more atheists now than ever before. I don't know if there are; I honestly don't care if there are. It doesn't make any difference to me if we make up 2% of the population or 50% of the population. What I do want is for atheism to be recognized as a perfectly valid belief. I don't know if bus ads or billboards or a mention in an inaugural address is enough to do that, to validate a belief that goes against the core beliefs held by many in the nation. But it is a start, and it does make me feel a bit more accepted.