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etiquette329898I stumbled on a compelling new blog a few weeks back, and I’m afraid I must insist that you check it out.

Atheist Etiquette is the blog of “an atheist who’s interested in exploring the ways atheists and agnostics can relate to the rest of society without compromising their own integrity, harming the atheist cause (if there is such a thing) or causing unnecessary and inappropriate harm or discomfort to others.”

He continues: “I’ve learned over the years that getting along with people is a good thing to do when you can manage it, and that etiquette isn’t only (or mainly) about doing the ‘proper’ thing, but often about just showing some consideration for the other people who share the world with you….I’m not particularly interested in the ’cause’ of atheism — promoting atheism as a worldview or taking a big stand for atheists getting the rights and respect they deserve. I think it’s good that there are people doing that, but I’m more interested in the questions that affect ordinary, run-of-the-mill atheists and agnostics as they try to navigate life in a world where most people believe in gods and magic, and often assume that everyone else does as well.”

I wouldn’t have the least interest in this blog if it advocated a kind of indiscriminate respect for religious ideas. The narrower and far more interesting straits explored by Atheist Etiquette are revealed in its subtitle: “How to get along with real people and their imaginary friends.” There’s nuance and wisdom in there. It is possible to treat people well even as you withhold respect for, or actively challenge, their ideas. In fact, this blogger seems to fully grasp that it’s desirable — that we stand a far better chance of getting good people to reconsider bad ideas if we separate the people and their inherent worth from those ideas.

Atheist Etiquette isn’t always consistent on that score — but who is? And I’m not even certain he would quite agree with my own way of looking at this, which is fine. The main thing is that he’s hard at work sorting out this important but under-explored topic.

A few favorite posts to get you started:

Etiquette Rules #1-5 (starts here)
To bow (your head) or not to bow?
“I’ll pray for you”
Third-party insults
Being polite vs. being respectful

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Dale McGowan is the author of Parenting Beyond Belief, Raising Freethinkers, and Atheism for Dummies. He holds a BA in evolutionary anthropology and a PhD in music.