In our society, the voice and opinions of religious groups are given the greatest deference and respect. Religious leaders are widely regarded as experts on areas such as ethics, philosophy and even science, regardless of whether they have any qualifications or training in those fields. Even when they say things that are wrong or make no sense, they are often excused on the grounds that opinions derived from religion should not be criticized.
On the other hand, atheists are given practically no voice. For far too long, religious groups have propagated the myth that atheism is something to be ashamed of, that atheists should stay in the closet and keep silent, that our opinions and arguments are of no value when it comes to crucial questions of societal consensus.
This state of affairs is wrong, and it is long past time that it be changed. Atheists stand for many positive and praiseworthy values, including the willingness to listen to reason and evidence, a morality based on conscience and the common good, the fearless application of critical thinking and skepticism, and the courage to defend one's principles and speak out even in the face of the majority's disapproval. These are values that our society badly needs, and we are just the ones to provide them. It is time for atheists to step out of the closets, into the daylight, and take our rightful place at the table of society's discourse.