During the summer I wrote an article about how the concept of the Overton Window can help explain the process radicals use in their task of cultural degredation. Over at Big Think, atheist Adam Lee explains (in much the same way that I did) just how atheists can use this approach:
So, how do you shift the Overton window? The answer is simple: You have to stand outside it and pull. Social change always begins with a few brave people who dare to advocate something previously unthinkable. And most of those first-generation advocates, to be perfectly honest, suffer scorn, ridicule and opprobrium, are often even targets of persecution and violence. But by their mere existence, by their willingness to stand fast on their principles and refusal to compromise, they stretch the boundaries of what the majority considers possible and redefine what counts as the “moderate” position.
With this metaphor in mind, we can more clearly see what the atheism debate is all about. The moderates and accommodationists giving us advice – what they’re really asking is to leave the Overton window where it is, for us to target only the people whom wider society already agrees are wrong. The New Atheists, meanwhile, have a different goal in mind: we believe that as long as religious faith is the accepted and unquestioned default, atheism will never be socially acceptable. By criticizing all faith, we want to shift the Overton window in our direction and make atheism more familiar, more accepted, and therefore more influential. In the long run, that will win us more converts and allies than a strategy of just being nice.