When a person identifies with a given group--especially any sort of minority--there is (whether it is "fair" or not) a double-burden of representing the whole. I was thinking about this recently when a friend of mine had a bad experience with anti-Prop 8 canvassers. The canvasser rudely refused a $1 donation, insisting that all donations must be made minimally with a symbolic $8. First off, that is just stupid. If every person gave that $1, the campaign would be in great shape. But worse, the cranky canvasser misrepresented a movement about inclusion, equality, and love as dismissive, condescending, and rude. Aside from being in poor taste, it is also in poor campaign strategy.
This brought me back to my own atheist dilemma. As a secular humanist, I encounter all sorts of religious people that feel an unrelenting need to preach to me--even strangers on planes. The problem is, I can't say what I really want to say, because the last thing I would ever want to do is affirm the idea that atheists "can't handle god" or are "close-minded" or "stubborn" or "extremists." In an effort to represent the cause, I have to put up with listening to so much banter. I don't want to go to your seminars "proving" god or read your "science-based" books--not because I am scared of the truth, but because to me, that would be the equivalent of reading objective support for the boogy monster or the tooth fairy or Santa Clause.
I'm a busy person. I have countless other interests. It literally pains me and is a waste of my life force to hear people rationalize god to me. But I feel this pressure and guilt to politely, respectfully, and rationally engage as an atheist and represent my peeps.
Humph. A double-burden and a double-bind.