Atheism is not the “new gay marriage” (or the new anything else)

A few months ago, Bill Maher made a claim that I regularly hear from other atheists:
“[Atheists are] out there, they’re thinking it, they’re just afraid to say it. But that’s changing,” he said. “It’ll be the new gay marriage.”
He’s certainly not the first person to have made the comparison. Earlier this year Todd Stiefel, a prominent atheist activist and generous philanthropist, took the analogy a step further when speaking with CNN:
“I consider myself working on the next civil equality movement, just like women’s rights, LGBT rights and African-American Civil Rights.”
Austin Cline claims on About.com’s atheism section that “atheists [are] hated more than gays,” and bestselling author Richard Dawkins has frequently compared the LGBTQ (lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender, queer) rights movement to the atheist movement—drawing heavily from the LGBTQ rights movement for his “Out Campaign,” which encourages atheists to “come out.” And these are just a few examples in a long line of well-intentioned atheist activists and organizations—who generally consider themselves LGBTQ allies—comparing the LGBTQ rights movement to the atheist movement. There are things about this comparison that, on the surface, make sense: atheists and LGBTQs are marginalized communities that deviate from normative ideas about how people should live, that often share an experience of needing to reveal our identities to others (sometimes with terrible consequences), and that experience social stigma.