Disorganised atheism in America

From the good boys over at the Economist:

What accounts for the failure of atheists to organise and wield influence? One problem is that they are hardly a cohesive group. Another issue is simply branding. ‘Atheist’ has an ugly ring in American ears and it merely defines what people are not. ‘Godless’ is worse, its derogatory attachment to ‘communist’ may never be broken. ‘Humanist’ sounds too hippyish. A few have taken to calling themselves ‘Brights’ for no good reason and to widespread mirth. And ‘secular’ isn’t quite the word either; one can be a Christian secularist.

But another failing of the irreligious movement has been its tendency, frequently, to pick the wrong fights. Keeping the Ten Commandments out of an Alabama courthouse is one thing. But attacking a Christmas nativity scene on public property does more harm than good. Such secular crusades allow Christians-after all, the overwhelming majority of the country-to feel under attack, and even to declare that they are on the defensive in a ‘War on Christmas’. When a liberal federal court in California struck the words ‘under God’ from the pledge of allegiance, religious conservatives rallied. Atheists might be tactically wise to accept the overwhelming majority’s comfort with such ‘ceremonial deism’.



  1. I’m confused after reading this. Considering Atheism is NOT an organized religion, it’s failure lies in being disorganized? Huh? Considering the fact that the organized religions have been attacking Atheists (as well as Pagans, Wiccans, and various other non-Abrahmaic belief systems) for years, how could they NOT expect an “attack”? I suppose we’re just expected to “turn the other cheek”, and not raise our voices so that they’re heard?!
    And it’s not that all Atheists, Pagans, etc are “against” their customs and displays. We just want equal time and respect shown to ours. If Pagans want to display a Pentacle next to a nativity scene, they should be allowed to do it without the fear of some Xtians vandalizing it. If an Atheist doesn’t want to say “one nation under God”, then they should be allowed an alternative, etc ad infinitum.

  2. The large Christian population in the U.S. is what defines the non-Christian contingent. It’s the problem of dualism: if you’re not this, you’re that. One way or another.

    It’s a nice world where everyone can just be themselves (generally a lot of non-Christians and Christians are like this). However, when the line is drawn in the sand, it’s good to be aware of the repercussions it might have on you, haphazardly being defined without being aware it was going on in the first place.

    Unfortunately, it forces disorganised reactions from those BEING labelled, as they’ve been thrust into the midst of a concern or struggle they weren’t a) aware of, or b) cared about.

    It’s one of the plights of the Abrahamic religions: this poisonous duality, that enforces its will upon others. And because we live in this Christian/Muslim world, we have to deal with their willingness to enforce their view upon the rest of us.

    Without knowing it, many Americans will suffer at the convictions of complete strangers, living a life of contrived context that may be totally alien to the many rest of us.

    The world would be an amazing place is Christians only reread Matthew 6:5?8:

    And when you pray, do not be like the hypocrites, for they love to pray standing in the synagogues and on the street corners to be seen by men. I tell you the truth, they have received their reward in full. But when you pray, go into your room, close the door and pray to your Father, who is unseen. Then your Father, who sees what is done in secret, will reward you. And when you pray, do not keep on babbling like pagans, for they think they will be heard because of their many words. Do not be like them, for your Father knows what you need before you ask him.

    Pat Condell on the subject:

  3. I agree about the “us and them” mentality. I also think a lot of it is them “doth protesting too much”. How else could you explain this silly shit?….

    Regardless of their “statistics”, more and more people are leaving the church, and I think they’re grasping at straws.

  4. “What accounts for the failure of atheists to organise and wield influence?”

    You mean like the secular nation of the United States, or science, or medicine, or technology – are those the sorts of things that don’t wield influence? We atheists have held all the cards since the enlightenment, only willfull ignorance and a drive to turn back the clock changes that.

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