Josh Jarman of The Columbus Dispatch had an article about the recent rise of atheism that quotes many non-religious leaders. Even one of the religious people mentioned in the article is correct in his assessment.
First, Tom Flynn, editor of Free Inquiry magazine, on why the atheist authors are so successful:
“With (President) Bush trumpeting his faith-based initiatives in the face of the separation of church and state, you have a lot of those in the nonbelieving community who feel their civil liberties are in danger,” Flynn said.
Add that to the growing number of American atheists and you have a recipe for political activism, he added.
Flynn predicts that the popularity of these books is the first step in a coming wave of atheist activism. “It took a very concentrated effort on behalf of the gay community to make people realize you know a gay person,” Flynn said. “People realized, ‘Hey, I have a gay co-worker, and they’re fine.’ We need to do that for the nonreligious.”
Also mentioned is Marilyn Westfall, board member of the American Humanist Association, and co-creator of The Eloquent Atheist:
She said there is genuine concern about the strength of the religious right in this country.
“It seems that humans have gone through cycles in which religious fervor must be opposed for the sake of ethics,” Westfall said.
Finally, we have the president of the Humanist Community of Central Ohio (HCCO), Amy Birtcher:
… she has watched [HCCO’s] numbers swell from the historic average of about 40 to almost 100 in the past two years.
She said people are turning to atheist authors’ works because they validate what they have been thinking for a long time.
“New members tell us quite regularly that the Bush administration and the current wave of conservative politics brought them out of the closet,” Birtcher said.
Still, she said, atheists remain one of the most maligned minority groups in the United States. Political polls reveal that people are less likely to vote for a nonbeliever than for a homosexual, she said.
“A lot of people are afraid,” Birtcher said. “They can’t tell their families. They can’t tell their co-workers because they fear real reprisal.”
They do quote Rev. Martin Marty, a professor emeritus at the University of Chicago Divinity School. He says this:
… just because the books reveal a cultural current in America, don’t expect a march on Washington.
The history of the various agnostic and atheist movements in this country, he said, is one of a failure to organize.
“Religions have the power to form groups,” Marty said. “When you look at the intellectual expression of atheism, it is very individualistic.”
Sadly, he’s right. As the saying goes, getting atheists to work together on anything is like herding cats. If we could actually get our &*$% together, we might be able to accomplish something and use our power for the better. If atheists supported the national non-religious organizations, it would give us all more opportunities to be heard at the highest levels of our government.
But so many atheists are wary of joining organized-anything.
Of course, no article on atheism is complete without the token religious leader who doesn’t know what he’s talking about. While Rev. Richard Burnett correctly points out that mocking the “other side” gets us nowhere, he also says that God “does not need to be defended.”
God is a faulty idea backed by no evidence and has caused a lot more harm than good. I’d say the idea needs some defending.