Actions Speak Louder Than Words

I got emails today from the Freedom From Religion Foundation and American Atheists.

For what it’s worth, I’m a due-paying member of both organizations. I support them both and will most likely continue to do so in the future.

But I think the emails illustrate where the groups are today and which one is going to grow stronger in the future.

American Atheists sent out a press release condemning Mitch Albom for calling the high school shooter in Cleveland an atheist:

Ellen Johnson, President of American Atheists, said that Albom’s column [which described the shooter as a "self-described atheist"] defamed and insulted millions of Atheists, Freethinkers, Humanists and other non-believers.

“This is an old chestnut we’ve heard over and over every time a single disturbed individual — especially a troubled young person — commits an act of senseless violence,” said Johnson. “There are no reputable studies to support such a claim. In fact, surveys taken in jails and penitentiaries show that Atheists and other disbelievers are a very, very small percentage of prison populations.”

Very good point. That needs to be heard.

But that’s it. A press release. Which usually comes along with the hope that someone from the press will contact the organization.

The Freedom From Religion Foundation, on the other hand, sent this:

CBS 4 TV in Denver, in “Atheist Family Sues School Over Popular Program” (Oct. 16) covers the Freedom From Religion Foundation’s newest lawsuit just filed in federal court, challenging a Cherry Creek school district program that instructs that a “young person spends one or more hours per week in activities in a religious institution.”

The story in question is here.

In fact, it seems most of the emails I get from FFRF revolve around a lawsuit they are winning or the press they are receiving for helping make atheism more mainstream. Their monthly newsletter constantly highlights scholarship winners (of which there are many) and new life members (who have donated at least $1,000).

American Atheists does file lawsuits and they do win, they have helped organize some major events like the Godless Americans March on Washington, and they give away scholarships (hell, I’m a recipient), but their major actions are not coming in a constant stream. It’s more like spurts here and there.

(Though I think AA applying to join the Secular Coalition for America could be a huge boost for both parties…)

FFRF has managed to get to the Supreme Court, top 10,000 members (now over 11,000), and take their radio show national on Air America.

And that’s just this year.

It’s not that I wish AA would file more lawsuits. You do that when you have to. But I would like to see AA do more with the (in)famous organization they have. That would require more staff/manpower and more fundraising, though.

How great would it be to see multiple organizations representing atheists and doing so in big ways, all the time? No one group can speak for all of us, but in the past we haven’t had many options. To have several groups working, lobbying, and rallying on our behalf would be a boon.


[tags]atheism, atheist[/tags]

  • Mriana

    I’m a member of FFRF and I haven’t gotten this email. I’m wondering what happened. The day isn’t over either.

    I’d be upset too because the news reporters don’t go around saying, “A Christian student shot and killed X students.” :roll: It really should not matter, IMHO.

  • http://thatatheistguysblog.blogspot.com NYCatheist

    Excellent post. I wrote my own criticism of AA recently, but I won’t link to it because it’s just negative complaining and I was in a bad mood. I’m not a member of AA, but the biggest thing that turns me off is their weird definition of atheism as a “doctrine” and also their habit of capitalizing “Atheism”. My other quibbles are the general poor web site design, and in my opinion, ugly Flash Gordon style symbol.

    I’ve been a proud member of the FFRF for two years and I love their newsletter and podcast/radio show. Judging from their on-air persona, Dan Barker and Annie Laurie Gaylor sound like very kind and intelligent people. They embody the perfect combination of friendly atheism and vigorous activism.

  • http://skepticsplay.blogspot.com/ miller

    The AA press release makes it sound like they just refuse to believe the shooter was an atheist. I guess if he was involved in a shooting, he must not have been a True Atheist(tm). True Atheists can absolutely never be nihilists, because that would just be too stereotypical.

  • HappyNat

    I don’t get the uproar over Albom’s column other than it is a poorly written pile of trash (as are most of his columns). Atheism isn’t the only thing he cites as a possible reason and he doesn’t directly attack it. I think “we” come across as whiners bitching about this “attack”.

  • Karen

    What I love about Dan Barker is that he’s one of the few atheist leaders (along with Michael Shermer) who is a former fundamentalist Christian. As such, he really gets religion and its appeal far, far more than people like Dawkins or PZ who were never adult believers.

    Barker knows the lingo and he can talk to believers, anticipate their responses and understand where they are coming from – that’s invaluable for the FFRF.


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