A Fantastic Article About Atheists in Arkansas

Doug Smith wrote a cover story about local atheists for the Arkansas Times. He did his homework, too — it’s one of the most in-depth pieces you’ll ever read about Secular Americans in a mainstream publication:

It’s said there are no atheists in foxholes, and that’s baloney, according to a military man we’ll call “Brad.” At an atheists’ social gathering in Little Rock, Brad told a reporter that as an Air Force pilot, he’d been in situations where his life was in danger, and on those occasions, the farthest thing from his mind was seeking assistance from an omnipotent Santa Claus.

“In an emergency, you do what you’ve been trained to do,” he said. “If you’re praying, you’re not doing the very thing you need to be doing, your job.”

It may be another indication of keeping a cool head under fire that although Brad mixed freely with fellow freethinkers in a beer-and-pizza get-together at Vino’s, and answered questions for a reporter, he didn’t want his real name or photograph used in a newspaper article. “The military is a conservative culture,” he said. “One ultra-religious commander could ruin your career.”

The article covers everything from the rejected bus ads to the state Constitution’s (unenforceable) prohibition against atheists running for public office.

And it ends with the suggestion that what we’re doing — publicizing our existence and doing it without disparaging faith — is working:

The [local Religious Right activist] Jerry Coxes are right to fear the atheists’ ads. Advertising works; a familiar, friendly kind of atheism will almost certainly produce more atheists, when combined with all the other reasons that people lose faith. The Arkansas Razorbacks have lost their best running back before the season’s even started. Would a merciful God let that happen?

If any religion reporter wants to write an interesting story, sure to get tons of shelf-life and comments online, just visit a local atheist group. No doubt you’ll find stories of conflict, family tension, and living life as a minority… as well as stories of generosity and kindness despite a lack of belief in a higher power.

(Thanks to Martin for the link!)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the chair of Foundation Beyond Belief and a high school math teacher in the suburbs of Chicago. He began writing the Friendly Atheist blog in 2006. His latest book is called The Young Atheist's Survival Guide.

  • http://diaryofamessylady.wordpress.com/ Lauren

    Wow, that does look like a great article. Only have time to skim it now since I have to run the chitlin off to school, but you can bet I’ll be reading the full thing when I get home. Thanks!

  • Jonesy

    Glad to see the Ark Times here. I work in another publication in downtown Little Rock and most of us are friends with their editorial staff. Most of the time when I see something about Arkansas in the news/blogs having to do with religious, it’s pretty terrible (just search “HU Queer Press,” if you haven’t seen it before). But it’s great to see something positive for once.

  • Anonymous

    I don’t think there was a single disparaging remark made about atheists in the article – I’m confused.  I’m going to have to troll the World Net Daily for an hour…

  • Annie

    It was a good article… and I was floored by how positive it was.  If I had to nitpick,  I didn’t really care for the term, the “unfaithful”, because of the obvious negative connotations of the word, and the comments section was ablaze due to the use of the phrase “sexual preference”.    I was also surprised that the comment appeared to be coming from either atheists or sympathizers. .. where are all the christians hiding?

  • Jonesy

    @10ea3566a685ca98f971273605d947e2:disqus  – The “sexual preference” thing seems a bit overblown to me, especially in the face of an insightful article. But I will note that the general readership of Ark Times leans towards the liberal left – which generally distances itself from the conservative Christian culture. I’m sure there are some, but they’re bound to be a bit more silent in this environment.

  • Holly

    I live in Arkansas and it’s so encouraging to see that there are other atheists around these parts. The Arkansas Times is a fairly liberal publication but it is still shocking to see this as the cover story. I hope it helps raise awareness and that other atheists know they aren’t alone.

  • Dave Bentley

    Thanks for the national coverage in your blog, Hemant. It was a very good article and our organization was very pleased.  I like your plea to religion reporters to follow suit and write about their local atheist organizations.  We in the atheist community certainly are a very interesting, newsworthy, and controversial group.

    I look forward to meeting you and hearing you speak at Skepticon IV in Springfield, MO this November!

    Dave Bentley
    President
    Arkansas Society of Freethinkers

  • Marcie

    I thought this was such a great article that I posted it on my facebook page.  My (20 year old) niece was very upset at my posting this!!  She was concerned about any children that might find out atheists exist (not her exact words) and what it would do to our family since my mother-in-law is very sick with cancer.  I couldn’t get her to tell me exactly why it was so upsetting to her but I received many comments of support from other friends and coworkers.  


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