r/Atheism Is About to Reach 1,000,000 Subscribers… Does That Mean Anything?

The Atheism subreddit will probably hit the 1,000,000 subscribers milestone sometime within the next week:

Sounds impressive… I mean, it is by far the largest “organized” atheist community in the world by a longshot. But does it actually mean anything? Isn’t r/atheism mostly a collection of images and memes and ragefaces and commentary mocking other faiths? Does it really do any good?

I asked jij, one of the moderators of the page, what he thought of the milestone and he put things in perspective, saying that the 1,000,000 subscribers includes duplicate and abandoned accounts. I would also assume that a vast majority of the subscribers never post anything, never comment on any threads, never upvote or downvote any of the items, and problem never even see the page itself (they might visit the Reddit homepage, but not the r/atheism page).

Jij also pointed out that r/atheism is a default category for anyone who joins Reddit. You have to unsubscribe from it if you don’t want to see posts about atheism. In other words, a lot of people who don’t care about atheism at all (or are devoutly religious) are still listed as members because they’re either lazy, unaware, or just don’t care enough to remove atheism from their list of subreddits.

All that said, the traffic stats are very impressive. r/Atheism receives about 250,000 unique visitors a day and 3,000,000 unique visitors a month. That’s a *lot* of eyeballs. Moderator tuber is optimistic about it, saying, “Round numbers aside, I think r/atheism’s popularity is reflective of the broad shift towards secularism among young Americans.”

That’s made a difference when it comes to some of their donation drives. I know they were a huge reason the Damon Fowler and Jessica Ahlquist fundraisers on this site were so successful. They also raised over $200,000 for Doctors Without Borders.

Tuber also pointed out two other major benefits to the r/atheism community that don’t get discussed all that much:

r/atheism provides 24/7 support and advice to people who are struggling with their faith or with issues related to their unbelief. You can post at 4am saying “My family has discovered my atheism; it’s causing terrible conflict, help?!” or “My public school is leading students in prayer, what do I do?” and people will give their time to help you work through it.

I think this kind of support is particularly important for the atheist community, because we don’t have anything analogous to churches where people can go to in a crisis. For many people, r/atheism is their only explicitly secular support network. It’s worth mentioning that this support is given every day, but the posts almost never make the front page (which is fine, they don’t need to be on the front page) so it’s not a big part of r/atheism’s reputation.

Second greatest accomplishment: raising cultural awareness of atheism. r/atheism reaches a daily audience as large as that of some national TV shows (e.g. Dr. Drew, Nancy Grace, or Jim Cramer’s Mad Money). I think there’s tremendous value in publicly displaying atheism as a socially acceptable choice.

There’s one more accomplishment, says jij, that most readers never see: “The daily ‘thank you’ submissions we get that rarely make it to the front page.”

Something to consider before you dismiss the site as being high on fluff and low on substance :)

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.

  • Gunstargreen

    There’s nothing wrong with having a little fluff in the world. We’ve got places like this to go for substance :).

  • http://twitter.com/RedditContinuum Reddit Continuum

    The front page of  /r/atheism is not where the real use of the site resides, it is in the /r/atheism/new

    To everyone, if you have have never browsed /r/atheism/new to see the posts as they are submitted you are really missing the site,  it would be like picking your TV viewing from the weekly Neilson top ten list instead of channel surfing to see what is on right now.    

    • http://pulse.yahoo.com/_722JM2BE6YISLQ3KWROXGHBBXQ Joe Mama

      Yes. Downvote those trashy memes to hell. Up with personal stories!

    • A3Kr0n

       I’m glad you mentioned /r/atheism/new because long ago I dismissed the site as being high on fluff and low on substance

    • JNB003

      Definitely agree. If you read the /new section, you see a lot of heartfelt posts about someone’s journey to non belief, as well as people looking for real genuine advice on how to deal with situations regarding religion. The memes and Facebook pics are more a product of Reddit’s voting system. Much easier to go through 20 memes spewing upvotes than it is to read one well-thought out post. 

      /r/debateanatheist, /r/debatereligion, and /r/trueatheism are really great subreddits to discuss topics of religion, without all the memes and Facebook posts. I for one enjoy /r/debatereligion because you have some intelligent religious on it, who genuinely believe in their religion and will attempt to logically defend it. 

  • MegaZeusThor

    It can be a lot of memes and facebook arguments. But there can also be some gems. For example, theists wander in get their misconceptions clarified (or they delete, run away and sulk).

    They have an excellent FAQ: http://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/faq 

    And, as others have pointed out, /new http://www.reddit.com/r/atheism/new/ is the place to see a variety of content (good and bad).

    People watch the Daily Show first because it’s funny and popular; same with Reddit. The learning stuff may be secondary, but it can be there.

  • Efrique

    r/Atheism receives about 250,000 unique visitors a day and 3,000,000
    unique visitors a month. That’s a *lot* of eyeballs. Moderator tuber
    is optimistic about it, saying, “Round numbers aside, I think
    r/atheism’s popularity is reflective of the broad shift towards
    secularism among young Americans.”

    While it doesn’t change tuber’s point, about 50,000 of those 250,000 aren’t American.

    Many people don’t like the memes, ragecomics and facebook posts, but they’re rather easy to avoid. I rarely have to deal with them.
     

  • benjdm

    It means the failure to get 25,000 signature on the Alexander Aan White House petition is even more disappointing.

    • veganheathen

      I actually spend quite a bit of time at r/atheism, but I somehow missed that post. Just signed the petition. Thanks for pointing it out here.

    • JNB003

      Signed it. Thanks for bringing it up.

  • HughInAz

    The few times I looked at r/atheism, I got the impression it was a bunch of dweeby 13-year-old boys discovering the thrill of going online and writing “fuck God” from the safety of their bedrooms.

    • Benjamin

      That’s a shame.  You’re ignorance, that is.

      • HughInAz

        “You’re ignorance” – ROTFL!

      • Sdfiuj

         It’s called giving off steam.

  • http://hauntedtimber.wordpress.com/ timberwraith

    Given the nature of r/Atheism, this probably means that online atheism seems to attract an inordinate number of socially maladjusted individuals.

    (I prefer atheists in the real world as opposed to the ones who toss out insults and rancid comments from behind the safety of their monitors and keyboards.)

  • http://hauntedtimber.wordpress.com/ timberwraith

CLOSE | X

HIDE | X