Celebrating the Availability of Atheist Resources

A few decades ago, there were very few resources for atheists who wanted either confirmation of their own beliefs or reasons to oppose the belief in God. When Herb Silverman was a teenager in the late 1950s, there was just a single book in his library: Bertrand Russell‘s Why I Am Not a Christian.

When I was a teenager in the late 1990s, I didn’t even consider getting books from the library that my parents could find, but I could go online and search for websites that might confirm what I was thinking. But the sites I found were few in number and rarely very inviting.

In an article for the Washington Post On Faith website, Silverman talks about how resources for atheists are now plentiful, not to mention non-religious national/local organizations and support groups, and we should be grateful for that:

Long story short, atheists are here to stay and, in fact, we’re growing. It’s a very different world from my teen years in the 1950s. The Internet has probably been the single most important factor in empowering young people with inquiring minds to learn about the many choices for religious belief or non-belief. Those who doubt religious claims no longer need to search randomly in a library or rely exclusively on information from within their small local communities.

The figurative genie is out of the bottle, and it’s out for good. No matter how hard religious and social conservatives strain to put the genie back in the bottle, they will not succeed in their attempts to pray the atheist away.

It’s amazing how the easy accessibility of opinions and knowledge has led to the rise of atheism and hastened the decline in religious adherence. The best tool religious leaders used to have was the ability to keep people in a bubble. In the Internet age, that’s just not an option. Pastors are no longer the final authority when it comes to truth.

(image via Shutterstock)

About Hemant Mehta

Hemant Mehta is the editor of Friendly Atheist, appears on the Atheist Voice channel on YouTube, and co-hosts the uniquely-named Friendly Atheist Podcast. You can read much more about him here.

  • Tobias2772

    In much the same way that the printing press led to the Reformation. The Catholic church could no longer control all of the information at hand.

  • advancedatheist

    I’ve met a few people who had the good fortune to have grown up as atheists, without having to deprogram themselves of childhood religious indoctrination. To me they seem almost like characters from an advanced, futuristic civilization out of science fiction. In fact, I suspect that the increasing visibility of atheists in the U.S. gives traditional theists the creeps because we look like an invasion of time travelers from the future, where religion has long since died.

  • Joel

    Wink, wink…. Ghod bless the Internet!

  • Keyra

    Growing up an atheist is a good fortune in your opinion? I had that misfortune; being an atheist is nothing special, hun. It’s not a matter of whose “advanced”, it’s juts an outlook on life, an opinion, nothing more

  • Jesse Cooper

    Hemant, let me say that your blog has been one of my best resources.

  • Zugswang

    I was a non-religious years before I knew anyone who was an atheist, ironically though my intensive study of world religions. While I became an atheist on my own, the growing community exposed me to new ways of thinking, challenged my ideas and refined and bolstered my arguments. It also gave me the confidence to challenge other people’s ideas about their beliefs and to positively assert my own. Without the strong atheist community we have today, I’d still be an atheist, but I’d probably have kept it to myself, and I’d probably still have some admittedly unenlightened views on other issues.

  • Timpmaster

    Growing up Atheist would have been a wonderful fortune to those of us who have suffered the abuses of religious indoctrination. Therefore, it’s very much a matter of who’s advanced, hon.

  • LesterBallard

    Reading the Bible made me a non-Christian, and non-Jew. Same for the Koran and Islam. Science made me an atheist.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Hemant Mehta

    Thanks! That means a lot! :)

  • WillBell

    The only ‘out atheists’ I knew in real life before I became an atheist were an asshole uncle and an intimidating aunt. I found the internet however and that provided a community of inviting like-minded people until I finally made the transition. In high school I found more until at this point I’d say my friends are more atheist than not (I’m still in high school).

    I saw The God Delusion on shelves at my bookstore but never would have dared buy it, same for any books I might have seen at the library (I’m sure there were some but can’t think of any).

    I do indeed feel lucky to have had the internet to ease the transition.

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    My favorite thing to do with a theist brings God into the equation. I love to ask them which God. Now of course they reply with the one true God and I normally reply with Zeus? We then play the game some more and it normally ends with bible, bible, bible, enjoy hell but I’ll pray that you find Jesus.

  • Anna

    I wasn’t really looking for atheist resources as a teenager, but I searched a bit in the late 90s and there wasn’t very much back then. I did find some online resources (chat rooms, newsgroups), but things have really exploded over the past decade. Not only blogs like FA, but more books than you can shake a stick at!

  • http://www.patheos.com/blogs/friendlyatheist/ Kevin_Of_Bangor

    Ditto and it has been that way for me, for years now. When I come here I know I’m going to read the truth, not some fluff and I’ve become personal friends with a few of the regular posters. There truly are some amazing people that comment here, which is another huge resource alone. If I don’t get my daily Hemant fix, my day does not seem complete.

  • kelemi

    Not yet an Atheist. I grew up knowing few. The ones I did know were very good people.

    The problem I have with many Atheists, as well as many Fundamentalists is that when I express an opinion they respond in profane, inflammatory and condescending language. The end result is that you turn off people. You catch more flies with honey than vinegar. That said, you have a good message that you need to get out in the proper way.

    I like reading this web site.

  • http://gamesgirlsgods.blogspot.com/ Feminerd

    I get what you’re saying, but that saying is actually factually incorrect.

    Flies love vinegar far more than they like honey. They’ll flock to it, given the choice.

  • Bigevil

    From the “Kids today don’t know how good they have it” department: The closest things to an atheist book I had in the 70′s was Vonnegut’s Palm Sunday and the writings of Samuel Clements. Discovered Bertrand Russell in the early 80′s and found Ingersol in the late 80′s. Those 4 got me through.

  • kelemi

    Got it. I’ll find out what turns them off and replace.

    Meanwhile, get the word out.

  • http://www.atheistrev.com/ vjack

    Russell’s Why I am Not a Christian was my first exposure to atheism too. Damn, I’m old! Silverman said there wasn’t much else out there in the 1950s; I couldn’t find much else as recently as the 1980s. I suspect that much of that had to do with the small town I was living in, but I think it would have taken me a couple more years to hear about atheism had it not been for Russell’s book.

  • advancedatheist

    Emanuel Haldeman-Julius’s book publishing business in Girard, Kansas (of all the unexpectable places) produced a lot of cheap paperbacks promoting free thinking about religion, sex and other controversial topics. from right after the First World War through the 1970′s. No doubt many an American man or woman in the 20th Century became the village atheist after reading some of these books.



  • meekinheritance

    I usually lead in with “God the Father and creator of humanity”? Then when I get the nod, I bring up Zeus. It’s almost fun.

  • joseph66

    Not scientific neutral resources, but atheists resources so they can think for themselves :-p

  • C.L. Honeycutt

    Your snide misrepresentations and passive-aggressive insults on behalf of Christ are noted.

  • baal

    “The best tool religious leaders used to have was the ability to keep people in a bubble.”
    Hence the alternative reality that is Faux News (etal).

  • baal

    Interestingly enough, there are folks who ‘converted’ to atheism based on something other than science. For example, an English Major might read the bible and after some deep reading, figure out that it’s a mess. Having been raised christian and then finding the basis of the religion bogus, toss the rest. Still being culturally christians, they don’t then pick up Ivory Coast shamanism or other culture’s religious tradition. An anthropologist might notice that people all over the world have various religions and that they are all mutually contradictory. The rational response to massive mutual contradiction is to junk the whole lot. This is two ways to get there without really getting all super scientific. I’m sure there are many more.

  • Joseph66

    It’s easier to become and atheist reading the Bible and then concluding you understand all Christian beliefs… Without even understanding it.