Why atheist activism?

Take a look at the most recent cartoon by Ted Rall, comparing people getting together based on nonbelief in God to “non-fans of golf com[ing] together around their common non-interest.” (I don’t know how relevant it is to the cartoon, but Rall believes in some sort of God, though he is not conventionally religious.)

Rall has a point. Shared nonbelief is not much of a basis for even a very thin form of community. And nonbelievers are notoriously impossible to organize.

On the other hand, Rall also misses the point. In highly religious societies, lack of belief, never mind opposition to belief in God, can be a significant social handicap. Even the sense of being disadvantaged by a common underlying cause is a powerful incentive for people to get together. There are some real common interests expressed by the current “hot” period for atheism.

Now, the situation becoming as absurd as in the cartoon might well be an aspiration for many nonbelievers. I, personally, would welcome the sort of social change that would make my skepticism about religion as socially insignificant as my preference for real football (soccer) over the American abomination we please to call football. But we’re far from such a condition, and given how deeply religion is lodged in human nature, it is hard to see how to get there.

In that case, as far as I’m concerned, there is a role for atheist activism and nonbelievers coming together around common interests, into the foreseeable future.

About Taner Edis

Professor of physics at Truman State University

  • http://www.blogger.com/profile/12963476276106907984 Sabio Lantz

    A closer analogy may be a group “Golf Widows” — They would be people who don’t play golf, but are deeply affected by those who do play golf.


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