Peter Steinfels' column yesterday focused on the challenge that atheists face in organizing political activity:
As an atheist, Ms. Norman felt indignant about what she considered an intrusion of religious dogma into public policy. So she decided to hold a rally of like-minded nonbelievers, who might variously describe themselves as atheists, humanists, freethinkers or secularists. By various polls, such people accounted for nearly one-quarter of Colorado’s citizens.
Over two months, Ms. Norman made all the necessary arrangements — getting a parade permit, delineating the schedule for state officials, even buying a megaphone. She put out word about the rally not only through a variety of local atheist groups but also on the heavily trafficked Web site of Richard Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist who has become a best-selling author for his broadside against religion.
When the appointed day of Sept. 28 arrived, no more than three dozen supporters joined Ms. Norman on the steps of the State Capitol in Denver. No newspaper covered the event. The speechmaking and picketing concluded a half-hour before the rally’s designated closing time.
“I was very disappointed because I put so much work into it,” Ms. Norman, 42, a model for art classes, said this week in a telephone interview. “And so did some other people. But we were the only ones there. The secular community as a whole seemed so indifferent. It wasn’t like nobody knew. It was like nobody cared.”
Ms. Norman’s exasperating effort to mobilize nonbelievers as a political constituency was not some local anomaly. The difficulty of delivering secular voters in the way numerous religious groups are routinely and effectively put into electoral action reflects a national trend.
Read it all here.