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Salon: Atheism’s new clout

Salon: Atheism’s new clout

Gretta writes in Salon:

Atheists have been around for decades, and they’ve been organizing for decades. But something new, something big, has been happening in atheism in the last few years — atheism has become much more visible, more vocal, more activist, better organized, and more readily mobilized — especially online, but increasingly in the flesh as well. The recent Reason Rally in Washington, DC brought an estimated 20,000 attendees to the National Mall on March 24 — and that was in the rain. Twenty thousand atheists trucked in from around the country, indeed from around the world, and stood in the rain, all day: to mingle, network, listen to speakers and musicians and comedians, check out organizations, schmooze, celebrate, and show the world the face of happy, diverse, energetic, organized atheism.

Atheists are becoming a force to be reckoned with. Atheists are gaining clout. Atheists are becoming a powerful ally when we’re inspired to take action — and a powerful opponent when we get treated like dirt.

The article isn’t making a theological case but a political one. Atheists are becoming better organized, are raising lots more money, and have formed some strategic alliances.


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Erp! So we are fellow spirits…. church going atheists. Glad you’re here.


Emma Pease

Susan, I’m erp so we have crossed in the internet before:-) though I do wonder whether we are the only two atheists hanging around in this part.

The outspoken atheists are a mixed group and just like the liberal Christians tend to be drowned out by the Pat Robertsons, the few loud ones tend to drown out the diversity (they are certainly not an united group). Note that atheist describes only one very small aspect of a person; many choose to use humanist instead as it describes a bit more including what one is for instead of against (and some with a different world view would use objectivist). I know my local university’s Secular Student Alliance affiliated group is officially part of the religious community and has been more active in interfaith activities than most of the other religious groups (this I’ve heard from liberal Christian students not just the atheist/humanist students). Greg Epstein has been advocating humanist chaplains at universities (and others for humanist chaplains in the military). Most humanists are vehement supporters of LGBT rights. Many support other social justice issues (e.g., Ugandan humanists starting schools)

As for mythos and logos, unfortunately a lot of religious people tend to think their mythos is logos and should decide law. I’m a staunch secularist (i.e., church/state separation) and that might be a common ground with many religious people.


Every culture needs its mythos as well as its logos.


I find so much “new atheism” (atheist fundamentalism, or anti-theism) to be sterile.

I really don’t give a flip what anyone calls their Highest Truth.

But can they affirm (sing!) the following?

What’s it all about, Alfie?

Is it just for the moment we live?

What’s it all about when you sort it out, Alfie?

Are we meant to take more than we give

or are we meant to be kind?

And if only fools are kind, Alfie,

then I guess it’s wise to be cruel.

And if life belongs only to the strong, Alfie,

what will you lend on an old golden rule?

As sure as I believe there’s a heaven above, Alfie,

I know there’s something much more,

something even non-believers can believe in.

I believe in love, Alfie.

Without true love we just exist, Alfie.

Until you find the love you’ve missed you’re nothing, Alfie.

When you walk let your heart lead the way

and you’ll find love any day, Alfie, Alfie.

[The Gospel According to Bacharach&David. Congrats on the Presidential award, guys: so well-deserved!]

JC Fisher


Hi Emma. Some of us atheists (I am one) actually spend a lot of time with the faithful. Indeed, I’m a regular here, I’m married to an Episcopalian, and an Episco-blogger to boot, but still a non-believer.

I’ll tell you what irks me about my fellow non-believers. Too many of them disrespect those of faith and couch their atheism and science as a direct antagonist to religion. (And religion to them, as Richard points out above, is generally all portrayed as fundagelical right wingers).

Which just makes a sort of fundamentalist religion of their atheism. People are different; if some choose to walk their path with their concept of a God as an inspiration, what’s it to me? Any more than someone who walks with the works of Shakespeare or Plato in mind?

I was actually in DC on the day of the reason rally — by coincidence, not to attend it. On my way to one of the museums, I wandered over, and went through the tent where they were selling things. I was annoyed that SO much of the merchandise was simply attacking religion and believers. And that’s what most of the speakers did, too.

Because,you see, that’s attacking my wife, and our friends and fellow travelers.

So I’m irked by the “professional atheists” making a war on religion. It’s much better to be FOR something than simply AGAINST something. What are atheist groups FOR?

Most of the atheists I know (and I’m a scientist, so I know a lot) simply don’t care one way or the other, viewing religion as a personal choice. We don’t join atheist groups because we see no point. And we certainly DON’T view science as “at war” with religion. Every culture needs its mythos as well as its logos.

I’ve said before, I went through my religion bashing phase, now I’m post religious. Or a Gratheist, perhaps.

Susan Forsburg

Richard E. Helmer


I’m glad you’re here, and thanks for helping keep us people of faith honest!

Since you asked: the only thing I find irksome at times is the assumption among some atheists that all Christians are fundamentalists, literalists, anti-scientific, etc. We all forget too easily the diversity of our communities.

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