Is the Atheist Movement Dead in the Water?

Posted by on November 20, 2011 in Thoughts | 11 comments

I am a staunch supporter of the atheistic movements we have seen rise in popular culture, especially over the past 10 years. It’s not because I hate God, or because I’m rebelling against a religious past. Firstly, I am atheist because I see no reason to believe nor evidence to suggest that God exists. I was never brought up religious, and am not rebelling against anything from my past. I’m not doing it because it’s the latest cool thing to do as some would suggest. I do it because religion, particularly organised religion has far too much power in politics and society, pushing its moralised ideals upon all people instead of staying in the churches and mosques where it belongs.

I have seen a groundswell of support among people, those who are “coming out” as atheists, those who are finding the powers of social media, and those who are empowering themselves with knowledge about the natural universe. And it is an exciting time to be alive, one where our ideas can be shared, theistic and non-theistic alike. However I am beginning to feel that the atheistic movement is treading water somewhat, not really making much change in the world. It seems to me it is more akin to beating ones head against an immovable object rather than spreading encouragement for people to learn. I see it mostly on Twitter, and in blogs and the like, but most engagements seems to consist of contradicting theistic claims, the same claims over and over and over again. Nothing is changing, and I doubt if we will ever see a single mind change from an engagement on Twitter over whether the Bible is the true word of God.

I feel we are lacking focus. The problems of the world are not caused by religion alone, rather abuse of religious privilege, abuse of political power, and pressure from those who have the money to quash the forward thinking ideas that could see us into the next millennium. As sad as it may seem, the role of religion in this whole debate is only a minor player. Rather than attacking the religion, we should be attacking the root of the perceived need to believe, and replace it with reasoned and rational thought. Religions can only thrive on ignorance, willful or otherwise, for when one starts to ask questions, the theistic claims start to crumble like chalk.

I know I’m not the only person who realises this. I have seen a few people finding the fight a disillusioning experience, with all the head-beating and knowledgeable posturing, the stubborn opposition plugging their ears and yelling “NUH-UH!!” But all this achieves nothing if we can’t make some real change in the physical world. Even among the ranks of Atheists online, we have recently seen infighting, on the blogosphere and on Twitter. And it would seem that we can’t all agree what the best way forward is.

I’m not sure either, but I know that an unfocused attack on everything that’s wrong with the world all at once is not going to solve anything. The atheist movement is far from dead in the water, but it does need some kind of focus, something to aim for that is beyond simple anti-religious diatribes. We can disparage religion all we want, but without a solution, what are we really offering.

Having said this, I am not suggesting that we stop either. Far from it. I will continue to point out ridiculous propositions and atrocities carried out in the name of religion, but I am going to attempt to focus my attention on the advocacy of gaining and using knowledge, first and foremost. The one thing the atheistic movements have on our side is knowledge of facts, knowledge of objective truths, and the ability to use this. This is our most powerful ally and the strongest weapon we have in our arsenal, and we should use it as such.

The movement is not dead in the water, it just needs for the current to be pointing in one direction, rather than many.

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  1. [...] Marty Pribble picks up on my lamentations about the state of atheist/skeptic activism, and explains my point about there [...]

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