• No, We Don’t Need an Atheist Movement

    What we need instead is atheist involvement.

    Run for office locally. Join the city/town school board. Write letters to the editor, in print and online. Contact state and local representatives often. Use Facebook to promote the stories and issues that matter. In short, be a visible and vocal part of your communities–you belong to several–however comfortably you can do it.

    Today, we do not need an atheist movement. What we need are civic leaders who are also atheists.

    And so I depart a bit–only a bit–from Russell Blackford’s guest post for Skeptically Left. Blackford advocates an atheism rooted in argumentation:

    Many people who are involved in what I might as well call the atheist movement would probably rather get on with making other cultural contributions (as scientists, philosophers, journalists, or whatever their callings might be). Far from being bare, narrow atheists with nothing more to them than their lack of god-belief, they are taking time from what they’d normally be doing in order to answer the widespread claims of religion to exercise some special authority in the public sphere.

    But we need them to. Though publicly outspoken atheists have much more to offer than, “There are no gods” or “The claims of religion are false” – I still maintain that we live in a time when exactly those views must be put strongly, clearly, and publicly. That’s the point of an atheist movement.

    He says, building toward conclusion:

    If so many religious leaders and organisations had not become aggressive in recent decades in trying to impose their views beyond their own congregations, there might be little urgency in speaking up against religion. But they continue in their attempts to influence governments, essentially on religious grounds, with respect to all sorts of hot-button topics of the day, whether it is stem cell research, science teaching, women’s reproductive rights, gay rights, or all manner of others where religious belief and morality cut across the claims of compassion, freedom, and good sense.

    As long as that keeps happening, the popes, priests, and pulpiteers can’t have it both ways. If they’re going to bring their claims of authority, truth, and traditional wisdom to public debate on how we ought to employ government power, then they must expect their credentials to be challenged. That’s why we need an atheist movement.

    Blackford is surely correct on all of this, but atheism is large enough and mature enough to be impatient with mere “putting” arguments–no matter how strongly, clearly, and publicly. We can do better than putting; we can implement. We can do more than debate religion’s claims to authority; we can oppose them.

    Movements are static–momentary, short-sighted, inconsequential. They may look impressive for a brief time, but what do they really accomplish? They come together, make some noise, and then go home. They are flash mobs, nothing more.

    We don’t need an atheist movement. Instead, we need individual atheists to get involved where they live. And I mean “live” in meatspace. That’s where we want the influence to be and where the focus should lie.

    Category: Uncategorized


    Article by: Larry Tanner