What specifically could the leaders of national atheist organizations do to better serve the population of non-believers?
This question was open-ended in the survey; respondents were just asked to fill in a text field. An impressive 4,058 people took the time to write something, and many of the comments were thoughtful and, I think, useful feedback for those in leadership of the various organizations that focus on issues related to atheism. Here are just a few examples:
- Lay off all the goddamn infighting (not criticism of ideas, but intolerance and ad hominem attacks). I have lost a lot of my zeal for the atheist movement because of the petty rivalries and endless navel gazing and dissection of one quote or sentence and the implications of the implications of the blog post about the quote that criticized x, y or z, ad infinitum. I was strongly involved in the feminist movement previously, but left for the same exact reasons. While I was heartened by the evolution of “Atheism-plus,” I quickly became discouraged again when I saw how divisive and angry many atheist communities were about this offshoot. Watching women being pilloried for expressing their opinions and concerns about sexism and lack of cultural understanding does not endear me to many atheist organizations. At all. A little more respect and consideration of minority opinions would be great. More specifically, talk to and learn from LGBT organizations, which, at least outwardly, manage to maintain cohesiveness and commit to national causes despite being very diverse. They have successfully organized for over 40 years to promote their interests – something I hope to see from national atheist organizations in the future, if they can ever agree on a set of goals….
- ONE website, accessible in all major languages where we can find information of legitimate non religious/lgbt friendly organizations that are involved with humanitarian efforts. I would like to donate my time/money to these types of organizations without fear of scams
- Keep working on visibility, being more and more in the public eye. Continue making forceful, clear statements–no wishy-washiness, no accommodationism–of the beneficial effects of rationality and skepticality, and of the harmful effects of god belief. Continue to show that a lack of god belief is actually a more healthful, happy way to live: for people, for animals, for the planet in general. And for the good, healthful, and happy future of all three. Continue, or in some cases begin, to foster in the non-belief community the good aspects that membership in a religious organization gives to its members. Some of those good aspects being a sense of community, a sense of belonging.
- Atheists/nonbelievers are a significantly large segment of the religious spectra in the U.S., but have almost zero political clout. It seems to me that there are too many atheist organizations, a balkanization which dilutes the influence of all. Look at Bill Donohue and the Catholic League, which is basically Bill Donohue and his laptop. This guy is making several hundred grand a year, but he is worth it. The man is everywhere on the media, and he gets there because he demands to be there. Representatives of the atheist movement are only just starting to get media exposure, but we are the second largest religious denomination in the country – we should have a seat at the table, a place on the couch, a mic in the booth every single time there is a discussion involving religion in the media. Where is our Bill Donohue? I also see the atheist face as too timid, as not aggressive enough. We need to have a legal wing that will not hesitate to bring charges. There were some examples in the past year of advertisers refusing to air messages of atheists whilst happily putting up religious messages. One of these entities was a city transportation office. I felt these are good examples of the relative passivity of the movement. Ask yourself, WWBDD? What would Bill Donohue do? Another aspect of the timidity of the atheist movement has to do with messaging. There seems to be no understanding of the concept of the Overton window yet. Example – there have been examples of Catholic hospitals refusing treatments to women which caused them to die. We should have been calling for elimination of religious control of hospitals, and an expose of how very little the churches actually contribute financially to the institutions, yet they actually feel entitled to make medical decisions. Instead, we get ad campaigns that say “Atheists are people, too”. We need to be jumping on every opportunity to move the Overton window. We should be challenging the authority, worldview, and lack of rationality of religionists, not just saying there is an alternative, or we are nice people too. Example – I believe there is at least one country where children are not allowed to receive organized religious instruction until they are in their teens. Can you even imagine such a discussion being brought up by American atheist organizations? Yet, why should it not be discussed? Why is the mass program of brainwashing of children to believe seriously irrational things not a proper topic of discussion and debate? We can and possibly should be making a pretty cogent case that people who believe irrational and self- contradictory ideas such as Abrahamic religions, should not be allowed to hold public office. Seriously – we have U.S. senators denying global warming because of their religious indoctrination. Totally irrational, totally dangerous to society. Overton window again.
I have yet to do a thorough analysis of all the responses, but the theme of more organization and coordination comes up frequently. I’ll be doing more postings on this topic soon. There are many aspects of these data for me that will be particularly interesting, for example how the responses and themes vary by region of the US, by nation, and by gender. My personal view is that there is much to learn from the successes and failures (in terms of organization, coordination and communication) of the feminist and LGTBQ movements.