Atheist Activism in the Real World


The classic model of U.S. atheist activism is the strict maintenance of church-state separation. Keep creationism out of classrooms. Keep prayer out of government meetings and government money out of the hands of churches. Keep crosses off public land.

This is worthwhile activism. Having ancestors who were kicked out of Massachusetts for being the wrong kind of Baptist and watching atheists across the globe pay for their lack of belief with their freedoms and their lives, I understand just how critical a strong wall of separation is. However, this kind of activism is just the very basics.

If you have a weak or small atheist movement, keeping the government from falling under religious control will necessarily be your first and maybe your only priority. This was the case in the U.S. for decades. It isn’t anymore.

The atheist movement has grown at an amazing rate in recent years. That’s not surprising. Recent numbers from the Pew foundation say there are more of us than there are Mormons. If they can run a state and two presidential candidates in the last election, we have the numbers to make things happen–more things than just conducting lawsuits, things that affect most people’s daily lives far more than one of these lawsuits will.

When religion is this pervasive and entrenched, it contributes to problems in every sphere. When religion holds as much power as it does, it plays a large role in maintaining the injustices of the status quo. On tonight’s panel are several atheist activists who are working on problems well beyond church-state separation. Their work brings them into communities frequently invisible in organized atheism–communities in which atheism is often invisible or unthinkable.

Yet there they are, because there is meaningful, necessary work to be done. And they join us tonight to help us understand how to move atheist activism outside the narrow confines of the court and make it relevant to the rest of the world.

This is my introduction to tonight’s panel at DePaul University with Sikivu Hutchinson, Anthony Pinn, Ian Cromwell, and Ashley Miller. If you’re in the area, don’t forget to come out. There will be socializing afterward as well.

Comments

  1. says

    I can’t wait for someone to highlight this as another example of lazy FTB blog writing, seeing as it features an extended multi-paragraph quote, with only a short paragraph of ‘original’ content; hopefully the critic won’t notice who it is you’re quoting, Stephanie. It sounds like you have a very good evening ahead of you.

  2. Dana Hunter says

    That sounds absolutely wonderful, and now I haz a sad because I’m not there! You all are going to do a fantastic job, and hopefully fire up an audience of activists. I hope somebody records this.

    Good luck!

  3. says

    I hang out with a bunch of political activists and they are constantly asking me if I would run for office. Actually, yes! I really think I might. Someday. Gotta fix my teeth first, unfortunately, but yeah. I’ve been learning a lot about campaigning, activism, and community organizing, and it’s starting to seem more and more like a realistic prospect. So I’m glad you mentioned it. The lefty organizers around here tend heavily towards the religious. There are a few non-believers among them but they tend to keep quiet about it. Ever since I’ve solidified my plans to go to the American Atheist convention, I’ve had to explain why I’m going away in a few weeks, and because of that I’ve had to “come out” to a bunch more people, including my grandparents. So far everything’s going swimmingly. :D

  4. Jame says

    You do it the same way Evangelicals took the GOP and so many officer positions in the military. You start at the bottom of the political spectrum and work your way up. When enough do that, then we can be seen as not interested in eating our neighbors babies, subverting children with satanic ritual, or subverting the moral fiber of the community.
    When a town councilman died here in October, the chairman asked for nominations for the remainder of his term. I stood forth.
    In December, I was sworn in after a unanimous vote of the city council. The consensus was “I was the least divisive candidate.”
    But it will take more than me. Many atheists and agnostics will have to stand for office. Most will be defeated, just as the Evangelicals were. But some will survive.
    As long as the atheist community looks at the issue as one of no hope, there will be no hope.

  5. freemage says

    So, how did this go? After planning for weeks to attend, I kinda sorta screwed up my schedule and missed it, for which I’ve been kicking myself for three days.

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