Paul Fidalgo has a gut-wrenching open letter to Alexander Aan at Friendly Atheist. The petition failed, you know. I should have done more, maybe – I blogged about it twice, the second time with considerable urgency, and tweeted and re-tweeted often. I guess I figured blogging a third time would be counter-productive, like begging Mummy for ice cream once too often and being put on an ice cream fast for a month. But I was probably wrong.
Anyway – it failed, and failed pathetically.
In order to guarantee such a response — and it was a loose guarantee at that — we had to collect at least 25,000 signatures. Alexander, I promise you, I and my colleagues truly believed this was a very achievable goal. We felt very confident that if thousands of American nonbelievers could rally in support of someone like Jessica Ahlquist, the brave young high school student who stood up for separation of church and state against her entire community, sending her good wishes, writing in support of her, and even donating money for her college education; if we could get, by some estimates, between 20-30,000 atheists from across the country to gather on the Mall in Washington, DC, in the rain, surely we could get 25,000 folks to click a couple of buttons on your behalf.
It didn’t happen, Alex. We didn’t even manage to round up 8,000 signatures.
That’s…really bad. I think it was at around 6,000 when I did the second post, and I was worried because the rate had slowed down. Obviously it had slowed to a fucking crawl.
I have been thinking a great deal about what it means to be part of the skeptic-secularist community versus the skeptic-atheist movement. We have been very proud in recent years about what seem to be encouraging upticks in our numbers: more young people, more folks coming out of the theological closet to declare their nonbelief as you did, the rise of a vibrant (and often tumultuous) universe of skeptic and atheist Internet activity, etc.
But these developments speak to the growth of a community, not of a movement. A strong movement would have garnered 25,000 signatures on a website for you in the first couple of days. So, if anything, the silver lining of this falling-short tells us something we desperately needed to know: despite the growing numbers of declared freethinkers, we have yet to find the best ways to do something meaningful with those numbers beyond gloating.