Into the secular tent

From a conversation Chris Stedman had with Phil Zuckerman about the rise in “nones” in the US and whether or not the pugnacity of people like Dawkins and Bill Maher is the chief cause:

CS: What are some of the most important things nontheists can do right now to support the growing number of nonreligious Americans? What should we prioritize?

PZ: In my opinion, the best thing atheists can do right now is to make the world a better place. That means fighting inequality, racism, sexism, homophobia, religious fundamentalism, and global warming. When life is hard—when people face suffering—religion tends to be strong; it offers comfort in the face of life’s troubles. But when life is more manageable and secure, people can find meaning and purpose in the here and now.

To put it more crudely: when life is shit, religion has a chance. When life is better, people have less need for religion. Better things are better. It’s better for people to have better lives, and the decline of religion would be a good side effect of that. The really important bit though is the betterness of more people having better lives.

We also need to bring in more voices into the secular tent: more people of color, more people from differing political viewpoints, more families with children.

More women. That’s a big one, because we’re half. If you leave us out, you’re leaving out half. Don’t leave out half.

But we have been making progress: Twenty years ago, if you wanted to find a community of secular humanists, it wasn’t always so easy, especially if you weren’t in a big city. Or didn’t just want to hang out in a room with ten whites guys in Members Only jackets and glasses with ugly frames. Today, the diversity of a plethora of options for finding secular community is truly amazing.

And would be even more so if there weren’t such an ugly pushback going on.

Finally, we need to help our secular brothers and sisters in regions of the world where being secular isn’t so easy. They desperately need our support.

Yes they do. You can find quite a few of them right here on this blog network.


  1. UnknownEric the Apostate says

    Sadly, I don’t think the secular tent is going to get any more inviting as long as certain overly-influential individuals keep monopolizing it with their money/influence.

  2. tonyinbatavia says

    md @1: Admittedly, my understanding of Marxism may be old, spotty, and crude, but I find myself befuddled by your statement.

    As I understand it (and Google reminded me) Marxism is “the system of socialism of which the dominant feature is public ownership of the means of production, distribution, and exchange.” Meanwhile (without checking Goggle), I know Atheism is a lack of belief in deity or deities.

    Given these definitions, I can’t help but to think your comment is empty and nonsensical. However, I trust that before commenting here that you had given this some honest thought. So, can you enumerate the specific ways in which Atheism has already begun to turn into Marxism and the additional steps it will need to take to fully get there?

    Or, was your comment a horseshit broadside on something and you just couldn’t come up with a better insult?

  3. says

    If Atheism continues its turn into Marxism I may start going to church

    By Marxism do you mean, “something bad that I don’t understand but I’ll use as a label”? Because perhaps you’re confusing totalitarianism or some other -ism with Marxism.

  4. Anthony K says

    If Atheism continues its turn into Marxism I may start going to church.

    Generally, threats are supposed to include a negative outcome. There is literally no downside to the sequence of events listed here.

  5. Al Dente says

    As an atheist I proudly echo Jean-Luc Godard: “Je suis Marxiste, tendance Groucho.” (I am a Marxist of the Groucho variety.)

  6. John Morales says

    Quoted in the OP:

    In my opinion, the best thing atheists can do right now is to make the world a better place.

    Hm. Tritely vague, unless one reads that as “In my opinion, the best thing atheists can do [for atheism] right now is to make the world a better place.”

    (Under what circumstances is it not to make the world a better place the best thing anyone can do?)

  7. Lady Mondegreen (aka Stacy) says

    @John Morales,

    I think it’s meant to be read as “the best thing atheists can do for atheism

    Remember that huge survey that showed that worldwide, social and economic equality correlate strongly with secularism? The more unequal a society, the more religious it is.

    On the run right now or I’d look for it and post it, but you probably remember the one I mean.

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