September 6, 2007

Spreading Atheism to Nonbelievers

Countless atheist blogs, online forums, and chat rooms provide atheists with relevant news on church-state issues, opportunities for atheist activism, and social networking. Given our status as America's most distrusted minority, these services provide an essential function for the growing community of nonbelievers. And yet, many like-minded individuals have not yet discovered our dynamic online community. This post is not about converting believers to atheism but about helping our fellow nonbelievers find us.

I used to think that atheist blogs would forever be limited by a type of readership cap. The idea was that there were so few atheists that traffic at atheist-oriented blogs would plateau fairly quickly and be unable to grow much beyond that point. This was too simplistic. There are far more nonbelievers than I had realized, and while many do not identify themselves as atheists, they meet the definition of atheism.

Persons getting on Google and search for "atheist" or "atheism" are going to discover a vibrant online community waiting for them. But how many of the nonbelievers who have other priorities and who may not identify as atheists are likely to get to this point? How do we reach them and stimulate thought about atheism?

It strikes me that atheist bloggers can do at least two things that would aid this effort considerably. First, the authors of atheist blogs can make use of links and blogrolls so that anyone finding their particular blog in any way and for any reason will be provided with a hub on the web from which to explore similar content. Fortunately, I think the vast majority of atheist bloggers are already doing this and doing it extremely well. I suspect we could all do a better job with periodically deleting dead links, but this is a minor issue.

The second, and probably more controversial, suggestion is for us to consider occasionally doing off-topic posts on issues likely to be of interest to a wider audience than self-identified atheists. These are the sort of posts that have the potential to attract nonbelievers who are less familiar with atheism than one's regular readers, offering them an opportunity to learn about atheism. In addition, well-written posts about a variety of topics can be submitted to blog carnivals or social networking sites we might not routinely utilize.

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