August 14, 2008

Atheism in the Media: A Google News Analysis

Surveys designed to detect the number of people identifying themselves as atheists can be useful. However, there are metrics which may be as important. A recent post by 40 Year Old Atheist deals with the attention atheism is receiving in the media and presents some thought-provoking data collected via Google News.


Among the key findings:
  • There was a 75% increase in the number of news articles containing "atheism" or "atheist" between 2006 and 2008.
  • A large portion of articles on atheism were authored by religious believers, many of which represent attacks on atheism.
  • There is nothing quite like controversy to put atheism in the news (e.g., release of The Golden Compass).
You'll find more in the original post, along with some insightful discussion of the findings and their implications.

It seems to me that an important challenge facing the atheist movement involves exerting a greater influence on the manner in which atheism is covered in the media. This undoubtedly involves organizing to oppose anti-atheist bigotry, but it also means taking more ownership of atheism. Because there are far more theists than atheists, it is likely that they will always have an advantage in how we are covered. But this tells me that we must be prepared to work much harder in this area.

It may not be enough simply to try to increase our visibility in the news. We may also want greater say in how we are covered. We may want more of a voice in media depictions of atheism.

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