March 8, 2019

Atheist Blogs: Are We Just Preaching to the Choir?

Temple Church Boys' Choir at the Arts House at the Old Parliament, Singapore - 20160720-01

There are a number of active atheist-oriented blogs which offer reality-based perspectives on church-state issues, religious extremism, the convergence of religion and politics, and countless other issues of relevance to atheists. At the time I wrote the initial version of this post (2006), one online directory listed over 80 blogs whose primary focus was atheism. Even thought this number would have been much smaller if one were to exclude those bloggers who did not write at least one post per week, I found the number to be quite encouraging. I remember thinking that it seemed like I ran across a few more atheist blogs every week.

Not surprisingly, this rate of growth was not sustainable. The number of active atheist blogs appears to have peaked long ago. We do not have nearly as many as we once did, although I think we do still have some good ones. There are many reasons for the decline, and I suspect most of them have more to do with the declining popularity of blogs rather than much of anything to do with atheism.

I suspect that most atheist bloggers share at least some common motivation for why we started our blogs and why we have continued to maintain them. I'm sure there are many individual differences as well. Some blog primarily for themselves and view their blogs as a kind of public diary. They may not pay much attention to the number of hits or comments they receive because they are doing this mostly for themselves. Others have more of an activist stance and blog to stimulate thought and action in others. They may seek to influence others through persuasive arguments and view their contribution as a needed voice of opposition.

Motives aside, one thing we all seem to have in common is that our readers primarily consist of other non-believers. Not all our readers would identify themselves as atheists, and a brief examination of the comments you'll find on every atheist blog will reveal that we are visited by at least some religious believers. But I think it is safe to say that most of those who find their way to our blogs and stick around long enough to interact in some way are atheists.

I do not believe that this sort of "preaching to the choir" is necessarily a bad thing. The comments I've received on this blog and through social media have often helped to expand my thinking in unanticipated directions, offered new ideas I had not considered, and caused me to question many of my positions. The fact that most of these comments have come from fellow atheists in no way minimizes their value. They remind me that there are still atheists out there seeking to connect with others around atheism. Through this blog, I have become familiar with several other atheist bloggers. Their work is a frequent source of inspiration.

The primary limitation of an atheist blog has always seemed to be that there is a cap of sorts on how much traffic an atheist blog can expect to receive. Depending on the blogger's motivation, this may or may not matter. Assuming that it does matter, the question becomes how one can attract a wider audience without compromising one's reasons for blogging. I have periodically tried various methods to attract a wider audience. Some have worked relatively well, and others have not accomplished much. I am okay with that. After all, I recognize that the overwhelming majority of atheists have never heard of this blog. In other words, I still have a large untapped potential audience even if I continue preaching to the atheist choir.

This is an updated and expanded version of a post that originally appeared on Atheist Revolution in 2006.