February 3, 2011

Atheist Movement as a Sleeping Giant

sleeping giantI really enjoyed John's brief but thought-provoking post at Debunking Christianity, "The Trouble With Atheists." He is right to point out that some of our shortcomings can also be strengths, especially with regard to our great diversity. And yet, I cannot help thinking that the combination of apathy and lack of organization pose significant obstacles to the sort of progress most of us say we want to achieve.

My initial reaction to John's post was an image of American atheists as a sleeping giant. As he says, we are everywhere. I even think it is fair to say that this giant is slowly starting to wake.

But how many movements have been successful without more organization than we have now? How many have succeeded without at least a few recognized spokespeople and some sort of a platform upon which those who consider themselves part of the movement are working toward? If the sleeping giant is starting to wake, we need to make sure that it has a head.

I do not mean to suggest that we need a leader to rally behind or even a traditional power structure. But we need at least some sort of shared identity and common goals. Is there really nothing besides the question of gods on which we can agree? I'm skeptical of this, as I believe that it is possible to identify a set of issues (i.e., a platform) on which the vast majority of atheists would agree.

Equipped with such a set of common goals, we would at least have a sense of where we needed to go. And this could be where the advantage of our diversity would really shine. There would be multiple ways to pursue our shared goals. We would be moving in the same direction through many different routes.

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