February 3, 2011

Atheist Movement as a Sleeping Giant

sleeping giant

I 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 visual. I saw an image of atheists in the United States as a sleeping giant. As he said, we are everywhere. That's the giant part. But of course, most atheists are not involved in any sort of secular activism. That's the sleeping part. I think there are some small but encouraging signs that this particular giant is slowly starting to wake.

How many movements have been successful without much better 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 I think we do 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 some things most of us have in common. Perhaps this could be turned into a set of issues (i.e., a platform) on which the vast majority of atheists could agree. I think that would be a positive step.

Equipped with a set of common goals, we would at least have a sense of where we needed to go. This could be a place 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.