October 12, 2011

The Silent Atheist Majority

Silence

What is the silent atheist majority? Some are atheists who do not see atheism as worth discussing at all. They may look down on their more outspoken colleagues for what they perceive as proselytizing atheism. Even though they may acknowledge the existence of bigotry and discrimination against atheists, they have not experienced it themselves. It is unfortunate that others have confronted it, they say, but it really isn't their concern. Others remain silent out of fear. They worry that they might face consequences for disclosing atheism, and they'd rather play it safe. Collectively, these people and others like them make up the vast majority of the atheist community, even as many of them deny that there is any sort of atheist community. They are the silent atheist majority.

Among the more outspoken atheists, some are quick to disparage the silent atheists. They may be viewed as apathetic or accused of cowardice. Although nobody would argue that some atheists are indeed apathetic or fearful, such accusations probably do little to attract people to a more active style of atheism. Moreover, this silent atheist majority is the greatest ally outspoken atheists could have. They are the sleeping giant that atheists who are not happy with how they are treated by the religious majority should be desperate to awaken.

I hear from new readers at least once or twice a week. These are people who are just now discovering Atheist Revolution. Most of them are members of the silent atheist majority. For a variety of reasons, they have decided to look into atheism. For some, it was a story in the mainstream media. For others, it was a personal experience (usually a negative one involving Christians). Their reasons for doing so may vary, but what they have in common is that they have started the process of exploring atheism. It seems to me that anything we can do to facilitate that is worth doing.