January 1, 2012

The Atheist Movement in 2012

Happy New YearWelcome to 2012! It is precisely 2012 years after the death of someone who may well have never lived in the first place. I trust you enjoyed last night's culturally-sanctioned alcohol abuse and are now ready to spend money you don't have on mass produced self-improvement products.

As a child, 2012 seemed like the distant future. Okay, it was the distant future. But now that we're here and the world hasn't ended like a bad Hollywood disaster flick, it doesn't seem all that different, at least not in the important ways I had hoped. We still haven't cured cancer, ended our dependence on fossil fuels, or figured out a faster way to travel than planes. But we certainly have come a long way in consumer electronics, and I suppose that's all that really matters.

Seriously though, we have made tremendous progress on some important social issues. The LGBT movement has accomplished so much during the course of my life that even I cannot remain thoroughly pessimistic. Additional progress is necessary, but what they have done has been nothing short of amazing.

To a lesser degree, the same can be said about the atheist movement. Granted, we have been working on a much shorter time frame. Recall that Stonewall happened in 1969. While Madalyn Murray O'Hair was paving the way for us in the mid-60s, vocal atheist activism did not really begin to catch on in a meaningful way until the last decade. And even now, I use the phrase "catch on" tentatively. What I will say is that the explosion of popular atheist books and the growth of a vast atheist blogosphere have provided us with sort of a collective think tank from which our movement can grow.

I cannot tell you what 2012 will bring for the atheist movement, but I will share my hopes:
  • I hope that we will take another step toward finding a collective voice with which to exert the political influence of our growing numbers.
  • I hope that atheist activism will increase, focused on the importance of church-state separation and educating the public about atheism.
  • I hope that atheists will become increasingly willing to stand up against anti-atheist bigotry by calling it out and making it clear that it is every bit as unacceptable as any other form of bigotry.
  • I hope that we atheists will improve our ability to give and receive constructive criticism without forming destructive factions.