Obstacles to Atheist Activism: Introduction

Activism, in any context, is about changing the world for the better. It involves the perception that one's present circumstances are less than ideal and the motivation to act in order to reduce the gap between what is and what could be. Activism can be hard work, although it does not always have to be.

I thought it might be interesting to pull together some thoughts on the many obstacles to successful activism by the atheist movement and see how we might be able to overcome them. My tentative plan is to write a series of posts, each examining a different obstacle and taking a look at some potential solutions. In this post, I want to note a couple important assumptions I will be making in the series and which I believe must be explained before beginning.

This series is guided by two assumptions which I feel are necessary to state at the outset. First, I am going to assume that there is a small atheist movement within the larger atheist community and that those who are active in this movement are at least somewhat oriented toward activism. In other words, I will be using the phrase atheist movement to refer to a small subgroup within the larger atheist community who are engaged in activism of some sort. We can debate who should be considered part of this movement, but the way I'm looking at it is that if you are doing anything to promote atheism or the goals shared by most atheists (see the second assumption below), you are probably part of the atheist movement.

The second assumption I am going to make is that there are at least a few goals shared by most people in the atheist movement. Despite our differences, most of us do seem to have these goals in common. Separation of church and state may be the single best example of what I'm talking about because this seems to be something which nearly every atheist agrees should be preserved, if not strengthened.

To review, I am suggesting that it makes sense to acknowledge the presence of a relatively small number of activists within the larger atheist community who have at least a few shared goals toward which they are working. These social and political changes we would like to see are among the ends toward which we hope our activism will lead.

With this in mind, we can start identifying the obstacles that tend to prevent or derail our efforts. By doing so, we just might be in a better position to overcome them.

Next post in the series: Obstacles to Atheist Activism: Apathy