The exciting new poll (USA Today) on America's shift away from religion is one of the most inspiring pieces of news I've read in a long time.
Fellow bloggers, THIS is why we're here. This is why what we're doing matters. It IS making a difference.
Atheists are rapidly headed towards becoming the majority of Americans. From 1990 to 2008, our numbers grew from 8% to 15% – that's a doubling rate of only twenty years, and it may be accelerating. To us, decades are a long time, but in the timescale of societies and history, this is a fantastically fast change.
That means most of us will live to see Atheists become the majority of Americans!
Atheists are already more numerous than all religious denominations except Baptists and Catholics, and within two years will easily pass the Baptists. A few more years and we'll leave the Catholics behind, becoming the single largest "faith" in America. Another decade or so and we'll surpass all Christians combined, and – easily within my lifetime – we'll be more than half of all Americans.
Which leads me to the point I want to make today: We bloggers and authors are the "sales force" for Atheism, and we need to learn one of the first lessons of sales: To be successful, you have to act successful. If you act like the underdog, people may sympathize, but they don't want to be on your side.
There is still plenty of discrimination, resistance, family shunning, and worse, against Atheists. And it's likely to get worse as the Christian, Jewish, Muslim, and other religious ranks shrink — their religions have had thousands of years to evolve, and have developed some exceptionally good "immune systems." We can expect plenty of hard work, and probably some unpleasantness, from the ultra-conservatives and evangelicals, as they try to keep their ranks from dwindling. We need to expose these violations of our rights and of common decency, to make sure they're not tolerated.
But at the same time, we need to adopt the attitudes of the winner. We need to blog as though we're already the majority. We need to stop hiding our beliefs, and just present them in a completely matter-of-fact way, with boldness and confidence. We need to flip society's attitudes upside down, so that Atheism is the norm.
My father was in a lawsuit with a big corporation once, a two week trial, and coincidentally, had just had a knee operation. His lawyer played it to the hilt. On the first day, he had my father dress in a wrinkled shirt and poorly-knotted tie, he really made a show of the crutches, limping into the courtroom with a tired, hang-dog attitude. Day by day, he dressed better. He used the crutches better, then switched to a cane. He stood straighter, combed his hair better, and looked more refreshed. By the last day, he wore a sharp new suit, crisp tie, and pressed shirt, he was barely limping, he stood up straight, talked with his attorney with confidence, and looked directly at the jurors with a smile. He won the case.
As a group, Atheists tend to present our side in factual terms, but leadership and "marketing" matter. We need to make people want to be on our side. It's time for the Atheist community to stop acting like the underdogs, and take on a new attitude of confidence and leadership, to help guarantee that we'll truly become the majority in the decades to come.