The Atheist Foundation of Australia has begun a campaign calling on those whose faith has lapsed to mark ''no religion'' on their census forms this year - with West Pennant Hills slated to host a billboard before August 9.One of my more popular blogs (I still get emails about it several years later) was my Atheists, Get Out of the Damned Closet!, in which I encouraged atheists, a large percentage of whom were blogging anonymously, to declare themselves publicly.
The 8.3 metre by 2.2 metre sign on Pennant Hills Road and another in Armidale will make a month-long appearance from June 20. Despite the location, the foundation's president, David Nicholls, said the campaign did not intend to attack religion, but to counter the extent to which Australia was unduly claimed as a Christian country in decision-making and funding.
Well, it's time for the American public to do the same. I think a campaign here in America that parallels the one in Australia is exactly the thing we need. It's too bad we didn't do this before the 2010 census, but maybe if we start now we can influence various polls and local census-taking efforts. And I mean "influence" in the positive sense: we can make the census and polls more accurate.
I suspect that a lot more Americans are non-theists than we know. We already know that Americans vastly over-report their church attendance, and that Christianity is slowly losing ground as the core American religion. But in spite of these gains, atheism is still reviled across America. My atheist blogger colleagues simply can't declare themselves because of the very real social, legal and economic discrimination that would result. And most Americans still feel the same: non-belief is a stigma. They simply can't admit in public what they truly believe inside.
So when the census worker comes around, or a pollster calls on the phone, are Americans reporting their true non-belief accurately? Very unlikely.
If we can de-stigmatize the "no religion" checkbox, we can help America take the true measure of its growing non-religious citizens.
On a personal note, I'm up in Northern California to celebrate my Mom's 80th birthday. Happy Birthday Mom! She just got back from a trip to Antarctica I hope to be as full of life when I'm 80. And of course, I had to join my family in celebrating the uniquely American religion of Super Bowl (Sadly, I didn't even know it was this weekend, much less which teams were playing.)