Monday, February 7, 2011

Australian Atheists: Stand Up and be Counted!

I spotted an article about a new atheist campaign in Australia calling on Australian citizens to "come out" with their non-belief. This is a fabulous idea, one that we Americans should emulate:
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.

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.
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.

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.)


  1. The Super Bowl is just an excuse to make Super Ulra Mega Nachos. They were great.

    There's an enormous amount of pressure to be a casual Christian in America. It's really quite surprising. I know some "Ned Flanders" Christians, and people think they're too hardcore. Then there are more people who are more "Marge Simpson" Christians, and that's the big group. They have basic Christian morals and are fairly tolerant, but they can't believe that people don't believe Jesus isn't ultimately our Lord and Savior. I remember a co-worker asking me if I thought Jesus was not who he is believed to be. I shrugged and said, "Yeah, I kind of do." And it shocks people.

    On my Facebook page, though, I'm still listed as "agnostic." I think America's coming out would be for atheists to stand up as atheists and not be afraid of what our friends and families may think.

    It's obviously not on the same scale as the homosexual movement, but I think I understand the societal pressures and worries of "coming out" a bit better as I consider the fallout amongst friends and families when I do change over to atheism. Instead of being allowed to be unsure, crossing over to being sure can't go over well with everyone. And that's kind of scary to consider.

    Happy birthday to your mother.

  2. There were no questions about religion on the census form that I received last year. (For a list of the questions asked, see If there had been such a question, I would have answered honestly, but I don't make a point of "pushing" my atheism, any more than I make a point of pushing my sexual orientation (I'm "straight") or my race ("Caucasian", but a mix of English, Scottish, Irish, German, Swedish, and possibly Italian).

  3. David, if this is True, I salute you. One thing I've found rather disturbing is how Atheists claim they have nothing in common with each other but a shared lack of belief in a god, then swarm to net sites and discuss issues, generally agreeing with what an Atheist must belief. They then thrill at the prospect of winning converts, and desire to "Stand up and be counted". If this really was just a "Lack of belief" this wouldn’t be the case. This “In your FACE” Atheism is really not radically different form an In Your Face Christian or In Your Face Muslim, is it? Other than the refrain “We have no Religion”, which I am now thoroughly convinced is a lie. Of course this is a Religion, else you’d not try so hard.


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