I see a lot of posts in the blogosphere about the “atheist movement” or the “secular movement” and frankly, I have to wonder what planet these people are living on. I don’t see an “atheist movement”, I don’t even see an “atheist community”, I just see a bunch of people endlessly pounding away on blogs, pretending to be a movement without understanding what a movement actually is.
See, back in the 1960s, we had the civil rights movement where hundreds of thousands of blacks and their supporters took to the streets in protest of racial inequality. Many took part in sit-ins (such as the Greensboro sit-in), marches (like the Selma to Montgomery march) and protests. There were massive gatherings, perhaps the most famous was the March on Washington for Jobs and Freedom in 1963 where Martin Luther King gave his famous “I Have A Dream” speech which became part of the popular parlance to this very day. While the situation may not be perfect today, the civil rights movement spurred a lot of change for the better in the treatment and equality of blacks.
Then you had the women’s suffrage movement, again, where many thousands of women and their supporters marched in force to gain the right to vote. They fought for many years, from the 1880s until the passage of the 19th Amendment in 1920 and beyond for equal treatment of women.
As much as I hate to use it as an example, we can even look at the mostly defunct Occupy movement, which brought people across the country out in droves to sit in shanty towns and crap in pots.
So where is this atheist movement? Aren’t they supposed to be fighting for equality for the non-religious and an actual separation of church and state? Where’s the last 10,000-person secular parade? When did we gather hundreds of thousands of people on the steps of the Capitol?
Before you start saying we’re not that big, let’s not forget that the latest polls place the “nons” at 20% of the American population, right in line with the percentage of blacks in American society at the time of the civil rights movement. If Martin Luther King Jr. can get 250,000 dedicated people to the steps of the Lincoln Memorial, why can’t we, especially given the fact that the American population has grown dramatically in the past 50 years?
The reality is, most American atheists just aren’t significantly disadvantaged by their atheism to make going to any real effort worthwhile. We’re not being kept from voting, we’re not being fired from our jobs, we’re not being hung from trees or dragged behind cars. We’re not all that affected directly by anything that happens in America so we just don’t bother. At best, we might got to an atheist or secular convention and spend a day or two listening to people preaching to the choir, but these are really pointless for causing change because they’re hidden away in a hotel somewhere, away from the prying eyes of the general pubic. The reality is, whether we want to admit it or not, if the public doesn’t see it, the public doesn’t care.
So we really need to make a decision. Do we, as a group, care about these changes or not? Or are we just satisfied to sit in our little groups and post on our little blogs how horrible it is that these changes don’t magically occur? You can’t have it both ways. If you want a true and lasting separation of church and state, you have to go out and fight for it. It’s not going to happen otherwise.