Movements Need Movement

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.

5 thoughts on “Movements Need Movement

  1. Hah! Basically something I said a few months ago on Carrier's blog when they were announcing the A+ "movement". I mentioned that I didn't see atheism as a movement, unlike the civil rights, anti-war movements of the 60's (I was there) where thousands of people of all ethnicities and backgrounds came out to support euql treatment for minorities as well as an end to the Vietnam conflict. Know what cArriewr responded? "You need to get out more.".

    I thought, "I need to get out more?". Really? I cannot understand, as you, how anyone can refer to secularism or atheism as a "movement".. It doesn't even come close to the comparisons you gave above. Are there some organizations that fight for church/state separation? Sure. What are there numbers? My point of view? Small. Everyone talks but very few want to take the walk.

  2. I think that you are right that we really aren't that disadvantaged. However, I think you are missing the movement in it's entirety. The movement is not really being played out in the blogosphere, it is being played out at the local level. Most of the activism I see and read about starts with a local atheist or atheist/secular group. Sure there is a lot of talk on blogs but it is just talk.

  3. While i agree that we need to get out there more, remember that the Internet didn't exist when what you talk about took place, so IMO it's best to see the Internet as a tool we can use AS WELL as the more traditional routes that have been tried & tested in the past & if anything, it offers those who maybe are not able to get out there, a voice & maybe even the chance to have some influence where before they had none.

    1. While I\’m fine with using all of the resources available, the fact remains that posting something on the Internet isn\’t going to get the media coverage and national attention as marching 200,000 atheists into the heart of Washington D.C. I think a lot of people these days are just lazy. It\’s simpler to just blog about something than to get off your fat, lazy ass and actually do something. I think that if the atheist movement is ever going to hit the \”big time\”, it\’s not going to be online, it\’s going to be in the streets. If we\’re not willing to do that, why bother at all?

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