The Great Courses

The Atheist "Movement" is Alive, Well, and Thriving

Dec 7, 2017 at 9:34 AM
8 months ago


On December 6th, 2017, the Freedom From Atheism Foundation (yes, it exists) shared a November article which included my name. It read: "Atheist activist Seth Andrews keeps seeing reports on social media and the media that the atheist movement is dying."

FFAF is a whacky little group, but it's popular, with around 750,000 Facebook followers. The framing and phrasing of the headline implies an Atheist Movement in trouble while referencing my recent broadcast on the subject.

As they mentioned me by name, I feel it's appropriate to respond.

To the FFAF:

I realize you're probably trying to buttress your credibility by referencing prominent atheist activists, but if you're going to invoke me, I'd recommend a less dishonest approach.

The whole point of my broadcast wasn't that the movement is dying. The point was that a vocal fringe was declaring the Atheist Movement on the decline, and yet the statistics refute them at every turn.

Which organizations are cash-starved? I know the Freedom From Religion Foundation has seen a major spike in membership and participation in the last 12 months (since the Trump election). The Secular Student Alliance continues its great work in high schools and universities nationwide. American Atheistsremains a frontline fixture, and even now is at the point position of discussions about Christmas with their secular billboard campaign. The Secular Coalition for America hasn't died on the vine, and it's work continues to protect the church/state line (often with the religious joining in the fight to keep religion and government separate). 

Sure, the national conferences aren't seeing 1,000 in attendance much anymore, but this isn't because of the Atheist Movement is dying. It's because the Atheist Movement is winning. Where conferences were once a relatively rare regional and national phenomenon, now they're everywhere, and the ubiquity of local, regional and national freethought and atheist events has made any single conference less of a novelty, or less critical as another event might be happening down the street next month.

The Reason Rally wasn't a huge success, sure. But was the diminished attendance a referendum on atheism in the United States, or did other factors contribute? Having another "once in a lifetime event" only four years after the historic 2012 rally? The not-amazing speaker lineup? The lack of novelty given the normalization of non-belief in this country? The June event date? And even with its lackluster attendance, it still saw thousands upon thousands congregating at the Lincoln Memorial and having a wonderful time in the promotion of secular values and the enjoyment of human connection.

In my own work, am I also seeing the death throes? My podcast remains in the top three of BlogTalkRadio's over 15,000 active broadcasts. My website remains just as highly-visited as ever, and those who declare that my video counts are lower today are ignoring the fact that my main focus - for the past half decade - hasn't been video, but radio. Even then, my recent tour video of The Ark Encounter just broke 230,000 views. My tour dates see standing-room only crowds, not because I'm a rock-star speaker, but because The Thinking Atheist (and atheists as a whole) remain healthy, connected, and growing.

Statistically, religion is bleeding to death in this country. Pew reports that "the share of Americans who identify as atheists has roughly doubled in the past several years." An even larger number declare themselves "nones," or non-religious, non-affiliated, meaning that they're essentially operating without any religious influence or participation in their lives. And the trend can be seen far beyond U.S. borders.

Last year, National Geographic published an article titled, "The World's Newest Major Religion: No Religion," the unfortunate (yet understandable) use of language revealing the obvious: that churches are reeling in the wake of their own irrelevance in the wake of better, more scientific, more moral, and more humanistic ideas. As such, the non-religious have "overtaken Catholics, mainline protestants, and all followers of non-Christian faiths." 

Christianity sees the oncoming train, and it's freaking. 

So, its apologists and defenders publish tripe like the article linked here in a clumsy attempt to sell another lie and flex its horribly atrophied muscles. It points to divisions, arguments, conflict, etc, and it says, "AHAH!" while promoting a specific religion that has, itself, splintered into literally thousands of denominations over the pettiest of disagreements over basic doctrine.

Groups, especially as they grow, become more diverse, and that growth and diversity will see its disagreements, its good agents and bad seeds, its vocal arguments and unfortunate moments. But this isn't indigenous to the Atheist Movement. It's simply part of the human condition, and the Christian Church has no business criticizing the splinter in our eye while ignoring the log in their own (a little biblical reference there, folks).

The Freedom From Atheism Foundation isn't declaring the Atheist Movement in trouble because it's true. It's declaring it because it NEEDS it to be true. And even as I addressed the critical fringes in my own show for the purpose of revealing the full, bright, colorful and true picture, FFAF would do the same if it had any genuine interest in fairness, honesty, and understanding.

I wouldn't hold my breath.

In the meantime, watch the self-conscious and frantic defenses of apologetics factories and religious naysayers. In the face of their own increasing irrelevance, their desperation tells the true story.

-Seth Andrews

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