I am posting here an article that I recently wrote. This is its first publication. Comments are welcome, AND anyone who would like to forward it to other atheist individuals, groups, forums, or publications has permission to do so. (My only caveat is that I’m not using my real name.)
Why the Atheist Movement Needs a Kick in the A&& (And a Few Ideas on How to Deliver Said Kick)
by L. L. Sovrana
What happens when you say the word “atheist”? We’ve all gotten various reactions— everything from the benign “oh yeah?” to looks that imply death by stoning. Atheist is as loaded a word as you will find; it ranks up there with nigger, Nazi, and well-known swear words that begin with F or C.
“Atheist” is the dirty word of the new millennia.
Hello?! Atheism Is BORING
Religion has everything to do with emotion (and, clearly, nothing to do with logic). Think of the emotion at a Baptist revival meeting or a Pentecostal service. People are swept into emotional frenzies, laughing, singing, jumping, crying, swooning, speaking babble or allowing themselves to be chomped by snakes.
Now compare this to the emotional draw of an atheist get-together. It’s like comparing Ecstasy to oatmeal. We are gruel-bland. We don’t have the pizzazz, the emotional catharsis that makes redemption a type of orgasm. We have monotone lectures that often slide into petulance: “Geez, HOW could they be so blind?!”
Atheism doesn’t have the zing of religion. It’s like having sex while reading the manual.
I suggest: To get more people turned on to the concept of atheism, we need to present it differently. Let’s tap into the spirit of radicalism that fueled the peace movement and civil rights movements of the Sixties. Let’s borrow the outrage of the gay movement. Let’s get right in the face of the world and let the masses know that we will NOT be discriminated against, we will be respected, we will be heard, and we are not going away. (“We’re here, we’re ****, get used to it!”) We need an atheist Queer Nation. We need to be a little less prim, a lot more passionate. Let’s put some fire and brimstone in our panties.
Even as atheists around the world struggle for acceptance, we still use a wide range of terms to describe ourselves. You can be an atheist, a humanist, an agnostic, a nonbeliever, a skeptic, a bright, an apatheist. Christian denominations abound from Anglican to Presbyterian, but even still, the term “Christian” is umbrella enough for most. We don’t have one single term that encompasses everyone. Why not?
We cannot ignore the power of words (see first paragraph above). We need to embrace the astounding power that our terminology can wield.
I suggest: Let’s create an entirely new term. I’m interested in implementing a new term, a new name, that all nonbelievers can and will use openly.
The Gewgaws of Belief
Think of the attachments, the gewgaws, of the believers. The emblems, icons, and tangible goods of the Big Three. Christians have their Holy Bible (bestselling book on the planet), crucifixes, and fish decals. The LGBTQ community has rainbows. Jews have the Star of David. Muslims have the crescent. People into Kabbalah have a red string around their wrist. What do we have?
Why don’t we have our own universally recognized book, decal, jewelry, and t-shirts? Stuff emblazoned with icons that we all know and can recognize on the street?
Oh, there are Darwin stickers. A few creative folks have come up with The Great Spaghetti Monster (I do like that one). All good ideas. But there isn’t anything as universal AND as powerful as the emblems of The Big Three.
I suggest: We should have something that we can all recognize and wear. Let’s get creative and come up with something—a symbol, motto, t-shirt, bracelet, whatever—that we can all recognize. Then let’s produce a shitload of them and get marketing.
The Big, Bound Uniter
At a recent gathering of CFI folks, two comments were voiced loud and clear. One was “When atheists debate against believers, why are the atheists losing the battle?” The other comment struck a chord in me and sent me into a tailspin of subversive scheming. “We don’t have our own book.”
Being a writer of fiction and nonfiction, I thought, “My DOG, we don’t have our own Book!” A capital B Book. We are written about in articles in newspapers, magazines, and the Internet; we attend gatherings; we speak and lecture and make films, but we don’t have a BOOK like the Christians, Jews, and Muslims do.
The simplicity of the idea is as astounding as it is powerful. Giving your child, friend, or neighbor a book that contains all the (ahem) wisdom of the ages, in one neat package, AND that is the best-selling book of all time, carries with it gigantic memes of power, influence, meaning, and persuasion. People pay attention to Bibles. They pass them from one generation to the next. They write in them. Their bible is a constant and tangible reminder of the day that they repented their sins and were washed clean as snow.
What do atheists have? Rabble and noise.
I suggest: I say that we need a book. We need something that rivals the Bible, Torah, and Koran in ubiquity and perceived power. We all know that there is no reality, only the perception of reality.
Let’s create our own book. We should have our own “Book of Scriptures,” a book that every bookstore in the world will carry, that—someday—every family will have at least one copy of. Let’s make it something so fascinating, and alluring, and controversial that every consumer on the planet has to have a copy. (Yes, I’m thinking optimistically.)
Second, I suggest that we treat this book with the reverence with which Christians treat their bible. Make a really big deal over it; make a lot of noise about it.
Atheists from around the globe could write essays that detail their thoughts (and feelings) about nonbelief. As these essays are compiled, they could be given titles such as “The Book of Evolution” or “The Book of Morality” or “The Book of Empiricim.” Get my drift?
So who’s with me? Who wants to jump on the bandwagon and embrace “atheist evangelism” with all ya got?