Article: “Why the Atheist Movement Needs a Kick in the A&&”
Posted: 17 November 2007 04:22 PM   [ Ignore ]
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Hello all,

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.)

Cheers!

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Why the Atheist Movement Needs a Kick in the A&& (And a Few Ideas on How to Deliver Said Kick)
by L. L. Sovrana

The A-Word
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.

Our Terminology
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?

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Posted: 17 November 2007 04:48 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 1 ]
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Some good ideas here. In another thread I referred to myself as a Realist. Could this be an umbrella term for atheists, agnostics, humanists etc? After all, we do try grounding our beliefs in reality. Might be hard to come up with a symbol for that. I’ll see if I can come up with something.

Other ides?

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Posted: 17 November 2007 05:26 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 2 ]
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I’ll create some designs, give me your ideas.

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Vi veri veniversum vivus vici

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Posted: 17 November 2007 05:39 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 3 ]
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ZenGrrrl - 17 November 2007 04:22 PM

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.

This isn’t a new term, but I’ve always liked the phrase “keep it real.” Not only is it already hip in urban culture, but it reflects our pursuit of truth.

Keep it real - Don’t be fake, be true and honest.

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Posted: 17 November 2007 05:43 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 4 ]
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Keep it real.

I like that. Catchy, easy to remember, and true.

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“In the beginning, God created the universe. This has made many people very angry and has been widely regarded as a bad move.”
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Posted: 17 November 2007 08:11 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 5 ]
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morgantj - 17 November 2007 05:39 PM

keep it real.”

Can’t disagree with that!

wink

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Posted: 17 November 2007 08:13 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 6 ]
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One of the problems is that religions encompass a number of things: belief in a deity, a code of morality, a strong sense of belongers vs the non-belongers, social rules, inculcation of the young, rituals that block out thought.  Although I’m an atheist and a humanist, there’s no necessary connection.  Part of my, and many humanists, philosophy is acceptance of others, no matter what their beliefs are (as long as they don’t damage others).

The religious revel in conformity, atheists and humanists revel in diversity.  As I see it, you have identified this as our greatest weakness, but it’s also basic to our beliefs.

Rather than a book to match the bible, I suggest a book that can be given to kids.  It should be simple enough for them to understand, funny and interesting enough for them to read, and useful enough for them to keep.  Some examples:  I’ve written a list of about seventy critical thinking errors with examples. I’m sure it can be improved, but it would be a start.  I saw a very funny one page list of grammatical instructions with each one done with the error built in.  I’ve written a relatively simple article listing five humanist principles and explaining them.  It could probably be simplified (just don’t let a philosopher get hold of it.  S/he would work to expand it greatly and make it more precise to a level that would bore even them). 

If we all think of what kind of booklet a kid would want to read and keep because it could help him/her have an easier time in school, be able to argue more successfully with his/her parents, and be an enjoyable read, we could come up with a number of short clever chapters. 

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Posted: 19 November 2007 08:24 PM   [ Ignore ]   [ # 7 ]
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What about Stephen Uhl’s Imagine No Superstition, or something like it?  It’s aimed for maybe a young college crowd (there are a few curse words and scatological humor, I think), but it’s a fun and informative read (so I’m told).

Debbie

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