Tuesday, April 28, 2009

The Atheists Next Door

Come out, come out, come out of hiding all you atheists. If we can go public in South Carolina, we can go public anywhere.

More than ever, America’s atheists are linking up and speaking out — even here in South Carolina, home to Bob Jones University, blue laws and a legislature that last year unanimously approved a Christian license plate embossed with a cross, a stained glass window and the words “I Believe” (a move blocked by a judge and now headed for trial).

They are connecting on the Internet, holding meet-ups in bars, advertising on billboards and buses, volunteering at food pantries and picking up roadside trash, earning atheist groups recognition on adopt-a-highway signs.

They liken their strategy to that of the gay-rights movement, which lifted off when closeted members of a scorned minority decided to go public.

“It’s not about carrying banners or protesting,” said Herb Silverman, a math professor at the College of Charleston who founded the Secular Humanists of the Lowcountry, which has about 150 members on the coast of the Carolinas. “The most important thing is coming out of the closet.”

Polls show that the ranks of atheists are growing. The American Religious Identification Survey, a major study released last month, found that those who claimed “no religion” were the only demographic group that grew in all 50 states in the last 18 years.

Nationally, the “nones” in the population nearly doubled, to 15 percent in 2008 from 8 percent in 1990. In South Carolina, they more than tripled, to 10 percent from 3 percent. Not all the “nones” are necessarily committed atheists or agnostics, but they make up a pool of potential supporters.

Read the whole thing.

As PZ Myers notes:

This is the kind of article that should cause the religious to worry. It's not their common hysteria about the vicious atheists coming to eat their puppies…it's about the reality of atheism, which is that it is made up of mostly good people who want to live their lives well.

1 comment:

mud_rake said...

Thanks for the heads-up on this most interesting article. Mind if I 'borrow' it for my blog?

I'm enjoying your postings quite a lot, even though I don't get here in the comment section as often as I should.