Atheists by in large are very individual people and we pride ourselves on this autonomy. At the same time we are not a religion, no matter how much the religious might like to paint us as such. We do not have tenets, we do not have doctrine, we do not have temples, we do not have leaders, we do not have tax exempt status, and we do not have political clout.
I want to suggest something a little faux pas for atheists: We need to get more in lock step. Hear me out.
Today while listening to an atheist podcast I heard one prominent atheist lamenting the actions of another prominent atheist. Atheist A complained that atheist B’s lawsuits were not what we should be focusing on, and while atheist B is rightly upset about the things for which he is suing, his constant loses are setting bad legal precedent.
The cold hard truth is that we have a real problem facing the atheist movement. There are several major groups, all competing for funding, all with different missions, different legal strategies, different advertising strategies, and different goals.
These groups are all running in different directions and worse, sometimes squabbling with each other. The religious right could not ask for a better situation!
Atheists don’t want to imitate religion in any way and the thought of falling in line goes against our fundamental principles. Well guess what? Do you know why religions are so powerful? Organization!
A disorderly mob is no more an army than a heap of building materials is a house – Socrates
The Jewish lobby is a perfect example. The United States has a very small number of Jews (comparatively), and yet Israel is practically the 51st state in the United States. No matter what Israel does, we have their back. The Jewish lobby has an inordinate amount of clout for their population size because they are extremely well organized. Atheists need to do the same.
Organized religion is such an effective political tool precisely because it is organized. The people, the distribution channels, the chain of command, the networks, it’s all there. Whenever an issue comes up for a vote, the religious leaders need only give the signal, phone calls are made, people are mobilized, pressure applied, and votes cast. It is extremely effective and we’re letting them bury us with it.
We need to take this effective model from religion while trying to cut out as much of the dogma as possible. In the big picture individual views do not matter. What matters is that we converge on a platform and decide what is the most effective application of our energies. This may mean forgoing some legal battles and letting the religious right get away with small things…for now. For example: In God We Trust on the money and in the pledge is not a big picture issue. The collapse of our education system is. Stuff like In God We Trust is merely a distraction, one the religious right is happy to keep us focused on while they try to destabilize science education. The stakes are extremely high.
If we organize will they accuse us of being a religion? Of course they will! But when have you cared what they think of you? Why are you allowing that to keep us stuck in the gates? The religious right has us in the PERFECT position! We are too disorganized to pose a serious threat, and we’re too scared of mimicking them to organize. As long as we refuse to mimic them I can guarantee we won’t mimic their success.