Something interesting happened to PZ this weekend at the Atheist Alliance of America conference in Denver.
I was (once again) making the argument that there had to be more to the atheism movement than just the dictionary definition, and I first made the case that we’ve comfortably accommodated much bigger, loftier goals than not believing in gods, by pointing out that we readily accept science as part of the atheist parcel. And then I moved on to asking whether there were other things we’d be willing to say that atheists, as a movement, ought to fight for. What are the secular causes?
“Science Education?” I asked. And the audience said “yes”.
“Environmentalism?” I asked. And the audience said “yes”.
“Civil rights for minorities?” I asked. And the audience said “yes,” loudly.
“Gay marriage?” I asked. And the audience yelled back “yes”.
“Feminism?” I asked. And the audience shouted “yes”.
The opposition to Atheism+ is loud, but is it as broad as it claims (even where it doesn’t claim to be universal)? Just as importantly, how broad is the opposition among those who are politically active in the name of atheism itself? How much of the pushback is a general reaction to making waves and making change?
The answers to these questions aren’t easy to get at, but that doesn’t mean we can’t make a start. I was chatting with Martin Pribble, author of the most supportive “I am not Atheism+” post I’ve read, on Twitter last night about the amount of hope that has been generated by Atheism+. As I put it then, “There’s a lot of hope. Much of it is coming from people who haven’t felt comfortable speaking up, though, so it’s quieter.” After all, it’s to be expected that a public dialog will be skewed toward the viewpoints of those who aren’t punished for speaking up in public.
That was when Martin reminded me that he’s running a survey related to this topic and I smacked myself in the forehead in a classic “duh” moment. I’ve been meaning to promote the survey, because I think more of us ought to get counted when we have the chance, but I hadn’t put all the pieces together. I have no excuse except not sitting still for more than five minutes since he made the survey public and I saw the questions.
This is a survey about atheism and worldviews, public atheism, and atheism and politics. It is also a place to speak up and be counted on these topics anonymously if you wish. There are three questions, one for each topic, with open ended answers. While the survey requests that the answers be kept short, don’t stint. Martin says he’ll already have a bear of a time processing the information, so what the hell. (Okay, the quote was, “This has ended up being a fair bi[t] bigger than I thought so more info the better”.)
Let’s find out what people really think about these things. And let’s make sure that “people” includes those of us who normally stay quiet.