Jump to content

Atheism No Longer A 'dirty Word'


Reverend AtheiStar
 Share

Recommended Posts

http://www.contracostatimes.com/mld/cctime...ia/15571253.htm

 

Believers say atheism no longer a 'dirty word'

By Rebecca Rosen Lum

CONTRA COSTA TIMES

 

When Richard Golden put the word out that he was starting a group for atheists in Walnut Creek, about a dozen people showed up.

 

Two years later, 80 are dues-paying members and several more drop in on twice-monthly meetings to chew on everything from particle physics to court cases.

 

Horrified by escalating religious violence and alarmed by the Bush administration's "faith-based initiatives," which make government money available to religious organizations, atheists are coming out of the closet -- and organizing.

 

"Local groups are springing up all over the place," said Ellen Johnson, president of American Atheists. Active groups have grown by about 90 percent over the past six years, she said.

 

In the past few years, groups affiliated with American Atheists have taken root in Walnut Creek, Berkeley, San Francisco, Davis and Silicon Valley. East Bay Atheists has grown to more than 300 members.

 

California membership in the Freedom From Religion Foundation, a group of atheists and agnostics that monitors the separation of church and state, increased from 900 to 1,200 in one year. Nationally, it grew from 5,000 in 2004 to 6,400 members by the beginning of 2006, said co-founder Annie Laurie Gaylor.

 

Meetings and rallies, once the province of older folks, now include younger people with tattoos and dreadlocks. The Internet, radio spots during Al Franken's Air America radio show and campus groups are responsible, Johnson said.

 

"They don't have the baggage that someone my age does," she said. "Atheism was such a dirty word -- associated with communism. Plus, this is a very scientific era. They're not afraid to say what they think."

 

But atheism appears to be gaining ground as a belief, not just a wave of political activism by those who fear the wall between church and state is being disassembled. Books challenging religion such as "Letter to a Christian Nation" by Sam Harris and "The God Delusion" by Richard Dawkins appeared at No. 5 and No. 23, respectively, on the Amazon.com bestseller list Wednesday.

 

"Our primary conviction is that there is only one world -- there is no supernatural world -- the world that is the subject of scientific investigation," Golden said. "We are focused, as the humanists are, on having our human potential increased in this world, rather than working everything out in the world to come."

 

Two UC Berkeley sociology professors found that the proportion of Americans with no religion doubled from 1990 to 1998, but that it has leveled out at 14 percent.

 

"We argue that ... reflects a growing backlash against the role of organized religion," said Claude Fischer, one of the study's authors. "People on the political left have reacted against the organization of churches on the right. Their statement is a reaction: 'If that's what religion means, than I'm not religious.'"

 

Studies suggest the surge in interest is more a wavelet than a tsunami. The Baylor University Institute Religion Survey, released Sept. 11, showed that 10.8 percent of the nation's population, or about 10 million Americans, do not adhere to some faith. The majority of the 1,721 respondents who were unaffiliated with a religion said they believe in "some higher power."

 

On Oct. 6, many atheists will head to the Freedom From Religion Foundation's convention in San Francisco to hear Harris, who also wrote "The End of Faith," speak and to watch comic Julia Sweeney perform her "Letting Go of God."

 

The Foundation has brought 30 First Amendment lawsuits since 1977 and has more percolating through the courts. Among its victories: winning the first federal lawsuit challenging direct government funding of a faith-based agency.

 

Sept. 11, 2001, hammered home the dangers of religious fundamentalism for Larry Hicok of Berkeley, who describes the terrorist attacks as an ultimate "faith-based initiative."

 

Now he is chairman of East Bay Atheists, whose membership has been growing over the past five years.

 

One of the most recent developments to galvanize activists is the Public Expression of Religion Act, sponsored by U.S. Rep. John Hostettler, R-Ind.

 

The bill would deny attorneys fees and damages to those who successfully argue against violations of the church-state separation. The House Judiciary Committee passed the bill on a party-line vote: Republicans for, Democrats opposed.

 

"There's no other time in American history where the wall between church and state was in such danger," Gaylor said. "We could be taking a faith-based case every day if we had the resources. This is the time to come out swinging."

 

Rebecca Rosen Lum covers religion. Reach her at 925-977-8506 or rrosenlum@cctimes.com.

 

ATHEISTS IN COURT

 

The watchdog organization Freedom From Religion Foundation has sued over violations of the church-state clause 30 times since 1977. Some of its wins include:

 

• Overturning a state Good Friday holiday

 

• Ending 51 years of Bible instruction in public schools

 

• Stopping direct subsidy to religious schools

 

• Stopping Job Corps members from working on a Catholic shrine

 

Recent Comments

 

Atheists lack belief in all gods and goddesses. It's hardly a yin...

"I pledge alligiance to the flag. Of the United States of America,...

"Atheism can't exist with God. Yin and Yang. An Atheist without God...

Behold and see a you pas by....As you are now, so once was I. As I...

Sacred to the memory of Mr. Gerard Bates, who died August 6, l800. ...

»Read More

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Thanks for the article. It's always nice to know that more and more atheists are coming out of the woodwork.

 

 

You're welcome. It made me happy to read this article, too. I like to hear that we are organizing so well these days! It'd good to have a safe haven where like-minded unbelivers can congreagte and be themselves. I'm a member of FAVA (Freethinkers and Atheists of Virginia) and I enjoy our meetings tremendously!

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But atheism appears to be gaining ground as a belief...

Atheism a belief? I thought it was a lack of belief in god. Or does the article mean in the sense of believing there isn't a god? Just wondering.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But atheism appears to be gaining ground as a belief...

Atheism a belief? I thought it was a lack of belief in god. Or does the article mean in the sense of believing there isn't a god? Just wondering.

 

I think that those who have been brought up in religion and never questioned it can't imagine the concept of having no belief. They have to think of atheism as a "belief" because just don't know what else to do with it.

 

Anyhow, I haven't seen any evidence of the trends the article discusses here (Pennsylvania), but I hope it's right. We tend to be a bit behind in all sorts of trends.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But atheism appears to be gaining ground as a belief...

Atheism a belief? I thought it was a lack of belief in god. Or does the article mean in the sense of believing there isn't a god? Just wondering.

 

 

It is a belief...a belief system without God.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

But atheism appears to be gaining ground as a belief...

Atheism a belief? I thought it was a lack of belief in god. Or does the article mean in the sense of believing there isn't a god? Just wondering.

 

Atheism can be a belief, i.e. strong Atheism. Ex: I believe that all gods and goddesses are imaginary. Atheism, in the broadest sense, though, is the lack of belief in all gods and goddesses.

Link to comment
Share on other sites

nice the Contra Costa Times is a local paper here but I don't get the paper so I misses it but cool just the same.... Thanks Rev

Link to comment
Share on other sites

Guest
This topic is now closed to further replies.
 Share

×
×
  • Create New...

Important Information

By using this site, you agree to our Guidelines.