It’s Time for Atheists to Change the Perception of the Public


atheist friendsAs I often say here, atheists are a tiny proportion of our population. In the United States, we amount to just 3.1% of a country with 320-plus million people. Yes, you all know that and we are slowly increasing in the last decade, but we are still not large enough to be of any real consequence within society.

We are looked down upon, even directly derided in the media. I love it when I see the media refer to the political left as just a mob of atheists. Something conveniently ignored though is that 71% of this country identify as Christian.  That means that not all Christians are right-wing. In fact, I know a few that consider themselves liberal that say they are Christians.

It’s becoming more common, on television and online. Ever notice that most of what we see or read is about those nasty atheists trying to destroy Christianity? I can’t recall the last time I saw an article in the media, or a segment on television that said anything positive about atheism. In fact, I may never have. 

As atheists we of course have to interact with theists everyday. I wonder how many of them know an atheist? I think that most of the people I know are unaware of my atheism; Religious belief is just not a topic that doesn’t come up very often and if it does, and I’m specifically asked, I will tell the person that I am an atheist.

But I’m curious as to how many people  can say they actually know an atheist.  I tend to think, based on the demographics, there would be a lot of people that would claim they’ve never met an atheist, much less had a friend who’s atheist. One of the reasons of course is our small number, but I think that something larger is the negative attention atheists receive isn’t conducive for some to be openly atheist.

Some of that is our fault though. When all anyone in the public reads about is how some atheist organization wants some symbol removed from the public space, then it tends to give them a perception that is unintended. No one wants to hear that all that’s being done is asking that the Constitution be followed.

So our problem, as atheists, is really public relations. There really isn’t any single organization or even a person that speaks for us. I’m not advocating for either, it’s just a fact. Most atheists I’ve known in my life are positive, caring and loving people. Many are active within their community, and are quietly unnoticed. It’s a shame we can’t get those stories in the media. It may help to change the perspective of at least some, and that’s a start.

10 thoughts on “It’s Time for Atheists to Change the Perception of the Public

  1. Here is another thing to ponder; how many atheists live as theists?

    The activist atheists don’t care what their communities and families may think of them or have gotten way past that because of their activist choice. I know, in the real world, of no other atheists outside my children’s friends and my sister. But…they may well be there and my other siblings and their kids may be atheist. I don’t talk about that with them.

    Who of the activist atheists would I wish to represent me? Not a one of them.

    I can only represent myself as an ethical atheist, which is the source of my conservative viewpoint. I think that viewpoint requires much more reasoning to come to than the progressive viewpoint, which is actually less ethical.

    Such reasoning demands an understanding of conservatism and that requires educating oneself, even if it is just a little bit, which is about all I have done.

    Nancy Pelosi and others may be theists, but they are not ethical and they seem to be unable to reason well. They are very good at Alinsky tactics and other means of promoting Communism, even if they are not fully aware of what they are doing. They are not fully aware because they believe they are promoting Progressive Democracy or are Democratic Socialists. Not Social Democrats as Denmark’s government is.

    It is the Christian Progressives (Republican or Democrat) who are destroying the traditional principles on which much of our nation’s strength rests, not the activist atheists, who keep the country reminded of the breadth of our Bill of Rights.


  2. But…do we hear that much in real world situations? Even FFRF rarely makes a blip in the news. How is it that atheism is represented to people not within the churches? Or am I missing the big atheist activist news that has Christians stirred up? Or are they just blaming atheists in general for what Progressives are doing?


  3. “As I often say here, atheists are a tiny proportion of our population.” Your own words, yeah? Less relevant than saying, “More people like blue than red.” get your shit together, and be more relevant.


  4. I realized I was an atheist at about age 16, but I did not meet another atheist until I was in college roughly 3 years later. Even though I was very open about it at the time, it took me that long to encounter another atheist. I know times have changed (fortunately), but I have to think that many Christians in the U.S. still could claim that they’ve never met an atheist.


    • I actually know, personally, few atheists. Most of my interactions with atheists are online. I don’t think I live in an area where atheism is looked upon as some sort of disease or mental defect. It’;s just that there’s not that many of us. As I said, think about the population of the U.S. and consider that Pew Research places us at 3.,1%, and not all of those 10+ million are openly atheist.

      We have a long way to go and to get to a place where atheists are accepted in society, we need a change in how we’re perceived.


  5. Jack, I think you are correct. I didn’t even know the term “atheist” when I was first doubting God’s existence. Most of my kids’ classmates did not know the term or that the “condition” could exist. Those that did certainly didn’t think that an atheist might ever be the nice, good-looking and smart kid in their class.

    My dear Christian friend, who was in her late 60s when I revealed my atheism to her, did not know the term, and when I told her about my “condition” I had to explain it to her. She struggled with the concept, partly because it was so unknown, but also because she could not place the concept of not believing in God onto me.

    The only other atheists, besides the ones we were rearing, I met online.


    • Two thingsd come to mind immediately, before I’ve finished my first cup of coffee:

      Those “leaders” often sought out for interviews, whether print or television, could be less strident towards the majority, who would be believers.
      The media could profile local athesit groups. They exist in a lot of cities and towns, to show that atheists are basically no different than anyone else.


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