As 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.