According to a recent survey by the Vancouver Sun, only 25% of BC’s atheists, agnostics and those unaffiliated with any religion “approved” of Mr. Dawkins. What exactly each person was thinking of when they marked “approve” is up to anyone’s guess. The more interesting stat is that the largest group of atheists, etc. were those that had never heard of him, 42%. Of those affiliated with a religion, 45% did not know who Dawkins is.
These stats about Canada’s most atheist province really highlight one, obvious thing. Atheists are barely more likely to read up on atheism than anyone else. Since our group is made up of people sharing a lack of belief, it tends to not be a very cohesive group. We don’t, by and large, spend much time thinking about our lack of faith, since it is more interesting to think about something that does exist, like new scientific discoveries, what’s for dinner, etc. I don’t think many devoutly religious people spend much time thinking about their lack of belief in Bigfoot, so why would we spend much time reading or discussing our lack of belief in a god?
Interestingly enough, according to Douglas Todd of the Vancouver Sun, atheists in the US tend to know more about religion than Christians…
This lack of cohesiveness does have its drawbacks though. I don’t think it is important that atheists read up on their lack of belief (I really haven’t, though I have asked for your input on what you found to be the most interesting thing you have learned from Dawkins, Hitchens, etc.). But our lack of a real community does interfere with our ability to affect legislation, to stop creationism from infecting our schools, etc.
This is not to say there are no atheist communities – Atheist Republic is another Vancouver-based venture, with a world-wide reach. They have almost a million followers on Facebook and a very active private Facebook group as well. This is one of many atheist groups, and I certainly commend them on their efforts, but when there are billions of religious people, and at least 10% attend church, mosque, temple, etc. it makes our groups look pitifully small. We do not vote en masse, we don’t have many lobbyists.
So though it is fine that atheists don’t know who Richard Dawkins is, it would be good if we were more connected when it comes to voting and supporting our beliefs (rational thought, science-based teaching). Support your national or local atheist groups that do advocate for us. Atheist Republic, Center For Inquiry (both the US and Canadian branches), the American Humanist Association, etc. are all doing work to further our cause.
The survey that started this had some interesting numbers for the amount of atheists who believe in karma and consider themselves spiritual. What do you guys think about that?