A case could be made that atheism is seen more positively today than it has ever been seen in the last few millenium. This is an awesome statement...which is also kind of sad when you consider how negatively atheism is still perceived I’ve spent most of the last week thinking of public relations strategies that could raise both good will and public awareness for atheists, and I’m clearly not the only one. There are billboard campaigns in many major cities that are doing a great job of thrusting us into the public conversation. I don’t know if this tactic makes people talk about atheism positively, but it certainly makes people talk about it. Regardless, that kind of campaign is beyond the scope of my modest blog. Here I’ll offer a couple grassroots efforts that individuals can use to give atheists a good name.
Publicly donate in the name of atheism. When checking out at my local grocery store, I was asked to donate one dollar to fill-in-the-blank charity. I complied as I always do, not so much out of the goodness of my heart, rather because I don’t want to seem cheap hording an extra dollar after just spending fifty on Coke and Sour Cream & Onion chips. I was then presented a paper graphic prompting me to sign my name for the wall of donators. Seeing no reason to claim this small credit personally, I signed “an atheist.” For the low cost of a dollar I helped a charity and bought an advertisment for a positive depiction of atheism. Sure, it’s not much, but it’s a start. Considering I’ve had three other opportunities to repeat the process since, it’s a bigger start.
Passively ID yourself as an atheist during good works. I used to take part in Habitat for Humanity. For those who don’t know, Habitat is a charity that seeks volunteers to help build houses for those who couldn’t otherwise afford one. I found it a rewarding way to get a little excerise outside, socialize with other nice folks, and learn a pick up some construction tips. I haven’t tested this yet, but it occures to me that these single-serving friends might be surprised to know I was an atheist--mostly because those in attendance typically found the charity through church. Now, starting conversations with “hi, I’m an atheist” is undoubtably weird, but passively identifing myself as an nonbeliever could be a great PR move. I could wear a t-shirt about atheism, for example. A shirt that is purposfully offensive to religion would be counter-productive, but a low-key shirt that shows I’m just not that into church? Maybe I should make one...
This is just a start. I’d love to hear any ideas my readers might have. Please let me know in the comments and I’ll highlight the best ideas in an updated post.