Friday, June 4, 2010

How can I get apathetic atheists to get up and do something atheistic?

I am guessing that the person asking the question is referring to locally organizing Atheists. There are a variety of national organizations (the Humanist Society and Freedom From Religion Foundation are two) that a person can join and support. However, getting things done in your town or city poses problems.

Getting people motivated and organized is a common issue. There is a dynamic where 20% of the individuals in any group (whether it's a church, fraternity, environmental group, etc.) will do 80% of the work. The trick, at the early stages of community activism (that is what you are doing by the way), is to find a few people who are motivated and willing to do work. This core group does not need to be large at first (even 2 would be OK). You can find other Atheists through a variety of online forums and Atheist sites. Once you find your motivated core group the work goes to the next stage.

We can learn quite a bit from Theists in terms of organizing. Theists have a variety of holidays that make getting together fun. Use that strategy. Celebrate Darwin Day, the National Day of Reason, or a birthday of a prominent Atheist. Even apathetic Atheists may want to drink and relax. This helps establish a sense of community and builds momentum for getting things done.

At this point you would have a core group of motivated Atheists and a larger group of lesser motivated Atheists. You can now present a problem facing the local Atheist community. The problem must be clearly defined (not just, "Those Theists are giving us nothing but grief!") such as a prayer at a public school graduation. You must have a specific way to resolve the problem. Talk and brainstorm with your core group and then individually talk with members of the larger group. Make sure your solution is clearly defined and easy to understand. Then get it done!

Many Atheists just go with a big issue that gets media attention and don't want to do the harder job of local organization. Our opposition (Theists) are organized and motivated 24 hours a day, 7 days a week. By building local Atheist communities we are creating structures and systems that can meet their challenges.

Good luck!

1 comment:

  1. One of the things I recommend is breaking big tasks into smaller ones. People are likely to get discouraged if they feel like they are trying to make big changes with little support. It is important to start with small, manageable tasks that can be completed and that can help build a sense of success.

    As atheists, this isn't always easy for us because we often want to make big changes. But suppose that a vague goal like "reduce Christian privilege in my community" can be turned into something like "complain to postmaster about bible quote hanging in post office." This would have a chance of tangible success that could help inspire other efforts.

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