I recently read an interesting book entitled, The Fall of the Evangelical Nation. The following passage appears fairly early in the book:
I want to debunk one of the most common misconceptions about the direction that spirituality is moving in the United States. Evangelicals are not the fastest-growing group in America. Neither are Pentecostals. Nonbelievers are the fastest-growing faith group in America in numbers and percentage. From 1990 to 2001, which was the last good count, they more than doubled, from 14 million to 29 million. Their proportion of the population grew from 8 percent to more than 14 percent. That means there are more than twice as many people who claim no religion as there are participating evangelicals….
Why hasn’t the growth of nonbelievers been given the mainstream media play that the false estimation of evangelical power has been given? Because there are no powerful groups that benefit by keeping in in the news…. Groups of atheists do not gather to protest or stage antiprayer rallies…. A hint about the large number of nonbelievers did capture the press’s attention recently when three new books hit the bestseller lists portraying religious belief as not only wrong but positively evil (pp. 52-53).
I know that none of this is news to you. We’re all familiar with Richard Dawkins’ Out Campaign, which encourages atheists to be outspoken about their faith-free state. Most of you are probably also familiar with vjack’s attempts to promote atheism and encourage the fostering of an atheist community. Many of you may also be aware of Andrew Clapper’s plans to build an atheist organization. And, of course, you are all familiar with the idea that organizing atheists is like herding cats, which is why the problem described by Wicker persists. Meanwhile, evangelicals, who are used to being led like sheep, are well-organized, vocal and disproportionately influential in American politics.
A wise man (or perhaps just a wise ass) has, on several occasions, written about the unseemly influence of evangelicals. The wise guy’s dog-loving friend also has written about the issue. Given the serious ramifications of the problem, and the Religious Right’s increasing militancy (how do you like the label, theocrats?), what do you think atheists should do? Should we build supportive communities and educational organizations? Should we form political action committees? What do you, my readers – all of whom are intelligent, articulate and bursting with ideas – think atheists should do to acquire a stronger voice in American politics?
– the chaplain