Apathetic Atheists: A Forgotten Resource?
With the Reason Rally finished, I followed up by attending the 2012 American Atheist Convention in Maryland. Sadly, I was only able to stay through Sunday's events.
On that day, however, I recall hearing Dr. Elisabeth Cornwell mention the word apathy regarding the secular movement and how it was among the worst of the threats for the secular movement.
Fast-forward one day as I landed back home in Alaska.
I picked up my fifteen-year-old Welsh Springer Spaniel, "Quinn," from trusted friends. During the visit, I relayed a few thoughts about the rally and convention. I recounted speakers tackling inequality in the law, Islamic persecution of non-theists and a few of the ideas Sean Faircloth mentioned. My friends met all points with silence. I was able to discern from their body language, however, that they certainly did have opinions.
Both of these folks are closeted atheists. After thinking carefully about what I know about them and in light of my most recent encounter, I’ve concluded that they are apathetic when it comes to the causes typically associated with atheists: Establishment Clause protection, public education, medical quackery, civil rights, etc.
"Nothing is going to change" and "a convention of atheists is just like another religion" were the themes of their otherwise polite dismissals to my offerings. Well, I scooped up Quinn, thanked them profusely for taking excellent care of him, and then went home to discuss the experience.
A point of observation: in some businesses, it is more expensive to hire a new employee than it is to retain experienced employees who may need their skills updated. The aim of this discussion is to recognize that fact when it comes to apathetic atheists. The apathetic atheist demographic is probably not mainly comprised of “rookies” who sometimes require expensive advertising campaigns and lucrative contracts to entice. In a certain sense, apathetic atheists are a bit like benchwarmers on Team Atheism. In my experience, these atheists know the rules of skepticism, they know religion is a pollution plaguing society, and yet they are motivated to do nothing.
I strongly believe that they are a forgotten resource. And I don’t think they should be written off as unreachable or too "expensive" to engage. Yes, they are an obstacle and as Dr. Cornwell mentioned, apathy is a troubling indicator. I am asking all of you, RDFRS contributors, how can we get these benchwarmers to start actively playing out on the field?