I am now officially a member of the Atheist Foundation of Australia (AFA), the Secular Party of Australia (SPA) and the Australian Skeptics (AS). I thought I should ‘put my money where my mouth is’ after complaining how difficult it is for atheists to be seen as a collective group. A group that deserves to be heard as much as any other group, if not more so than some.

If 15,000 [1] Exclusive Brethren can get an audience with the PM (well the old one, the new PM is at least smart enough to think they are just a dangerous cult) then 3,700,000 [2] atheists ought to be able to.

The problem has always been that whilst 18% of the population state they have no religion only a very small percentage of those actually belong to any recognised secular organisation [3]. Whilst there are a few secular organisations that do get involved in politics and social issues, I have not seen them have much of an impact so far [4]. It will be interesting to see how the Secular Party goes [5].

It would be nice to have some sort of national secular conference at which delegates from all of the various organisations could get together and determine a common course of action and perhaps an overall governing body [6]. I understand the idea of having one body representing everyone is quite opposite to what atheists often aspire to (a bit too much like the pope and the catholic church). I’m thinking more of a committee, comprised of members of all the interested parties, who present arguments and ideas from their individual organisations. This committee could be the representative face to the government, media and other interested parties. What are your opinions on this idea?

Whilst the sceptics, atheists, humanists, etc have mostly common ideals there are some differences in how they do business and what their ultimate goals are. Whilst atheists can also be sceptics and humanists, humanists can be sceptics and atheists, etc, it doesn’t necessarily follow that each person wants to identify as such. So we have lots of people with similar ideals but under different banners (much like the Christians with their Catholics, Anglicans, Baptists etc). However, even the disparate religious groups have been known to get together to promote a common front to the wider community, so why shouldn’t the various non-religious groups do likewise?

I may be wrong or misinformed with some of these assumptions, after all, I’m fairly new to all this. I’ve only ben blogging for about 6 months (and not much lately, apologies all) and I’ve only just joined the AFA, SPA and AS, so there is still a learning curve for me. I’m aware from their web sites that groups like the Humanist Society (HS) and Australian Skeptics have done some good things in the past, and hope that this will continue. I just wonder if more could be done if somehow we banded together?

Until I can get definite numbers of the members of each of these (AFA, SPA, AS, HS, etc) organisations, I have to wonder how many people are members of these and similar organisations. Is there some innate ideal atheists have that prevent them from joining an organisation? Or is it that no one organisation covers their ideals and, unlike myself, they don’t want to join multiple organisations?  

So, I’ve ben working on this post for a several days and mention it to the OH [7] last night. She reckons I’m a ‘Born Again Atheist’ TM and that’s partly because I used to be  a born again Christian. It’s like how some ex-smokers are the most vocal in the anti-smoking lobby. The OH reckons that because I was accustomed to belonging to something (the church) that I am now more prone to want to belong to something else (an atheist organisation e.g: AFA). We discussed how people who have always been atheists are more likely to not know, or not care, about any atheist organisations. They also have little or no interest in joining one. How many “always been an atheist but not really thought about it” atheists are there? I’m guessing the vast majority of the 3.7M people who stated, in the 2006 census, they had no religion .

I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again – it’s all about the numbers. To be heard you need to prove you have the numbers behind you. So whilst there maybe  3.7M atheists (or 6.2M if you count the undecided) in Australia, is there any one secular organisation that can claim more than 15,000 members? Should secular organisations be targeting the silent atheists more? If so, how could we do this?

I hope to be able to provide some answers and a more positive impact in the future. I’ll keep you posted. In the mean time if you have any answers to my questions I’d like to hear them.

  1. From Radio National – Elusive Exclusive Brethren
  2. Rounded number, based on 2006 Census figures of 18% of 20,700,000.
  3. Anecdotal. If anyone has access to, or knows where I could find them, the numbers of members of any of the non-religious groups I’d be interested to see them.
  4. I have not been able to find much data on what ‘wins’ any atheist/secular/skeptic/humanist organisation has had. I don’t recall seeing any headline in the media along the lines “AFA succeeds in ridding schools of religious instruction”.
    Perhaps I haven’t been looking hard enough?
  5. Last I heard the Secular Party still doesn’t have enough members to be classed as a political party.
  6. Perhaps they already have, if so they’ve kept it fairly quiet.
  7. OH = Other Half; that is, my lovely wife.

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4 Comments to “It’s Official!”

  1. podblack says:

    How do you join the Australian Skeptics? I thought you just could subscribe to their journal…

  2. ozatheist says:

    Yep, that’s about it, the link says join but all it really is is subscribing to the journal.

  3. lee says:

    I agree most people are too scared to admit to a”non” belief they want an insurance policy (I won’t declare disbelief just in case. ) Take a stand on what you believe .If we all admitted to our ” non belief maybe the” religious sector” would not gain such a foothold in policy formation and antiquated policy direction.

  4. It is not uncommon for groups or industries with shared interests to form what are often called “umbrella organisations” or “peak bodies” or some such. There are several such organisations representing the christian churches – the Ecumenical council for example. I think that one might also include non christian religious groups. I think your idea is an excellent one.

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