By Dan Merica, CNN
Washington (CNN) – The religiously unaffiliated – the "nones" – have noticed their ranks are growing. And at a meeting Saturday, a group of leaders will look to turn those swelling numbers into workable political and cultural power.
It's one of the top priorities of the eighth annual Heads Meeting, which will be held in Atlanta. Some of the nation’s most influential leaders, representing various organizations, will convene to chart a path forward and discuss the most important issues facing "nones" today.
“It is not enough that we are growing in numbers,” said Roy Speckhardt, executive director of the American Humanist Association. “We have got to find a way to bring those numbers to bear in an organized fashion so that people will take us seriously.”
A number of studies have found that religious “nones” – people who either don’t believe in God or do not affiliate with a religion – are increasing rapidly in the United States. A 2012 Pew study, for example, found this faction to be the fastest-growing "religious" group in America and determined that one in five Americans now identify with no religion.
These numbers have emboldened atheists, humanists, agnostics and other secular Americans, many of whom have long expressed a desire for more political power.
In particular, they point to the fact that they are widely underrepresented in the halls of the highest U.S. legislative body. Though 20% of the population classifies themselves as “none,” according to Pew, only one member of Congress, Democratic Rep. Kyrsten Sinema of Arizona, identifies as such.
Speckhardt said it’ll take presenting “viewpoints in an organized way” to see change.
Dale McGowan, executive director of Foundation Beyond Belief and one of the Atlanta meeting's hosts, said building awareness through community engagement will be a key topic of discussion.
“Part of it is trying to consolidate that cultural presence,” McGowan said. “That has something to do with politics, but it is also more generally cultural.”
Much as churches and synagogues foster and nurture communities, McGowan said he thinks atheists can do the same to gain clout and broader acceptance.
But the meeting is more than just a forum for "none" leaders to outline their plans going forward. It is also a way for these leaders to meet face to face and discuss differences that they may have with one another.
According to McGowan, finding ways to work together was the original goal when the meeting was first held in 2005.
For years, McGowan said, “These groups operated separately from each other and sometimes at odds with each other. There was a realization that we should meet once a year and come together on the goals that we have in common.”
Other leaders echoed this viewpoint.
“One of the biggest benefits of these meetings is that it is human interaction,” Speckhardt said. “You get people face to face, and you dispel these negative ideas. You realize that we are all endeavoring toward very similar goals and that we can cooperate to make them happen.”
But while the leaders stress the need for cohesion, they also have long highlighted, even celebrated, diversity of opinion in their movement. This diversity has, at times, caused friction.
For example, the Christmas season revealed a growing rift among American atheists. Some activists want to seize the holidays to build bridges with faith groups, while other active unbelievers increasingly see Christmas as central to confronting religion.
“We certainly do disagree,” said David Silverman, president of American Atheists. “But we are on the same side. What we have to do is sit down at the table and say, ‘You are going to do your thing, and I am going to do my thing.’ ”
McGowan called cohesiveness “really the central challenge” for people who thrive on independence. “This is a group of people accustomed to taking a critical approach to things, and that means not just letting differences slide and saying, ‘Hey, these differences matter.’ ”
Other attendees in Atlanta will include Ron Lindsay, president of the Center for Inquiry, and Margaret Downey, founder and president of the Freethought Society, according to Silverman.
What a good christian you are, consumed by hatred for those that do not believe as you do.
We have a prayer for people like you.
Deb. Your prayers obviously don't work. A sign that your sky friend doesn't exist. Oh I know it works in mysterious ways – so mysterious that no one can actually identify its capabilities.
In Santa we trust, God is long suffering. Meaning, he doesn't want to fry you sorry but without giving you a chance to repent. Thanks for trying to play.
Your god is omniscient when you want it to take credit but long-suffering when there's a question about its inconsistent capabilities. Thanks for trying to play.
"God is long suffering"
More like a long shot.
In Santa we trust, another pot assuming he knows more than the creator.
Another post assuming you have anything relevant to say.
Deb, which god?
The freakin President is on again. When will he stop screwing up my soap operas!!!!!!!
To believe in 'luck' as the first cause is a myth. The fact is, atheism involves faith. An atheist believes in purposeless blind chance
I'm confused, are you suggesting that "luck" and "chance" are bad things that should be avoided?
There's quite a difference between faith in observable phenomena (like a train running on time) and faith in magical phenomena (like a magic train to another planet).
"Luck" isn't really a thing. Dawkins knows this.
You are willfully misusing the word.
Whoops, someone else who got it wrong:
Atheism is a lack of belief in gods or supernatural beings. It is an absence of something, not a presence.
Who believes in luck?
And it's no more blind chance than it is when you drop a marble on a slanted surface, and whaddya know, it rolls downhill. Random events, influenced by simple natural laws. Once you learn what they are, you might understand a little more about how evolution does work.
Chuckles, when has a thorn ever depended on luck and chance? You people create the chaos to produce your desired outcome.
Susan StoHelit, God already wrote the laws of gravity in the bible. You'd know that truth if you knew how to read scriptures.
It's Romnesia handle as a backup player. You atheists are too funny when you get your feathers ruffled.
Nope. They just understand Probability Theory, and took a math class.
Religion is something people unite against because it is something that unites people (some people against others). I tend to run the other way when people are banding together. All too often mobs end up marching with pitchforks and torches against people who disagree with them. But reason only serves us well when it is upheld against its opposite: unquestioning acceptance of ideas, the only bases of which are that they seem right, make us comfortable and therefore ought to be right. So, it's a good idea for non-believers to at least act in accord and ask the questions religious people have failed to ask, and to counter the influence they try to hold over us.
You're missing out then. Have you ever been part of the mob? It's fantastic. You feel like one enti.ty, that moves and feels altogether. I'm not saying it's necessary to be part of the mob all the time or anything like that, but I got to experience being in those conditions both on the outside and in. The outside when I happened to travel to Thailand after there was some election kurfufle and there were huge crowds in the streets and red shirts everywhere. Since I had no horse in that race, it was terrifying and I pretty muched stayed in one part of town and avoided all public centers when I could.... The other time was just this past fall when the Giants won the world series and the city of SF took to the streets to celebrate, THAT was a great time and the only bad part was that I forgot my riot shoes.
I dunno – there was this one time in Chicago. There was a riot. I stayed to throw a few petrol bombs and helped overturn a patrol car. You're right. It was fun.
Come clean Tom, Tom, the Other One, the only reason you don't like to be in a crowd is because it's not about you.
Right!? Sometimes going with the crowd can be incredibly fulfilling haha.
Chuckles, we know ALL atheists go solo. That's the way it is with outcasts.
Wha? like I said, going with the group can be fun. Making a fire in the road when the Giants won, Lots of fun! When was the last time you let loose kiddo?
Chuckles, still guessing, I see. LOL.
It is happening if you believe it or not . No god(s) required maybe.
Education on the Social, Ethical and Legal Issues in Personal Genetics
the gods were credited with lightning, storms, and natural disasters until we understood what caused them. Now god must exist because we don't understand the beginning of life. Eventually people will come around, but it will be the younger generations that bring the world out of the darkness, not converting/educating those already set in their blind faith.
Science, with thinking like that ... and people wonder why the world is going down the toilet. Thanks for playing.
The Nones are 2/3 believers according to the Pew Study ... this meeting is for the other third. Other groups participating in these discussions and/or attending the meeting yet not mentioned: Secular Woman, American Secular Census, Secular Student Alliance, Coalition for the Community of Reason. Many of these have local chapters where you can find others who share your values and engage in activism for secular public policy. You are not alone!
Thanks. It sounded like just a few groups from the article.
Lots of these groups can't just stick to Church/State issues though, they usually come with a hefty amount of d.ouchebag liberalism.
We already know how the last few generation was turned into apple polishers for the teachers. LOL. I wouldn't tell many people your age.
What my faith tells me is that there is good and there is evil. to believe there is something between them is another trick of the devil, to lead you astray. I have nothing against nonchristians, as long as they have some kind of faith to guide them. But to say everything is greyscale and there is no God, that is a disaster.
Religion was the failing of the Tea Party.
One of these days we'll finally be lucky or smart enough to stop having to deal with people who think there's a 'devil'.
We can never knowingly say that there is no gods at all, but we say with certainty that the gods of Hinduism, Christianity, Islam, Judaism, Greek, and Norse never existed. We've proven that much through historical study. But yes, there may still be some supernatural force in the universe, and most atheists and agnostics would acknowledge that.
sam, you don't see your devil horns when you look in the mirror? You don't like knowing that we see you for what you are? LOL. Evil hating to be seen for what they are. Too funny.
To say you must have a god to know right from wrong is sad, indeed. You are essentially saying the only thing keeping you from lying, cheating, stealing, raping and murder is your faith. It's frightening.
Atheists belong to a cult. Their saint and prophet is the pedophile, incest idiot Charles Darwin and the leader of the new atheists is Richard Dawkins and that chain smoking drunk Christopher Hitchins
I'm prety sure the catholic priests still hold the record for most children violated.
Chickens arouse the susp.icions of empty vessels on Tuesday evenings. Of course a kitten can play badminton with an ethnicall Jewish carburettor. It seems foolish that a depressed horse meat sandwich would kill itself due to a sore weasel hole.
The so-called priests who violated children were g-@ys who infiltrated the priesthood for reasons of their own. That they were not weeded out at the first sign is the failing of the church, I will admit.
Be honest here – the RCC never grew a conscience.
the child abuse went on for at least 3 generations. They did not send the priests that they knew were abusing kids to jail. They never voluntarily admitted anything or offered any support for the victoms. They got caught too many times to allow it to continue. Is this really a group you want us to turn to for moral teachings?
A cult requires belief in the supernatural. So you misuse the word "cult".
Scientology is cult which doesn't necessarily require a belief in the supernatural.
Scientology's concept of Thetans and psychic clarity are supernatural beliefs.
Not necessarily supernatural. Aliens may have evolved, physically and technologically, to a level which we would view as supernatural (think of the ending to 2001). Scientologists just claim to be able to unlock this in humans and this is where the scamming cult element arises as it costs beaucoup bucks to advance your thetan to higher levels.
Without evidence, the supposition remains supernatural. A Thetan is an immortal soul. Immortality and consciousness surviving brain death are two suppositions that oppose what we know of natural science.
Theoretical physics deals with lots of concepts that aren't currently explainable by current understandings of natural law. The multiverse theory for example has numerous critics, notably English physicist Paul Davies. He says the multiverse theory is unscientific, but he never claims that it's supernatural. In my less than knowledgeable opinion, I find the possibility of an infinite number of parallel universes to be as far fetched as the possibility of the survival of consciousness after death (although I'd probably believe in the former before the latter).
Rational Libertarian, just another waste of tax payers dollars to pretend that "they" are researching. Yes, you atheists sure know what's going on. LOL.
Ummm ... so threatened by Richard Dawkins they are.
Only a man, he is.
If you believe that 100% darwinism explains everything, with no higher being to guide, direct and punish you, then you believe in 'KILL OR BE KILLED'. I am just rephrasing "survival of the fittest" here in terms that I understand. So what is your morality? it is – who has the bigger stick wins.
Good basis for society here.
Generalize much, you blubbering idiot? Are you asking a question or what?
Perhaps it is your lack of "understanding" that is the problem?
It's ironic a "soldier" laying "kill or be killed" as the theme for evolution...don't you think?
Troll score – 2/10
You can do better than this!
Actually if you bothered to do some research you would find a very good evolutionary explanation for the existence of altruism or as you term it "morals" as an innate trait in most humans.
Evolution is not summarized by "survival of the fittest", which is in turn not paraphrased by "kill or be killed".
Evolution is more accurately, although not completely, described as "survival of the best adapted." The best example is that when the dinosaurs died out, it was the small mammals that survived, without killing any dinos, and went on to evolve into human beings.
Also you're absolutely deluding yourself if you think your morals come from the bible. You need to look no further for evidence than how our morals have evolved over the last 1500 years while the bible hasn't changed. Moreover if your morals did in fact come from the bible you would be a very nasty individual indeed.
Who's talking about morality? This is a theological discussion.
Darwin. the ultimate spoiled brat of the world was buried in a Christian church with Christian rituals after he ripped of the reality of childbirth and fed it to the brambles and thorns of the world who also rebel against everything in front of them.
Deb. Spoiled brat? Please explain (why you say Darwin is)
Stupid atheists, communist, liberal idiots that believe in the Darwinian evolution MYTH!!!! IDIOTS!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!
Yeah. dawkins does not explain how flagella evolved, how whales came to be, many many more things
I'm sorry, "Dawkins is an idiot", but your repeated assertions attempting to correlate atheism, communism and liberalism is unfounded and ridiculous. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your repeated unfounded assertions may represent truths is: "EPIC FAIL".
@SoldierOfUnconsciousness: "dawkins does not explain how flagella evolved, how whales"
Why would Dawkins have to explain anything to you, let alone flagella or whales? Evolution Theory covers them all just fine. You don't have Google in your part of the interwebs?
Atheist liberal = no morals
"Atheist liberal = no morals"
more lies from the xtians – 146!
Turd sandwich = giand d.ouche.
Turd Sandwich does in fact equal Giant D.ouche, but the question is which one are you going to vote for in the election for the new school mascot.
Middle Eastern desert fantasy god of Abraham = quite a few bad morals
Pete and the rest of your handles, do you think if you refute it enough, it becomes reality? Not a chance.
Deb, you're right, god could never be a reality.
Yes, because the world is SO much better with god(s) and people who profess to believe in the 10 commandments but really ignore them all. Yes. Indeedy.
Secular Woman (www.secularwoman.org) will also be in attendance.
Not sure if you are an member/advocate of secularwomen, but just ran across some blog comments debating the conflict between secularism/humanism and feminism.
I wasn't even aware of the conflict.
Is this a major issue, do you think?
It's just FemiNazi BS. They won't be happy until all men are subservient to women.
If George Bush called nuclear was nukular, I would hate to think what he'd call Secular Women.
called nuclear "nukular" (strike "was")
Oh, now that women's lib got figured out, you call it secular women now? LOL.
In Bush-speak wouldn't it be seclear.
You're quite a little cunt, aren't you Irrational Libertina?
non-believers + atheist = anti-Christian values, ethics and morals
Remember, what made America great was its Christian values, ethics and morals.
I would pray for the nation as I care too deeply that I do not want it fall away from God's favor
Your equation is wrong. Non-believers and Atheists simply are not convinced that there is a god or gods. You fall into the same limited thinking as many religious people do: You believe that morals and ethics are tied to religious dogma – which is provably false.
One can say the values upon which America was founded are shared by Christians, but Christianity does not "own" said values. Of course the U.S.A. was not founded on the Christian nor any other religion.
If you dont believe in something bigger than yourself, then what gives you a sense of morality? what tells you what is good and what is evil? NOTHING
bring it on!: your god is a petty, vindictive cvnt, and so are you
@Soldier – Nonsense. You do not need god to believe in things greater than yourself, nor to posses moral direction.
Are you saying that it is not necessary to have a moral compass? that is what the last clause in your posting above tells me.
Just like the said values that Christians claim to "own" when they mistakenly think that America was founded on Christianity, a moral compass is not something solely possessed by them. They would just like everyone to think that way.
Remember, what made America great was its Christian values, ethics and morals.
I'm pretty sure that millions of Native Americans would disagree with you.
I do think there are things bigger than myself.... my family, humanity in general, the planet, the galaxy, etc etc. I'm not sure why we keep harping on morality as it is a rather fluid concept that changes over time. What is 'moral' today may not be 'moral' tomorrow. The act is the same and the consequences can be severe or not.
Kinda weird that our christian ethics and moality in America has had the country at war almost continously since its founding. Many of those wars have been admitted to be unethical and immoral, right christian of us and right in step with the christians love of war with those that do not toe the religious line.
Humans have morals because we are social animals, and if we went around killing each other we wouldn't have lasted this long, as a human on his own 100,000 years ago didn't stand much of a chance.
Atheists always get it wrong. God first called you fools. You're the ones that change your names over the generations.
You can believe in any deity as long as it's the proper deity.
I love the timing of this article. Only yesterday we pointed out some of the many mistakes in the bible, and today they wrote about the growing number of people who have seen the light.
The more people know about te bible, the fewer christians there will be.
I haven’t seen any mistakes, could you quote scripture and verse where you think there is an error?
That's funny, Robert.
I know, it is funny that we’ve yet to see a scripture quoted that is supposedly a mistake.
Try starting with the first sentence.
Most modern versions start with "In the beginning...", which is actually a mistranslation of "When on high..."
The term "on high" refers to the Ugaritic practice of placing their king's home on elevated land that overlooks his subjects' homes. So from the very first sentence we can say that Genesis is not an account of the beginning. If you keep reading the oldest versions, you would see that the Elohim (plural gods, the Canaanites had a pantheon of 18) live on earth, clear trees by hand, and push back water (build a dam).
I could spend days pointing out every single inconsistency, mistranslation, or purposeful editing. Yes, we even have the King James authors altering the names of people and places to hide the fact that most of the Old Testament is steeped in the language of Ra and Baal worship (For instance, they change Jerubaal's name to Gideon to hide that his chapter is not about Yahweh).
Very few humans have the integrity to accept it when something they hold sacred is described as a mistake or error. Instead, they find ways to block the dissonance and create a counter-argument...aka apologetics.
It wouldn't matter if someone pointed chapter and verse to you...you wouldn't accept it due to the consequences it would inflict.
Only those few who abandon their beliefs after determining that there are "mistakes" or "errors" are the ones with integrity.
New Atheist, you didn't point out any mistakes in the Bible. You just rewrite what Jesus had holy men write because you refuse to face your flaws and outgrow them. Oh, my. Jesus wants you to grow up.
Mistakes? In Luke, the birth of Jesus is said to have taken place when Cyrenius (Quirinius) was governor of Syria. His governorship began in 6 or 7 CE (AD). Matthew has Jesus born during the reign of Herod the Great, who died in 4 BCE (BC). That's a gap of 10-11 years. Does that qualify as a mistake? Both can't be correct (although both could be wrong).
watch him play politics!
hmm..what can we learn from a great nation like N.korea???
I wonder what we would find if we looked at the Nations with the highest standard of living, and the lowest crime. What percentage of their people are christians?
I'll start – In America, most of the population is christian and we have the highest incarceration rate on the plannet!
Hey atheists, how is having teachers in your pockets teaching the younger generations that they are animals and should act like animals working for you to destroy the USA from the inside out?
HA! That's funny! Did you come up with that or hear from your pastor or something?
Deb, Evolution is a fact – if you'd attended school you would know that. We should want children being taught facts to get them away from religion and other superstitions.
I can't wait until this country turns into an official atheistic country, like South Korea or the USSR. You think this country has problems now, just wait until that happens. All Kingdoms fall and are replaced and this country will collapse due to social, political and moral decay
" All Kingdoms fall and are replaced and this country will collapse due to social, political and moral decay"
Pete, you should change your name to "Count Von Count" like the character from sesame street
I shouldn't respond to a troll but South Korean Christians actually have undue influence in politics.
I'm sorry, "Dawkins is an idiot", but your assertions, generalizations, and conclusions regarding atheism and other past or present word regimes are unfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your repeated unfounded assertions may represent truths is: "EPIC FAIL".
The government of the US is "a"religious, meaning NON religious. The citizens however are free to follow whatever religious myths they want. The government cannot tell you which of the 10,000 gods we've invented to believe in, or not believe in.
The decline of countries/governments can more often be attributed to war mongering / over-reaching, and internal war among religious ideologies (think middle east), than social decay.
To be historically more accurate, it is corruption that usually brings down empires.
unfortunately facts and history are not too important to fundies.
south korea is an atheist country?
Primewonk, that was a good power play to ensure the atheist religion be taught to all in this country.
Deb, There is no atheist religion (look up what atheist means) so how can it be taught?
Keep in mind none or agnostics are not by default atheist. A low end atheist is a known liar and not welcomed by 99% of the worlds population. Knowing that an atheist is a liar puts all their comments in proper perspective.
" A low end atheist is a known liar and not welcomed by 99% of the worlds population"
More lies from the xtians – 145!
People like you are why we need to join together.
Similarly to the way the Blacks and the gays had to organize to defend themselves.
I'm sorry, "truth be told", but your assertions regarding atheism are undfounded. Using my Idiomatic Expression Equivalency module (IEE), the expression that best matches the degree to which your repeated unfounded assertions may represent truths is: "EPIC FAIL".
transmission correction: unfounded
New Athiest, we are tired of you using "black and gay people" as your front to project your agenda.
tbt lying again. You really should change your handle or start telling the truth. What would your god think of all your lies? No heaven for you.
Actually it is a political matter because atheists used to be excluded for serving on juries. In the deep south, an atheist can't get elected dog catcher. The founding fathers emphasized that religious belief or lack thereof should not be a qualification for holding office. However, during presidential elections, the candidiates are grilled as to their Christian beliefs. The religious right has made irrational belief in deities a virtue and even a requirement in this country for political leaders. The word "atheist" has very negative associations for most people, when all it is is just reasonable doubt of unproveable concepts. If religion did not hold such sway over politics, it would be a non-issue, but this is not the case.
Why would one want to join any sort of group in which the common trait of each member is a disbelief in deities?
Because we celebrate diversity of ourselves, civil rights and critical thinking. It's time religion becomes a thing of the past just like all other myths.
You just described three things that bare no relevance to atheism.
Actually I did. If you look at the Christians religion, they do not embrace those that believe in other religions, they do not believe in equal civil rights for gays and they do not like their bible being shown to not be a book based on facts or history.
All that bares no relevance to atheism. I'm asking how the three things you mentioned in your first post relate to atheism.
This is just a group of like minded individuals working together for their common good.
It happens a lot in this world.
Having one common trait, a disbelief in deities, does not make people like-minded.
RL – Look at the Unitarian Universalist churh for example. It's been around for a while. I'm sure people join and participate in it with different sets of goals. Or take "Americans United for Separation of Church and State". I'm sure that has people with many different primary causes that they felt that group helps them address, while participating or "believing" in the main cause.
I literally can not comprehend Unitarians and one can be devoutly religious and a secularist. I'm all for groups campaigning for secularism but atheist groups just seem pointless to me.
Well obviously you choose to ignore the point Shawn & I made, RL. Some UU churches do have atheist members. I'm not a member, but that is my understanding. So obviously there are universal underlying goals there – and who know, maybe they can accomplish more of their individual goals working together.
I'm not ignoring anything. I'm not saying atheists shouldn't join groups, I'm saying groups whose main purpose is the celebration of atheism seem pointless.
Well if someone had asked me a few years ago would there be any point to a church of the type UU, I would say that would seem pointless to me, but, like I say, they've been around a while. Sometimes you'll hear an atheist say they believe in one less god. Maybe that's what made me think of the groups who rally around church and state. One could look at a unifying atheist group as one that could incorporate together protections of church and state, plus the causes that Shawn mentioned.
Well, a group like that would bare no relevance to atheism. Also, I would never associate myself with any group pretentious enough to claim they "celebrate diversity of ourselves, civil rights and critical thinking".
Perhaps I wouldn't either, RL. But you did get reasonable answers to your original question.
That's a matter of opinion.
Your answer to m.e. above makes sense. Focus often is better than generalized mush.
I do it for solidarity, to help those who also do not believe but live in an oppressive environment where expressing their lack of belief could have a negative effect. They need to know they are not alone.
Also, there is a huge bias against atheists. The common mistake is the association of theism with morality. This needs to be corrected.
RL: "would bare no relevance"
"bear", not "bare"
Doesn't the fact that if people all group together because of their common disbelief in dieties, isn't that the very definition of like minded, at least to the extent that they all agree on a specific point?
I mean, I don't necessarily understand why people would join an "atheist group" because atheist does not apply to a specific group of people who share specific traits, it's just a single attribute that a diversity of people share and all have different reasoning, but some people who have made atheism an integral part of their lives want to share that with other people the same way that religious people go to church.
Shawn, in my life time I have never seen an atheist fight for anything, never mind civil rights. I've seen them take away civil rights from others, but, never fight for them.
Of the people you have seen fighting for things, how many have you asked if they were atheist?
Damocles, I don't need to ask a person with a backbone that they are a believer. It's the believers that fight for rights. You atheists just whine and make noise while doing NOTHING but complain.
Now you're just being silly Deb. Sillier.
Because the enemy of an enemy is a friend right?
The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.