The Economist suggests we are picking the wrong fights.
Like this kind:
No, we’re not trying to put “In God We Distrust” on currency. The article argues that atheists would be “tactically wise to accept the overwhelming majority’s comfort with such ‘ceremonial deism.'”
Keeping the Ten Commandments out of an Alabama courthouse is one thing. But attacking a Christmas nativity scene on public property does more harm than good. Such secular crusades allow Christians—after all, the overwhelming majority of the country—to feel under attack, and even to declare that they are on the defensive in a “War on Christmas”. When a liberal federal court in California struck the words “under God” from the pledge of allegiance, religious conservatives rallied. Atheists might be tactically wise to accept the overwhelming majority’s comfort with such “ceremonial deism”.
There’s also the obvious image problem:
“Atheist” has an ugly ring in American ears and it merely defines what people are not. “Godless” is worse, its derogatory attachment to “communist” may never be broken. “Humanist” sounds too hippyish. A few have taken to calling themselves “Brights” for no good reason and to widespread mirth. And “secular” isn’t quite the word either; one can be a Christian secularist.
The writer (who goes unnamed) makes this suggestion:
If these growing ranks [of non-religious people] concentrate on areas where American religiosity can do harm—over-aggressive proselytising in the armed forces, undermining science or AIDS programmes, alienating minorities at home and Muslims abroad—they could wield the sort of influence that any other minority representing 10% of the country might do.
These are not issues that go unnoticed by atheist organizations. The questions constantly arise: Which fights do we take on? Which ones do we drop? Which label(s) should we use to describe ourselves? Is it possible to improve our image? How do we convince people that we’re nice/normal/moral?
There’s also the argument that if we let some things slide (i.e. “Under God” in the Pledge of Allegiance, “In God We Trust” on the currency, etc) then similar injections of religion where it doesn’t belong will surely follow.
For what it’s worth, the next meeting of the heads of most major atheist/Humanist organizations in the country will be taking place in January.
These are the sorts of topics that will be discussed.
(Thanks to Brett for the link!)