Atheist leader encourages non-believers to unite
David Silverman, the president of American Atheists endorsed the atheism philosophy Tuesday night when he spoke to students about the increase of non-believers.
During the discussion, hosted by the Humanist Chaplaincy in the Student Activities Center on the College Avenue campus, Silverman said the atheist movement is expanding, but divisions within the movement stunt this growth.
“Atheists divide themselves for no good reason,” he said. “Agnostics, secular humanists and so on are all atheists. The best kinds of skeptics are atheists.”
Silverman said the March 24 “Reason Rally,” an event sponsored by multiple secular organizations, could help bring together atheists nationwide in Washington, D.C.
“We are going to have a secular Woodstock,” Silverman said. “This will be a life-changing event that you will remember forever.”
He said it is important to empower atheists to speak out openly and share their beliefs.
“One-tenth of 1 percent of the atheist population in this country can be considered organized atheists,” he said. “Imagine if we grew that to two-tenths of 1 percent.”
Silverman said the atheist movement is gaining momentum and cannot be stopped because there are a growing number of secular views among the younger generations of atheists.
“There are atheists that are having babies and raising them in a secular household,” he said. “Add that to the older religious population, which is dying off, and you get a growing atheist movement.”
Silverman presented examples of billboards American Atheists had released, reading phrases like “you know it’s a myth.” They were designed in order to make closeted atheists feel like they are not alone.
“We are in a fight against religion,” Silverman said, “and we are going to win.”
He said atheists, agnostics and secular humanists alike that do not express their views openly should join the movement and share their beliefs to friends and family.
“Close the closet door behind you,” he said. “We don’t need it anymore.”
Silverman said in order for people to be aware of the movement, it is important to advertise the message both formally and through social media networks.
Atheists can use social networking tools such as Facebook, Twitter and Google Plus to share their views and give support to atheists who have not shared their beliefs.
Silverman said he does not necessarily want to grow the membership of American Atheists.
“I don’t really care if you join American Atheists,” he said. “Find an organization that’s right for you, that fits your personality, and then donate and volunteer for it.”
Luke Fess, a School of Arts and Sciences junior, said he believes more people should be aware of the American Atheists movement.
“I thought he was a good speaker,” Fess said. “He brought up a lot of facts I didn’t know, and it should be acknowledged that this kind of movement is happening.”
James Palmer, a School of Arts and Sciences first-year student, said he believed in the idea of giving atheists the chance to come out openly about their beliefs.
“David Silverman is a divisive figure for me,” he said. “There were times I was uncertain about what he was saying, but he really sold me on the fact that it’s our goal to allow more atheists to come out.”
Palmer filmed Silverman’s presentation to promote the case.
“This can get the Silverman message out there so other secular people and atheists will want to come out,” he said. “Filming it makes it easy to spread across social media.”
Another student who attended the event said she did not believe in some of the ideas of the American Atheists movement.
“I think he was just trying to sell his organization and his movement. I think his beliefs are exaggerated, like when he says the movement cannot be stopped,” said Vera Hinsey, a School of Arts and Sciences sophomore.
Hinsey said she was not convinced of Silverman’s philosophy to embrace atheists.
“I think that the more atheists that come out will cause a backlash from the religious population,” she said.