According to a survey of religious opinion in the UK published in the Daily Telegraph on the 23rd January 2015, 9 per cent of men were sure of the existence of a god compared to 30% who were sure that a god doesn’t exist. For women opinions were more balanced, with 15 % believing and 15% disbelieving. Overall it appears that atheists now outnumber believers in the UK. But you wouldn’t know it from the relative influence of religions and atheists in society as a whole or by the publicity they generate. Despite the widespread belief in atheism, no atheist organisation has anywhere near the power and influence of the Church of England, the Catholic Church or even Islam.
Why don’t atheists or humanists have a greater say in the running of Britain? Why aren’t they even considered even as a significant section of society? Partly it is because acknowledged atheism is a relatively new phenomenon; religions have been integrated into the organs of power for centuries. However there is a definite lack of ambition by atheists to act as a community and to make their voice heard. The most well known atheist organisation in Britain is the British Humanist Association which has only about 30,000 members. It promotes the concept of a secular society in which atheism has the same rights as religions. It does not however promote atheism as a coherent philosophy in its own right.
There are several reasons why atheists haven’t developed a strong sense of identity.
- One problem is that atheists usually define themselves by not believing in God, rather than what they explicitly stand for. This makes it difficult to establish a common sense of purpose.
- Religious groups are organised around local churchs, chapels, mosques or temples. Atheists, however do not possess their own meeting houses and have little of the same sense of local community as religions.
- Atheists only engage with their community on a rational level. Religions, in contrast engage both emotionally and rationally.
Eco-Humanity seeks to overcome these drawbacks to establishing an influential atheist organisation. Saving the planet will give the movement a very important sense of purpose but it will only succeed if it manages to establish an outgoing positive atheist community.