The Atheist State of the Union

The Atheist State of the Union 2018

After the four horsemen of atheism each released best-sellers skewering religious beliefs post-9/11, the movement gave birth to a wave of secular internet activists. 2008-2012 was a golden age for the New Atheists. YouTubers like Aron Ra, Thunderf00t, Peach Braxton, DPRJones, Seth Andrews, Christina Rad, potholer54, and darkmatter2525 came together to fight against creationist propaganda. The religious fundamentalism of the Bush Administration had left a deep footprint and needed to be countered. Nothing else mattered. Bloggers, podcasters, and YouTubers across the movement joined forces to promote science and encourage skepticism of religious claims. And it worked. Atheism and scientific skepticism were on the rise. Closeted non-believers were publicly coming out as atheists all across America – normalizing the word atheism and challenging religious friends and family members to re-think their dogma. The 2012 reason rally boasted 20-30 thousand attendees, including celebrities, scientists, and politicians.

They had a taste of victory, but then, the movement split. Dividing over feminism, social justice, political correctness, and a host of other smaller issues, the movement did what religious organizations have done for centuries. It splintered. Prominent atheist activists turned their cannons on their own ships – others fired back. For one reason or another, dozens of science-loving atheist (Peach Braxton, Christina Radd, 43 Alley) YouTubers and bloggers dropped out of the scene completely, laid down their ideological weapons against religious fundamentalism, stopped attending conferences and stopped creating content. Others shifted their focus from religious fundamentalism to other topics.

The movement struggled onward but had lost much of its vitality. Attendance at conferences started to drop, and the 2016 Reason Rally put forth an utterly underwhelming turnout. The religious zealots who up till this point had been consistently losing ground, seized upon the opportunity and pushed back with a vengeance, electing a religious puppet as president and a young earth creationist as VP. The presidential cabinet was stuffed with religious, science-denying fundamentalists. Climate change deniers with no background in science became the secretary of energy and head of the EPA. The Secretary of Housing and Urban Development believes the pyramids were built by Jewish slaves to store grain, and our secretary of education think dinosaurs lived with humans and wants creationism taught in public school rooms. And the list goes on.

In 2017 Trump announced that he would attempt to repeal the Johnson amendment which would allow powerful, tax-exempt religious organizations to endorse political candidates for public office and allow political campaign donors to funnel undisclosed tax-free campaign donations through religious institutions. Giving large churches unparalleled political power.

But the swing-set of ideological power is on the verge of shifting again, and we’re giving it a push. I realized at the start of the year that if I was going to make an impact, I needed to get a finger of the pulse of the movement. I needed to network, and I needed to do it fast. So I spent all summer doing the conference circuit, attending six atheist conferences in the US and Canada in addition to various local secular meetups like Oasis, Secular Hub, Skeptics in the Pub, etc. as well as speaking at several local atheist groups, and was even elected to the board of the Atheist Community of Tulsa. All this allowed me to meet everyone from Lawrence Krauss and Richard Dawkins to conference organizers, atheist bloggers, podcasters, and youtubers.

I had the privilege of interviewing the legendary magician James Randi on the importance of skepticism, as well as Seth Andrews host of the largest atheist podcast, science communicator Cara Santa Maria, and many other secular activists. And I realized that while the religious organizations we’re up against are daunting, this movement is passionate and it’s growing – rapidly.

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By the end of the summer, I’d put together the largest list of atheist podcasts ever created, not just to help you find something to listen to, but to help myself and others in the movement network and collaborate more efficiently. There are over 200! In a few short months, I was featured in over a dozen of them. In searching for local atheist groups across the US, I realized two things. 1. There are a lot of local secular groups, with new ones popping every week, and 2. how incredibly scattered the various tools were for finding them. So I compiled these resources here to help other atheists find a local group, join together, and get plugged into their local secular communities.

2017 was a huge year. Not just for me, although I did register Holy Koolaid as an official LLC, garner over 2.5 million views, and am pushing 35,000 subscribers. But an entirely new generation of atheist YouTubers sprung up out of nowhere in barely a year’s time. Creators like Rationality Rules, Rachel Oates, Cosmic Skeptic, Godless Cranium, GM Skeptic, Professor Stick and so many other excellent channels. And these are creators who really care about the movement. Who willingly help each other out rather than backstabbing their own and causing drama just to generate more views.

I did several collaborations with YouTubers like Cosmic Skeptic and Rationality Rules before I decided to put together and lead a group of nearly 50 dedicated atheist and skeptic YouTubers – we joined forces to fight religious fundamentalism, counter pseudoscience, and foster a community of encouragement and collaboration. This has led to countless video collabs and growth across the board for everyone serious about making regular quality content, and fighting the fight – creators who are dead set on improving their work and spreading their message.

Unfortunately, in 2017, YouTube began massively demonetizing anything and everything they deemed controversial in what became known as the adpocalypse, and every atheist channel was hit by it, myself included. Many youtubers, including Kyle Kulinski, Logicked, myself, David Pakman, and others reached out to their audience for support via Patreon. And you guys stepped up. Without your support, I could not have continued full time through the end of the year.

YouTube’s next big change was to shadowban controversial channels limiting our exposure to a fraction of our former reach, regardless of subscriber count. As a result of this decreased exposure, many of us began losing Patrons faster than we were gaining them, finding ourselves back where we were a few months earlier. But I wasn’t about to take this lying down. To counter the change, I set up a merchandise store and a community email newsletter, to help you get plugged into the atheist community and help me stay connected with you (you can sign up for it via the link in the comments below). I also began uploading some of my videos directly to Facebook to increase exposure. I then created the science-loving skeptics Facebook community which is pushing 5,000 members for you to connect with likeminded well, science-loving skeptics.

Now, I’m not going to lie. Finances are still pretty tight for most of us. We’re not nearly as well funded as the multibillion-dollar religious goliaths. I do pour almost every penny I earn back into my work, and I know I’m not the only creator who does that. What we lack in numbers we make up for in passion & dedication. Whether it’s a podcaster, YouTuber, blogger, or author, we rely on you our fans for our voice to be heard and for our message to spread. We rely on you to like and share our content. We rely on you to leave positive reviews on iTunes or stitcher if you like our podcasts. And we rely on you to support our shows financially if you can. Now as tight as my funds are, I hate being the guy to ask for support, so instead, I’ve put together a list of atheist podcasters & a list of atheist YouTubers. Find your favorite one. If my show or any of the ones listed have been able to help you in any way – if you appreciate the time, energy, and effort that it takes for us to consistently creating quality content. And if you want to be a part of the fight to make our insane world a tad more rational. Don’t take the religious nut-baggery lying down. Pledge $5/months. That’s it. If you can’t afford that. Share our content. Not just once. Every video or podcast that you enjoy.

Now for the future. If it seems like a lot happened this last year, we’re just getting started. 2017 was a huge year and represented a major shift in the atheist movement. We’re on the verge of a massive wave of change and growth in the secular community. We’re coming together after years of pointless division. It’s time to cut the crap and get back to basics. I’m not interested in arguing with other atheists over non-related issues. We have to come together if we want to effect change. And this last year, we’ve been doing just that. To everyone who’s joined me on this journey so far, who’s believed in my cause, and supported my work – Thank you. And remember to dare to be curious and don’t drink the koolaid!

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The Atheist State of the Union 2018
The Atheist State of the Union 2018

What is the current state of the atheist union? Here is an update on how the secular movement is fairing. I call it my atheist state of the union address.

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