Atheism and public relations

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Richard Dawkins
Although the New Atheist Richard Dawkins was always known for his abrasiveness and arrogance, post Elevatorgate and subsequent to his various embarrassing Twitter posts, many atheists are now asking if he is a liability to the atheist movement.[1]

Many atheist publicity campaigns, particularly one's by militant atheists, are designed to be provocative which has the effect of further lowering the public's view of atheism/atheists due to religious individuals being offended (see: Views on atheists). The decline of liberal media market share has made atheist publicity campaigns more difficult.

Atheist Sam Harris told a Newsweek reporter about atheism and public relations, "Frankly, it has a terrible PR campaign... It is right next to child molester as something you don't want to be."[2]

Concerning distrust of atheists, sociological research indicates that atheists are widely distrusted in both religious cultures and nonreligious cultures.[3][4][5][6] According to a study published in the International Journal for The Psychology of Religion: "anti-atheist prejudice is not confined either to dominantly religious countries or to religious individuals, but rather appears to be a robust judgment about atheists."[5] The study found that many atheists do not trust other atheists as well.[5]

A major obstacle to atheists public relations efforts is that the world as a whole is becoming more religious and secularization rates are zero in several developed countries.

In March 2015, the atheist philosopher John Gray in an article at The Guardian titled What scares the new atheists reported: "Today, it’s clear that no grand march is under way...The resurgence of religion is a worldwide development...For secular thinkers, the continuing vitality of religion calls into question the belief that history underpins their values."[7]

According to the American Marketing Association a brand "is a name, term, design, symbol, or any other feature that identifies one seller’s good or service as distinct from those of other sellers." Marketing experts also endeavor to change people's perceptions of ideologies, political candidates, etc. as well.

Atheists have attempted various attempts to rebrand atheism such as the Brights Movement, the New Atheism movement, the We Are Atheism campaign and the Out Campaign. Most of these efforts were ill-conceived, had scandals associated with them or backfired in other ways. For example, the New Atheism movement launched in 2004. The University of Minnesota reported in 2016 that over the previous ten years Americans negative view of atheists sharpened.[8] See also: Attempts to positively rebrand atheism

The Innis Maggiore Ad Agency which works with major corporations says concerning rebranding/repositioning: "When a brand’s meaning is strongly established in the mind, it’s extremely difficult — if not impossible — to change. It is possible to refine, adjust and hone a brand’s meaning when necessary. But repositioning a brand with a wholesale change? Hardly a chance."[9]

Professor Eric Kaufmann predicted that somewhere between 2021-2050 the secular population will plateau in Europe and in the developed world and then decline. Given the difficulty of changing the "atheism brand", if Kaufmann is correct, this means that atheists will in all likelihood run out time in terms of changing the atheism brand.

In the United States, the American Atheists organization has executed poor conceived public relation attempts. For example, the American Atheists sponsored an aggressive and controversial billboard and an interview with Fox News occurred as a result of the billboard (see: VIDEO). The ex-president of American Atheists David Silverman has a degree in marketing. But despite his degree in marketing, according to fellow atheist and evolutionist PZ Myers, Silverman was stuck defending a "badly designed, ugly" sign.[10]

Liberal media - apostles of atheism

See also: Atheism and the media

The Media Research Center released a study in 2008 reporting pro-atheism bias by major press outlets in the United States.[11] The study found that 80% of mainstream media coverage of atheism was positive and that 71% of Christian-themed stories had an atheist counterpoint or were written from an atheist perspective.[12] The study is not surprising given the liberal bias that commonly exists in the major media outlets.

Richard Dawkins and recent bad public relations

See also: Richard Dawkins' loss of influence and Elevatorgate news stories

The Elevatorgate controversy and Richard Dawkins' commentary about Muslims has generated bad press and public relations problems for Dawkins (See also: Richard Dawkins' loss of influence).

Atheist attempts and molding public opinion through identity politics

In areas of the Western World where atheists on the theists are in the majority, atheists on the left end of the political spectrum, using the strategy of identity politics, have made various attempts to portray atheists as an oppressed minority, but this has not much lessoned the low opinion and/or antipathy many theists hold towards atheists for multiple reasons.

For example, in the United States, the atheist population is skewed towards white, atheist men in both adherents and positions of influence within the atheist community (see: Western atheism and race and Atheism and women). So it is difficult for atheists to portray themselves as an oppressed minority.

Secondly, historically atheists have often used oppressive governmental actions to promote their ideology/worldview (see: Militant atheism and Suppression of alternatives to evolution and Atheism and mass murder). And atheists are not known for the empathy and charitableness (see: Atheism and uncharitableness).

Celebrity atheists

See also: Celebrity atheists and Attempts to positively rebrand atheism and Hollywood values

The American Media Group wrote about celebrity atheists: "Celebrity atheists are everywhere and it’s not hard to wonder why. After all, with so much adulation and praise, entertainers have become their own religious figures in a sense. Their celebrity has become something to worship and actors such as George Clooney and Brad Pitt are at the forefront. These celebs have chosen to forgo a higher power in exchange for something a little more glamorous."[13]

Recently, the actor Brad Pitt confessed he was never an atheist and just pretended to be out of rebellion.[14]

The Scientology cult uses celebrities to recruit followers (see also: Atheist cults).[15][16] Scientology is an atheist religion.[17]

Public's view that atheists are arrogant and quarrelsome

In many cases atheists organizations have acted in a manner that displays an emotional tone deafness for the consequences it will have on public opinion (lawsuit to remove a grieving mother's roadside cross erected in memory of her late son who died in an accident, attempted removal of the World Trade Center cross, lawsuits to remove beloved community Christmas manger scenes, etc.).[18][19]

Furthermore, atheists have earned a reputation for arrogance, anger and quarrelsomeness (see: Atheism and arrogance and Atheism and anger and Atheism and social intelligence and Atheist factions).

Public relations and the issue of atheist immorality

In addition, atheism is seen as symptom of moral decay and atheists have often promoted and engaged in immorality (see: Atheism and morality and Atheist population and immorality and Atheism and hedonism).

Public relations and the intellectual cowardice of atheists

Richard Dawkins
The Oxford University Professor Daniel Came wrote to the New Atheist Richard Dawkins:: "The absence of a debate with the foremost apologist for Christian theism is a glaring omission on your CV and is of course apt to be interpreted as cowardice on your part."[20]

See also: Atheism and cowardice

Another problem the atheist community faces in terms of its public perception is its intellectual cowardice (see: Atheism and cowardice). The Oxford University Professor Daniel Came wrote to the new atheist Richard Dawkins:: "The absence of a debate with the foremost apologist for Christian theism is a glaring omission on your CV and is of course apt to be interpreted as cowardice on your part."[21]

See also:

Militant atheists and the War on Christmas

See also: Atheism and Christmas

Militant atheists often deepen the unfavorable view of atheists that many have due to the War on Christmas controversies.

Robert Small wrote in his American Thinker article entitled Self-Righteous Atheists Are Misguided Killjoys:

It's that time of year again. 'T'is the season to be jolly -- or, if you're an atheist activist, to throw a wet blanket over the holidays.

In California, long the birthplace of national trends, they succeeded in getting a federal judge to ban not only Nativity scenes, but also secular displays from Santa Monica's Palisades Park. Un-decking the public halls and squares is becoming our new national tradition, because equal-opportunity speech isn't good enough for self-righteous atheists. They won't rest until all remnants of our Judeo-Christian heritage are wiped clean from civic life in their quest for secular purity.[22]

Atheist lawsuits and public relations

See: Atheist lawsuits and public relations and Atheist lawsuits

Attempts to positively rebrand atheism

Attempts to positively rebrand atheism

See also

External links


  1. NEWSWEEK Poll: 90% Believe in God, Newsweek 2007
  2. Study: Atheists distrusted as much as rapists
  3. Atheists Widely Distrusted, Even Among Themselves, UK Study Finds, Christian Post, 2015
  4. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Anti-atheist distrust ‘deeply and culturally ingrained’, study finds, The Independent, 2015
  5. Edgell, Gerteis & Hartmann 2006
  6. What scares the new atheists by John Gray, The Guardian, March 3, 2016
  7. Atheists Remain Most Disliked Religious Minority in the US
  8. Repositioning a Brand: JCPenney showed brand reinvention can stretch only so far by Dick Maggiore at the Innis Maggiore Ad Agency
  10. "Smoking gun proof that there is an atheist media bias" (July 17, 2008). YouTube video, 2:56, posted by Atheism Sucks! Retrieved on July 25, 2014.
  11. "Smoking gun proof that there is an atheist media bias" (July 17, 2008). YouTube video, 2:56, posted by Atheism Sucks! Retrieved on July 25, 2014.
  13. Brad Pitt says he's given up on atheism and 'clings to religion'
  14. Sappell, Joel. "The Courting of Celebrities", Los Angeles Times, June 25, 1990, p. A18:5. Retrieved on 2006-06-06. 
  15. Shaw, William. "What do Tom Cruise and John Travolta know about Scientology that we don't?", The Daily Telegraph, February 14, 2008. Retrieved on 2009-06-25. 
  16. Scientology is an Atheist Religion
  17. Atheists Demand Grieving Mom Take Down Cross Remembering Her Son by David French, Christian Post, March 13, 2014
  19. Richard Dawkins accused of cowardice for refusing to debate existence of God, The Daily Telegraph, May 14, 2011
  20. Richard Dawkins accused of cowardice for refusing to debate existence of God, The Daily Telegraph, May 14, 2011
  21. Self-Righteous Atheists Are Misguided Killjoys by Robert Small, Amnerican Thinker