By Brian Magee
The We Are Atheism campaign started last summer shows no signs of losing steam.
Centered on a website where atheists are encouraged to openly share their stories through videos and essays, Amanda and Adam Brown have seen their project continue to garner support since its August 2011 launch. In less than six months, the site has had 85,000 visitors from 151 countries, according to Amanda, and she continues to get daily submissions of both essays and videos in their effort to let other atheists know “there are other people out there that are nonbelievers just like them.”
“It’s okay to be an atheist” is a slogan used on the website. “We want the world to know we exist and we will not be ignored,” the About Us page adds. “We will stand up, speak out, and be counted.”
The idea for the project came when Amanda attended the July 2011 Secular Student Alliance convention at Ohio State University. During that event she heard Jessica Ahlquist tell the story of her battle to have a prayer banner removed from her Cranston, Rhode Island high school, which included continuing harassment and bias against her. (Ahlquist has since won a highly publicized decision in federal court.) Amanda also heard American Atheist president David Silverman speak to attendees about seeing atheism become a positive label.
Taking those two ideas and adding in the kind of effort she saw from the people behind the It Gets Better project—giving LGBT youth an online place that allows them to “picture what their lives might be like as openly gay adults”—Amanda decided that she wanted to do something like that for atheists.
It was only about a month later she and Adam launched WeAreAtheism.com. “I just took something the LGBT community did and did it for atheism,” Amanda said.
They got some immediate national publicity and quickly had dozens of videos and essays to edit and post online. Since that time they have formed partnerships with The Richard Dawkins Foundation, Atheist Nexus, and the American Humanist Association.
Amanda and Adam are currently working in cooperation with people in other countries, including Pakistan, Egypt, and Saudi Arabia. The efforts in these countries will have to be done with much less openness because those who proclaim their atheism there can be subject to harsh punishments, including death. When a method is worked out to obtain videos from these places, identities will be hidden and faces blurred.
One of the interesting points about the videos and essays they’ve collected to date is how the site is used by different age groups, Amanda said. Those in high school and college are tending to post videos rather than essays. But among those posting essays, the ones authored by those of retirement age are getting the most attention from all age groups.
Future plans for We Are Atheism include traveling the country to conferences and other gatherings with a video booth to allow people to make a video on the spot, with participants being able to make their video in private or in view of others. You can expect to see the booth at the Reason Rally, March 24, 2012, among other places during the year.
Along with offering a place for atheists to see and read others openly proclaim themselves, the website contains tips for those “coming out” to family and friends. Website changes are on the table for We Are Atheism, with plans for easier video uploading and essay submissions.
Brian Magee is the communications associate for the American Humanist Association.
Learn more about the We Are Atheism campaign at www.weareatheism.com.