2013: Atheism’s 10 defining moments

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Rebecca Vitsmun

Rebecca Vitsmun discusses her atheism with CNN Wolf Blitzer. Screenshot courtesy YouTube.

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Atheism was in the headlines perhaps more than ever before in 2013. To highlight some of atheism’s defining moments and trends from the last year, I worked with a panel of ten writers, scholars, and activists to come up with ten major moments or currents in American atheism from 2013. Their contributions are below. Godless […]

  • Dudley Jones


    It is so neat that you and many other atheists are presenting a non-hostile image to the rest of us. Of course, that has really been going on for years but not getting headlines the way confrontation does.

    Happy New Year!

    ps don’t forget to check out Julian Baggini


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  • Adjel

    You left out a real biggie (I believe), which was the erection of the first atheist monument in Starke, Florida at the Bradford County Courthouse courtyard in late June. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/06/30/atheists-monument_n_3523762.html

  • Mary Bellamy

    Myopia a bit? The establishment of the Yale Humanist Chaplaincy gets mentioned instead of the growth of the many Secular Student Alliance affiliates at colleges and high schools? A contract for a book not yet written gets mentioned but not actual books published? The Ivy League is really not all that important guys.

  • Peter Veitch

    Was a great year for non belief ! I have only been an athesot for four years, the first was depressing and awful, yet it is slowly getting better. Tbh, this last year, the joy, honesty, freedom, goodness of being without imaginary sky beings , for me, is really starting to kick in. Keep up the good work.

  • Shaman

    Atheism is the only honest approach to the grand, outrageous and conflicting claims religion makes for itself.

    Atheists do not claim God is impossible.
    Only that they don’t believe in one – yet.

    What else can you do but disbelieve the unbelievable?

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  • Jake Michaelson

    I think a big one was related to the Opray Winfrey discussion with Nyad.

    J. T. Eberhard saw that video and, on his blog on Oct. 15th, 2013, said it made him want to start firebombing things.

    Crazy little weasel.

  • Dave

    Looks like some Atheists are making the same 2nd big mistake Theists make,
    although not their 1st (God). i.e., “We’re all the same,” except for those who disagree, the kooks and demented.
    For theists, we all feel the guilt of sin, and need God and His salvation.
    For Atheists, it’s enjoying pissing off the religious, and knowing that “we” have the truth. But, there are Atheist and Theists, who enjoy openly talking about religion, life, etc.

    It’s so ironic (and sad) that this large and growing group (the Nones) is being overlooked by the politically correct UUs (Unitarian Universalists), but not the Pope and his church.
    Catholics may view this a just another case of having faith and that miracles do happen.
    While Unitarians say all churches have a part of the truth, and the current catchphrase “it’s OK to believe in God AND be a UU.”
    While, Catholics (Pope) may still see the importance of Faith and that “miracles do happen.” The Atheist in me is still skeptical.

  • Dudley Jones


    Theists have been present in UU institutions for a long time. They might be subject to some snarky remarks from the other UUs, but they have not vanished. It is true that the Seven Principles do not mention God, but officially the UUA does recognize its Theistic roots in centuries past.

  • Kim Wright

    There have been atheists on this planet since after The Great Flood with Noah, and I am sure there will continue to be ateiats until Jesus returns to come and take us home. It just goes to show you just how prevalent Satan is on this earth. He wants nothing more than to lie to you, steal your hearts and break apart families. That’s his job. He’s a liar and a thief. I would much rather believe in something tangible like Jesus and an everlasting life with God than atheism… Which is in nothing…. With no hope. Believing in God I have hope for my life. What kind of hope do you have?

  • Atheists don’t believe in nothing. We believe in things that have actual empirical evidence to support them. There are many things that fill us with wonder and awe. It’s a shame you have to resort to such stereotypes to attempt to make your point, but if you want to make claims about Satan and jeebus, and the flood that never actually happened (as geologists know), you should provide some evidence for your claims.

  • Phil Zuckerman

    Chris — Thanks so much for this. A wonderful piece.

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  • Atheism is first and foremost a rejection of authority, and a placement of self into supremacy. The rejection of all authority results in a VOID of actual knowledge, which the atheist replaces with self-derived worship systems such as Scientism, which fails to recognize the contingent nature of science factoids. The atheist becomes a Consequentialist in the absence of fixed, immutable moral principles, and that leads straight to the use of rationalization as a substitute for Aristotelian deductive logic – i.e. atheists lose rationality even as they falsely claim to have exclusive access to it.

    The failure to address the disciplined deductive conclusions of theist propositions, and merely reject them with neither disciplined logic nor material evidence to support their rejection, is firm evidence of atheist irrationality.

    Rather Atheism is an emotional rejectionism, not disciplined rational thought. There is no possibility that an Atheist can prove any premise under his rejjectionist philosophy, either using standard logic or by providing empirical, testable evidence in support.

    Atheism is blind belief in emotional rejectionism, and nothing more. Intellectually, it is a void, having only rejection (without logic or evidence) as its principle.

    Yet, at less than 3% of the population, they demand that the Other (whom they hate) be removed from their sight and the Other’s morals be removed from government, to be replaced with the Atheist Void.

    Because Atheists have only selfmade morals (if any) created by self-endowed moral authority which they think creates eliteness in themselves, there is no common trait to be used for developing trust, by comparing actions to principles. So Atheists cannot develop trust, and thus are considered to be as trustworthy as pedophiles, and no more (check the polls).

    Atheists cannot support their rejection and cannot be trusted.

  • Atheists have been shown to claim far more empathy for themselves than their supposed “good works” merit. Actual atheist empathy is negated by the attack ads they place specifically to elevate themselves purely by denigrating the Other. Pure atheism would manifest as mere disbelief; organized Atheism manifests as blind, irrational hatred and denigration.

  • Darren

    I actually think a lot of these are spun. I’m not saying they didn’t happen, but this list does seem a little biased. The reactionary media coverage of, what I have no better term for, “Old Atheism”, is just that; a reaction to the “New Atheism”. I also think that a lot of misinformation and deliberate obfuscation was created in order to make, “New Atheists” separate from, “Old Atheists”. The majority, if not all, of “New Atheist” ideas are simple reapplications of the old’s ideas. Richard Dawkins, Sam Harris, Christopher Hitchens, being the flag-wavers, didn’t really express new ideas. They just severed the dishonest tone of apologeticism. This is why New Atheism matters. It was the bloom. It made the public aware that Atheists cannot simply be ignored, and that we are literally in every level of the world. We are rich, we are poor, and we are also middle class. We are vegans. We are bodybuilders. I don’t think that this was a year of understanding or inter-faith dialogue. This is the natural result of being seen after years of systematic denial. Really sad that New Atheism was almost completely ignored on this page, when New Atheism as a movement is what created the strength, cohesion, and numbers we see today. I do think that Religion is a real enemy. I do think that we have to end it. I don’t think we should use violence or hurt anyone. But saying things that make people think and feel uncomfortable is 100% necessary. It cannot be avoided. It is not our fault if things that we say offend people. This is all my perspective. It’s probably flawed. Lastly, I think any kind of positive claims about the new pope are unwarranted and premature. We should wait until he’s dead. Then we can see how many child molestations he covered up.

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  • james

    I love it when people like stan make all of these bold claims but never have any actual evidence to support it.

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  • If I’m reading this right, in broad terms you’re saying some new ‘atheists’ are bringing that mindset which religious doctrine instills by default, to atheism, and it’s a contradiction. We (atheists) are not about doctrinal behaviour, we are individuals who collectively share ‘non-belief’.
    Even this notion of ‘humanist chaplains’ is an anathema to me, an atheist for at least 50 years perhaps more?
    Yes of course we can combine and lobby, but why are some structuring themselves like a pseudo-religion? No two atheists will agree on every point nor will they be equally ‘humanist’ or even law-abiding.
    It’s about societies, particularly in the small-town bubbles of America, waking up and making the coffee, not imagining they smell it.

  • You simply need to accept that theism is not a satisfactory explanation for many anymore. Faith does not equal fact and in most cases it flies in the face of reality.
    Religion has lost it’s special status and is just one more opinion among many. You can keep your beliefs no problem just don’t use them to discriminate against others it won’t be tolerated anymore. There’s no going back to the supremacy of the old dictatorial mythological doctrines.