Rebecca Vitsmun

2013: Atheism’s 10 defining moments

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 congregations become global phenomenon

2013 was a landmark year for atheists, Humanists, and nonreligious people building communities. Ex-pastors Jerry Dewitt and Mike Aus grew innovative and successful congregations in Louisiana and Texas, and the Yale Humanist Community launched in Connecticut.

"A Better Life" by Chris Johnson.

Putting a joyful face on atheism — Chris Johnson on “A Better Life”

Among the most persistent myths about atheists: that we are joyless, that we are immoral, that we don’t experience wonder, and that we are angry and bitter. These stereotypes can be shattered when people are given an opportunity to get to know atheists. Building relationships seems to be one the best ways to challenge misconceptions about atheists—but a new book offers another way. Photographer Chris Johnson’s forthcoming book A Better Life: 100 Atheists Speak Out on Joy & Meaning in a World Without God aims to humanize nontheists by highlighting a diverse group of atheists and sharing, in their own words, what gives them joy and meaning. A Better Life—a skillfully produced coffee table book with beautiful color photos and a clean, inviting design—is the result of a big response to a unique idea.

Sarah Palin

Does Sarah Palin know any atheists?

It’s the most wonderful time of the year… for celebrities to roll out Christmas-themed items timed to cash in on America’s obsession with eggnog and twinkling lights. Among those competing for a spot beneath the tree this year, former Alaska governor Sarah Palin—rarely one to miss an opportunity to jump into the fray—has recently released a book called Good Tidings and Great Joy: Protecting the Heart of Christmas. And who exactly is she “protecting the heart of Christmas” from? Atheists are near the top of the list, apparently.

Humanist Hub opening

Humanism at Harvard gets an address — and a nod from the governor

Last week, Massachusetts Governor Deval Patrick officially declared that Sunday, December 8 would be “Humanist Community Day” in the Commonwealth of Massachusetts. This was a historic moment for Humanists, atheists, agnostics, and the nonreligious—not just in Massachusetts, but across the United States. To my knowledge it is the only proclamation ever released by a governmental authority in the U.S. specifically acknowledging “Humanists, atheists, agnostics and the nonreligious.” (And, as others have noted since the proclamation was released, it is likely the only one that recognizes atheists and, amusingly, ends with the phrase “God Save the Commonwealth of Massachusetts.”)

The closing paragraph is among my favorite parts of the proclamation. (Though it truly is worth a full read.)
“[I] urge all the citizens of the Commonwealth to welcome the Humanist Hub into the mosaic of our broader community, acknowledging, in the spirit of friendship and respect, that its members can contribute positively to the Commonwealth’s proud tradition of pluralism.”