A Word About Herding Cats…

“A house divided will not stand.”

We’ve all heard those words before. Yeah, they are in the bible but they didn’t start out there. In fact, the concept has been around for eons. It’s actually plain old common sense, the precept being that without unity there will inevitably be failure. Now, sometimes that is a good thing. Personally, I consider it a plus when hate groups break up, or when factions that support discrimination end up a splintered mess. I shed not a single tear when I read about how the Nazi party imploded on itself, or when other regimes came to a demise due to in-fighting. Can you imagine, though, what the state of affairs would be if the abolitionist movement failed and we were still a nation of people owning people? What would life in these United States be like if the women’s movement crashed and females were still not allowed to vote or own land?

We Need To Get It Together…

I’ve written several articles about the need for more organization within the secular movements in the United States. Secular movements? Movements? Yeah, that was pluralized. We are all so proud of the fact that there are sixteen or so million atheists and probably ten times that who are irreligious. Nothing wrong with that, but we need to be honest with ourselves and realize that just because there are a lot of us, doesn’t mean we are maximizing our potential.

How many of you saw the second Terminator movie? The one with the Terminator Cop? Remember when Arnold beat him up with the liquid nitrogen truck? The second generation Terminator froze in a pile of the frozen element and when Arnold did his thing, the dude shattered into a million pieces. Well, that seems to be where we are at times. Shattered into a million pieces, parts of a whole that exist in quantity, but often lack the cohesion to function as a group.

Don’t get me wrong, we do really good when it comes to events like the Reason Rally, Rock Beyond Belief and the various regional venues that pop up here and there. I’ve seen the pictures. There are usually representatives of local Freethought groups, state-level groups and the half-dozen or so national organizations – all doing their respective things. So, it’s not like we’re incapable of getting our shit together. In fact, I would go so far as to say that a vast, vast majority of us agree, wholeheartedly, that shit needs to get done.

By Will Or Way…

Where the disconnect shows up is in the methodology. How we should proceed, in many cases, has morphed from a talking point into a giant jack-hammer. I have noticed a marked increase in the content of blogs, commentaries and social networking threads that consist of whining, bitching and moaning about how one group or another, or specific high-profile individuals are doing it wrong, damaging the movement or how their actions are making all atheists look like petulant fools. Add to these the individuals who have decided that the most important aspect of being an atheist is to be purposefully isolationist.

It seems that whenever a group decides to take some initiative to form a group or organization for the purpose of group representation, they often get shit on. The pushback comes in the form of rants about there being no such thing as an “atheist community,” and trying to organize us goes against the basic tenets of Freethought, etc. So, basically, on the one hand you’ve got a bunch of us that are really sick and tired of being discriminated against, and regularly cry out about the injustice of the discrimination and bigotry that is hurled our way, and at the same time, regularly cry out about the horror of being organized into a structured and solidified group. We cannot have it both ways. It’s like wanting to be able to safely cross the street but at the same time being morally opposed to traffic control.

What Can We Do…?

Well, I really have no answers or solutions for this because the reason it’s so hard to herd cats is because cats simply do not want to be herded. It is my opinion that we are not going to see real change until most of us realize that we need to organize ourselves a lot better. It’s great to raise our fists into the air and shout out for our rights and demand equality and neutrality in government and the public square. But if we are waiting for the powers that be to recognize our plight and make the appropriate changes on our behalf, we’re going to be waiting for a very long time.

For the most part, they do not take us seriously. They read our social networking threads. They read our blogs. They scan Reddit. They peruse our websites. They collect news stories about us and listen to us whine every time one of those boneheads on Fox News or The Blaze vomit out their rather unflattering bile to the masses. They are very much aware of our in-fighting, our vitriol against various groups and individuals within our own movement that we target as either too militant, too accommodating, too confrontational, too relaxed or too afraid to come out of our respective closets.

Every time we scream out to our fellow Freethinkers “You’re doing it wrong!” and follow it up with a litany of insults, chastisements and requests to shut the fuck up, we are only hurting ourselves. What we consider to be our greatest strength, those who oppose us look at as anarchy, disorganization, disunity and apathy. And you know what? They are better organized than we are. They have a louder voice than we do because they are organized.

Lost Opportunities…

We have a unique opportunity, my friends. The GOP is imploding on itself. Almost forty percent of the general population think that many politicians are interjecting too much religion in their rhetoric and are grossly overstepping their bounds with respect to women. The religious right is losing ground and church membership is declining. If there were ever a time for us to allow ourselves to be herded, to pick strong leaders to represent us and to put up a united atheist front against those who would repress us, oppress us and ignore us, it is now.

By all means, we need to keep blogging, writing books, publishing articles, making videos, attending rallies, organizing protests and supporting the national organizations who have the ability to pursue legal recourse. But we need to get our collective shit together, people. We need to quit fighting amongst ourselves, find common ground, build our house and work together as a group.

We’re so close, yet so far away…


  27 comments for “A Word About Herding Cats…

  1. bubba707
    April 2, 2012 at 11:35 am

    Here’s my take, many of the younger college educated secularists and atheists tend to behave like arrogant brats. Now, I’m an old fart from a small town and tend to use different ways of speaking and come at things very differently and express myself differently than the younger urban types. I never had a chance at college, I had to work for a living instead. Folks like me get disrespect and sarcasm when we throw in our 2 cents worth. Why should we associate with those people any more than we would with the churchies? I, for one, try to avoid hostile environments.

    • Jeff Sherry
      April 2, 2012 at 12:58 pm

      Bubba, How are the youth acting as arrogant brats?

      I’m going to diagree with you on the youth arrogance. If anything I see the youth bringing an exuberence to the atheist movement that had been lacking during the 60’s through the 90’s. I prefer the loud of the present to the quiet of the past. I’m wondering if you are uncomfortable because of a generation gap.

      • bubba707
        April 2, 2012 at 1:43 pm

        Jeff, first not all of them behave that way. Too many do though and mostly the college age and very slightly older ones. I’ve been on the recieving end of it often enough to want nothing to do with alot of these groups. Heck, I’ve even been told to my face that since I’m a high school dropout and retired truck driver that never got near college other than delivering freight I can’t know anything worth hearing. Yeah, I’m a bit old fashioned but hell, I’m getting on up there and not a kid anymore. Most of my education is from the school of hard knocks and the patronizing attitudes, disrespect and in some cases insults get real old fast. You can disagree if you like but you can count me out of any organizations.

        • Jeff Sherry
          April 2, 2012 at 3:23 pm

          Sorry to hear it since I think there should be room for different voices within different groups. There are blue collar atheists (there is such a group on FB) and education is inclusiive of what you learn on the way. As a trucker I would have to think you have organizational skills that ccould be of help.

      • Dave The Sandman
        April 3, 2012 at 8:55 am

        In support of Bubba I will cite two recent examples:

        1) The group who unilaterally decided to poke the WBC with a stick and invite them to the Reason Rally wthout asking anyone else whether they should. Great move….fantastic media stunt. Cos if I was attending with my family Id just love my kids having to walk past a pack of rabid hatemongers screaming abuse at them.

        2) The student group who for a second year running decided to run their on campus Porn For Porn campaign….turn up and hand over a holy book and they hand you hardcore porn mags. Great idea…except it aint. Its a stupid stunt that can be manipulated by the religious groups who predictably point the finger at the evil degenerate atheists handing out hard porn on campus to college kids. Why didnt they think to hand out second hand books on “reason” and “science”? Makes more sense than porn, as even that analogy fails….unless they were handng out Snuff and extreme S&M porn. Im pretty sure the NCSE could have supplied some evolution primer and science texts for cheap or free. Exchanging Bibles for Origin Of The Species perhaps? Naw….lets just go for the stupid media garnering offensive tactic instead. Media and publicity fail….as can be seen from commentary and media coverage. Well done brats! What next? You burn the books as well?

        Y see mate… Bubba has a good point. Without some co-ordination and common sense brattish clowns just reinforce the atheist stereotypes…and we all loose as a result.

        • Jeff Sherry
          April 3, 2012 at 2:26 pm

          Two questions for you Dave:

          Are Americans too individualized to seek common ground secularized unity?

          Does this individualism lead to everyone seeing themselves as leaders within the community?

          • Dave The Sandman
            April 4, 2012 at 2:57 am


            the reply box is getting thin so I will do a reply to you below at the bottom of the current list

        • April 3, 2012 at 3:29 pm

          I agree, that porn to porn thing was stupid. We need to give away reasonable books to change the world, not porno. We are giving away a free download of our Freethinkers Directory for the next 2 days. Get yours.
          Here is the link on Amazon:


  2. Kevin
    April 2, 2012 at 11:46 am

    Frankly, I think the rational community could learn a lot from the Tea Party people. They focused their efforts where it mattered. They occupied the Republican Party.

    The “other” Occupy movement didn’t actually occupy the place it claimed it was occupying. Instead of occupying Wall Street, it occupied public parks nowhere near Wall Street. The super rich didn’t even need to have their limo drivers take a detour to avoid the spectacle altogether.

    There’s no more coherence in the TP views and political positions than in the rational community. The difference was a matter of where their efforts were focused. That effort was focused on electing people to public office. And it worked.

    Learn from their lessons. Stop flailing about in ineffectual “demonstrations”. Start inserting rational discourse where it counts — electing better public officials.

    • Jeff Sherry
      April 3, 2012 at 2:38 pm

      I agree Kevin. The religious/conservative branch of the Republican party has had long term goals that it has followed up in consistantly getting out their vote. They have been smart at targetting school boards and local elections which in the future creates a feeder system of candidates for state and federal elections. Ten percent of the population can dominate elections.

  3. SAWells
    April 2, 2012 at 12:00 pm

    I’d take issue with this claim: “It seems that whenever a group decides to take some initiative to form a group or organization for the purpose of group representation, they often get shit on.”

    I thought the trouble was people forming a group or organisation and then claiming to represent people they don’t actually represent.

  4. April 2, 2012 at 1:23 pm

    The foregoing serves well to illustrate Al’s point!!

  5. April 2, 2012 at 7:18 pm

    Al—I think you are right on. I also agree with Kevin in comment #3. While us atheists may never agree on every issue (nor do I think we should) there are certainly some issues that I think we could organize around…something like the numerous fights to keep Church and State separate in the U.S. I have not yet met a U.S. atheist who was against that idea. Our voice could be a powerful one in that continuous struggle.

    FYI–I regularly get shit on at reddit with questions like “Why do you care?” “What are you trying to accomplish?” Why do you have a blog at all, what’s the point?” etc. I suppose my goal for now is to hope to reach as many people I can and to call attention, in my own small way, to some of the problems that bother me. I do not have the resources or frankly the time to organize something “big” but would be proud to be a cog in that wheel.

  6. April 3, 2012 at 8:30 am

    Egos clash!
    Everyone wants their pet theory heard. Some want to lead, while others don’t want to be led, especially by ‘that’ person.
    That’s why religions have charismatic leaders.
    We had Hitch worldwide….
    We have diverse ideals politically, artistically. Nothing unites us, except our desire to see religion lose its influence, or if not then die.

  7. Dave The Sandman
    April 3, 2012 at 8:30 am

    As I often do I will springboard from Uncle Al’s reasoned call for unity and add a little brass knuckle punchlne.

    From this Brits outside the goldfish bowl perspective what Uncle Al says is mild. The US secularist movement (hmmm…theres a thought…why not drop the atheist tag and use one that is more of an umbrella term??) is fractious and constantly working against itself. Meanwhile, on the opposite side, Big Tent Christianity Inc has its act together, and somehow through compromise has managed to liink diverse sects such as modrate Anglicans to Catholics, Baptists, and the foaming at the mouth loon fundy brigade. Well my yankee chums…till you learn strategy from the current victors in the race you will carry on limping in in last place.

    Lets use a History analogy.

    Back in the middle ages we English has what we call a proper king….Edward 1st. He was a full on psycho, and as sly and sneaky as a weasel. Eddy went to war with the Welsh, and because the Welsh fought as petty fiefdoms it was a walk in the park…he slaughetered any resistance and then to rub their noses in it built the Ring Of Stone…castles all round Wales. They never were free ever again. Eddy then went on a razzia up to Scotland, where he had a much harder time….y see the Scots had ONE king and ONE army. He only gained ground there by setting one lord against another and encouraging them to btchslap each other while he took over on the sly. When once again they united under one leader they successfully fought back and sent Eddys army packing, as is commemorated in the unofficial national anthem Flower Of Scotland. Eddy died still trying to control Scotland.

    So….who do you US secularists want to be?

    The Scots sending the army of the religulous reich running for cover, or the Welsh crushed under the religulous reichs boot heel and surrounded by a ring of unassailable fortresses?

    Put your sodding petty fiefdoms back in the toybox and get unified and organised and co-ordinated. Stop tilting at windmills and shouting for attention and sing from one song sheet. Get behind the Faircloth 10 Point Plan and a national co-ordinating group that represents everyone from the Hitchensians like Uncle Al and me to the members of moderate faiths who are sick of over relgiosity and theocratic abuse.

    Take YOUR country back…or watch those fortresses surround you one petty fiefdom at a time.

    Well….theres my twopennethworth as a Brit….now for some rabble rousing music. Sing it lads….

    • bubba707
      April 3, 2012 at 9:31 am

      Dave, pretty good comparison. I’ll add my own here and compare the varied groups to religious sects. They each create their own orthadoxies and dis the others, fragmenting the potentially larger group and eliminating any chance of being viewed as anything of importance.

  8. deanbuchanan
    April 3, 2012 at 3:38 pm

    One requirement (only one of many) for this movement to mature and grow, is lobbying and funding.

    For example, the secular coalition, as you know, sponsored the Lobby Day for Reason. What you should know, and probably already do, is that constituent lobbying is extremely empowering. All of the participants that I spoke with are determined to continue to utilize the direct contacts we now have in our elected politicians offices.

    All of the lobby day participants in my group, including my 10 year old son, sat around tables with top aids (a policy director, health care adviser, and senior staff aid) to my Congressperson and both Senators and said:
    ‘Hi, I’m (name here) and I’m an atheist (or secularist, or humanist etc.)’…but by far most said atheist.

    It is hard to describe how powerful this was for both the lobbyists and the staff. There is no question that the staff were hearing this for the first time.

    We talked about many other issues, including religious interference in health care, mentioning non-believers in speeches and written materials where appropriate. We spent between 30 minutes and 1 hour in each meeting. We came armed with data such as the 15% ‘none’ figure from the ARIS report and etc.

    We are fully capable of becoming a mainstream minority view and all it requires is for us to speak up, vote, and become active around the few issues that the vast majority of us agree upon.

    It didn’t cost the SCA much money to make this happen either.

  9. Norman Lycan
    April 3, 2012 at 9:12 pm

    Well, Mr. Steffani,

    I have been preaching the same message since I first commented here. And while I will never be so bold as to say “agnostism” is somehow the shining light or the holy “truth”, it is an umbrella under which we can all gather. And the reason why it works is because it does not draw the lines in the sand. You can say, “I believe the universe is an accident”, I will tell you, “I don’t know that, and neither do you.” Humanists might say, that there is something out there, we just don’t know what it is. I would say, “It’s irrellevent, because whatever it is, it watched several ecosystems disappear, what cause do we have to assume ours is different?”

    My point, Mr. Steffani, is that I am a freethinker. And some of the contributers here appreciate my point of view. Others have a “your an atheist or an idiot” point of view, and have treated me accordingly. While I have the same dream as you, at least in this regard, removing the reply button from my replies is not serving your purpose. And, I think it would make sense to put a buffer on the assholes that don’t have a point, instead of me. Does that make any sense to you? I hope so.

    At least, if you mean what you say.


    • John Morales
      April 3, 2012 at 9:22 pm


      While I have the same dream as you, at least in this regard, removing the reply button from my replies is not serving your purpose.

      It’s merely the comment nesting level; you’re indulging in teleological (indeed, magical) thinking by imputing agency (and insinuating malice).

      Others have a “your an atheist or an idiot” point of view, and have treated me accordingly.

      I don’t think you’re an idiot, but I do think you have issues.

      • Norman Lycan
        April 4, 2012 at 8:01 pm

        John M. said:

        “It’s merely the comment nesting level; you’re indulging in teleological (indeed, magical) thinking by imputing agency (and insinuating malice).”

        Lets dumb this down for those who not trying to baffle us with bullshit. Teleology is defined:

        “A teleology is any philosophical account which holds that final causes exist in nature, meaning that design and purpose analogous to that found in human actions are inherent also in the rest of nature.”

        Don’t go using words you don’t understand. Basically, it means humans are the same as animals and plants. And I agree, all living things struggle to survive, then die the same death in the end.

        And I’ve heard it before, if you’re not atheist, you’re guilty of magical thinking. No, actually, the reverse is true. I do not believe, while you believe the universe is an accident, which is a god you cannot prove exists.

        “and insinuating malice”. Well, John, you have certainly made me feel welcome, haven’t you? You’re a bold faced hypocrit. Your rhetoric has been as inflammatory and dismissive as anybody.

        And while I can stand with any of you in any intellectual debate which I just proved again, you disrespect me because I don’t see the universe through your eyes. Atheists are my half brothers, and I will forgive them their religion if they forgive me for my disbelief. That’s what Al was talking about. I get it, what the fuck is your major malfunction?


  10. Dave The Sandman
    April 4, 2012 at 3:47 am

    @ Jeff Sherry

    “Are Americans too individualized to seek common ground secularized unity?”

    I dont see why you would be. As a Brit I find my US friends quirkyness around being individuals a bit amusing to tell you the truth. Ask a yank what he is and you get a list of ancestral descent … “German/Irish/etc etc American”…ask a Brit and you get a terse response of English or Welsh or Scots or Irish and thats it. I also fnd it ironic that there is a lot more of the “Us or Them” in US society. I think we Brits are different is all….no brickbats.

    Like Uncle Al says tho free thinkers are like cats, US free thinkers apparently doubly so.

    I think there is a lot to do with the “atheist” tag. I really think the major advance will come when you guys get a “secularist” movement going and drop the “atheist” and “free thinker” brand names. Aint gonna work, and will keep away the moderately faithful who will be useful allies.

    And NEVER use that sodding smug “Bright” brand name….they say “Bright”, I hear “Smug C**T”. 😉

    The US NAP is a good start but why use Atheist? Why not use Secularist? Atheist narrows your potential membership with a false identity. They are not advocating for an atheist state, but they are advocating for a secular one…so the name dont fit. Y’see….. free thinking is not neccesarily good strategic thinking.

    The labour force in the US is learning the hard way what price it pays for forgetting what Unions are for. The secularists are learning the hard lesson now what price is paid for being fractious and un-organised.

    “Does this individualism lead to everyone seeing themselves as leaders within the community?”

    Again I dont think so. Its just the secularists are still stuck at the stage of getting organised and united under one common banner.

    Like I said, take a step back and a good long analytical look at the strategy employed by Big Tent Christianity Inc over the last 30 years. Learn the lessons, apply them and get organised and active.

    That or you can all sit there shouting to be heard above one another and in the meantime that Ring Of Stone gets built ever higher by the religulous reich.

    Take heart mate and cheer up…. theres a glimmer on the horizon…All this bitching and whining about persecution you read and hear in the media? Thats a sure sign that you have got the reich scared 😉

    • Jeff Sherry
      April 4, 2012 at 11:07 am

      Thanks for your answers Dave.

  11. Norman Lycan
    April 4, 2012 at 9:36 pm

    I’m really fed up with atheists calling agnostics, “magical thinkers” when the reverse is true. A very cerebral video from youtube. It’s not just me :



  12. Norman Lycan
    April 4, 2012 at 10:55 pm

    Heres a video by Mr Dawkins which basically states that agnostics really have some reason for doubt but just lacks his intellectual superiority to eliminate any doubt that no being exists we don’t yet understand.


    Okay, you win, freethinkers cannot win because you are all opinionated assholes who cannot even win a debate in support of their intellectial issues. Yet stubbornly support them.

    I’m approaching death, this clusterfuck is your making, and I have tried, as has Al , to nudge you toward the human solution, but you are about to enjoy the result, “herding cats”. Which with all your imagined perception and intuition nets you a zero.

    The final result is the fundies will win yet again because you were too stupid to understand who your friends are. Silly humans.


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