Serving the world of atheists: a survey

Atheist friends and colleagues,

I write to ask your assistance on getting the word out about a survey designed to help us better understand the world of atheists.

I am a sociologist at Elon University and have been researching atheists and atheism for the last five years.  I have amassed a team here at Elon to support me in doing this research, and we will all be quite honored to make a modest contribution to the cause of atheism.  Our main goal is to serve the atheist community.

What do we know about the make-up of the atheist community both here in the United States and around the world?  What are the perceptions of atheists about the state of atheism-related organizations and what these entities can or should do for them?  What are the perceptions of atheists about believers?  What types of atheists are there? How does being an atheist impact how one navigates in the social world? What is the demographic makeup of the atheist community both in the United States and around the world? What similarities and differences are there among atheists of different genders, ages, and geographical locations?

Though one can find answers to these questions in various books, articles, blogs and forums, having a robust, fresh set of survey data can serve to deepen, clarify, and expand on what we already know -or assume we know- about the world of atheists.  The intent of this survey is to generate such a data set and thus assist atheist-oriented organizations better to understand and serve the atheist community.  All relevant data (and analysis thereof) will be made available to the leadership of appropriate atheist- oriented organizations.

Getting the word out about this survey is critical so that we may hear the voices of as many atheists as is possible and, ultimately, work together to make ours a world where atheists are both understood and represented.

The url for the survey is  I have also set up a web site for the survey at that will serve as a place people can go for updates, preliminary reports on the data, and also to offer comments.

Thank you in advance for your assistance.

Dr. Tom Arcaro
Professor of Sociology
Elon University
Elon, NC  27244

Views: 182

Comment by Sagacious Hawk on December 10, 2012 at 7:13am

Your link actually sends to not; you might want to fix that.

Comment by Reg The Fronkey Farmer on December 10, 2012 at 6:08pm

You also need to put Ireland into the pull down menu for the country you live in question.

While I do not feel "discomfort" if theist start praying I do feel a bit irked by it if I am expected to join it. So I would show my disdain for the attitude by sneered at it rather than feeling uncomfortable. I will tell it to their face, upfront, no thanks I don't care to join you. I will think while you do what you feel you need to do. Oh don't mind me!

Comment by tom arcaro on December 10, 2012 at 6:50pm
Fixed and fixed. Thanks!!
Comment by Andrew on December 10, 2012 at 7:21pm

completed. Pretty good survey, I might add.

Could've used some more spots for elaboration though. For instance I would've liked to elaborate on the situations in which I feel uncomfortable when a family member says grace, or tries to pressure me into leading grace. Also it could've included a section on how well/poorly the government and politicians respond to the needs of atheists.

But you were probably right to keep the survey length from growing; don't wanna frustrate your subjects.

Comment by Andrew on December 10, 2012 at 7:39pm

also I might add that atheism is not a cause. You mentioned, "we will all be quite honored to make a modest contribution to the cause of atheism"

Secularism is a cause, reduction of bigotry is a cause, education is a cause, but atheism is not a cause (although for some anti-theists, it might be). Atheism is merely a religion, or a state of no religion, depending on who you ask.

I know it sounds nitpicky, but it's extremely important considering you are a scientist(presumably), and you should not be using data to support a cause. You should be exploring data, not actively trying to get data to support your cause, or to support your assumed conclusion. That is not science.

IMO you should be researching what types of atheism (atheism, anti-theism, agnosticism, humanism, pantheism, non-theism, etc) are most common. Probe the real theological questions, like:

  • is there a personal god?
  • is there a meaning to life?
  • does that meaning involve humans?
  • how will the universe end?
  • do souls exist?
  • does an afterlife of any kind exist?
  • is there an objective reality?
  • is anything objectively "right" or "wrong"?
  • is anything objectively "good" or "bad"?
  • are people special?
  • what makes people special?
  • is it possible for a human to not be special, i.e. to not deserve human rights?

Anyway, that's another survey for another day.

Comment by Melvinotis on December 10, 2012 at 7:43pm

Hmmmm. I remember a Twilight Zone episode like this called "To Serve Humans" 

Comment by _Robert_ on December 10, 2012 at 8:21pm

Do do your religious friends run away from your atheist butt during  lightning storms? (yes)

Comment by Strega on December 10, 2012 at 8:26pm

You serious, Robert?  That would be too funny!

Comment by James Cox on December 10, 2012 at 8:43pm

"Do do your religious friends run away from your atheist butt during  lightning storms? (yes) "

Seems like a real sad little god, if he/she/it has to wait till a lightening storm to off an atheist ass. Surely he/she/it could just wait till the next meal, a simple walk to the frig., or brushing your teeth. The simple act of using the term 'why?' could be enough in some circles...LOL

Correction: Twilight Zone- "To Serve Man'  

Comment by Strega on December 10, 2012 at 9:39pm

I was thinking how it might feel standing in the rain with lightning flying around, with both arms flung forward as you cry, "Flee, little theists, flee my great power!".


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