What if I told you there was an iconic man who travels the world drawing fanatical crowds, his book has been read by millions, and his followers praise his brave crusade. No, this man is not the Messiah, or even Oprah. His name is Richard Dawkins
and ironically, he is the world’s most beloved atheist. His rise to prominence is only the beginning of a major movement taking hold in America and around the world. That’s right, Atheism just came screaming out of the closet and its pockets are bulging.
Already, atheists have organized major ad campaigns on buses in London and this week, in New York. People like Dawkins, Christopher Hitchens, and Sam Harris are frequent talk show guests and poised to surpass Khloe Kardashian in popularity.
Most striking is this phenomenon’s brazenness and organization. Silly me, I just thought atheism meant sleeping in on Sundays and eating all the bacon you want. Suddenly, there are meetings? Ads? Places to congregate? I can see where this is going…
Partially, this is a backlash from the Bush years and the dominance of the religious right. Eventually, even believers could only take so many images of Adam and Eve riding dinosaurs. For this new breed of non-believers, the only snake they’ll take apples from, is Best Buy peddling the iPhone 3G.
More importantly, the real story lies in a sustained demographic shift. According to a Trinity College study, 19% of men and 12% of women consider themselves ‘not religious’. In a few years, atheists are likely to surpass Catholics as the single largest sect.
As non-believers organize, congregate, and begin to show patterns of behavior, they will become easier to market to. Even now it might be interesting to start studying their psychographics. What motivates them? Do they live or shop differently than believers? Do they earn more? Do they like their bacon crispy?
Without the benefit of facts or forethought (the natural enemies of bloggers), I’d speculate on a few initial opportunities:
- Messaging: appealing more to reason, not emotion and using scientific facts
- Selling science: Sell Lego, chemistry sets, and model cars, to kids of non-believers. A Dawkins Squarepants doll might be a step too far.
- Media: the books are selling, why not TV shows, movies, web sites, or music? We had Christian Rock, why not, um, Rock?
- Secular schooling
As the world gets more competitive and America digs itself out of the Great Recession, I’m finding it somewhat comforting that there is a cadre of parents who will likely encourage their kids to pursue science, cure diseases, and make batteries that can keep your Dawkins Squarepants running for months. The downside? Atheist holidays. Who will drop down the chimney bearing gifts? Probably some morose, brooding figure bearing yet another chemistry set. Thanks, Secular Clause! The cookies are on the fireplace.