A few months ago, in October 2006, Wired News ran a story titled “The Crusade Against Religion” where the author investigated the re-emergence (or emergence?) of atheism powered by some very brilliant scientists and writers. Many people around the world have been involved with this New Atheism, but the most well-known and recognizable figure is Richard Dawkins who is a professor at Oxford University.
There is no “type” of person who might be an atheist, but if you look at Web 2.0 community sites like Digg and YouTube, you’ll see a growing number of users there who display anti-religion or pro-Atheism sentiments. I would go so far as to argue that without large tech-oriented sites like Digg and YouTube, the Atheism 2.0 movement would not have taken off as quickly as it has.
Earlier today, a story hit the Digg frontpage with the title “Murdered for being an atheist” and as of 3:15pm eastern it has over 1100 diggs and nearly 300 comments, easily eclipsing other stories that were made popular today. The first comment in the thread was made by the person who submitted the story:
“It seems like people who are deeply religious are prone to having hallucinations and delusions. This guy was completely insane and is probably better off in jail.”
That comment currently has +134 diggs, which for people who aren’t familiar with Digg comment threads, is a very large positive reaction to that comment. The second comment alludes to the killer liking God so much, that he should be executed so that he can meet his maker quicker while saving taxpayer dollars, and that comment has +127 diggs.
A few comments further down, Tekrat writes how any belief system can be dangerous if taken word-for-word by a radical, and how in his Christian beliefs he takes a particular view of the Bible as a whole and doesn’t just pick and choose. Tekrat is not excusing this person’s actions, rather he says “…this guy should never see the light of freedom again…he’s a picture of everything that has gone wrong with Christianity”, but his comment was immediately dugg down to an impressive -51 diggs. Tekrat also linked to a Christian Science Monitor article titled “Atheism, not religion, is the real force behind the mass murders of history”, which has a very inflammatory and anti-Atheistic title, probably one of the reasons Tekrat’s comment was dugg down.
In the last 2-3 months, seven different stories have made it to the front page of Digg that had to do with Richard Dawkins, with 10-12 more about atheism or atheist-related stories. Would many of these news articles become popular on their own if it hadn’t been for the Digg community’s promotion? I don’t think they would.
Recently Newsweek published an article about how the New Atheists are taking to YouTube with their message, denying the existence of a deity in front of thousands of viewers. A video search on “Dawkins” or “atheism” reveals hundreds of videos about atheism, many with over 100,000 views and thousands of ratings. Without Atheism-related videos on YouTube making it to the Digg frontpage, I don’t think many people would be as familiar with Richard Dawkins and Atheism as they are now.
This article isn’t analyzing if there is a God or not, or if Richard Dawkins’ theories are correct, but that Digg and YouTube are extremely powerful devices to project a message to the masses. If you combine the two, as many people have in regards to Atheism, it becomes a veritable force that can sway public opinion like few other outlets can.