So you’ve heard? We’ve moved.
Some of us have set up residency for the first time. And we haven’t just moved, we’ve upgraded. Built up. Built down. Spread sideways. Reached inwards. Stretched outwards. Invested. Predicted and future-proofed. Designed. Tested. Improved. Fortified. And now we’re shouting about it. All of this and more we will continue to do and be.
In essence, we’ve come of age.
You and me. And them. Us. The nonreligious, the secularists, the atheists, the agnostics, the not-quite-anythingists, the nones (but probably very few nuns), the questioning, the unsure, the really-quite-sure, the blue-sky thinkers, the devil-is-in-the-detail thinkers, just thinkers, doers, activists, dreamers…
This is, indeed, an open invitation to be part of it. Part of the future, in the hope that we can successfully make it our present.
But who are we, you ask, who are the columnists here at OnlySky? We are you. Reflections of you, but also drivers of who you might become or want to be: constructors of ideas, communicators of reasons and reasoning, sharers of plans and projects. We have values and intentions about the future; we’d like to see if you agree, taking you along for the ride with us if you do, and robustly challenging you if you don’t.
What intentions? What ride? Where to?
In short, we are secularists (you may use another name for us, as we may often do ourselves) who believe in a world eventually not concerned with an imaginary being or, more pertinently, run by people who believe in an imaginary being. We are more than that, though.
We are OnlySky. I sometimes like to think of the acronym “OS”—Operating System in computer parlance—because that is analogous to what we could be: A way to see and interpret the world that drives everything we do, to which we add new bells and whistles, upon which we design and implement our software and rules. The old operating system is out-of-date, not fit for purpose, and a replacement has long been overdue. It’s 2021 and it appears that half the world is still using Windows 95.
Out with the old and in with the new. New solutions to solve new problems (and some old ones that we struggle to shake).
OnlySky thinking is a relatively recent phenomenon, historically speaking. The Enlightenment was, after all, only a few hundred years into our past – a human past that stretches some several hundred thousand years. We used to look to the sky to see gods and the supernatural, the anger of thunder and the revenge of lightning. Now we just see the sky. Only the sky. (Well, you can throw in perhaps infinite stars and planets, inspiring a wholly different kind of awe, and we will no doubt talk about that another time.)
We joined the race late, but my, haven’t we caught up quickly! The problem is, although we are faster, fitter, stronger than those few racers who are still ahead of us, we are up against it. Winning a fair race appears to be nothing short of a pipedream: The course is against us, the officials are stacking the rules, and some of the spectators are hindering us.
Life just ain’t fair. It never has been. But we don’t just give up, we overcome. It’s like the tenets of evolution: performance, feedback, revision. This is part of the process, part of that journey toward fair representation, fair rules, a diverse and vibrant community, equality of opportunity, education, well-being, and the best understanding of reality that we can possibly achieve.
When we better understand reality, we better achieve our goals concerning reality.
Performance, feedback, revision. That is the how to improve. It is how we improve.
OnlySky is here both to better understand our reality and communicate that to you, our community (heck, the world), as well as to better achieve our goals concerning that reality. We perform, we get feedback, we revise, and we improve.
Ron Millar of the Center for Freethought Equality (an advocacy and political arm for the American Humanist Association) observes, “The participation of atheist, agnostic, and religiously unaffiliated voters has doubled since 2014. In the 2020 election, our community comprised 25% of all voters, up from just 12% in 2014. We need to continue to organize, make our values known at the ballot box, and to run for public office.” That is probably you, and were I to be living in the in the US as opposed to the UK, me, too.
And yet there are essentially no atheist lawmakers in Congress. According to the Pew Research Center, there is one “unaffiliated” lawmaker – Krysten Sinema (where the proportion of the population unaffiliated is 26%) – and nearly 9 in 10 say they are Christian (where the proportion of the population is 65%). Given that the 26% unaffiliated is a conservative estimate since people are not always comfortable admitting to being so, this is a massively skewed political landscape.
The problem is a two-horned dilemma: Either the nonreligious are not properly represented in US politics by actual nonreligious lawmakers, or the lawmakers are afraid to admit it and act openly to support the demographic group. Both scenarios are effectively synonymous in that the nonreligious are not properly and actively represented.
This needs to change.
It seems like this growth of the nonreligious (the “nones”, as they say), with religious demography being a zero-sum game, has been at the expense of “mainline Protestants”. These are your old, white mainstream Protestant denomination believers who have slipped out (or outright deconverted) from their belief overwhelmingly into the nonreligious camp.
On the other hand, evangelicals have remained somewhat more stable, with a slight downtick over recent time, but not to the same degree as other religious groups. And this group is the group that shouts the loudest. The people who shout the loudest are heard the most. This perception of power and number then effectively becomes a reality.
I mention this to show that the target audience for this platform is a growing one, and the future looks relatively bright, demographically speaking. However, huge challenges lay ahead to jump the hurdles, dodge the pitfalls, and forge a successful path through the thorny undergrowth of political change.
That is the political context of this platform, but the political context has serious cultural overreach. We are fighting pitched battles in terms of the separation of church and state, education, civil liberties and rights, the primacy of science and evidence, the environment, equality of opportunity, and so on. The list is long, and yet all these pillars constructing the framework of our better future are shrouded in the shadows of a pervasive and stridently fundamentalist religious nature.
We nonreligious types are often accused of having no purpose, no meaning. This platform has very clear purpose, very clear meaning. OnlySky is the operating system of the future, and we programmers and early adopters will be striving to get it on every piece of hardware in town. Yet we won’t be incentivized by delusions of profit grandeur but by visions of a tomorrow, planned today.
Is this about religion and atheism? Yes. Is it about politics? Yes. Is OnlySky about the personal, or perhaps the community, or more the national, or even the global? Yes.
So is this about changing the world?
Damned right, it is.
We want to be on the right side of history, which makes sense because we are involved in building the right side of history.
And we want you to be there with us, placing the bricks of knowledge, applying the mortar of reason, standing back tired but immensely satisfied, and admiring our handiwork.
We built that.