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Today atheists, it seems, are everywhere. Nonbelievers write best-selling books and proudly defend their views in public; they have even hired a lobbyist. But, as political scientist Richard J. Meagher shows, atheist political activism is not a new phenomenon. From the "Freethought" movement of the late 1800s, to postwar "rationalists" and "humanists," to today's proud atheists, nonbelievers have called for change within a resistant political culture. While atheist organizing typically has been a relatively lonely and sad affair, advances in technology and new political opportunities have helped atheists to finally gain at least some measure of legitimacy in American politics.
In Atheists in American Politics, one of the first works to take atheism seriously as a social movement, Meagher highlights key moments within the political history of atheism and freethought, and examines how the changing circumstances that surround the movement help explain political mobilization. In doing so, this book also highlights the ways that social movements in general gain momentum, and how a number of interlocking factors are often necessary to enable a movement to "take off" in American politics.