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Saturday, October 15, 2011

Wordle of AFA (@Atheistoz) Follower Descriptions

I used nodeXL ( to gather the twitter account descriptions (the part underneath the username on a profile) of the followers of the AFA (Atheist Foundation of Australia; @atheistaus). I plugged 2491 follower descriptions into Wordle (, here is the result. I hope people find this as interesting as I do... I will edit later with some possible issues with this data and some possible interpretations. Until then I'd be happy to hear some comments.

Wordle: @atheistaus (Atheist Foundation of Australia) Follower's (2491) descriptions

and for comparison followers of @ACLobby (Australian Christian Lobby; 715 followers) 

Wordle: @ACLobby Follower's Descriptions (715)

Sunday, August 21, 2011

Information Sheet

The Rise of the New Atheism?

Alan Nixon
PhD Candidate
University of Western Sydney                                               
Ethics Approval Number: H9065


What is this study about?

This study seeks to examine the importance of modern Atheism to people who are self-proclaimed 'Atheists'. It aims to explore how people gain meaning from their Atheism. It is especially concerned with how people integrate their Atheism into their sense of who they are or their self-identity, how this affects the feeling of being part of a group and how this affects their lives. The study hopes to give people who have been affected by Atheism or the new atheism a chance to describe their experiences. It also hopes to shed light on the relationship between the current society and Atheism from the perspective of participants.

Who would I like to contribute to it?

I would like to talk to men and women aged 18+ years who are self-proclaimed Atheists or New Atheists.

What’s involved if I agree to participate?

If you agree to participate, you will be asked to be interviewed on one occasion for about 2 hours. The interview will involve discussing (in text, voice or face to face) your experiences as an Atheist and how they have affected your life. With your agreement face to face interviews will be audio-taped and transcribed. The interview can take place anywhere that you feel comfortable to talk, such as in your home or other favourite location or online (e.g. Skype or e-mail).

Please let me know what your preferred interview method will be.

Please note: Details of any illegal activities that you or others may be involved in should not be discussed with the researcher

Will the interview be confidential?

Any personally identifying information you provide is treated confidentially. We will use an alternative name (Pseudonym) to record your contribution and will also change any details that could be used to identify you. Your contact details will be kept in a locked filing cabinet separate from the interview material. Although by default we will keep your information confidential, you can request to have your details (real name) printed in the final document.

Am I able to refuse or withdraw at any time?

Participation in this research is voluntary and you can choose to stop the interview at any time without giving a reason. You can also refuse to answer specific questions. There are no consequences for withdrawing from the interview.

People to contact for information or complaints

If you have any questions about the study, you can contact the researcher, Alan Nixon on or +61406652329.

If you have any concerns or complaints about the study, please contact the University of Western Sydney Human Research Ethics committee on

Friday, April 15, 2011

Check out music from Tombstone Da Deadman

Though there are many bands who are Atheists. There are few non-comedy songs about atheism or the experieces of Atheists. I also haven't heard much music that discusses being an Atheist in the 21st Century (Though I'd love to be pointed towards some if people know, I love discovering new music). This is what 'Tombstone Da Deadman' does and in a genuinely musical way. This is not parody or cheap production but well produced solid hip-hop that expresses the Atheist Experience (lol). I'm downloading now....

Friday, February 4, 2011

What would the Atheist community want to know about itself?

Much of the social science literature on Atheism/Irreligion/Non-religion is written with very little reference to empirical data1, particularly data coming from Atheists or the non-religious themselves. The research I am currently doing will include the voices of Atheists in a number of forms such as documents, twitter feeds, movies (youtube or standard), blogs and interviews with participants (more on this in a later post).

In the social sciences many practitioners use qualitative methods to extract the voices of actors in particular social settings, in order to add them to our understanding of that social group or social structure (well known e.g. Denzin and Lincoln 1998). This data adds another dimension to the research via accessing the participant view of the system. It helps to ensure that the thoughts of those inside the social group are not (even accidently) misrepresented or skewed by an outsider view. 

In contemplating all this, another level of participant voice and thus a question occurred to me...

"What does the Atheist community want to know about itself?"

I'd appreciate any answers or comments on this question... 

I hope you are all as curious as I am :-) 



1 There are some exceptions. see for example Demerath 1969; Mauss 1969Caporale & Gumelli 1971; Campbell 1972; Caplovitz & Sherrow 1977; Dudley 1978; Hale 1980; Hunsberger 1980; Hunsberger 1983; Bromley 1988; Hadaway & Roof 1988; Feigalman, Gorman & Varacalli 1992; Altemeyer & Hunsberger 1997; Hout & Fischer 2002; some chapters Martin 2007; Zuckermann 2007, 2010 (vol 1 & 2); Bullivant 2008, 2010; Nall 2010. 


Denzin, N. And Lincoln, Y. (1998). Strategies of Qualitative Enquiry. U.S. Sage Publications.

Atheists call on like-minded to declare lack of religion in census

Leesha McKenny
February 5, 2011

The godless will soon be asked to stand up and be counted in Sydney's Bible Belt, part of a campaign to counter the influence of religion on politics. The Atheist Foundation of Australia has begun a campaign calling on those whose faith has lapsed to mark ''no religion'' on their census forms this year - with West Pennant Hills slated to host a billboard before August 9. The 8.3 metre by 2.2 metre sign on Pennant Hills Road and another in Armidale will make a month-long appearance from June 20. Despite the location, the foundation's president, David Nicholls, said the campaign did not intend to attack religion, but to counter the extent to which Australia was unduly claimed as a Christian country in decision-making and funding.

"Unfortunately, because of the wording, many people will select the religion of their baptism or initiation at youth, despite not being a religious person at all," he said.

Every census since 1911 has included a question on religion, with the 1971 census the first to introduce ''no religion'' as an option. Mr Nicholls said the group had long lobbied the Australian Bureau of Statistics to change what it considered a leading question, to no effect. The head of the ABS Census Program, Paul Lowe, said people who were uncomfortable with the question were free to leave it blank. "Even though the question is optional, approximately 90 per cent of people chose to provide a response in the 2006 census, with 18.7 per cent indicating they had no religion,'' he said. But the atheists have found an unlikely supporter. Ruth Powell, the director of the National Church Life Survey, said religious participation and religious identity were two important social measures - ideally considered separately with a second census question. ''It would be really useful to actually identify those who are committed and active and involved [church] attenders, but not at the cost of the current question,'' Dr Powell said. The 20-year-old church survey, conducted in every census year, found more people attended Pentecostal churches than identified themselves as such in the census. It was the reverse with Anglicans. Malcolm Williams, the director of Outreach Media, a Sydney-based Christian media organisation, did not think Christians would be too bothered by the atheists' campaign. But some were occasionally bothered by the posters his organisation distributed to 100 churches around the country, such as one reading: ''Don't let Christians put you off Jesus.'' ''Some Christians were quite indignant, while lots of people who aren't churchgoers were knocking on church doors saying 'thank you','' Mr Williams said.