American Sociological Review, 2006
American Atheists works to reduce the stigma against non-theists by fostering a visible community. The efforts of their organization and others with similar goals, however, have not yet paid off in full. The period 1958 to 1999 was marked a significant increase in political acceptance of many minority groups, as shown by the willingness of voters to elect members of each group to the presidency. Despite these increases, atheists remained the least politically accepted group and showed the second lowest increase in acceptance (after highly accepted Catholics) from 1978 to 1999.
Blair Scott, communications director for American Atheists, suggests that this lack of acceptance is due to the low number of publicly visible atheists. Currently, only one member of the U.S. Congress is openly atheist, and while several celebrities including Lance Armstrong and Billy Joel identify as atheists, their non-theist convictions are not a central part of their public personas. American Atheists is trying to change that by encouraging atheists to speak up about their beliefs. According to Mr. Scott, an increase in the number of publicly visible atheists would lead to wider acceptance based on the pairing of atheism with likable, responsable people in the minds of the American public.