Is the godless market growing? Are non-believers becoming an influential force in retail sales?
A 2010 Pew Research Center survey—cited in a recent article in Bloomberg Businessweek—noted that one in four Millennials identified themselves as religiously unaffiliated, atheist or agnostic. This amounts to 15 million “convinced atheists” nationwide—a number exceeding mainline Protestant denominations, Jews or Muslims.
So what exactly do all these nonbelievers buy? Besides the obvious bumper stickers and T-shirts, the Godless are picking up books about evolution, educational games for children, and science-themed jewelry.
“There are a growing number of businesses that cater to skeptics and the larger community of reason,” says D.J. Grothe, president of Amaz!ng Meeting, which hosts non-believer conferences around the world. He notes that attendees comprise a well-educated, well-heeled niche market. “This is a subculture that really is hungry and has money to play with,” says Grothe.
While the godless are regarded as pariahs by the mainstream, preventing small businesses and major brands from entering the market, a recent Gallup poll revealed that 54 percent of Americans would vote for an atheist for president, a jump from 40 percent in 1978.
That said, many purveyors of godless goods are frequently turned away by suppliers and distributors. One seller advises to go to vendors with samples first. Many vendors have witnessed a rapid demographic shift toward more tolerance for their wares. They cite the rise in business and social acceptance of the gay and lesbian community. They also note that The Reason Rally, which drew 20,000 nontheists to an all-day get together in Washington, D.C., turned the tide. They cite an Internet-run Out Campaign, which brought out “closet atheists.” Said Grothe, “Around the world, more elected officials and business people are coming out as skeptics or atheists. The negative perception is entrenched, but it’s changing.”
The website 4 Atheists lists 25 businesses that market atheist merchandise. The Bloomberg Businessweek article noted that the company EvolveFish employs six people and brings in $500,000 annually in sales. The company grew its retail offerings from car decals to jewelry, including silver- and gold-toned fish-shaped emblems—like gefilte fish, Darwin fish and a mythical creature called the flying spaghetti monster.
Atheist Shoes, a small start up in Berlin makes stylish footwear based on a classic design and a Modernist aesthetic. The company caters to free thinkers who don’t push any of their own ideas at their customers. Asked if being an atheist selling atheist products has had any effect on his business, David Bonney, founder of Atheist Shoes said, “We’ve been very lucky in that most people in Europe are atheists. When we were starting out and first trying to get money, a lot of the people we talked to laughed out loud and loved it from a promotional perspective. Of course, there have been some people who loved it but had a religious problem with it, but just a handful of those really. The potential problem would be if we became a huge company and wanted to sell it to a brand like Nike or something. We would be in trouble; but right now, all we need is our customers on the Internet.”
The godless retail market may not be mainstream, but it is catching on. Are you ready for it?
Photo courtesy of MorgueFile.com