Two major atheist groups, the Richard Dawkins Foundation for Reason & Science and the Center for Inquiry, have announced that they will be merging into one organization, with a mission to promote the continued ascent of secularism in America.
"Secularism is on the ascendency in the United States and beyond. Science has proven to be the engine of human progress. Bringing more resources and ambition to promoting these forces of reason is what this merger is about," explained Robyn Blumner, currently the president & CEO of RDFRS.
A statement released Thursday revealed that the new organization will bear the name of the Center for Inquiry, while the RDFRS will be one of its divisions.
Blumner will be appointed CEO of the combined entity on Jan. 25, while Dawkins, the evolutionary biologist and atheist author, will serve as a member of the CFI board of directors.
Dawkins explained that he is very pleased with the merger.
"CFI is the biggest player in the secular / non-religious / skeptical world, and I like to hope that RDFRS will have something to add to its already flourishing enterprise. In turn, among our projects which will benefit from a larger team of professionals are Openly Secular and the Teacher Institute for Evolutionary Science," Dawkins said.
"I look forward to adding my voice to CFI's focus on promoting secular humanism and fighting the proliferation of pseudoscience."
Ronald A. Lindsay, currently president & CEO of CFI, will retain the title of president until the merger is complete, and also spoke of his enthusiasm for the merger.
"Both organizations share a vital common mission, and together we can accomplish much more. And, of course, CFI looks forward to the benefit of close collaboration with Richard Dawkins, indisputably one of the preeminent public intellectuals of our time," Lindsay said.
Several national surveys have documented the rise of people identifying themselves as non-religious in America, with a Barna Group study in 2015 revealing that one in four unchurched adults in the U.S. now identify as either atheist or agnostics.
Some Christian voices, such as Russell Moore, president of the Ethics & Religious Liberty Commission of the Southern Baptist Convention, have argued that the supposed rise of the religiously unaffiliated in America can be seen as "good news" for the church.
"Christianity isn't normal anymore. It never should have been. The increasing strangeness of Christianity might be bad news for America, but it's good news for the Church," Moore said in May 2015, responding to a similar Pew Study survey documenting the decline of Christian numbers.
He also pointed out that churches that are thriving are the "vibrant, countercultural congregations that aren't afraid to not be seen as normal to the surrounding culture," and said that if the Bible belt falls — "so be it."