Animism is a brand of non-religious atheism, and it has been for years.
Its most famous champion is the avowedly non-believing, anti-science philosopher and atheist Richard Dawkins.
But it’s also a fan of the science fiction series Star Wars, and the sci-fi anime series Cowboy Bebop.
Now it’s getting a new name: Animism.
The word comes from the French animist Louis-Ferdinand Petit, who in 1846 said it should be a term of endearment to people who have a strong religious faith.
He coined it as a response to a famous 1849 letter by a Protestant minister in which he said his “biblical faith is stronger than the power of the devil”.
The word has since been taken up by many different movements and organisations, from the British Secular Association (BSA) to the American Atheists.
Animism doesn’t actually exist, but the movement has been growing since the 1960s, when it gained a large following.
But now, after decades of growing support, it’s about to hit a peak in the UK.
“The UK is a relatively homogenous nation, with no significant minority groups or ethnic groups,” says Christian Weston-Smith, an atheist from the BSA.
“It’s a fairly homogeneous society.
But there are very, very many animists, particularly the ones in the north of England.”
He thinks this is partly because of a lack of information about the movement, and partly because the UK has had a relatively low rate of religious conversions.
The movement has become increasingly vocal in recent years, particularly in the wake of the recent Charlie Hebdo attacks, which killed 12 people.
“People who have been left out of mainstream society are seeing animism as a way of reclaiming space, and reclaiming what they feel they’ve lost in the past,” he says.
“That’s why it’s so important for people to hear more about animism and what it is and what they’re getting out of it.”
But there is some confusion around how to get involved in the movement.
“I think that the most common misconception is that you need to be a member of an organisation to join,” Weston- Smith says.
That’s not entirely true, he adds.
“If you are in a community that is open to animists and you want to get more involved, then that’s totally fine.
There’s a lot of organisations, groups and organisations out there that are welcoming people to join.”
One way of getting involved is to get in touch with the BSF’s charity officer, Nick Taylor.
“We have a range of organisations that are interested in our work, but we are also looking at getting a bit more proactive in supporting animists,” he said.
“They’ve been very supportive and they’re keen to get out in front of people’s issues.”
The BSF also runs a “Friends of Animism” Facebook page, which is open only to those who have joined it in the last six months.
“In terms of the formal affiliation, we have an international board that includes a range for all groups, but it’s really just about having a few friends and seeing if you’re interested,” Taylor says.
He adds that he doesn’t see the BSS as a religion, but rather a movement.
But he acknowledges that there is a “difference between the religious animist and the non-theist animist”, and that there are some differences between the two.
“There are some very, really serious issues that animism is trying to address, but there’s also an enormous amount of room for people who are not religious in their outlook to have an involvement,” he adds, but says that he does not think animism’s influence has spread too far beyond the UK, and doesn’t want to “undermine its message”.
“We are really very keen to build up a network and a network of people who can actually take on issues that they believe in,” he concludes.
The BSA, the British Humanist Association and other organisations are also keen to see the movement grow.
“Animism is not going away,” Weston Smith says, “it’s going to become more mainstream, it’ll get a bit stronger, and we are keen to help bring it forward.”
Watch: The most ridiculous things people say about atheism