An ambitious campaign to create a census of the world's atheists has been taken offline after just 17 hours after an alleged DDOS attack on the Atheist Alliance International site
The census, which asks atheists from across the world to register with information about themselves, in order to compile research on secular numbers worldwide, was launched by AAI at the weekend.
An atheism rally in Washington DC
AAI, which describes itself as s non-profit campaign, is a Washington-based umbrella body of different atheist organisations across the world, including Atheism UK, with directors based in countries from Australia and Canada to the Gambia.
General manager Tanya Smith told The Huffington Post UK the group works to lobby for secularism, especially when it comes to law and education.
She said the DDOS attack, which happens when websites are targeted with a sudden flood of traffic from hundred of thousand of sources, was designed to take the site offline.
Smith told The Huffington Post UK that their security system had not been able to withstand the attack.
"I was notified as soon as it happened by our technical team. It is a deliberate attack, although no-one has claimed responsibility.
"I'm obviously speculating, but there's people out there who do not want atheists being counted.
"Our data was beginning to show a pattern that a lot of atheists are young and very well educated. That's a powerful demographic."
She said the census had been getting a huge response until it went offline. "We were overwhelmed with people who wanted to register. We have 8,880 confirmed entries and another 2,300 pending.
"We ask people to tell us where they are from, and provide an email address to click on a link to confirm they are added to the survey, to try and make sure the data is as accurate as possible."
The Atheism Census website, taken offline
The group had begun to promote the survey via social media, atheist networks and bloggers, and the census was promoted on atheist campaigner Professor Richard Dawkins' website.
Smith said: "We're working to get back online as soon as possible, and people who have heard about the attack have got in touch with us, and asked to add their names by email, they are so keen to sign up."