There is No Atheist Community, No Atheist Movement

I want to briefly make the case that there is no atheist community. There are only atheist communities. There is likewise no atheist movement. There is only an atheist momentum. Atheists do not even share the same goals. Again, briefly, because my time is limited, here goes.

A community must have agreed upon leaders but atheists do not have any universally recognized leaders. If you think otherwise then name one. Sam Harris is an agnostic who has been criticized by atheists for his defense of a science based morality and for defending torturing Muslim militants. Christopher Hitchens unfortunately, is dead. But he was criticized by atheists for his defense of Israel. Dawkins is being boycotted by some atheists for a really insensitive and sexist comment. Michael Shermer is criticized for defending capitalism and being somewhat supportive of Ayn Rand. We all know about Paul Kurtz's unfortunate ousting from CFI (something I don't care to take sides on). We choose our leaders and we don't always agree on who they are. We belong to atheist groups and there are many to choose from. A community must have shared understandings, shared goals, and a shared focus, but we do not all share these things. We don't even agree on whether there should be a secular society, as evidenced by Bruce Sheiman's book An Atheist Defends Religion: Why Humanity is Better Off with Religion Than Without It.

We are split into accomodationists and confrontationists, activists and academics, politically minded and scientifically minded atheists, debunkers and those who are largely apathetic. Most atheists don't even bother with atheist communities at all. Others choose their particular communities and support the ones thought of as doing what is important, and they are different for each one of us. Unfortunately, atheist communities act much like churches do, with a struggle for power and influence.

There is no atheist community and no atheist movement. We only have a momentum. This means no one speaks for all atheists. I personally find it appalling when one particular community of atheists think that THEY represent all atheists in a movement that does not exist behind a chosen leader that not all atheists accept and use that power to ostracize and demean other atheists outside that particular community. I am all about treating other atheists as human beings respectfully as much as possible. I can be and am a conciliator who hopes we can all work together when we share the same goals. I embrace all approaches. We need each other and every perspective. When an atheist outside of our chosen community is ignorant there is no reason to blast him into oblivion. We should merely inform him. We need to treat others with respect and dignity as much as possible.

I have already experienced church in my life and it's not pretty.


Miguelito said...

I respectfully disagree with some of your statements, Sam Harris is most assuredly an atheist, he just sees no use in the term and he never defended torture, he used that as an example to illustrate a point (his website clearly points that out for the umpteenth time) and how could morality not be science based? You can empirically show what actions lead to harm and so on. I'm in agreement about Michael Shermer, I find his irrational adherence to capitalism completely indicative of cognitive dissonance a he refuses to be skeptical about his own beliefs. There is a movement, loosely connected it is true but it is there nonetheless. We are more united than we have ever been. I speak as a member of the largest the largest Freethought group in NE Ohio, as a denizen of the Internet where atheists have been rallying forth in strong numbers with support from CFI, FFRF, AHA, American Atheists, Secular Student Alliance, The Brights and so on. Oh and Richard Dawkins sexist? Really?