Blurred Lines – guest post by Dan Arel
In reply to Walking A Thin Line.
It does not happen often, if ever, but right now I disagree with Martin Pribble. I don’t think atheism is in turmoil. I think atheism, as an online “movement” is stronger than ever. I think the issues Martin sees are real, but I think they are smaller than perceived, and I don’t believe they are causing any rift in the overall movement itself.
I must explain however before continuing what I believe the atheism movement is. It is argued online often that atheism cannot be a movement simply because it is by definition only a rejecting the idea of a god or gods. More appropriate would be to call this movement secularism, however secularism is more or less a social-political ideology, and secularism can be a goal of a theist if they so believe it is better for society. The atheist movement is a looser term that more or less describes an online movement seen on Twitter and Facebook where atheists are happy to debate the tenets of the bible, the harm faith causes, and many other aspects of religion that do not necessarily have anything to do with secularism. So for the sake of this essay, I will use the term atheist movement in this way.
I despise Atheism+, I think it useless and I think its groupthink mentality goes against everything skepticism stands for. However, I think Atheism+ is going to a speck of dust in the history of the atheism movement and it will not be long before we forget such an idea even existed. No matter how great the intentions may have been with its formation, the experiment was ultimately a failure and it is time we forget it even happened.
Martin is seeing the current wave of fighting between atheists on his timeline, as am I. However I think the fighting we are seeing makes up some of the smallest percentage of what is happening online.
I also disagree that if you see something you disagree with, you should block and move on. Just as we openly question theists for their beliefs, why can’t we question each other? Why not stand up against Atheism+ and question their motives. This questioning could be what it takes to help avoid more people aligning with this movement and could possibly change the minds of those already in it.
Atheism, secularism and humanism are strong movements. I believe they are getting stronger. I think it is up to us who are involved, those of us who have decided to be a voice and speak up to not only question theists, but to question atheists. We must –for the lack of a better term– self-police. If we see those in our movement acting in ways we find harmful, we should speak up. I know if I am out of line, I would want someone to tell me. This is how we learn and grow.
As atheism grows, as polls show it is, we will face many issues, we all know how young atheists come into the movement with guns blazing, ready to call every theist they encounter stupid and ignorant for the simple fact they believe in a god, but we also know this tends to be a phase. I know it’s a phase I went through. It is part of finding your voice and who you are.
At this point in my life, I feel like an elder-atheist. I know Martin feels this way too. In fact, I have discussed this with him in the past at some length. As “elders” we feel an unspoken obligation to help guide the movement in a positive direction. The older I get, the more involved I get I feel less connected to “new atheism” (though I have no problem with this term or label) and more inline with the humanist movement. I once cared greatly for destroying religion, or disproving religion, when now I care more for creating an egalitarian society, regardless of someone beliefs.
Now, I do with agree with Martin about some of the methods used in these “debates”. The use of words like misogynist, rape apologist or racist can be overused, but this is not unique to atheism, and I find its overuse is minimal. I feel that maybe the outreach could be better to those in “groups” we may disagree with, but this is a place we will get to over time. Atheism+ and the more mainstream movement are butting heads, but I don’t think this will last long; this is mainly because I don’t think Atheism+ will last long. I do think however Atheism+ could very well be full of very good people and that if our discussions with them could be more civil we could have better relationships with these members as their movement implodes as I suspect it will.
Now lets stop focusing on the negative and work on focusing on the positive. Secularism in the United States (where I am from) is growing. The “nones” are the fastest growing population on many countries censuses. Fewer and fewer young people are identifying with a religion and all of this data shows hope for our futures.
Secular Coalition are setting up worldwide and the work is cut out for all of us. So I am not walking fine line. I am walking a firm line. So lets not ignore any division in our movement, instead lets address them. Lets have the discussions, no matter how hard, let’s be honest and call each other out when we are wrong. Lets make each other better. Eventually these lines will be blurred, and someday there will be no lines at all. Change doesn’t happen over night, and change is not easy. Change comes with its own set of turmoil, but I for one will not let the slightest of turmoil upset the goals I have for my fellow humans.