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Posted by on Sep 2, 2012 in Atheism, Drama, Feminism, Freethought Blogs, Humor, LGBT Rights, Nonsense, Politics, Religion, Uncategorized | 21 comments

Atheists, Don’t Do That!

On my Facebook page I opened a thread for suggestions as to what I should be writing about next. Some of the suggestions were great, and I plan to address them in the near future. But one in particular caught my attention. It was titled “Six Ways the Religious Embarrass Themselves.” So I decided to run with that, with two minor modifications:  First, I prefer the number 10 to the number six, and second, I think it’s more productive to criticize ourselves than others. So here it goes:

Ten Ways Atheists Embarrass Themselves

    1. By constant infighting (including name-calling, defamation, and threats of violence) that divides the movement and hampers forward momentum;
    2. By alignment with 3rd Wave Feminism, which has made no progress in decades due to lack of agreement on almost anything, and by adoption of their “call-out” culture;
    3. By alienating people on the basis of their political stance;
    4. By spending so much time bickering online that it seems like we’re all living in our mothers’ basements;
    5. By establishing a careless connection to the Social Justice Warriors, who seriously hurt others in the name of “social justice”;
    6. By attempting to destroy lives from positions of power while clamoring for compassion, equality, and empathy;
    7. By failing to set positive role models that the religious may want to emulate;
    8. By using language that is inappropriate in professional circles or civilized debates;
    9. By alienating religious groups that share positive social goals as well as atheists who think the “wrong way”; and, most importantly,
    10. By failing to understand what “atheism” means* and using the same fallacies and broken reasoning as theists.

I am not saying that I’m not guilty of some of the above, and I’m not saying that all of you are. But before worrying about someone else’s house, let’s clean up our own first.

Please keep the topic suggestions coming (my Facebook page is public, and anyone is welcome to drop by) — I promise I will get to yours eventually if it fits the the goals of this blog. Also, if I choose your suggestion, and you want me to give you credit w/in the blog post itself, just let me know.

*Please check the dictionary, the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy, or any number of other online resources, including prior posts in my blog.

  • 11. By using the same fallacies and broken reasoning as theists in arguments

    • Good one!

      • its the real cancer eating the community right now.

        • Copyleft

          That might warrant moving all the way up to #1.

          • I edited slightly to take this into account.

  • sooo true

    i am glad someone wrote this, i follow a lot of atheists and the way you go about things which i would normally agree with is pathetic. by definition i am an atheist but don’t get involved. i’m too busy actually doing science – (experimental genetics, perhaps the most damning evidence for a lack of god) rather than belittling religious people.
    The way atheists on twitter go on like dawkins/hitchens/gervais lapdogs is really childish, i dread to think how it comes across to people who are actually religious – i’m not talking about the ‘god hates fags brigade’ but the people who probably live a more happy and fulfilled life than a basement dwelling loser on twitter.

  • Fantastic post, it details exactly why this Atheism+ nonsense is so absurd and the people who cling to it really ought to be embarrassed at themselves. I thought we were all supposed to be critical thinkers and skeptics, but even though they claim those labels for themselves, it’s clear they apply neither to their own little social club.

    It just makes all of us look sad.

  • Very good, Maria.

    This lays out exactly the problems I’ve noticed in the Atheist (and where it coincides with the Skeptical and Humanist) blogosphere for a while now.

    The respective movements are losing ground and momentum from unbecoming conduct and doctrinaire infighting that would delight the cultural opposition, and an opportunity they would find tempting to take advantage of if they aren’t already.

    • We even look like fools to the Flat Earth Society. If that’s not something to be proud of, I don’t know what is.

  • I think we need to understand that, in the past, the definition of atheism was really one developed and controlled by theists, and as a *denial* of the existence of God. Hence the confusion about the subject matter of atheism. This is a seizing of a kind of conversation sente that has hobbled atheism’s development. Nowadays, we atheists are defining ourselves for ourselves, and we are seeking to not fall into the same epistemological quagmires the theists revel in.

    As I often try to point out:
    The logical contradiction of (believing A) is not (believing not-A).
    The logical contradiction of (believing A) is not(believing A).

    Unfortunately, this error is, in fact, incorporated into the Stanford Encyclopedia of Philosophy’s definition of atheism. This gives the theists the initiative in dictating the discourse and imposes epistemological errors upon us that do not, or need not, apply. Rational, learning, inquiring persons do not write their definitions or axioms in stone.

    The result is that, using that contrived definition, theists accuse atheism of being just another dogmatic, unsubstantiated knowledge claim – another faith – rather than a more cautious belief claim that allows for evidence should such ever arise. And this is a large part of the point of “lack of belief” as an understanding of atheism. By not issuing an affirmation on the God-question, room is left for growth and learning.

    Who knows? Maybe someday, someone will present a definition of god that actually admits of honest inquiry? Yeah, right. 😉

    So, I think we need to approach #10 with caution. What atheism is is currently under, rather intense, negotiation, some of it more on-topic than some other of it. I hold that a calmer, more cautious (and less polarizing, more inclusive) approach will serve us better, both in terms of growing atheism and in terms of being clear about our subject matters. Sadly, the Atheism+ kerfluffle does not share my view about careful and non-polarizing language, in its intent to impose ideological content on atheism – it’s, well, zealotry. Mixing prescription in with description is always polarizing and error-laden.

    What say we figure out what is the case *before* we decide imposing orthodoxy restrictions about who says what about what the case is. Let us not try to pretend the case is something other than what it is because we would prefer it some other way.

    • I have an older post somewhere that discusses all possible permutations of atheism (negative, positive, agnostic, ignostic, and so on). But Atheism + Dogma isn’t one of them. 😉

  • Faithful Truebeliever

    11. By not beliving in the one true God, our savior Jesus Christ.

  • Randy

    I agree with your 10. I’d add these embarrassing things:

    A. Failing to get meaningful representation in all parties in North American politics.
    B. Failing to demand positive representation in popular fiction.
    C. Failing to provide services to each other (marriage, funeral, etc.) where the alternatives are religious.
    D. Permitting governments to discriminate against us, usually without complaint.
    E. Promoting technology and science as inherently good ends, rather than neutral means which can and have been abused.
    F. Not bragging about what we do enough.
    G. Using “atheist” as a noun in place of “person”. We won’t get treated fairly until this is an adjective. Ask the gays. (No need, I’m gay.).
    H. Not being clear. We have strong atheism vs agnosticism, skepticism vs non-skepticism, accommodationism vs anti-theism, various political factions all over the map. We need some way to communicate to the larger population that we have our disagreements and groups, but we’re also all atheist and you cannot get “the atheist view” without asking several of us.

    Most recently, the failure to petition the White House to respond to the Alexander Aan case is disturbing.

    I guess a lot of this is simply a failure to organize … not around atheism, but around the rights of atheist people.

    • Copyleft

      There are ways to organize and get involved: the NCSE, JREF, FRFF, and other groups are all doing great work. What we need to be doing is spreading the word and letting more of our fellow atheists know that there are specific things they can do in their own communities by taking positive action, rather than just bitching to each other in an echo chamber.

    • lol

      not that you prove OPs point or anything

  • oolon

    By assuming that to be an ‘atheist’ or in an ‘atheist community’ somehow makes you or your group special and not subject to all of the greater communities embarrassing habits and prejudices.

  • Egbert

    As I’ve said before, atheism no longer has any intellectual meaning from it’s 18th century roots, because of history and the discovery of the unconscious. We now have a new understanding of human nature and a new wisdom about the failure of liberal ideologies

    People label themselves or are labeled because they search for a social identity. Once you have a social identity, the unconscious takes over and systems of power and control begin to manifest, hierarchy, deception, power, leadership, abuse and so on.

    To get out of this trap, we need to stop using social labels that give us a false conscious, and form a new intellectual tradition.

  • Vic

    Everybody should print this and pin it next to his/her desktop.

  • flueedo

    Brilliant post.

  • dmabs

    Mabus rant deleted.

  • Zed Zero

    Good points. #6 brings out the point of exercise. It is little more than jockeying for social power within the atheist community.