Atheist Divisiveness and Dogmatism
Lately, I've been realizing that, despite what I had come to believe, religion is not the biggest danger to society. Poor thinking is. Adherence to mindless dogmatism is. The self-serving desire to fit everybody into a mold, likely similar to your own, is. These traits are unfortunately not limited to theists.
Obviously, being a member of the Rational Response Squad puts me in a position to be critiqued and vilified by the people who possess the aforementioned character flaws, and recently I've been seeing it almost constantly. It literally pains me to see that so many who have managed to escape religion still cling to so many other similarly irrational ideas and use such blatantly poor logic-particularly if it involves us. Have we done some controversial things? Sure. Are we brash, loud-mouthed, occasionally immature, and possibly arrogant? Sometimes, yes. Have we made mistakes? Of course-show me one person who hasn't, and I'll show you a liar. Do we have conversations about sex, have ads all over the place containing visible cleavage (OMGZ!), and in general like to have some "old-fashioned" fun? Most definitely. Do you know why? Because atheists don't have to be stodgy intellectuals!
This might be news to you, so I'll try to take you through it easily. Atheism means one thing-not having a belief in a god. That's it. It doesn't mean that for the rest of my life I can only wear a certain type of clothing, can never swear, can't be overtly sexual or too attractive, can't have fun, can't drink, and can only read/watch/listen that which has been deemed appropriate by the Council for the Protection of the Public-Image of All Atheists Everywhere. That is called religion!
It is absolutely bewildering that so many have freed themselves of the shackles of religion only to put on new ones. Forgive my candor, but I've seen some atheists lately who appear to have a stick shoved so far up their asses that it is interfering with their neuronal circuitry. Listen guys-you'll be a lot more comfortable if you just yank it out, plus you'll have the added benefit of being able to sit comfortably. Eventually, you'll even be able to maneuver your neck enough so as not to be looking down your nose at everybody else.
Seriously, though, this is a problem. The number one reason why atheists have not become a force with which to be reckoned is because we're all too busy fighting with each other over inane nonsense-instead of uniting and actually accomplishing something. Division in the atheist community is nothing new. Most of the major atheist organizations have at least one thorn in their side, if not more, and if we break it down to individuals, it turns into a bona fide mudslinging competition worthy of a sorority house during rush week.
What is it that compels people to act in this manner? Every day, I look around and see people claiming to be intellectually superior to me or others fall prey to simple ad hominem attacks. I see groups that should be banding together to attain the influence that our numbers warrant squabbling over minutiae that have nothing to do with our common goals. We are divided into sects no different from those of religious groups and it is because these supposedly logical atheists are adhering to some unwritten dogma. How can we possibly criticize the religious groups when we are engaging in the same irrational behaviors?
Instead of harping continually on the use of the word "fuck", why don't we examine the truly offensive words like "should" and "ought"? The expectation that to hold an opinion on a matter, one must have a degree in said area is ludicrous. I don't recall Pythagoras holding a degree from an accredited institution in geometry. The fact that one does not comply with the mores that are, in essence, mere remnants of religion does not invalidate an argument. No matter what kind of lifestyle one leads, people can be right or wrong; in fact, everybody has been both at some point. How is it that this is not clearly apparent to rational thinkers?
All this time spent bickering over what people do in their private lives or what content they have on their websites is time wasted--time that could be better spent by putting aside our differences and accepting the multiplicity of personalities and methods and seeing it as an advantage. If anything, what we should be offering to a populace ensnared by religion is freedom and acceptance. My experience in this community of "freethinkers" has me convinced that freethinker is a moniker undeserved by most who claim it.
I can understand that people have personal tastes and proclivities when it comes to with whom they choose to involve themselves, and I think that it's fantastic that there are groups out there for everybody to find their niche. The problem is that others aren't nearly as forgiving. Many of you probably recall the HNN podcast from the AAI conference in which Brian and I made the "chicken-shit atheist" comment. We knew we would take heat for it, although it seems that happens no matter what we do, but the point that was, perhaps poorly, intended was that we will support anybody in their struggle to attain equality in a society that continually marginalizes and disparages atheism. Even if you don't agree with us. Even if your tactics are the inverse of ours. Even if you are a chicken-shit atheist. And we have stuck by that. There is currently only one atheist against whom we have come out publicly and with whom we are not interested in mending fences, and that is because of the sheer duplicity with which this person made their entrance. We publicly boycotted his conference because of it, and from what I've heard of it, I'm glad we did.
My point here is not that I expect everybody to be close personal friends with everybody else or to even form close alliances with every group out there; I realize that people will be drawn to particular methods or styles. The point is that for every time that somebody accuses us of somehow "harming atheism", whatever that means, that person needs to take a look in the mirror and evaluate his or her own opinions. What is the origin of such a visceral reaction and why are you having it? BE rational-don't just talk about being rational. And, just FYI, it's okay to occasionally cut some of us imperfect people some slack for not meeting your criteria. Maybe instead of being rude and hurling insults, the more enlightened among us could actually do something constructive instead of destructive.